HL Deb 22 April 1947 vol 147 cc6-29

2.43 P.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I rise to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The House will remember that the Treaties of Peace with Italy, Roumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland, after long and protracted discussion. were signed on February 10 last. But these Treaties will not come into force until they have been ratified. Ratifications by His Majesty's Government, the Soviet Government, the United States Government and the French Government—that is to say, four Governments in all—are necessary in respect of the Italian Treaty. Ratifications by His Majesty's Government, the Soviet Government and the United States Government—three Governments—are necessary in respect of the Treaties with Roumania, Bulgaria and Hungary; and ratifications by His Majesty's Government and the Soviet Government—two Governments—are necessary in respect of the Finnish Treaty.

It is also laid down in the Treaties that they shall be ratified by the individual ex-enemy Powers concerned. Although such ratification by the ex-enemies is not an essential prerequisite to the coming into force of the Treaties, nevertheless it is clearly desirable that the Treaties should have been ratified by the ex-enemy Governments before they are actually brought into effect by the deposit of ratifications by ourselves, the Americans, the Russians and the French; and, indeed, it can be argued that the ex-enemy Governments, having signed the Treaties containing the provision that they shall be ratified by them, are under a definite obligation to take the necessary steps with regard to this ratification as soon as practicable. Nevertheless, so far none of the ex-enemy Governments have ratified the Treaties, nor have they taken any action in that direction, such as, for example, consulting their Legislatures, although I understand that the Finnish Government intend to do so in the very near future.

This seems very short-sighted of the ex-enemy Governments, since this failure on their part to show clearly that they mean to honour their signatures to the Peace Treaties, and to do whatever they can on their side to hasten re-establishment of normal relations, must have a bad effect on the Allied Governments, and may well cause the latter to hesitate about depositing their own ratification of the Treaties. The result, therefore, of this delay on the part of the ex-enemy Governments to ratify the Treaties may well be appreciably to postpone the coming into force of the Treaties. His Majesty's Government would regard this as most unfortunate, as they are anxious that all the Treaties should come into operation as soon as possible, since it is clearly desirable that the technical state of war which still exists should be terminated, the Forces of occupation withdrawn and the former enemy countries able once again to take their proper place in world society. His Majesty's Government have already made their views known to the ex-enemy countries and have urged them to ratify the Treaties as soon as practicable. They hope that this advice will be followed.

In the meantime, they are anxious to ensure that when the Treaties do come into force—and it is hoped that this will be soon—His Majesty's Government should be able on their part to implement such obligations as they have incurred and take advantage of those rights conferred on them under the Treaties. It is for this purpose that this Bill has been prepared. It is in the same form as the Treaties of Peace Act, 1919, which was passed after the 1914–1918 War to implement the Treaty of Versailles and other Peace Treaties of that time. I may add that I believe that that was the first example of legislation of that sort. The reason for it, of course, is that whereas Treaty making is part of the prerogative, it is necessary to makes the Treaties part of the municipal law of our country in order that it may be obligatory upon the citizens of this country. The 1919 Act proved quite satisfactory for dealing with the extremely lengthy and complicated provisions of the former Peace Treaties, and it should, therefore, prove adequate to deal with the present Treaties, many of whose provisions, though fewer and less complex, are broadly similar, at any rate, as to those economic and technical points in connexion with which legislation is mainly required.

The present Bill, like the Act of 1919, confers upon His Majesty power by Order in Council or otherwise, to take such steps as may appear to His Majesty to be necessary for carrying out the Treaties. This will meet the situation which also existed in 1919, that it is difficult to forecast fully in advance the extent to which, and the precise points on which, detailed legislative provisions will actually be required. All the Treaties in question confer the right on His Majesty's Government to take over enemy property situate in this country. Such property is, of course, all vested with the Custodian of Enemy Property at the present moment, but only by way of awaiting the Peace Treaty, so that it still stands in the name of the various enemy owners. The extent to which His Majesty's Government should avail themselves of the right to take over this property is under consideration, and I shall have something to say in a moment particularly with regard to Italy. Assuming it is decided to exercise this right, either in whole or in part, legislative provision by Order in Council under the Bill will be necessary in order to enable this property to be finally taken over and disposed of.

