§ LORD SCHUSTER rose to ask His Majesty's Government what is their policy in relation to Austria, and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it would have been preferable if this question had been asked by someone who could claim to speak with more authority in this House, but as no one else seemed inclined to raise the question, and as I think it is very necessary that both your Lordships' House and the country at large should, from time to time, consider, in detail, the Austrian situation, I have been bold enough to offer myself as a victim on this occasion. The speech which I am going to make will contain a great deal of controversial matter, but it is not a Party speech. I am talking, on this occasion only by accident, from this particular Bench, and, so far as I complain of anything, the things of which I complain may be taken as referring to actions not only of this Government but of Governments which have preceded it. My remarks are not put forward with the purpose of making a Party score or gaining a Party advantage.
§ Although it may seem as if it were irrelevant to what I have to say on the general matter, I feel bound in the first place to refer to the question of the South Tyrol. It may perhaps be that your Lordships think that that is a subject which is now dead and might well be buried out of sight. But it is quite impossible for me, personally, to speak about Austria without referring to that subject. I believe that I can speak of it with complete impartiality. Italy is to 190 me a very much older and very much truer friend than Austria, and for many years before the last war, wandering in the beautiful valleys of the Trentino and in the no less beautiful valleys of what we now call the South Tyrol, I looked forward to the day when the Italian valleys would be restored to Italy. And great as were the apprehensions and evils that sprang from the last war, it appeared to me, as it reached its close, that there would be at least this one great benefit—that that which was Italian in every sense except that of frontier should go within the Italian boundary.
§ But it was a great shock to me, and I think a great shock to all those who knew anything at all about the subject, that there were transferred to Italy not only the Italian regions but the most Austrian regions that there are on earth. For the country of the South Tyrol, as we now call it, is the most essentially Austrian region within all the confines of Austria—Austrian in character and religion and the tomb of its heroes. By this severance the Tyrol is cut in half, so that part has to be administered by Carinthia. Though that is only a local disturbance it is greatly felt in the country. We have had plenty of object lessons since about that matter. We know quite well what went on in South Tyrol from the conclusion of the bundle of treaties which we call the Treaty of Versailles up to the time of the last war. We know that during that time, the Italians oppressed the inhabitants. They carried their oppression beyond the grave, and defaced tombstones on which the Austrian language was inscribed. It is a smaller matter, but they also changed the names of towns to absurd new Italian versions.
§ Again, in the war through which we have now passed, I thought that at least there would be one injustice rectified, and that the Austrian Tyrol would be returned to Austria. Of course, that sounds like—and maybe it is—sentiment, and perhaps sentiment, and what might even be called sentimentality, ought not to enter into our view of matters of this kind. But from the British point of view, and from the point of view of British policy, something has happened which goes fair beyond sentiment. I saw the effect on the minds of the Austrian Government and the Austrian population, when this disastrous decision was reached. When we went 191 into Austria it was indeed a conquered country, but we went there still welcomed as deliverers and as friends. As friends we remained and I hope that we still remain. But a most violent blow was struck at that friendship and the whole attitude of the Austrian Government towards us when they learned that that old injustice was not to be rectified.
§ Why was it that this was done? We are told all kinds of stories about economic needs; that Italian factories, working by water power in the valleys, are necessary to the economy of Italy, and Italian money has been spent upon them. That is a fantastic answer. Surely anyone who knows the Southern slopes of the Alps realizes that water power is available for the use of the Italians for hundreds of miles? Surely everybody realizes that if those works had passed under Austrian dominion nothing would be easier than to arrange that there should be a sufficient supply of electrical power delivered to Italy until Italy could replace them by works of her own?
§ That was not a reason that convinced any of those who looked at the matter in Austria itself. "No," they said, "you have given this land to Italy as a sop and as a piece of international bargaining, because you intended, and intend, to do a wrong to Italy in the matter of Trieste. You are trying to console her with this." That, I am quite sure, is the view which the Austrians take, and I believe it to be the view which the Italians take. If anyone believes that the Italians are pleased with what has happened, he is very grievously mistaken.
§ I have been in Italy two or three times during the course of the last year, and the difference in the attitude of the Italian population to British visitors is very marked. They are not grateful for this evil inheritance which has been given them. They know, as well as we know, that however sensible the Governments are themselves, it must remain a cause of ill will between them and between the two peoples. They are by no means consoled by this gift for what they think is the injustice done to them. It is quite impossible to have gone recently through that area, to have started in Carinthia and driven along the obviously Austrian valley which leads you finally to the 192 Adige Valley past the town of Bozen, without feeling that all the time you are in an Austrian area. Then suddenly you pass—it seems almost by magic—into an area that is as thoroughly Italian. Nature has marked the division between the two perfectly clearly, and it is flying in the face of nature and history to attempt to reverse her decision.
§ One of the reasons why there should be a debate on Austria is that your Lordships now have before you, and have not yet debated, the Report of the Select Committee which visited Austria very recently. That Report, which has only just come before you, I intend to be my main text for what I am going to say, but before I come to it I want to say this. A little more than two years ago I visited Italy in order that I might observe the workings of the Control Commission in that country and gain some lessons from them. I gained a great many lessons, but with these I need not trouble your Lordships this afternoon. Two things struck me in particular, and these, I think, are relevant to the present situation. The first is that it seemed to me obvious that the work of fitting together in one organization both soldiers and civilians, commanded perhaps by a soldier or perhaps by a civilian, was going to be very difficult as a matter of organization.
§ The Italian Commission, as your Lordships know, was solely military. Although the people who were actually engaged upon civil operations, particularly the lawyers, wore His Majesty's coat and had fought in the field, they were not people who were soldiers by profession, who had devoted their lives to the work of soldiering. Nevertheless, they were a military body. The British element of the Control Commission in Austria is a mixed body of soldiers and civilians working side by side in the same room; there are soldiers under civilians and civilians under soldiers. I was apprehensive that there might be very great difficulty with regard to fitting them together. Indeed, as we started planning, it was on occasion a little difficult for the soldiers to teach us exactly the way they wanted a thing done, and for us to teach them how impossible it was for us to do it in their way. I well remember, in their desire to educate us, that it was thought that we should have attached to the staff of my Division an experienced soldier who was versed in what 193 are called Staff duties. In due course a gentleman clad in the uniform of a famous Regiment came to see me, and we talked the matter over. Not wanting to have anybody on my staff who was not likely to be happy there, I said to him: "Well, thinking it all over, are you quite sure you will like it and find the duties pleasing? You know we civilians are an unruly race." He looked at me quite solemnly, and without a smile on his face, replied, "Yes, civilians are a curse, are they not?"
§ I do not say that when we were in Austria there were not occasions when these apprehensions and fears of mine were not to some extent realized, but I now know that they were unsubstantial and, ill founded. I now know that the organization which was brought into being, wisely directed from above by soldiers and supported with loyalty by the civilians, worked admirably. The result, so far as my Division was concerned, was a staff such as I was proud to command, and so far as the Division as a whole was concerned, one which I was proud to serve. I believe that a staff organized in that way is the only possible staff by which the particular problems we have to face can be encountered and solved.
§ That brings me to the Report of the Select Committee. Before I criticize it I want to say this about them: Of all the visitors—and there were many—who from time to time honoured us with their presence in Vienna, I do not think any gratified us so much as the Select Committee. They showed such a zeal to understand our problems, such intelligence in dealing with them, and such courtesy in their relations with us,' that we were all grateful to them. If, therefore, I pick out a particular thing to criticize, and abstain from praising, it is because my praise would take too long. After all, it is the things that I want to get altered which I would draw to your Lordships' attention.
§ The Select Committee recommended that the Commission should be, as they called it, demilitarized. I hope that I have already expressed—although perhaps not sufficiently—my gratitude to the soldiers under whom I had the honour to serve. Of course, we are all grateful to the British Army for a great many things; and to the American Army, too. There is, however, one thing in respect of which I bear them an undying grudge, and that 194 is their monstrous treatment of the English language. Words like "demilitarization," "denazification" and "hospitalization" caused me to writhe with agony and stamp with temper.
§ It may be that the Commission are not to continue for very much longer. They may be terminated by the Peace Treaty. That does not matter. But, while the Commission subsist, they cannot be demilitarized in any further sense than that in which they are already demilitarized. The structure of the British element of the Commission—I hope that I am not telling your Lordships something with which you are already well familiar—is as follows. At the top is the Commander-in-Chief. On one side he is called the High Commissioner, and on the other side the Commander-in-Chief, but as it is impossible to go into the room and know which side you are looking at, it does not much matter what he is called. Under him on one side, there are the British troops in Austria, who are called according to the slang of the day, the B.T.A., and, on the other, the British Element of the Control Commission. They are specifically under the command of the Deputy Commissioner, with his Chief of Staff. Below him again there are, I think, thirteen Divisions. Of those thirteen Divisions, three are essentially what I must call military—although I do not want to appear to say something which offends the other Services. There is the Military Division which must necessarily, I think, be commanded by a soldier. There is the Air Division, which must necessarily he commanded by an officer of the Royal Air Force, and there is the Naval Division, which must find the task of showing the flag upon the Danube, it suppose without any flag and without any ship, somewhat difficult. But as it consists of only one man and one assistant, perhaps it does not very much matter.
§ I have dealt with three out of the thirteen Divisions. Of the other ten, two happen to have soldiers in command of them. One of them is a soldier whose ample presence, and particularly his amplitude of chest, displays to the world at large in magnificent colours that he has served His Majesty in almost every part of the civilized and uncivilized globe and has held positions which were at least as civil as they were military. As he is not only in command of a particular 195 Division, but also has charge of the surrender of ex-enemy personnel, it is very suitable that he should be a soldier. The history of the other soldier I do not know. I have not seen the soldierly side of him, although I have had many occasions to admire his great knowledge of the subject with which he deals, and the extreme subtlety of mind with which he deals with it. All the other eight Divisions are commanded by civilians. What further can be done to demilitarize them I do not know. In some cases they have under their control people who are still serving as soldiers, being fed as soldiers and ranked as soldiers, and if they are taken away there are no replacements for them.