Correspondingly, the Treaties provide for the restoration of British property situate in the various ex-enemy countries which has been taken over or otherwise placed under control by the Government of those countries. It may be necessary to set up certain machinery in order to take full advantage of this right. This is unlikely to require an Order in Council but it may, nevertheless, require action of one of the other kinds contemplated by the provisions of the Bill which have been quoted above. I will give your Lordships some examples of action which may be required under the Bill in order to enable His Majesty's Government to fulfil their obligations under the Treaties. There are a number of provisions in the Treaties in connexion with patents, contracts, periods of prescription and limitations of rights of action, which require this country to grant further time to private parties in the ex-enemy countries to resume or re-establish their contractual and other rights in British territory, rights which, on account of the war, may have lapsed or been suspended or of which it may have been impossible for the ex-enemy national to avail himself. It goes without saving, of course, that the Treaties make similar provision for the resumption of such rights in ex-enemy territory on the part of British subjects and other Allied nationals; and it is, of course, important, if we are to obtain these rights, that we should ourselves be in a position to make them available to the enemy nationals who are entitled to them under the Treaties. These are matters for which some legislation by Order in Council will probably be required.

I do not propose to go into any lengthy explanation of the detailed provisions of the Treaties, since they have been public knowledge for a considerable time past. I simply wish to say that, though the Treaties, like all documents drawn up after long discussions and negotiations, may not be ideal, His Majesty's Government regard them on the whole as just and equitable, and as providing a firm foundation on which the ex-enemy Governments can base the political and economic reconstruction of their countries.

I said that I would mention one specific point in connexion with the Italian Treaty. His Majesty's Government made it clear from an early stage in the Paris Conference that, despite the very heavy material losses caused to British interests by Italian participation in the war; they did not intend to claim any reparations from Italy except in so far as concerned the proceeds of Italian property in this country, which, under Article 79 of the Treaty, was liable to sequestration. As a result of recent discussions with the Italian Government on a number of financial questions arising between our two countries, His Majesty's Government have now agreed, as part of a comprehensive settlement, to waive their rights to sequestrate these Italian assets or the understanding that the Italian authorities would make arrangements to enable pre-war Italian debts to this country to be paid. We have thus given up any claim to reparations from Italy. This I regard as a very real gesture of friendship towards the Italian people, which we have made because we recognize the part they played in the final defeat of Germany, and because we are genuinely anxious to help them in their efforts to restore their economy and become once again a useful member of the world community. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

2.55 P.m.


My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, with his usual clarity has fully explained the constitutional position. A debate of this kind is, in the nature of things, carried on within limitations. We cannot alter the details in a Treaty that has already been accepted by His Majesty's Government; nor can we blame the Foreign Secretary, or any member of His Majesty's Government, for this or that item in a Treaty that is the result not of British unilateral action but of long and protracted discussion and negotiation with other Powers. None the less, I well remember that in the debates which took place in similar circumstances at the end of the First World War—debates in which I myself took part—the occasion was always used to make certain comments of a general kind upon the Treaties that Parliament was asked to ratify. To-day, therefore, I propose, not, indeed, to go into minute details about these many Treaties, but rather to ask His Majesty's Government certain questions as to why decisions were reached in certain clauses in the Treaties; and, secondly, and perhaps more important, to say a word of warning with reference to certain provisions in the Treaties which, in my view, if they are not very carefully watched, will undoubtedly lead to future trouble.

First of all, my questions. I wish to ask a question about the clauses that deal with reparations. Each of these Treaties has a number of clauses dealing with reparations, and in each case a different sum has been settled: Italy is to pay$260,000,000, Roumania$300,000,000, Bulgaria$570,000,000, Hungary$300,000,000 and Finland$300,000,000. I wonder how those figures have been settled. They appear to me to be either haphazard, or to be based upon ideological pressure. Before this debate ends I should appreciate it if the noble and learned Viscount could throw some light upon this very obscure subject. My own view is that all these reparations, whether they be great or small, are a serious mistake. I do not believe that any one of these countries, every one of them devastated by war, is in a position to pay reparations; and I believe that what will happen will be either that this or that country will attempt to pay these reparations in whole or in part, with the result that it will seriously weaken its own economy and, indirectly, the economic position of Europe, or that it will not pay the sum and we shall see a chapter of the friction and difficulties from which Europe suffered so much in the years between the two wars.

There is a third alternative. It is possible that we shall again see take place what took place to a considerable extent in the years after 1919; we shall see the United States and ourselves in actual fact paying these reparations. I regret, therefore, that in these Treaties, dealing with very impoverished countries, these reparation clauses appear. It would have been much better to have had no reparations at all, and to have dealt with the question, not with attempts to exact these large sums from impoverished countries, but by some kind of reconstruction loan for the whole of Central and Eastern Europe.

I pass from that to another question, which concerns refugees, and I take as my example the case of the refugees in Italy. In that country there are about 38,000 refugees from the Balkans and Eastern Europe. I understand that of these 38,000 about 12,000 are under British supervision. It is quite obvious to me that great pressure is going to be put upon the Italian Government by Marshal Tito to surrender these unfortunate men and women, many of whom actually fought for us in the Allied Armies and Navies. I am not at all reassured by the clause in the Treaties dealing with refugees. It is, I think, Article 45 of the Italian Treaty. I take that as an example, but it is a clause which appears in one form or another in each of the Treaties.