§ The Committee go on to say that the reason why they suggest demilitarization is that they do not want to reflect upon the work and the efficiency with which the work has been carried on, but "the military habit of simplification is not always an advantage in dealing with the complex problems of politics, for the soldier is rightly trained to evolve quick and clear solutions of which the stuff of politics does not admit." For my part, I wish the stuff of politics could be made to admit of it, because it is only by clear and quick solutions that you can make progress. We are dealing in Vienna, day by day and all day, with other nations. Something has got to be done on Tuesday of which you get notice on Monday. If you cannot get something clear and simple pretty quickly—I do not say a solution, for some things are insoluble—administration becomes impossible. I do not accept this contrast between the military and the civil side. I do not see any particular difference in the way in which the Commission work and the way in which some, though not all, Government Departments in this country work. I do see—and I lament—that when we come to deal with Departments in this country, whose assent and counsel is needed in Vienna, we do not get clear and simple solutions. For that reason, we suffer. What is required is greater simplicity, greater speed, greater help from here, and no interference with the Organization in Austria.
§ But the matter goes much deeper than that. The Select Committee base their whole Report on the thesis that the Agreement entered into last June, which is the 196 Creed and Bible of the Commission, was an agreement between the four Occupying Powers, on the one hand, and the Austrian Government on the other. It is nothing of the kind. The four occupying Armies are in Austria exercising the powers of a conqueror. The four Commanders-in-Chief, either singly or acting together, are, by international law, supreme. All that the Control Agreement does is to express among themselves which of those powers they shall exercise and who alone shall exercise them. They have tried to give, and the Control Agreement tries to give, more and more functions and more and more power to the Austrian Government. Of course, that is the policy of His Majesty's Government and, if I may say so, it is the right policy. But all that is on sufferance. It is not by contract. It is by the sufferance which these four Powers have agreed to endure that Austria acts at all.
§ Then see what happens. The Commission is fed by the Army; it is housed by the Army; it is carried by the Army. If it should appear to the Commander-in-Chief that for the safety of his troops certain things must be done on the railway, he orders them to be done, whatever the civil power may think about the matter. If it seems to him that the roads are falling, as they do and have done, into a parlous condition, he can and must and does take labour from other places where civilians are gladly employed, and force it on to the roads, so that those roads shall at all times be usable by troops who may have to be taken from place to place quickly. That is why the two charges of the Commander-in-Chief and of the High Commissioner are best united in one person. When they are so united, then that person can, as the Commander-in-Chief does, look at both sides of the question.
§ I know very little of what has happened in Germany. My visits to Germany during the last two years were literally of the most flying character, and one was highly involuntary. I am told by all those who do know anything about Germany, however, that it suffered very greatly from the division of functions between the Commander-in-Chief and the High Commissioner. I think it would be deplorable if such a retrograde step were to be taken as to divide the two offices in Austria.197
§ That is all I want to say on my first head of the division between the civilian and the soldier, but I wish to mention something about a matter upon which I think the Select Committee says nothing; and that is as regards the Minister. Nothing was more apparent in Italy than the excellent work, if I may venture to say so without giving the appearance of an improper sense of praise, done by Mr. Macmillan in that country. Whenever the Commission—I use that term for the moment—were stuck, they waited eagerly for the moment when he would come and advise them and get them out of trouble. That feeling ran through the whole administration. I was very unlucky, and I never met him when I was in Italy; I had never met him before and I have never met him since, so I am talking without any sort of personal friendship.
§ His function was to interpret the mind of His Majesty's Government to the people on the spot and to explain to His Majesty's Government the difficulties which the people on the spot suffered. Those are and should be the duties of the Minister. I was very anxious, there-core, when I came back from Italy, that there should be a Minister who occupied with the British Element of the Commission the same position that Mr. Macmillan had occupied with the Control Commission in Italy, and I was highly gratified when I found that the Government (not on my advice) had adopted that course. I was, however, horrified to find that they had chosen to occupy that position a gentleman who, whatever his personal qualifications might be—and I am not saying anything about the Minister personally—occupied only a minor Government position, who had other Departmental functions, who was not even a Member of the Cabinet, and whose visits to the countries at issue were to be—and in fact they have been—very few, though not, I am sure, through any fault of his. If I had known that he was to be charged in addition with the attendance, nurture and watering of the Upas Tree that grows in St. James's Square, I should have been more horrified still.
§ I think it is most necessary, first, that there should be a Minister who occupies the position between the Commission and His Majesty's Government which Mr. Macmillan occupied between Italy and this country; and, secondly, that he should have no Departmental respon- 198 sibilities. I do not know what "Minister of State" means, but I think the ideal thing would be that he should occupy some sort of position in the Foreign Office itself for after all, while the Commission are in touch with other Departments—they have some of their affairs managed through Norfolk House, and they must necessarily, to some extent be in touch with the War Office—it is still essentially the Foreign Office which is concerned, and it is foreign policy which they are working out. Then it is said: "The best way to bring that about is to have a Resident Minister." That seems to me to be going to the opposite extreme and to be equally disastrous.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, according to his own account, which I am sure is true, visited Austria and Germany seven times in 1946, and spent twenty-eight days in the British Zone. You cannot, by a couple of days in Vienna and a scamper through the Zones, get to know what the problems are, still less the very intimate and delicate play as between man and man which necessarily governs the relations between the British element and the other elements. Therefore he would have to give to it a great deal of time which he cannot afford, although a more industrious person and one more devoted to his duties I am sure does not exist.
§ On the other hand, if he were resident, I think the result would be calamitous. In the first place, he must be resident somewhere. As we are continually told by Norfolk House that Germany is very much more important than Austria—it is larger and has more people I assume that he would be resident in Germany. I should expect, therefore, that every problem that turned up would be examined mostly from the German point of view. I do not mean from the German national point of view, but from the point of view of those administering Germany. The share of attention which Austria would get, therefore, which is little enough as it is, would be greatly diminished.
§ In the second place, if he is resident there he would insensibly become an executive officer. The responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief or the High Commissioner—whichever it is—would be overclouded; there would be a doubt as to where responsibility rested. I think 199 that what is as much needed as anything is that the responsibilities should appear to be held by those who do in fact discharge them. There is another reason. I am quite certain that if you had a Resident Minister, whether in Germany or in Austria, he would very soon gather round him that gigantic crowd of officials who appear to be regarded by Ministers as necessary for their comfort, wherever they are, whether in St. James's Square or elsewhere. (I promised the noble Lord that I would not say anything particularly nasty about Norfolk House on this occasion!)
If I may interrupt the noble Lord, I hope he will not feel in any way bound by that promise to the extent of being inhibited and not saying things which he thinks would be of interest, because I have come fully equipped to answer him on that subject.
I am sure that it would appeal to the sporting instincts of the noble Lord to pass strictures on Norfolk House only when I have a chance of replying to them.
§ LORD SCHUSTER
It is very difficult indeed to ask the fox to be sporting in regard to the hound. He does his best to get away and bites as many hounds as he can when he is caught up. I must do the best I can to fight my battle in my own way. I do not want to take up too much time on administration, but I do think that it would be a terrible disaster if we built up a huge organization attendant on the Minister in either of those countries. I have sometimes heard Norfolk House described as a "buffer." In order to find out what that word "buffer" meant, I looked it up in the dictionary. This is what it says: "Buffer" An apparatus for deadening by springs or pads a concussion." Then it has another meaning: "Buffer (usually 'old Buffer'). Old fashioned and incompetent fellow."
I would like your Lordships to believe that while I have spent, I am afraid, far more time than I should have done on questions of organization, they are, nevertheless, of very great importance and they do very materially affect the manner in which the policy is carried out, if there be a policy, and they even affect, as it were, 200 the policy itself. I do not think, and the select Committee do not think, they have received as much attention in this country—this is not an attack on Norfolk House—as they deserve.
I want to pass from that to the actual affairs of Austria itself. It is not possible to talk about them in a very light or cheerful manner. The things which overshadow every act and every thought while you are there are famine—lack of food and lack of fuel. I am sure that your Lordships know as much about that side of the question as I know myself. It is not what might be called "my side of the house" and I do not want to say anything about it except these two or three words. In the first place, these stories are true. The Austrian is not being sufficiently fed. As a result of not being sufficiently fed, he cannot do a proper day's work; and because he cannot do a proper day's work and because he has very little fuel, he cannot produce the goods which he must produce if Austria is to be made, in any true sense of the word, a free and independent country with an economic basis of its own. I am convinced, not by statistics but by observation and by continual reports from people who are not concerned with food and fuel, that the Austrian administrative machine is very definitely slowed down because the men operating it and working it have not the physical vigour to carry on, and they lack the physical vigour because they are not getting the right food.
I hope nobody thinks that I am reproaching anybody here for that. We have not sufficient food, or so I am told, in this country. I was told that when I came home I should find it very uncomfortable, but it is not a tenth part as uncomfortable as Austria was then—and I believe conditions there have got worse since I left. The letters I receive from my friends there are more despairing in tone. They complain that while when we first went to Austria the children—though we could never understand how it was—looked rosy-cheeked and stout, they are now beginning to look thin, pale and "peaky." My friends are complaining that they have not got, even for the British offices, enough fuel or light.
I say all that to start with because I do not want you to think that the other two things about which I am going to speak are of equal importance, although 201 they are important. The first of these two things is what is called denazification and the second is what we call by the pet name "German assets." I cannot approach either of those two subjects, nor will the picture I am trying to sketch before you be nearly complete, unless I turn aside at this juncture and say a word about Russia. I know quite well that on this subject I have to walk delicately—as delicately as Agag, although not for the same reason. I will try not to say anything which will make the situation more difficult than it is now.
I suppose that what I am going to say is really familiar to your Lordships; nevertheless I feel that I must repeat it. Until you get to grips with it, it is almost impossible to realize how great is the barrier of language between the Russians and ourselves. We spent hours with the Frenchmen, the Americans and the Germans and could always, however little fluency we had in those languages, manage to understand most at least of what they were saying. We could see the drift, we could correct our own interpreters when they went wrong, and we could see what effect our own words were having on the mind of the man to whom they were addressed. But with the Russians that is not so, and it is not their fault or ours. There are more Russians vim talk English than there are British who talk Russian.
There is not. However, only a difference of language; there is also a complete difference in methods of thought. There are European words (some of which are somewhat doubtful in their meaning When we use them ourselves) such as "democracy," "Fascism," and so on, spattered about their conversation, but it is perfectly clear to anybody who listens that they do not mean by "democracy" what we mean by it. I really do not know what we mean by it, but whatever it is we mean by it, the Russians do not mean the same. In this country people have got into the habit of throwing words like "Fascist" and so on, at their opponents, as if they had a kind of meaning, and I suppose they have in their mouths; but they certainly have not the same meaning in the Russians' mouths.
The whole general attitude caused by this difference of thought interposes an enormous obstacle. May I tell you two stories. A Russian friend of mine—one of 202 the few who really talked fluent English—told me one day how very greatly he enjoyed being in Europe. I said: "Being in Europe? But you were educated at the University of Moscow." He replied:" Yes, but I do not call that Europe." One day they brought in a girl to interpret, and she interpreted pretty badly, poor thing, for a reason which will be clear in a moment. At the luncheon interval I said to her: "Have you had a happy morning?" She replied:" The happiest of my life; I have never heard English spoken before." All that makes things very difficult and it means that the Russian in Austria approaches the problems with which he is faced in a totally different spirit and with totally different methods of thought from those which actuate us. Very often he does not understand things which appear to us to be perfectly clear and I am quite certain in my own mind that the Russians have never understood the more important clauses of the Control Agreement, and I am sure that many of the difficulties which have arisen between us have arisen because the Russians do not look at and do not construe written documents in the manner in which we look at them and construe them.
On the other hand, I must say this, and I cannot help being autobiographical because it brings the matter more clearly to your Lordships' minds. I sat on ninety-three separate days at meetings of my own Directorate; that is to say, where the four elements met together. Each day probably meant six hours of argument and about an hour's lunch, which was as hard work as the argument. During all that time I never received anything but courtesy from my Russian opposite number. During the weeks from the beginning of October to Christmas, when I left the Control Commission—the whole of which time was occupied in the discussion of the denazification law—I was continually helped and I continually helped him; the union between us was perfect.
I do not mean to say that we both wanted the same thing. We were constantly in disagreement as to how a particular clause should be treated, or where we should draw a particular line. We talked to one another as negotiators who desired to come together, but who knew quite well that they desired different 203 things. But we did come together, and we did in fact, largely through this forbearance and this help, arrive at a satisfactory agreement—that is to say an agreement which was satisfactory to our masters—and a clear agreement. As I am going to say something about international agreements in a moment, I want particularly to lay stress on the fact that it was clear, and that we did understand what we were doing and what we wanted. I think we all thought, as these meetings went on and we got together, that there was to some extent a change of spirit that we were beginning to lay the foundations of some sort of mutual understanding. I think that was entirely due to the fact that each of us believed what the other said, and never did anything which could lead us to suppose that [...] were seeking any end except the end ostensibly before us.
I think the Russians must be treated like that. I believe that the Russian looks upon us as extraordinarily clever and diabolical people, always trying to play some sort of trick, and as people who, by our superior cleverness, will trap him unless he makes use of his ruthless force. I think that he feels justified in using any trick that comes his way. That was a preface to what I was trying to say about denazification. I am afraid that I am going to say something which my noble friend will not like, but I am glad he is still here so that he can hear it. There are in Austria a number of people who have committed atrocious crimes. There are not quite so many as there were, because we have hanged many of them, but there are certain people who should be tried and, if found guilty, should be executed. The ones with whom I have been in contact have been guilty of murder in circumstances which, in my judgment, are inexcusable. No doubt there are in Austria people who, before the Anschluss, voted against the existence of the Austrian Republic. There are people who since the Anschluss, although not guilty of murder, were still party to the doing of deeds which were wrong in themselves and harmful to other people. There are, beyond them, an enormous mass of people who were members of one form or another of the National Socialist Party, contributing to its funds and even in some cases, perhaps, receiving some slight promotion in the Party. Let me 204 sweep away at once any talk about the people who are actually guilty, or can be found guilty, of things we call crimes. I am not saying anything about them except that they should be punished.
The denazification law divides the rest of the Nazis into two parties, the more guilty and the less guilty; and it imposes penalties which differ according to whether you were more guilty or less guilty. It does not impose sentences of imprisonment, but it does forbid the exercise of trades and professions. It disfranchises, to all intents and purposes, so far as the more guilty are concerned. It deprives them for ever of any chance of earning their livelihood or practising the professions in which they have been brought up. In all cases it imposes fines; but that is a minor matter. The less guilty are also forbidden to exercise certain trades and professions for a certain length of time. They are fined and they are disfranchised for a certain time. They are made incapable of holding offices, whether Government offices or others, sometimes for ever and sometimes for a certain time.
That was the law which the Austrians themselves put forward and passed, and which the Allied Commission has approved—the law of which I spoke when I was trying to describe my intercourse with the Russian representative. As I understood it, the policy of His Majesty's Government at that time was that denazification was a subject for the Austrians themselves, and that what they desired to do with regard to it they should be allowed to do. Although that is the law which was passed by Parliament, I am not quite sure whether that was exactly what the Austrian people would have desired. The Austrian Government are in a peculiarly difficult position. They are, as you know, a Coalition Government and a Government not composed by reference to the number of their supporters. Furthermore, the Parliament through which they have to pass the law is divided between the three recognized Parties, and Party feeling is no less keen between them because there happens to be a Coalition at the top. The denazification law, therefore, is a compromise. It is not in itself much the worse for that, but it bears the marks of compromise upon it. It lays a most enormous burden upon the Austrian administrative machine. It would never have been passed, and it never would have been 205 produced, if there had not been present in the minds of the Austrian Government and the Austrian people the desire of the Allies that something of this sort should be passed.
What I really want your Lordships to consider—and what I want the noble Lord who is to reply to bring to the notice of the Ministers with whom he sits—is the very doubtful policy which is involved. The result must be directly to weaken the Austrian administrative machine. Practically speaking, between the Anschluss and the outbreak of war you could not hold the smallest Government position unless you paid a tax to the Nazis and unless you became at least a nominal member to that organization. When I speak about the administrative position, I include the Judicial Bench. Your Lordships will realize that a Judge in Austria is very unlike an English Judge. His maximum salary is probably l00 a year, and he very likely has a wife and family. He is a quiet little man, doing his job as best he can, unconcerned usually with politics, working very hard, and—up to his lights—intelligent.
All these people, practically speaking, were forced into the Nazi party. All these people, or nearly all of them, have now been forced off the Bench. The result is that the Austrian courts, with about four times as much criminal work as before the war, are reduced to something like 25 per cent. of their former strength. These figures are estimated; they are not accurate. But the position is something like that. What is true of the courts is equally true with regard to other administrative offices. It is also true of the professions, the doctors and practising lawyers, and, even at the expense of having to bow before the invective of the noble Lord, I want the Government co consider whether this is wise.
You are going to create—you are creating—in Austria a hard core of people who have nothing to do, who cannot earn their living, who will cherish the desire for revenge, and who at the least tilt will be found in any disturbance that arises. I do not believe for a moment (and here again I want to challenge my noble friend) that there is the smallest danger of a recrudescence in Austria—I am not talking about Germany—of the philosophy that is called Nazism. I do, however, believe 206 that there is a very serious risk of a reversion to some form of totalitarianism if things go on as they are at present with a starved, cold, floating mass of discontented people. As it is, people who are quite well-known Nazis and have been displaced in the British or American zones are turning up as good Communists in Lower Austria. That process, I am certain, will continue.
I am sure that the only hope for Austria is that her people should be brought together, that while those who have committed atrocities and crimes should be punished, and punished severely, the rest should be brought back into the fold. The doctors, for example, should not be debarred from doctoring for the rest of their lives; dental mechanics should be allowed to make sham teeth none the less because they have been Nazis. You should not create a crowd of discontented hungry people—your future rebels and your future Communists.
I have been rather long in dealing with this matter. I am sorry for that, and for detaining you to this hour. I must, however, say one thing more about reparation assets, the very problem which gives most trouble. I think that we here are very greatly to blame. The Potsdam Agreement has a great many clauses which concern reparations. Those which have regard to Germany are in great detail. I do not know whether they are being observed, but they are exact and they are intelligible. Those which relate to Austria are completely unintelligible; they have no meaning, and they are strewn with phrases which can be interpreted by the fancy of anyone who reads them. Why it should be the habit of modern diplomats to enter into agreements which have no meaning at all, I do not know. I think it is the great desire to agree until to-morrow, and hope you will not be found out the next day. That is what has happened to the Potsdam Agreement. It is too late to enter into detail upon it, and at any rate some of it is forensic and juridical, and difficult to discuss on the floor of this House. But there is enough to quarrel with there, to keep all the powers of Europe at issue for the next hundred years.
There has been no serious effort made by His Majesty's Goverment to clear it up. While we have wheeled about in doubt and uncertainty, disputing, putting off, trying to save what we can of the 207 Austrian economy, we have had no help. Unless this matter can be clarified and rectified there is no hope for Austria. If the policy is continued of stripping Austrian factories of their machinery, or of occupying vital parts of Austria where there is agriculture or oil, for the benefit of the conqueror, that is a policy which I can well understand. Other conquerors have come in and have despoiled other regions. But our friends promised us they would not. We have gone about saying that we were in favour of a free and independent Austria, and on that footing we have occupied the country in a friendly manner. So have our Allies. But Austria cannot be free and independent if it has no economic hope. It cannot have economic hope until this matter is cleared up.