In Article 45 of the Italian Treaty it is laid down that the Italians: shall take all necessary steps to ensure the apprehension and surrender for trial of: (a) persons accused of having committed, ordered, or abetted war crimes and crimes against peace or humanity"— I draw the attention of the House to the phrase "persons accused of having committed"—and (b) Nationals of any Allied or Associated Power accused of having violated their national law by treason or collaboration with the enemy during the war. I fully agree that genuine war criminals should be surrendered for trial, but the provisions in these Treaties are so wide in their scope that the Yugoslav Government might make accusations against any of these refugees in Italy, bring pressure to bear upon the Italian Government by threatening maltreatment of the Italian prisoners in Yugoslavia, and, as a result, obtain the surrender of many of these refugees who are now living in Italy and whose last desire is to return to Yugoslavia, or whatever may have been their original country. I would ask the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor to give the House some reassurance that most stringent precautions will be taken to ensure that there is fair treatment for these refugees in Italy, and that none but genuine war criminals are repatriated to their original countries. I come to a third class of question. If noble Lords will study the Treaties, they will see that in each of them there is a paragraph about human rights. I take again, as typical of these paragraphs, Article 15 of the Italian Treaty, which says: Italy shall take all measures necessary to secure to all persons under Italian jurisdiction, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion, the enjoyment of human rights and of the fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, of press and publication, of religious worship, of political opinion and of public meeting. I am delighted to see clauses of this kind in these Treaties. This is a subject which has greatly interested me for some time past. I feel that unless there is some organization for watching the way in which these clauses are carried out, and for considering complaints about their transgression, they will be little better than waste paper. I remember that in a previous debate upon this question the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, gave a sympathetic answer as to the Government's interest in this question, and I hope that to-day he will be able to repeat that assurance and will be somewhat more explicit than the general terms of the Treaties in telling the House how this question stands. I believe that at the present moment it is being considered by the Economic and Social Council of U.N.O. Can the noble and learned Viscount give a progress report as to what it happening? Is it likely that there will be some machinery for seeing that these very important clauses in these Treaties are properly carried out? That disposes of the questions that I would ask the Government.

In addition to those questions, however, there are one or two comments that I should like to make upon the Treaties themselves. They are not comments intended to show that these are bad Treaties, or that the enemy countries would not be wise to ratify them with the least possible delay; I make them for the purpose of warning your Lordships that there are several provisions which, unless the greatest of care is taken in the future, will undoubtedly lead to international trouble. I begin with the Italian Treaty, which I personally think is unduly harsh. When I make that statement I do not wish in the least to exculpate Italy for the war crimes that were committed by its Government—the stab in the French back, the stab in the Greek back, and the atrocities that were committed in Albania—but, none the less, I believe that the Treaty is harsh. I believe, also, that at the time of time armistice Italy was undoubtedly given to understand that her treatment would depend upon her subsequent attitude in the war and that she could earn for herself better conditions than would otherwise have been the case. Italy has lost her Empire; that was inevitable. She has lost territory to France; she has lost her fleet and her air force, anyhow a very great extent; she has lost her supplies of coal and bauxite; she has lost Pola and Trieste, and she has to pay reparations to the amount of$260,000,000.

Let me compare this treatment with the treatment of Bulgaria. In my view, the action of Bulgaria in the war was certainly no less dastardly than the action of Italy. The worst atrocities in the Balkans were committed by Bulgars. At a critical moment the Bulgars stabbed the Greeks in the back. Yet how has Bulgaria been treated as compared with Italy? Bulgaria is to pay only$70,000,000 in reparations, and indeed Marshal Tito wished to reduce the amount to$15,000,000, as against the$260,000,000 to be exacted from Italy. In addition to that Bulgaria, so far from losing territory, has actually been given an accession of territory in Southern Dalmatia.

A comparison of this kind makes me wonder upon what standard these Treaties are actually drawn up; whether here again ideological theory has not entered into it, and whether this favourable treatment of Bulgaria is not much more due to ideological pressure than to any general standard of international justice. As it is, I fear that we have left Italy in much the same position of a dissatisfied nation as we left her at the end of the last war. If noble Lords will look back at the Peace Treaties at the end of the First World War, they will remember that one of the causes of future trouble in the Balkans and Central Europe was the fact that Italy believed she had been over-harshly treated in the Peace Treaty. I hope we shall not see a repetition of this discontent in the future, but it is a serious danger. It is made all the more serious by the fact that the future of the Italian colonies is not dealt with at all in these Treaties—another cause of future trouble. Secondly, there is a grave risk of Trieste becoming a second Danzig, of an even more serious and difficult kind. Thirdly, as a result of the aggressive policy of the Yugoslavs, the Adriatic will, almost for the first time in European history, become a serious centre of international controversy.