I do not want to enlarge upon the subject any more because the hour is late. That being so, I come back to the question I put on the Paper: What is His Majesty's Government's policy for Austria? I have looked out from the windows of St. Paul's School over that rather dreary thing they call a garden, into the November fog beyond; from the windows of the Regia Aeronautica in Rome into the clear air of Italy; from those of Schönbrunn or the Schwarzenberg Platz into the varied atmospheres of Austria; in the hope of seeing something, even if it were a cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, which might suggest that His Majesty's Government had a policy, but hitherto I have looked in vain.
It is no good telling me that their policy is that there should be a free and independent Austria, it is no good telling me that their policy is to withdraw from Austria as soon as they can. There is a policy, and we want to know that policy. We are told, and told truly, that peace is indivisible. So is diplomacy, or ought to be. Words that are said to us in St. James's Square and Downing Street, in Schönbrunn, Hof Berg and Schwarzenberg Platz have echoes far beyond those limits—in Athens, in Nanking, and also (the noble Lord will understand what I mean) in Teheran. What is His Majesty's Government's policy?
We have no material interest in Austria. If we say: "We have done our best and we have failed; we cannot make you free; 208 we cannot build you up; as friends, we will go out," I can understand that. Whether that would be a worthy policy I do not know, but it would be a policy.
What is the policy? To that question I have never been able to get an answer. I say that we have no material interest there. We do not desire an inch of territory, and we could not take it if we did. We have no hope of obtaining one ounce of gold. It is of no interest to us that our soldiers should remain some perhaps against their will, in Carinthia and Styria and in Vienna. It is not to our interest that peoples whose energy might be well employed in England should remain in the service of the Commission in Austria. For what object is it? Whatever it is that we are supposed to be doing in Germany, we know that Austria does not need to be kept down. She is not going to attack us; she is not going to attack anybody. She sits shivering lest anybody should attack her. Do we intend to protect her? Do we intend to protect her after we have withdrawn, and by what means? I leave these questions. I cannot answer them myself, so I ask them, perhaps rhetorically but very much more in the fervent hope that I and the English people may receive some answer.
§ 5.4 p.m.
THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, I think we ought to be grateful to my noble friend Lord Schuster for having introduced this question of Austria on the eve of the fateful conference which is to take place at Moscow. The fact of that meeting and of the negotiations now going on in London must, I think, make each of us who take part in this debate weigh our words very carefully. I certainly shall do my best not to say anything which could embarrass either the Foreign Secretary or his deputy in their difficult task. At the beginning of his very able and comprehensive speech, the noble Lord, Lord Schuster, rather indicated that the problem of Austria had been somewhat overlooked, and he offered himself as a sacrificial victim so that this overlooking should not continue. But I really doubt whether his fears in this respect were justified. Remember that Austria was specifically mentioned in the gracious Speech from the Throne and that Austria has figured very largely in the debates which have taken place on foreign affairs both here and in another place, quite 209 apart from the discussions on the South Tyrol.
I will take two instances because they are of great importance. One was the very notable declaration made by the Foreign Secretary on October 22 last, a declaration which gave those of us who are concerned about Austria great satisfaction. The other was the statement made by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, in your Lordships' House, which is particularly worth while looking at just now, because he gave us a categorical assurance that this country would not stand for any diminution of pre-war Austrian territory. That assurance was of great value. Therefore, to my mind, Lord Schuster's fears about Austria being forgotten in debates in Parliament were not altogether justified. On the other hand, I should like to endorse what he said about the evil effects of the acquiescence of His Majesty's Government in the decision of the Foreign Ministers as to South Tyrol. We, on these Benches, believe that decision to be fundamentally wrong because it violated completely the principles and articles of the Atlantic Charter, and we regard that document as of the greatest importance. In fact, so far as Liberals are concerned, it forms our touchstone by which we test happenings and actions in the field of foreign affairs.
I do not think that I shall be accused of any lack of friendship towards Italy when I make a statement of that kind, particularly because I have always held, and still hold, that the proposed Treaty with Italy is distinctly harsh in many respects and does not take into account sufficiently Italian collaboration in the later stages of the war, nor, indeed, the promises which we made continually through the medium of the B.B.C. to the Italian people. It is quite true that, through the wisdom and good sense of the Italian and Austrian Governments, an amicable settlement has been reached as regards South Tyrol, and certainly that settlement greatly alleviates the situation. Field-Marshal Smuts described that settlement as the high spot of the Paris Conference. It may well be, though I have no definite knowledge on the point, that our Foreign Secretary used his good offices at that Conference at Paris to promote this agreement. Well, if he did, I agree that that is some expiation of his original sin. But when he claims, as he claimed 210 in a broadcast a short time ago, that the Foreign Ministers had got rid of the danger of irridentism in that region, really he is asking a little too much of our credulity. If, as I hope it irridentism does disappear, it will certainly not be due to the decision of the Foreign Ministers; it will be due to the good sense and the wisdom of the two Governments who have reached this settlement.
I am not going to follow Lord Schuster in detail on the question of administration. There are many other points on which I think it would be otiose to expatiate, but I feel that when we are considering the question of Austria we must remember that we are considering a question the roots of which lie in centuries far past. That is the essential difference between the Austrian and the German problems. That difference was very clearly brought out in some admirable articles which appeared in August last in the Scotsman. The writer of the articles concluded, and rightly concluded, that "like a Belgium or a Holland, Austria might be occupied but not conquered." Lord Schuster spoke at some length of the Report presented to Parliament by the Select Committee on Estimates. That Committee visited Austria in September last. Now I, too, have studied that Report with considerable care. It is, if I may say so, an admirable and comprehensive document. That Report also brought nut very clearly the sharp distinction between Austria and Germany to which I have already alluded. It emphasized that the problem of Austria was quite as important as that of Germany and how necessary it was that the two problems should continue to be kept quite distinct. I wish that that recommendation of the Select Committee would be borne in mind by the B.B.C., because they ought to remember that the expert on German affairs may not be at all the right man or woman to broadcast to Austria on Austrian affairs.
I was particularly impressed by the advice given by the Committee as regards the necessity of issuing a comprehensive directive on the main objectives of British Policy in Austria. That is very necessary, as the noble Lord, Lord Schuster, and other authorities who have visited Austria, agree. There is a certain conflict in the Moscow Declaration itself, and that conflict ought to be cleared up. While the Declaration recognizes that Austria was the first victim of Nazi aggression another 211 paragraph would seem to regard her as an enemy country. This contradiction has already had unhappy consequences on the interpretation of British policy to the Austrians. In particular, there was the Proclamation of General (now Viscount) Alexander, at the time of the entering of our troops into Austria. That was a Proclamation which, frankly, the Austrians did not understand and have never understood. I am quite sure that a new directive is necessary in order to clear up the obscurities which, if perpetuated, would certainly do harm to our relations with Austria.
I have two criticisms to make about the Report of the Select Committee. In one passage they seem to me to over-emphasize the pan-German and Nazi tendencies of Austria. At no time was Austria pan-German. The Party was obliterated at the elections in 1910. In the Parliament of 1923 it held, I think, about eight seats, and in the Parliament of 1930 only three seats. We must remember that the invasion of Austria took place because Doctor Schuschnigg decided to hold a plebiscite as to whether Austria should become part of Germany or remain independent. Hitler, in order to prevent that issue being presented to the Austrian people—he knew quite well what the result would be—occupied Vienna with his armed forces. Surely we now know the truth about the attitude of the overwhelming majority of Austrians in 1938. Mr. Gedge, correspondent of the Daily Herald, has recently testified that there is no danger of a revival of Nazism, even after the withdrawal of the troops of occupation.
This brings me to rather a delicate point which was dealt with at some length by the noble Lord, Lord Schuster—the question of the denazification of Austria. I hope that that question will be liquidated before long, and, in any case, I trust that His Majesty's Government will be guided by the declaration made by Chancellor Figl—a man who has deserved well of his country—when he spoke at Klagenfürt on September 22 last. He said:The Nazi problem must be handled exclusively on the basis of the meting out of justice. It is the leaders and those responsible who interest us, not the smaller fry, the railway workers and the doorkeepers.I am sure that no one in your Lordships' House desires any unnecessary victimization or a persecution hunt. What we 212 want, once the leaders of the Nazi creed in Austria have been rooted out, is that all Austrians shall work together for the good of their country.
I now come to my second criticism of the Report of the Select Committee. That Report suggests that in the year 1938 Austria was in desperate economic straits. That is far from correct, as all available statistics corroborate. Surely there were never 600,000 unemployed in Austria. I know that Doctor Goebbels gave that figure, but then Doctor Goebbels was a master of lies to suit his own purpose. So far as I can ascertain, the actual figure of unemployed in Austria in 1938 was 232,000 as against some 330,000 in 1933.
Will the noble Earl allow me to intervene? The figures with which I have been supplied indicate that in 1937 there were 321,000 registered as applicants for work, and 319,000 concealed unemployed, making a total of 640,000.
THE EARL OF PERTH
I apologize. I am not acquainted with it. Perhaps when the noble Lord replies he will go into it further. If I have drawn your particular attention to these errors in an otherwise admirable Report, it is because they are of great importance in assessing the future prospects of Austria. I think we forget than Austria is richer in resources than a prosperous country like Switzerland. Far too many people still believe that pre-war Austria could not stand on her own legs, either economically or politically. That was quite untrue—it was again a Goebbels invention. This is not my view alone; it is the view of the best economic and financial experts of this country. It is very desirable that in the future economic relations between Austria and her neighbours in eastern and southern Europe should be developed to the greatest possible extent practicable. I remember that that was strongly urged by that wise statesman, Doctor Benes. He wanted close economic relations between Austria and Czechoslovakia, and had definite ideas as to how they could be effected. Unfortunately, owing to internal politics in 213 Czechoslovakia his intentions and plans could not be carried out. I hope that in the future they may be executed.
I fully realize that His Majesty's Government are not able to deal with Austrian matters as if they were alone. Much must clearly depend upon the attitude of the other great Powers, and particularly of Soviet Russia. I cannot forget, and I do not think we ought to forget, that during the years preceding the war—the years 1933 to 1938—the Soviet Government afforded Austria all the support that was possible when Austria was engaged in a life and death struggle against Germany. I trust that that policy may be continued, and that full effect will be given to the Moscow Declaration, which provides for a free and independent Austria. We desire an Austria from which the troops of occupation have been withdrawn, an Austria which can become politically independent and economically prosperous, and which can be admitted at the earliest possible moment—I attach great importance to this—to membership of the United Nations. I want to add one word. The figures I received about Austria's unemployment were from a very reliatble source.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ LORD VANSITTART
My Lords, I venture a brief incursion into this debate on one specific and concrete point. Before I begin, perhaps I should say how sorry I am that the noble Lord who opened this debate anticipated that his remarks would give me umbrage. His apprehensions only show how much easier it is to acquire a had reputation than a good one, so before I actually come to my main point I will say a few words which may lead him to suppose that I am not quite such an unreasonable person as he appears to imagine.
I remember that in 1937 I made, for my own guidance, as near an estimate as possible of the strength of the pro-AnschŰss movement in Austria. It worked out—I used all available sources for the purpose—at something under 30 per cent. I remember that His Majesty's Minister in Vienna at the time told me that his estimate was lower still; it was about 20 per cent. That also may give some comfort to the noble Lord who preceded me, because I think it shows that the movement for the AnschŰss was very much less weighty than most people 214 supposed. It is true that that minority contained some of the worst and basest Nazis of the lot, but it is fair to say that most of the rest of the people, with some notable and regrettable exceptions on the Left, asked only to be left alone by Germany. They were left alone, and entirely alone, by the Allies, and the result was that they were in due course invaded by the Germans.
It is, therefore, a mistake to suppose that the Second World War began in September, 1939; it began in March, 1938. If the Allies then had been prepared to exercise their veto, there would probably have been no Second World War. As they did nothing, the inevitable happened, and Austrians fought fiercely twice, and for the second time on the wrong side. For that they must bear that measure of responsibility which is laid down in the Moscow Declaration of 1943. Although my official days were long over in 1943, I always imagined some belated recognition of at least a partial Allied responsibility lay behind the other part of the Moscow Declaration which listed Austria as first among the countries to be liberated. It is common knowledge that it did not work out that way for a variety of reasons, chief among them being Russian reluctance to discuss the subject at all. Austria took her place at the tail of the queue instead of at the head. It was a case of inverted priority: the first were indeed last.
Then in due course the country was liberated, but again the operation did not work out quite according to plan or expectation. No reasonable person could have expected the process to be an easy one. At the same time, you have not a very good chance of getting on your feet again if you weigh only nine stone and your narrow chest has to provide seating accommodation for foul people whose weights vary between eleven and fifteen stone. There were also some other minor impediments, such as the claim that all property stolen from Austria by the Germans should belong to the Russians. That, of course, is a rather original and novel conception of justice. I do not think we need go into too many details, but I think this would be a fair statement of the case: Austria certainly has not deserved well of the world, but what she has got in a great many respects has been less a square deal than a quadrilateral 215 occupation, which is not necessarily the same thing.
Then the Foreign Ministers took up this question of liberation in a big way, and, as has already been pointed out, their first decision was to liberate Austria from any earthly hope of ever recovering the South Tyrol. Your Lordships may remember that long before that decision was reached I brought a Motion in this House in which I pointed out in considerable detail that the only right course was the restoration of the South Tyrol to Austria. Well, we may almost understand that almost anyone may try almost anything once; but why anyone should want to try this one twice simply passes comprehension. It is no good going back upon it now. I suppose the evil has been done, and we must make the best of a bad job. The Austrians have made the best of a bad job. They have taken an injustice with considerable philosophy and resignation. They have now come to an agreement with the Italians, and I think we may safely say they have set a good example. It remains to be seen whether this agreement will be any better honoured than all the long string of postwar obligations that have been dishonoured, the latest and most flagrant example, of course, being the Polish elections.
The time has come for another instalment of liberation, and so the Yugoslavs have come forward with a request that Austria should be liberated from any further responsibility for Carinthia and a part of Styria. It seems to me that the appetites of the new world are not so markedly different from those of the old, and that is partly because, under the guise of a new doctrine, we are being confronted with the re-growth of an old nationalism which has some of the acquisitive features of the old nation state—a conception I think which lies at the root of so many of "the troubles of our proud and angry dust." Have any of us ever heard quite so much as recently about national sovereignty? Why, that old pair of high stepping words is trotted out every time we claim the fulfilment of a promise. I venture to think that Tito's Yugoslavia is becoming an example of this metamorphosis, with its ambitions for Salonika, for Trieste and Klagenfürt. Incidentally, the Carinthian frontier is a 216 perfectly good and natural one, although perhaps these considerations play a less part than they used to do.
Anyhow, here we are confronted with another recipe of liberation. You liberate from gaol an admittedly peccant person. You put him on his back. You lop off a limb or two and then say, "With these trifling physical abbreviations, you have a grand chance for a fresh start in life. You are a new man. Go and sin no more." And he does go and sin no more, because he dies. I do not doubt that these claims have been put forward in all good faith, even if in some respects they have been put forward with startling naivety, because, apart from the ethnological considerations advanced, the Yugoslavs in their claim have said in so many words to the Foreign Ministers' deputies: "Look, you must give us satisfaction in this claim, because we did not get quite all we wanted in Trieste." I venture to think that the Yugoslavs did not do too badly in that region. If anybody doubts it, I think we might look at the shape of the new Free State. It reminds me rather ominously of a diseased appendix.
But in any case the argument that because the Yugoslavs did not get an Italian city they ought to have an Austrian Province is rather a remarkable one. It savours to me of the reasoning of the old world in its heyday: it belongs to the era of "swap and bags I." If we were to be guided by that kind of reasoning, it seems to be fairly manifest that Austria could not fulfil the first article of the new Treaty which provides that she is to be independent. If we did follow that reasoning, Austria would be manifestly forced into the Eastern bloc, which is already exercising so much pressure on Greece and Hungary, and if all these things were fulfilled I do not think it would matter very much what paper stipulations were subscribed for the free navigation of the Danube.
The time has come when we should look on this word "liberation" divested of its clouds of jargon. The word should not be contused with the de-liberation of the great, which often has a somewhat contrary effect. It is true Western Europe was liberated by the efforts of the Western Powers. When we come to Eastern Europe we must be candid and say that, according 217 to our Allies, that liberation up to date has meant that 120,000,000 more people have lost a great part of whatever liberties they used to have. Therefore, I think it would be unreasonable to suppose that we should willingly consent to an enlargement of the area of disappointment. I suggest that the moment has come when the Eastern bloc might be reminded that we have all subscribed to the first three clauses of the Atlantic Charter, which the noble Earl mentioned in his speech.
It might be all the more appropriate to make such a reminder as there is now talk of revising the Anglo-Soviet Treaty which confirms those stipulations in the Charter. In any case, although many of us are only too painfuly aware that the instrument has been largely invalidated by the course of the policy of the Eastern bloc, the West has never renounced it—although I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Perth, that we put a fairly large blot on our copy book when we agreed to the stipulations about the South Tyrol. But there is more to it. After the first World War we continually met with the reproach and complaint that we had reduced Austria to a state of all head and no torso. I hope that at least the course of this debate will make it clear that we will not completely stultify ourselves by consenting to a yet further dismemberment of an already dwarfed and truncated body. If we do, the word "liberation" will have lost even more than it has already lost of its real content.
§ 5.32 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to give ray support to the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Schuster. I am afraid I cannot claim to have the extensive experience and knowledge of the noble Lord, due to his official position in Austria, but I was fortunate in being a member of the Parliamentary delegation that went out to Austria two or three months ago, when I had the opportunity of discussing many problems with members of the Austrian Cabinet, including Dr. Figl who is in this country at the present time. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my thanks to the British Control Commission for the really excellent facilities put at my disposal, which enabled the delegation as a whole to obtain a complete picture of the conditions in Austria in the very short time available.
218 In my humble opinion, one of the greatest disasters in European history was the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. If that Empire had remained in being after 1918 it is quite possible that the Second World War would never have occurred. It is, of course, no good looking backwards, except in so far as it is necessary to appreciate the difficulties which have to be surmounted in Austria at the present time—difficulties which became apparent very soon after 1918 and which are now greatly aggravated by the Second World War. I think that the best description of Austria is in some ways that given by the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart. Austria is really a species of being with a very large head and no body. Vienna, the capital, is, of course, the head, but the body, which used to consist of the industrial areas of Austrian Silesia, Bohemia and Moravia, has been severed; and, what is much more important, so have the agricultural plains of Hungary. It is on this truncated body that the four Powers are trying to build an economic and self-contained State which did not in fact exist between the two World Wars. I would venture to disagree with the noble Earl, Lord Perth, on that matter, because we remember the number of loans which were made to Austria by the League of Nations between the two World Wars.
THE EARL OF PERTH
Is making a loan a sign that a country is economically finished? I only put a question.
Not at all, but it is weakened very slightly. As I understand it, the aim of British policy is to establish Austria under a democratic Government and on a sound economic basis as quickly as possible. I hope it is not the policy of His Majesty's Government to force or to arrange a Peace Treaty with Austria before these two Objectives have really been attained. I cannot help feeling that it will be many months, if not years, before a democratic structure has been built up in Austria and the Austrian Government, Austrian Government circles and the Austrian Civil Service have learned from the devoted band of British advisers the ways and means of Government as we understand it.
If the advent of a Peace Treaty means the withdrawal from Austria not only of the military strength of the four. Powers but also the Allied Advisory Commission, 219 I cannot help feeling that we shall build up in Europe a storm centre which may in years to come lead to another war. Austria is far from being in the clear either politically or economically, and her difficulties are naturally increased by the different ideas and methods of dealing with the various problems which arise, when they must be considered by four different Powers, although it is, of course, true that the Allied Commission do their best to conduct their affairs on an agreed basis.