I mention these facts, not to criticize the Government for accepting this Treaty, and still less to suggest to Italy that the Italian Government would be wise to delay the ratification of the Treaty, but to point to the fact that the United States and ourselves will have to watch very closely the course of events, and do our best to give the new Italy a fair chance of economic and national recovery. I am glad, indeed, that we have set a good example in this direction by waiving our rights to reparations and to the seizure of enemy property within the United Kingdom. I am also glad to note that the American Government are offering, through the Export-Import Bank, a substantial reconstruction loan to Italy. Upon these lines there is hope. I trust that I have done enough to point out the dangers ahead and to show how very necessary it is that we should watch with meticulous and anxious care the course of events in this part of Europe.

I come now to my last point, which deals with the Roumanian Treaty. Here again, I see grounds for grave apprehension. Roumania is faced with a series of appallingly difficult problems. Rightly or wrongly, it has absorbed hundreds of thousands of Hungarian citizens. It has been flooded with refugees from Bessarabia, and Russian troops in substantial numbers still occupy the country on the ground of keeping open the lines of communication with Austria, although the lines of communication with Austria through Roumania are more than twice as long as they are through Poland. Food is very short, and oil, in the one country in Europe where one would have thought there were almost limitless supplies, is practically non-existent for Roumanian tractors. On top of these distressing problems there is the gravest question of all, which is, so far as I can see, left undefined in the Roumanian Treaty; that is the question of the future of the Danube. This is an old and inflammable question. For nearly a hundred years we and the countries of Western Europe have insisted upon freedom of trade and freedom of navigation on the Danube. One of Hitler's first acts, when in 1940 he was over-running Europe, was to attempt to upset this arrangement.

What is the position to-day? Does the old International Statute still stand, under which Powers that are not merely riparian Powers have an interest in the freedom of Danubian navigation? It is true that in the Treaty there is a clause stating that there will be freedom of trade and navigation upon the Danube, but there is no instrument for carrying this provision into effect. I am aware that it is intended to hold an International Conference upon the subject within six months, but I will tell the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, what makes me so anxious about this International Conference. I have studied the debates which took place during the discussions of the Peace Treaties upon this all-important subject of the Danube, and I was struck by the very strong opposition put up against it by the riparian Powers, Russia—and Russia is now a riparian Power since the occupation of Bessarabia—Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. I wonder, in view of this very strong opposition, how we shall succeed in ensuring effectively this freedom of trade and navigation which seems to me to be the very symbol of the unity of Europe. It may well be that the Lord Chancellor will be able to add little to what appears on the subject in the Treaty and to the fact that there is to be an International Conference in the summer. If that be the case, I shall feel, none the less, that I have not wasted your Lordships' time, in the few minutes in which I have alluded to the question, if I have drawn the attention of Parliament once again to a question of first-rate importance and to a question which, if not satisfactorily settled, will undoubtedly lead to future international trouble.

I have ventured to deal with a number of points, and now I come to my conclusion—a conclusion that is more serious than those I have reached upon any of the detailed points I have just mentioned. It comes to this: so long as present suspicion exists in Europe between the East and West, these Treaties will undoubtedly fail to succeed. That is a hard saying, but the details I have mentioned to-day will have shown the House how inflammable is the material and how, without good will upon both sides, we cannot hope that the Treaties will effect the purpose that we all desire. Good will is the very essence of these Treaties. The difficulty, in the present atmosphere of Europe, is to see how the dangers to which I have referred can be avoided. any own view is that they cannot be avoided by any unilateral surrender upon the part of the United States and ourselves of the provisions that we regard as essential to the unity of Europe.

I am not one of those who believe that war is likely in Europe, or that Russia wishes for war. Certainly there is no country in Europe which wishes for war less than ourselves. It is because we remember that Central and Eastern Europe have so often been the cause of war in the past that we are especially anxious that the peace in the Adriatic and the Balkans should be permanent, and that we should scrutinize with anxious and meticulous interest the steps that are taken for carrying these Treaties into effect.

3.23 p.m.