I propose to refer to one particular aspect which was touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Schuster. By the Potsdam Agreement, Russia became entitled to German assets in Eastern Austria, but for some reason which bas never been explained the Potsdam Agreement did not define either German assets or what is the extent of Eastern Austria. This vague clause in the Agreement has led to many difficulties and misunderstandings with the Russian element, and I hope His Majesty's Government will be able to inform your Lordships that an effort is being made to obtain agreement on this matter. In the economic field there are many difficulties, and the country is really in a serious position. With the permission of your Lordships I propose to read a paragraph from the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates. It is paragraph 41, and it reads as follows:There is at present little cause for optimism; Austria is approaching an extremely critical situation which must create grave anxiety, both to the Allied Commission and to the Austrian Government.I do not think the conclusion of this Committee can be too strongly emphasized at the present time.
One of the most difficult problems at the moment is shortage of food, and a depressing feature is the unlikelihood of Austria ever being able to support herself entirely, due very largely to the fact that her country is very mountainous and full of forests. A great deal can be done, however, to increase food supplies. I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government will be able to assure your Lordships that real steps are now being taken to increase the food supply. It is true that under the new Control Agreement the Austrian Government have a very large measure of administrative freedom, but I am very far from 220 convinced that their writ holds good in all the four Zones. I understand that the general policy of His Majesty's Government, as outlined by the noble Lord; Lord Schuster, is to demilitarize the British element, in view of the fact, that the Control Commission is no longer to have executive power but is merely to act in an advisory capacity to the Austrian Government.
It is our view that as a result of this new arrangement the staffs in Vienna and the provinces may be reduced and the Commander-in-Chief be abolished in favour of a High Commissioner, and possibly a diplomatic mission. I should like to ask His Majesty's Government if it is the intention to proceed with these plans on a unilateral basis. Has Russia agreed to demilitarize her Control staff at a comparable figure with ours? That is a most important question. It can also he argued that the sooner the four Powers are withdrawn from Austria the more quickly she will be able to stand on her own feet and resume her rightful place among the nations. I think it is high time there was a little plain speaking on this matter.
I propose to refer to the trouble amongst the Slovenes in Austria, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart. Anyone who has visited Austria recently will know of the Yugoslav problem on the frontier. Propaganda in favour of a union with Yugoslavia is being spread among the Slovenes in the Provinces of Styria and Carinthia and is expanding and increasing in force. Our troops have a very unpleasant duty to perform on this very rugged frontier with Yugoslavia, and in fact it has become necessary to declare a prohibited frontier zone into which only authorized persons are allowed to proceed. What is going to happen if, on the conclusion of the Peace Treaty, the four Powers withdraw from Austria? Is the propaganda going to cease? Is there any reason why it should do so? I feel that not only would it become stronger, but that infiltration from Yugoslavia would undoubtedly take place and that we should have a problem similar to that of the Sudeten Germans once more.
In her weakened economic position Austria is bound to lean on a neighbour for assistance. If all support is removed from her too quickly, before she has 221 achieved stability, it is not difficult to prophesy the direction in which she is bound to lean. She knows that we ourselves are in straitened circumstances and that we are anxious to reduce our commitments as much as possible. It is, of course, true that at the election in the Autumn of 1937 Austria decisively rejected the Communists, but unless she receives continued support from the Western Powers it is difficult to see how she can survive economically except by entering the economy of Eastern Europe. We must not leave Austria to her fate. Although the cost of the premium on the insurance policy may be a heavy one, it may well save us a great deal more money in the future. I hope the demilitarization of the British element will not be carried too far—certainly not on a unilateral basis—and that the Peace Treaty will provide for an Allied Advisory Council to remain in Austria until such time as the country has fully regained its political and economic stability.
I should like to see the Allied Control Commission later replaced by a United Nations Advisory Council for a minimum of ten years, backed by sufficient force to keep Austria's frontiers inviolate. At the present time this idea of a United Nations Advisory Council may be a little beyond the range of practical politics, but I think it is worthy of very serious consideration because in my opinion it might well prove to be the salvation of this rather unhappy country. I hope the Council of the United Nations Organization will not forget that in the years to come their writ will be of little value unless it is backed by force drawn from the peace-loving nations of the world. I hope Austria will receive the fullest support in her struggle for independence both politically and economically.
§ 5.45 p.m.
My Lords, I would like to add my tribute to those which have been paid by your Lordships who have already spoken to the noble Lord, Lord Schuster, for intiating a debate on so important a matter. I was very impressed with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, who has just sat down and who has first-hand experience of Austria. The fact that we, as a country, and others as well, have an important part to play was very well emphasized by the President, Doctor Renner, in a speech last 222 year, in which he said that the guarantee of Austria's existence and her future did not rest solely, or even in the first instance, with the people of her soil, but rested to a higher degree with the people outside. Your Lordships have spoken, I am sure, with those words very much in mind. I would like to say how much I am in accord with the remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, who was good enough to give considerable support to the first Motion on Austria which I was privileged to move in February, 1943. At that time, the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, was the Leader of your Lordships' House. After a certain lapse of time there came the Moscow Declaration, which was, a satisfactory answer to the debate.
There are one or two things I want to suggest, and about which I hope my noble friend, Lord Pakenham, may feel moved to say something when he comes to reply. The first is that we appreciate very much the good work done during the war, and since, by the B.B.C. in regard to Austria. Originally there was an independent section of the B.B.C., in which Mr. Patrick Smith played a prominent part, but now there has been an internal reorganization and there is a German Division, a section of which devotes itself to Austrian matters. As your Lordships have emphasized, it is essential to differentiate very clearly between Austria and Germany, and I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, Nill give attention to the reconstitution of the Austrian section of the B.B.C. as a separate unit, separated from the German Division. Your Lordships have emphasized the need for that separation in the various remarks that have been made. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, emphasized it very clearly, as did the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart. The Austrians are not Germans and we should draw a very clear line of demarcation between them.
There is a hazy idea of what has been done in Austria in the resistance movement. Those who are not fully in touch imagine that between that fatal date, March 11, 1938, and the liberation in 1945 very little was done, but the contrary is the case. If your Lordships have not seen it, may recommend that you should take the first opportunity of seeing a red and white book recently published by the Austrian State, giving all details of the resistance movement? It is a big volume and one which makes splendid reading. Your Lordships are 223 well aware that, despite every attempt, the Germans were quite unable to form an Austrian battalion, let alone an Austrian division. The Austrian troops were considered by the Germans to be unreliable; in other words, they did not want to fight for the cause into which they were dragooned. Therefore no separate Austrian units could be formed.
The noble Earl, Lord Perth, referred to the ambiguity of phrasing in the Moscow Declaration. He did not specifically mention the words, and perhaps I might ask your Lordships to allow me to read them. In the first paragraph of the Declaration, Austria is called "the first victim of Nazi aggression." That, of course, is perfectly true, as has been emphasized in your Lordships' House on many occasions. Later on the Declaration says:Austria's attention is drawn to the fact that she carries responsibility which cannot be ignored for participating in the war on the side of Hitler Germany and that in the final settlement consideration will be given to her own contribution towards liberation.Those two passages are completely contradictory. I would ask my noble friend, Lord Pakenham, to say something about that matter when he comes to reply and to make it perfectly clear where His Majesty's Government stands in relation to that specific issue. As I know my noble friend Lord Cranborne is to speak next, may I thank him for the help he gave to those of us who spoke on Austria in your Lordships' House in February, 1943?
§ 5.50 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Schuster, who raised the debate this afternoon is, I think, outstanding evidence in support of the proud claim of the House of Lords that it can produce experts of the highest eminence on any aspect of public affairs. The noble Lord is not only a public servant of the greatest distinction who has spent his whole life in the service of his country but, as he has told you this afternoon, he has recent personal experience of the subject on which he speaks. In the remarkable speech—and it was an extremely remarkable speech—which he delivered to your Lordships to-day, he talked of what he knows—he has seen it all for himself—and he gave, I thought, a remarkably vivid and absorbing picture of the situation in 224 Austria at the present time. The Government will be well advised—and I am sure they will do so—to give the fullest attention to what the noble Lord has said this afternoon. We have also had many other contributions from noble Lords well qualified to speak, such as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, the noble Lords, Lord Vansittart and Lord Teynham, and several other noble Lords with specialized knowledge.
As I listened to the first three speeches, the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Schuster, the Earl of Perth and Lord Vansittart, and as I heard their cogent and caustic utterances, I could not help feeling how much these eminent civil servants must have suffered during the last forty years as they listened to the stumbling utterances of Ministers. In any case, it is not my intention to traverse the ground which has already been covered by noble Lords with so great experience. I want to confine myself, if I may, to a few comments on what I understand to be the main issues facing the Allies in respect of Austria. The first observation I would make is this. There is one thing I think in particular which has emerged from the debate this afternoon. It is that ever since the end of the war a main obstacle to getting a clear-cut, united Allied policy on this particular question has been the existence of the dilemma to which the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, has just drawn your Lordships' attention: Is Austria to be regarded as an accomplice or as a victim of Germany? If she is to be regarded as an accomplice, no doubt there are valid reasons for making the terms of settlement more onerous; but if, on the other hand, she is to be regarded as a victim, clearly there are very strong arguments for treating her more leniently.
This dilemma became apparent—as the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, and the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, have pointed out—as early as the Moscow Declaration of 1943. That document, if I may repeat its words yet once more, spoke of recreating a free and independent Austria. It used the very significant words in this connexion that she should be "liberated from German domination," and that the annexation by Germany should be made "null and void." From that portion of the Declaration it would appear that it was the view of the signatories to the Declaration that she should be regarded 225 as a victim of Germany. But the document went on to indicate that she had a responsibility which she could not avoid for "participating in the war at the side of Hitlerite Germany." That gave her the character of an accomplice. This dilemma has persisted ever since October, 1943, and it has dominated, as I understand it, such questions as reparations, denazification—if the noble Lord, Lord Schuster, will allow me to use that abominable word—and the boundaries of Austria. It has been made even more complicated, as the noble Lord, Lord Schuster said, by the existence of the four Allied Zones of Occupation, which gave unlimited opportunities for differences of interpretation of joint Allied decisions by the Allied authorities in the various Zones, whose minds in any case move in a very different way one from another.
If I may just take the question of reparations, it was, as I understand it, agreed at Potsdam that reparation claims by the U.S.S.R. shall be made from a portion of German external assets in Austria. As the noble Lord, Lord Schuster, said: What are to be regarded as German external assets? It is no good blinking the fact that it is no doubt an extremely difficult and complex question. Some assets, of course, were entirely created by Germany after the Anschlűss. Those clearly are German assets in the strictest interpretation of the phrase, and there is the strongest case for regarding them as available for reparations. But other assets existed before the Anschlűss, and were only improved by Germany for the purposes of the war. I must say that these present a much more difficult proposition. No doubt, if you carry the thing to its logical conclusion, all Austrian assets were used by Germany for the purposes of the war. If all these were to be hypothecated for reparations, the phrase in the Moscow Declaration of 1943 about liberating Austria would become quite meaningless. Moreover any economic recovery of Austria would be made utterly impossible within any foreseeable time. It is quite evident that unless the country is to be left as a kind of slum in Central Europe, poisoning the atmosphere all around, some more limited definition of German assets must be agreed between the Allies.
Here, I suggest, there is a great opportunity for Soviet statesmanship, and I hope very much that it will not be missed. 226 Up to now, the interpretation of German assets in the Russian Zone has been, to our mind, rather harsh. They have acted, as the noble Lord, Lord Schuster said, rather as conquerors than as liberators. A generous gesture by Russia in this matter would be immensely welcomed, both in this country and in the United States, and I believe that it would help very greatly to improve the atmosphere between the great Allies.
Similarly, with regard to denazification, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Schuster, and others who have spoken—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart takes the same view—that too rigid an attitude is likely to be extremely harmful. The noble Lord, Lord Schuster, has already spoken so fully upon this aspect that it really need; no more words from me, and I would therefore express only a few sentences in support, because I find myself in very general agreement with everything he said. No one of course, disputes that active virulent Nazis—and undoubtedly there are some, or were some, in Austria—must be ruthlessly eliminated. Convinced Nazis are like mad dogs—nothing can be done with them at all. But there are many people, among them men who are essential to the recovery of their country, who were not genuine Nazis but merely toed the line so as to be able to continue at their ordinary work. If we exclude all those from the service of their country, the result is likely to be deplorable and even disastrous. Here, it seems to me, is an instance where it is surely 'desirable, from every point of view, to show a certain magnanimity and a recognition that cases of that kind are the inevitable result of the forcible occupation of the country by Germany. The present Austrian Government, as I understand it, are operating the denazification law with the genuine desire to see Nazism eradicated. I hope that the Allies, whether it be we or the Russians, or anybody else, will not make their task impossible by too rigid an insistence upon the elimination of everyone who has compromised with his conscience under conditions of very great difficulty.
Finally, my Lords, there is the territorial question. Here I take it that the Allied policy is governed by the statement in the Moscow Declaration of 1943 wherein the signatories recorded that the annexation of Austria by Germany in 227 March, 1935, was null and void and declared themselves as in no way bound by any changes affected in Austria since that date. Of course that in no way prohibits them from making changes if they wish to do so. But I take it to be an indication that they intended at that time to restore Austria's pre-war frontiers. The situation as regards Austria's war guilt has not changed since that date. If it was the intention then to restore the pre-war frontiers of Austria, there has been no new reason since then to alter that intention. The only new clement in the situation—it was referred to, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart—is Yugoslavia's claim to the cession of Styria and Carinthia.
But, my Lords, a plebiscite was held in these two provinces after the last war, in 1920, and the inhabitants declared in favour of Austria. So far as I know there has been no alteration in their view since then. Moreover, the Allies have already decided—whatever view one takes about that decision—to perpetuate the alienation of one Austrian province, the Southern Tyrol, of which the noble Lord, Lord Schuster, spoke this afternoon in such moving terms. To lop off yet more provinces would be to leave Austria a mere rump of her former self. Only the most extreme form of war guilt could justify that. Even then it would probably be unwise, for it would obviously be futile to set up in Central Europe a State so small and so feeble that its future survival was impossible. We need to build strongly and constructively if we are going to have enduring peace in that part of the world. Indeed, my Lords, one's main fear is that, even with Styria and Carinthia, Austria is going to be hard put to it to maintain herself. Many years ago it was said by somebody, I forget by whom, that even if the Austrian Empire were destroyed, it would have to be re-created. Obviously, it is no longer practical politics, even if it were desirable, to restore the Hapsburg dynasty. But of course, economically, there is considerable truth in the remark that I have quoted. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was the Danube basin, and the Danube basin is a single economic unity.
One of the greatest disasters after the last war was the excessive nationalism of the succession states. It is no doubt quite possible to divide Central Europe politi- 228 cally into water-tight compartments. But the economic effect is bound to be disastrous; and so it was between the wars. It is absolutely essential, I believe, if prosperity in that area is to revive, that the Czechs, the Hungarians and the Austrians should cease to cut themselves off from each other, as they did between the wars, like hostile fortresses. They must keep together and work together in sympathy and understanding. This can be done without any sacrifice of their sovereign independence, and with immense material advantage to all of them. I hope this will be made clear by His Majesty's Government, so far as they are concerned, to all the nations in question. Were this achieved and the freedom of navigation on the Danube restored, I believe that a new era of prosperity might even now begin for Central Europe. In the meantime, the first necessary step is for the Allies to withdraw their troops and to get Central Europe on a normal basis again. This of course does not necessarily mean, as the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, fears, that all Allied assistance should immediately stop. That is a question, I should have thought, for discussion with the countries concerned. But Allied troops I am sure must go. You cannot have a normal situation while foreign troops are still in occupation of a country, nor can there be any recovery in Central Europe before the troops are withdrawn from these countries. And it is clearly an essential pre-requisite that the Austrian problem should be settled. Austria is the most western of those countries, and while foreign troops are in Austria Russia will naturally wish to keep her troops in the more easterly countries to safeguard her lines of communication.
We are all glad, I am sure, to see that the deputies—that new body of men—have already reached agreement to recreate a free and independent Austria, and I hope very much that that decision will be ratified by the Foreign Secretaries when they meet in Austria. The Government will note that I have not asked any questions this afternoon. I have in fact refrained quite deliberately. We all fully recognize the delicacy of the negotiations now proceeding, and I am sure none of us wish to press them to a statement which might embarrass those negotiations. We are indeed glad to see, after all this long time, that things are beginning to move in regard to the Austrian problem, and 229] I should like, in conclusion, to wish the Government the very best of luck in the coming discussions, for on the success of their efforts may well depend the future unity, peace and prosperity, of Europe and of the world.
§ 6.08 p.m.
My Lords, I would like first of all to respond on behalf of the Government to the spirit which animated the last words, indeed the whole speech, of the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition. We are most grateful for the way in which he in particular and indeed all speakers have tackled this question this afternoon. In response, I will not say to his questions because he asked no questions, but to his plea, I would most certainly assure him that the Government will press on all countries the conviction that the economy of Austria and of all countries surrounding it must be regarded as a single whole.
I am sure every speaker who has addressed you this afternoon knows far more about Austria than I do. Until recently I only once visited Austria, and then I played in the lawn tennis championship of Lower Austria without any marked success. Owing, unfortunately, to a clerical error I was billed as the British Champion, and although I survived three rounds I was then eliminated in somewhat humiliating fashion without: having done much for the credit of our country. I hope this afternoon I shall do something to recover myself in this field. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Schuster, for his forbearance up to the time of speaking. He has implied that if my tone is not all he would wish he may adopt a very different manner when he conies to reply. Further, and without prejudice to any reflections, which I may feel called upon to pass upon his reply in some other place, I would like, on behalf of the Government, to congratulate him on the most, impressive contribution which he has made; and, indeed, for initiating this noteworthy debate.
I have been asked to state the Government's policy. No one knows better than Lord Schuster that it is not always easy for a Government to say everything that is in their minds. I visited Austria last week in order to try and fortify myself for this debate, and I came back still more conscious that it would hardly be politic at the present time to lay before 230 the House, in public, every consideration that is bound to be in the minds of the Government just now, though, indeed, one would be perfectly ready to discuss them with Members of the House privately. But I do not think that there is any particular need to be disingenuous or unduly circumspect, and I hope that when I have stated, the Government's policy Lord Schuster will feel that at least he knows what the Government's intentions are.
I would summarize the underlying principles of the Government's policy towards Austria in four prepositions. The first one—and I hope that because it is so familiar to him Lord Schuster will not reject it with contumely—is simply this: Austria should be re-established as an independent State. That is, surely, the beginning of wisdom on the whole matter. Secondly, her frontiers should be those of 1937. That means, of course, in the first place, that she should grow up separate from Germany and completely free from German domination. It means also, I am afraid, that she is not to recover the South Tyrol. That must be a matter for great regret to most members of the House, and I will not pretend, for one moment, that it is a matter for rejoicing to myself. But there it is; that is what has been settled. If has been settled for no narrow reason, but after everything relevant has been taken into account. As the House is well aware, Italy aria Austria have behaved in the most sensible fashion, and have done everything they can to try to lighten the blow to Austria and to make sure that the minority within Italy's frontiers shall be properly looked after. I can assure the House that His Majesty's Government will certainly not disinterest themselves in the fate of the minority in question.