I would like to say a few words only in support of one of the points which has been made by the noble Viscount who has just spoken—namely, Article 45 of the Italian Peace Treaty, which deals with war criminals. What I say will be quite short, because I am in entire agreement with what the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, said. I want Only to emphasize and to underline his remarks. Article 43 compels Italy to take "all necessary steps to ensure the apprehension…of persons accused of having committed…war crimes," and all persons "accused of having violated their national law by treason or collaboration with the enemy during the war." In the official commentary on that clause, which was issued by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the reasons for that Article are given in the following terms: The United Nations have concluded certain agreements between themselves for the bringing to justice of war criminals. Italy, once the Peace Treaty comes into force, would be ender no obligation to assist in this matter. Provision is thus made in Article 45 that she should assist in the apprehension and surrender, both of war criminals and of quislings. The suggestion is that all that Italy is being required to do is what the United Nations have agreed between themselves to do in this matter. The question about war criminals was elaborately debated in the committees of the Economic and Social Council and other bodies which discussed the question of refugees generally under the United Nations Organization. There appeared in those discussions very marked differences of view between the East and the West of Europe, but the West managed to insert a phrase that no person who, with full knowledge, freely decided to stay outside his country of origin, should be compelled to return. Then the East got in a saving clause that nothing in the agreement should prevent the return of war criminals and traitors. Unless my memory is false, that saving clause put in by the East did not say "nothing shall prevent the return of persons accused of being war criminals or traitors." It left open the fact who was to decide who were war criminals and who were not. I think my recollection of that is right, but if not the noble Viscount on the Woolsack will correct me. I suggest that, even if my recollection is not correct, we, in England, would make a marked distinction between people whom we thought to be war criminals and people who were accused of being war criminals or traitors by the Government of the country from which they came.

After all, there are differences of view between the East and West of Europe as to what is treason. We know there are many countries to whom the Pilgrim. Fathers would have been quislings and traitors, but that is not the British view or the American view. We cannot alter this clause, but I cannot help feeling that unfortunately it has been very widely drafted. The Commentary does not say that this clause covers the return of persons accused of being war criminals or traitors. That is a fundamental issue. One cannot alter the clause, but I am sure the noble Viscount on the Woolsack will be sympathetic with this point of view because he has already shown himself sympathetic to it. But because the clause is drafted it does make it a matter of vital urgency that we in Britain and also the Government in the United States should take immediate and effective steps in regard to the refugees who are in Italy, because they went to Italy when it was occupied by us. I hope that, although we cannot amend the clauses of the Treaty which have been so widely drafted, we can, at least, draw the practical moral that, somehow or other, we have to make certain that the British-American principle that you are a criminal only when you have been proved to be one and not when you have merely been accused of being one, shall be applied to all refugees in Italy.

3.3o p.m.


My Lords, I have hesitated until the twelfth hour as to whether I should intrude upon your Lordships' time by making any observations upon the semi-accomplished facts which are now before us. As I have one point which seems, to me at least, to be of very great importance, I will venture to take up a few minutes of your time. These are imperfect Treaties. I am sure that His Majesty's Government recognize their imperfections. I thought that the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack slightly overstated the case when he described them as "a just and equitable basis." I would say that, possibly, they are the best that we could get in the circumstances, and that we must make the best of them. To me the disquieting thought is that but for Mr. Bevin's monumental patience we might not have had even this defective instrument, and I think that a tribute should be paid now to that patience. After the last war I had a considerable, though of course very subordinate, hand in various conferences and attempts at peace making. But we had nothing like this to contend with. To begin with there was no Eastern bloc.

These Treaties could be criticized upon a number of different points, but to-day I propose to confine myself to just one or two matters which will enable me to make my concluding point, which is the one to which I attach great importance. As has already been pointed out by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, Italy has had a harsher deal than any other of the ex-satellite States which, from being former satellites of Germany, have now passed to being satellites of Russia. But in one respect, at least, which is to our credit, Italy has been treated with great financial generosity, as was pointed out by the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack, when he opened this debate. We do not usually get much credit for our generosities, and I would very much like to see our Press and radio combine to emphasize this generosity, because frankly I should like to see more done occasionally to counteract the perpetual pull on Italy to dislocate her from her Western orbit and put her in some subservient position in the Eastern bloc. Here is a chance, and a very legitimate one, which should be taken. I think that it might also be emphasized that it is not our fault that it was not possible to make a better job of Trieste. Owing to Russian and Yugoslav pressure that territory seems to have assumed a shape which can best be described as an "unlikelihood."

To take up and carry further the point made by the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack, I would point out that in 1943 we promised Italy that if she "worked her passage home" (that was the phrase) due account would be taken of it in the settlement. I am a little puzzled to see where account has been taken of it by anyone except us, and by us it has been taken very markedly. But owing to Soviet pressure in other respects Italy has been considerably worse treated than Bulgaria, though her record is a far better one. I think we might look at that record just for a few minutes. Italy has fought once on the right side and once on the wrong side, and for part of the second occasion—that is, for the last eighteen months—she fought again on the right side and rendered quite considerable service. That may not be a white record, but it comes out as something rather like a grey one when you compare it with the black record of the Bulgarians. They have twice fought on the wrong side, and the period for which, on the second occasion, they were on the right side was less and less useful than the performance of the Italians. Moreover, the Bulgarians three times in our lifetime have invaded Greece, to the accompaniment of considerable atrocities. Indeed, throughout the whole of my professional career the Bulgarians have invariably been described as "the Prussians of the Balkans." There is some substance in the charge. In any case it goes back a long way, because your Lordships will recall how, in the most celebrated work of satire in the world, Voltaire's Candide, when the writer speaks of "les Bulgares" he means the Prussians, and he seems to have had a prophetically low opinion of both of them. "Les Bulgares" have very nearly established that aggression pays, for, as the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, pointed out, they have come out of all this with an accretion of territory. With Soviet encouragement, no doubt, they are now continually pressing their claim that they should have Western Thrace as well. So far as Bulgaria is concerned in this settlement we have come rather uncomfortably near to putting a premium on crime, and I am afraid it is due to one very obvious cause.

The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, said he wondered if some of the settlements were not due to ideological pressure. I am of the opinion that it is due to something more obvious, because one of the objects with which the Kremlin has approached the once solemn business of treaty making is to show that you can get away with almost anything if you are a member of the Eastern bloc. I should imagine that also lies behind the allocation of Transylvania. Roumania gets the lot. It would have been perfectly easy to have arranged a partition whereby some of the obviously Hungarian sections of that country should have gone to Hungary but, at the time, Roumania was a member of the Eastern bloc and Hungary was not, though great pressure of all kinds is now being exercised upon her to join. I am exceedingly glad to see from the Order Paper that on May 15 we shall have some opportunity of commenting upon this procedure.

I am well aware that much of what I have said will not appeal to certain ostensible supporters of His Majesty's Government, notably, I think, the type embodied by Mr. Mack, M.P., who in his volatile excursions in Bulgaria has achieved the record of getting kissed more often in an upright position than any of the world's great screen lovers, from Charles Boyer onwards, and has then come home to tell the world that his oscillating and osculating Bulgarians must have Western Thrace. I have mentioned the apolaustic Mr. Mack only because he seems to embody the type of the opposition which Mr. Bevin encounters. To any ordinary member of the audience like myself, Mr. Bevin seems to be subjected to an undue number of missiles from the back row of his own chorus, who seem unable to appreciate a star when they have got one, though stars do affect the runs of plays.

There is another reason why I wish to exercise considerable reticence to-day. Same of Mr. Bevin's critics imported a Very woolly Mr. Wallace at the moment when he was most likely to embarrass Mr. Bevin in the conduct of his arduous and thankless task. Mr. Wallace devoted a great deal of attention to slamming President Truman's policy in Greece, a policy which might prevent Mr. Mack and "les Bulgares" from occupying Western Thrace. But never once did Mr. Wallace mention that the Kremlin has been doing a hundred times more in the Eastern bloc for the past two years.

Mr. Wallace came here to open an exhibition of bad taste, because he and his impresarios and his fans have done everything in their power to prevent the Secretary of State from dealing with the Soviets on a basis of reason. I think that was rather a dirty trick.

That brings me to my concluding point, to which I attach really great importance. I feel that we should pass these Treaties with a sigh, recognizing that good and just Treaties seem as unattainable as ever. But if, after even longer negotiations, an even less satisfactory Treaty is propounded to us in the case of Germany, it would be impossible to exercise similar indulgence, and it would then be necessary, and would be our duty, not only to be far more critical but even to reject a defective and dangerous Treaty. If that day should come (and if it did, it would be in my judgment, in part at least, due to Mr. Bevin's opponents in his own country) then I would have no difficulty whatever in producing a dozen good reasons why we should be far better off without a quadripartite agreement than with a bad German Treaty. If you make that abundantly clear, and clear, above all, to Moscow, you may find that your difficulties will diminish; but not otherwise. That is the moral of these five Treaties now before us and shortly to be behind us.

3.42 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to draw attention not to matters arising between this country and foreign countries, but to matters affecting the life of the Commonwealth. I am curious to ascertain whether or not notice was given to the nations of the Commonwealth when these Treaties were negotiated so that they might have an opportunity of expressing their views. Nothing has engaged the attention of the Dominions more than the question of the negotiation of Treaties. In 1921 and 1926, after it was determined that we were of equal status, certain principles were arrived at for the purpose of determining the position of the nations of the Commonwealth with regard to the respective Treaties that were being negotiated by these countries. Elaborate rules were laid down in 1926, but it was not until the Imperial Conference in 1930 that they finally arrived at the course of conduct that should be observed with respect to the negotiation of a Treaty. It was determined by that Conference that when a Treaty was being negotiated by this country, or by any of the nations of the Commonwealth, all the other nations of the Commonwealth should be informed, so they might have an opportunity of determining what action they would take. I would like to know from the learned Viscount on the Woolsack whether or not notice was given by this country within the terms of that rule.

I took the trouble to look up the rules as they were laid down at the Conference. They are very simple. In the Report of the Conference it was laid down that the main points to be considered are as follows: (1) Any of His Majesty's Governments conducting negotiations should inform the other Governments of His Majesty in case they should be interested and give them the opportunity of expressing their views, if they think that their interests may be affected. (2) Any of His Majesty's Governments on receiving such information should, if it desires to express any views, do so with reasonable promptitude. (3) None of His Majesty's Governments can take any steps which might involve the other Governments of His Majesty in any active obligation without their definite assent. The Conference desires to emphasize the importance of ensuring the effective operation of these arrangements. That being so, it follows that every one of the Overseas Dominions which are nations of the Commonwealth had the right to receive from the Government of this nation an indication that they were about to negotiate a Treaty; that is, if the other nations were interested. Obviously some of the nations had some interest in the matter, for there are many thousands of dead (of one country at least) in Italy. They were also interested for other reasons that are apparent in the terms of the Treaty. Were they advised? Did they have the opportunity to express their views? Did they express their views? Did they say they had any further interest in the matter?

It will be recalled that when the conclusion was arrived at that these nations were autonomous communities, the Prime Minister of this country stated that they were recognized as such by the nations of the world. They had signed the Peace Treaties of the First World War, and they had generally exercised the rights and privileges of nations. That being so, the Statute of Westminster gave effect only to the conclusions that were then arrived at. It will be recalled that at the Imperial War Conference the conclusion was reached that we should have a Constitutional Conference to deal with the whole matter of the relations between the nations of the Commonwealth. Unfortunately it was concluded that sufficient had been granted and obtained to obviate the necessity for that Conference being held. In 1921 it was decided that no Conference should be held, and in 1931 the Statute of Westminster was enacted by this Parliament. It is of great importance, I submit, that there should be no misunderstandings at this time with respect to matters of this kind. The Dominions have taken an active part in the war; they have made great sacrifices and great contributions to victory—Australia and New Zealand in the far Pacific, Canada across the Atlantic, while South Africa's troops fought in three continents. That being so, it is of the utmost importance that there should be no misunderstanding with respect to this matter. If there is, it is just the germ from which may result consequences so dire that we hesitate to consider them. That is all I rose to say. I have felt, from the discussions in the Press and elsewhere, that there was apparently no appreciation of the fact that, by common consent, a certain line of conduct and action had been determined, and it was important that a statement should be made as to whether or not that line of action had been followed.

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, without prejudice to the answering of other questions by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, perhaps I might intervene to say a word on the point raised by the noble Viscount who has just sat down. I should like to assure him fully that we are diligently endeavouring to live up to the letter and the spirit of those undertakings which have been mentioned. All the Dominions were kept fully informed with regard to this matter, and that practice is maintained from day to day. As the noble Viscount knows, the arrangements for consulting them, as well as some other belligerents, were not satisfactory—as was rather painfully made manifest by the Conference in Paris. But, of course, all of those countries are signatories to these Treaties. The Conference in Paris was very prolonged, and not altogether edifying. But so far as we were concerned, I can assure the noble Viscount that it was our constant endeavour and determination to see that the self-governing territories of the Commonwealth were kept as fully informed in these matters as was humanly possible.

With regard to the discussion on the German Treaty, I can inform the noble Viscount that almost daily, while the meetings of the deputies of the four Powers, as provided for at Potsdam, were taking place in London, the High Commissioners of the Dominions met with representatives of the Foreign Office and were kept fully informed from day to day of what was going on. Endeavours were made, and are still being made, to secure that the rights of the self-governing Dominions to be consulted and to have their views considered with regard to those Treaties—on which the noble Viscount has quite properly insisted—shall he given effect to. But I am sorry to say that, so far as the procedure for these purposes in regard to the German Treaty is concerned, the progress in Moscow has been very disappointing. Nevertheless, we are doing our best to sustain our point of view.


May I thank the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, for the statement which he has made. I receive it with the greatest satisfaction, and I am sure that it will be received with the greatest satisfaction also by the country in which I was born.

3.54 p.m.


My Lords, I believe I may speak again only with the leave of the House, but as I have been asked certain specific questions I am sure your Lordships will grant me that concession. May I say that I felt it right that the noble Viscount who leads the House should reply to the last question, because he is in a much better position than I am to speak with regard to that matter. I do know how insistent he has been throughout—just as insistent as the noble Viscount, Lord Bennett—on the rights of the Dominions being observed to the fullest extent. All I can say of my own knowledge is that they actually signed, and were parties to, those Treaties in Paris.

The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, asked me some questions and made some general observations. I will endeavour to answer the questions, but I should like to say one or two words about his general observations, with which I entirely agree. He said that whatever Treaty you sign, whatever piece of paper you put your name to, in the last resort its validity really depends upon the removal of suspicion between the East and the West of Europe. With that I agree. Unless we can get a basis of trust instead of distrust, a basis of good-will instead of ill-will, and a basis of understanding and not misunderstanding, then indeed all our labours may well be in vain. Therefore, as I see it, it is to-day the task of statesmen throughout Europe—a task which our own Foreign Secretary has always recognized and is fully sustaining and maintaining—to remove every possible cause of mistrust which may still exist. With regard to the particular question of the comparative degrees of guilt that weighed in the scales so far as Bulgaria and Italy are concerned, I do not consider it necessary to say anything. I do not think it is competent to weigh that matter. I speak for my own part, but I am sure I shall have the support of the Foreign Secretary when I say that, beyond any doubt, I regard the claim which Bulgaria is making on Greece as quite outrageous and one which cannot possibly have the support of His Majesty's Government at any stage; indeed, exactly the contrary.

I come then to consider the specific questions that I was asked. With regard to reparations, I was asked how the amounts were arrived at.

I think that the sums actually are$260,000,000 in the case of Italy;$300,000,000 in the case of Roumania, Hungary and Finland and about$70,000,000 in the case of Bulgaria. I was asked how these figures were arrived at; by what standard or scale they were weighed, and so on. Let me be quite frank. So far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, we regret that there are any provisions for reparations. The figures were arrived at on no definite principle. We did the best we could in each case to reduce those figures to the lowest possible measure. If we alone had been responsible for the Peace Treaties there would have been no figures of reparations at all, and all we have done is, by a measure of hard bargaining, as I have said, to try in each case to get the figure down to the lowest possible figure; and the result your Lordships see in the Peace Treaties. The problem for us was to know whether to agree to those Treaties, which, as I said before, and as the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, said, involved most protracted negotiations. This was the best that we could do in this regard, and I submit that on the whole it was desirable to get the Treaties signed.

I then come to the question of refugees, about which I was asked some questions by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. Our interpretation of Article 45 of the Italian Treaty is that the Government concerned, the Italian Government, are entitled to surrender only persons against whom a prima facie case of war crime or quisling activities is made out, and not persons against whom mere vague allegations are made, still less persons whose sole crime is opposition to their own Government. And let me assure the noble Lord that perhaps the best way of dealing with this matter will be to remove as many genuine Yugoslav refugees from Italy as soon as we can, even before the Treaty comes into force. We have that matter in hand and I hope the noble Lord will agree that the answer which I have given him is sympathetic and realistic.


Will the noble and learned Viscount forgive me? I apologize for interrupting him. He has said that a prima facie case has to be made against those individuals. Who would decide that a prima facie case was made out? That seems to me to be an essential point.


That is the view that we shall maintain in the Council of Ambassadors. That is the body which will decide this matter. Let me make our view quite plain. I think that "accused" means that there must be a proper charge similar to that which we should require for extradition in this country; that is to say, a charge giving details of the offence, the time, the place and so on; and not mere vague general accusations of being Fascist-minded or anything of that sort. That is the view which we shall endeavour to maintain before the Council of Ambassadors. However, as I have said, whether we maintain that view or not, it would be well to remove a large number of these people beforehand.

Then I come to the question of human rights. That subject, as the noble Lord knows, is under active discussion by a committee of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Some sort of initial charter is aimed at but as yet we have come to no definite conclusion. Again, of course, disputed points will go to the Council of Ambassadors of the four major Powers, in the case of the Italian Treaty; of three major Powers in the case of Roumania, Bulgaria and Hungary; and of two major Powers in the case of Finland. In our recent recognition of the Bulgarian Government your Lordships will remember that we said we recognized that Government on the assumption and on the understanding that Bulgaria intended to abide by the human rights clause. All we can do—and I can give this assurance—is to press as far as we possibly can that that right, which is of fundamental importance to us, should be observed and maintained.

I was asked a question, or at any rate some comment was made, upon Article 36 of the Roumanian Treaty dealing with the Danube. That Article expressly provides for free and open navigation of the Danube. A separate protocol was drawn up by the four major Powers, providing for a conference in six months from the coming into force of the Treaty to settle the whole matter. In the view of His Majesty's Government the existing statutes of the Danube were only suspended by the war and are revived in peace. We attach the greatest importance to the free navigation of the Danube and, as your Lordships know, we strongly pressed this matter at the Peace Conference. When the Conference takes place in six months time we shall press for a proper international regime for the River Danube for complete freedom of navigation and for non-discrimination. I have stated as firmly and simply as I can what we shall press for and, as your Lordships know, when Mr. Bevin presses for a thing he does press for it. What the outcome will be, however, I cannot tell your Lordships. I hope that I have answered the questions which were put to me.

On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.