But it also means—and this has been brought up very effectively in the course of the debate to-day—that we are not going to tolerate any further cutting down of Austria's frontiers. I am delighted myself that the speaking has been so plain on that subject this afternoon. I do not pose as an expert of any kind on Austria, but, as I have said, I was there, as it happened, last week. It is plain to anyone who goes there, or, for that matter, to anyone who does not go there but is an honest man and takes the trouble to read a book or two on the 231 subject, that the Yugoslav claims are completely baseless. In my own view, and I hope that I am not speaking more strongly than is proper on an occasion such as this, they are not worth the paper on which they are written. But, of course, they must be investigated as coming from a Government with whom we have friendly relations.
Thirdly, it is clear that Austria must eradicate all traces of Nazism, and she must build a permanent democratic structure on the excellent foundations she has laid for herself since her liberation. I think it would be appropriate here, following the remarks of a previous speaker, to pay a tribute to the work which the Austrian Government have done in very difficult circumstances, and more particularly to the work of Dr. Figl, the Chancellor, and Dr. Schaerf, the Vice-Chancellor. Fourthly, Austria must be rendered a viable economic community and placed in a position where she can work out her own economic salvation.
If these are the ultimate considerations underlying our policy, and I believe that they are, it is worth asking: "What practical steps follow?" I should suggest that the practical steps can also be placed in four categories, and can readily be paired off with the four principles which I have mentioned. If we are to establish, as we are committed to establish, an independent Austria, it follows that a treaty should be concluded as quickly as possible which will enable Austria to take her place as an independent State among the United Nations. As soon as that happens, it seems to me to be common sense, and indeed obvious wisdom, that the forces of Great Britain, U.S.A., U.S.S.R., and France, which now occupy Austria, should be speedily withdrawn. That is certainly the intention of the Government and, so far as I can judge, the intention of all the great Powers. Developments here appear to have been encouraging in the last few months. It seems now a good deal more certain than it was a few months ago that all the great Powers are looking to a time in the near future when, a treaty having been signed, all occupying forces can leave Austria.
The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, who knows a great deal about Austria and who performed considerable services in this connexion last year, seems to me to err in supposing that we shall be well advised to 232 leave some element, at any rate, of the Commission in Austria, after the treaty is signed and when the troops disappear. I think I see what is in his mind, but it seems to me that he was answered by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. It is certainly the proposal of the Government not only that the military forces but that the Commission also should be withdrawn when the treaty is signed. In spite of what Lord Teynham said, and bearing in mind the arguments of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, I believe that that decision will commend itself to the House; that that attitude will seem a wise one to the great majority of the House. I need hardly mention at this stage of the debate that negotiations are at this moment proceeding in London with a view to the early signature of a treaty which will enable these Forces to be withdrawn in the way I have mentioned. The Austrian Foreign Secretary is already in this country, and the Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor should arrive to-night. The Austrian case will be stated on Thursday. It seems to me that the omens are good. Though it is always too early, in these cases, to form any definite impression from the initial talks, the atmosphere, I am told, has been most amicable. There have been no scenes, and, taking it all round, the conversations so far have been, perhaps, the most cordial that have taken place between the great Powers since the war came to an end. That is, at any rate, something with which to encourage ourselves.
The second practical requirement of any successful policy is not one on which the attitude of all the great Powers is known, but, equally, not one on which any disagreement must necessarily arise. The proposed treaty will of course result, if our ideas are implemented, in the withdrawal of the occupying forces from Austria, and it is, in our view, essential that, as soon as possible, Austria should be allowed reasonable means of defence on the same scale as neighbouring countries. The settlement, however, of the long-term problem in this fashion does not entirely dispose of the immediate difficulty. For a little while—it may be a year, two years, or even longer—once the occupying forces have disappeared, Austria will be without any considerable army of her own, surrounded by countries which are somewhat more heavily armed. During this period, which 233 is technically being discussed as the "gap period," we are determined to do all in our power to ensure that Austria will, in fact, be able to give a good account of herself if she should be attacked, and, generally speaking, to hold her own until international machinery such as the U.N.O. can be operated to her advantage. So that during that very difficult gap period we are determined that Austria should not be left defenceless.
Thirdly, we cannot entirely overlook the peculiar relationship which Austria must be held to have assumed towards Nazism during the recent war. The problem has been posed in various ways, and mostly clearly, perhaps, by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. He has asked us whether Austria is to be regarded as an accomplice or a victim. I do not think that one can answer that quite simply, but if one had to say she was either an accomplice or a victim, I should say victim every time. I do not know, however, that one can answer it quite as simply as that.
I did not mean to suggest to the House, or to the noble Lord, that there was a simple answer. Of course, Austria cannot be regarded entirely either as a victim or as an accomplice of Germany. Her position is rather that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
I think myself that she has been much more Jekyll than Hyde. Even in the case of Germany, I suppose that most of us, confronted with the sight of some suffering German woman or child, would be inclined to ask, "Did this one sin, or his father?" In the case of individual Germans it is difficult to pin down the responsibility, but the Government is convinced that collectively the German people must bear the responsibility for the recent war and for all its horrors. That is our collective attitude towards Germany. But we do not fasten the same responsibility on Austria. We regard her as more victim than accomplice, and we have no intention of treating her as though she had been a free agent during the crucial years. We take the view that she cannot be regarded as having been a free agent; indeed that she ceased to exist as a free agent in 1938, and will not finally 234 recover her freedom until the treaty is signed.
At the same time a special onus falls on Austria, in view of her recent past, to prove that she has now shaken the Nazi poison out of her system, and all the occupying Powers have co-operated with the Austrian Government in the denazification process. I am bound to say this: the issue of denazification is one of the hardest. It is difficult to know what one wants to happen, and it is almost impossible to discover what has happened in various countries. In Germany and Austria there are so many categories which tend to overlap that it would require a statistical genius, with many other talents, to draw an exact conclusion as to what has occurred. If the House wishes I will willingly, on a later occasion, circulate a written answer setting out the statistics of the matter, but I would just emphasize that the latest Austrian law on denazification, to which the noble Lord, Lord Schuster, referred, has at least the merit that it has been forwarded by the Austrian Government and has received the approval in an amended form of the four great Powers. It is now awaiting final acceptance by the Austrian Parliament. It does, therefore, represent agreement among the four great Powers.
I am bound to confess to a certain small measure of surprise at the attitude taken towards this law by the noble Lord, Lord Schuster. The noble Lord knows perfectly well what I am going to say. He obviously detests this law, and I think that is hardly too strong an expression to describe the impression which he gave us. Whatever I may think of the law, I have come down here, as in duty bound, to congratulate a very distinguished public servant on the self-sacrificing way—it appears all the more self-sacrificing after his remarks this afternoon—in which, on behalf of the Government, he negotiated this law with the other Governments.
I do not know whether it is quite plain to the House that Lord Schuster has been the chief architect on the British side of this piece of legislation. No doubt when he comes to make his barbed reply he will have a very crushing retort for me on this point, but at the moment the advantage seems rather to rest the other way. This law, which has been held up to opprobrium this afternoon, is his own work. It 235 is possible to have two views on this law, but at any rate it flows from the very brilliant mind and the skilful pen, so far as we on the British side are concerned, of Lord Schuster, who has made such acid criticisms of it. We can, of course, examine the matter at greater length, but I feel it would be rather otiose to go in greater detail into a law on which the noble Lord is the supreme authority.
The question of denazification is immensely difficult. One set of critics will naturally tell us that we have been too severe, and another set that we have been too mild. We in our zone of Austria arrested and interned over 8,000 people who were regarded as dangerous because they fell within certain specified categories. We have released about 3,000 of them, handed over about 700 to the Austrians for trial on specific charges, and the others will be dealt with gradually. We have been as thorough as it is possible to be, and eventually the whole process will pass into Austrian hands, when, as I hope, our troops and Commission leave the country. The Austrians must operate their own denazification law. We have tried to hold the balance fairly but I am bound to agree that any attempt at genuine denazification is certain to involve some loss in administrative efficiency. We can only hope that in the time to come that loss will be reduced to a minimum.
There is, however, a fourth requirement connected with a successful Austrian treaty which it would be idle to pretend was easy to implement, or, indeed, to work out precisely. I, with the noble Earl, Lord Perth, am far from being a pessimist about the future of the Austrian economy. I hope that neither I nor anybody for whom I am responsible has misled him in any way regarding this subject of unemployment before the war. I do not know whether the question of whether, the unemployment was equivalent to, shall we say, 4,000,000 in this country, or 2,000,000, matters very much. The essential point, and here I thoroughly agree with the noble Lord, is that even with that unemployment, Austria was paying her way and balancing her imports and exports. It may be said that the German occupation has twisted and distorted Austria's economy in various ways. I think that is so, but in other ways the German occupation has enormously developed her resources. I need only mention the fields of hydro-electric power and 236 Crude oil, in the latter of which a monthly output of 2,738 tons in 1937 had been increased to 42,600 tons in 1945. That gives some idea of the increase in her crude oil production.
But the point that I would impress on the House is that the Austrian economy at the present time is only benefiting to a very small proportion in this great increase in oil production. The oil wells are in the Russian zone, and the Russians withdraw a very great part of the oil for their own purposes, so its value is lost to Austria's domestic economy and to her potential exports.
That is only one instance, though rather a striking one, of the general Russian attitude towards what are called "German assets" in Austria, a subject to which the noble Viscount devoted a good deal of attention. The House will recall that under the. Potsdam Agreement reparations were not to be exacted from Austria herself. (I forget whether there was any doubt in the House on that point; I do not think that there was.) But the Governments of Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States maintained the right to take title, as part of the reparations to be paid by Germany, to all German assets in Austria, as in certain other countries. It is not that Austria is a unique case. This is a general provision which happens to operate with particular hardship on Austria. At the same time, the noble Viscount will recall that the Western Powers renounced all claims to German assets in Eastern Austria. The trouble, as the noble Viscount explained, is that, following the Anschlüss, Germany obtained such a grip on the economic life of Austria that it is very hard to know where German assets can be said to begin and where they can be said to end. But I am bound to make it plain that where obviously there is a good deal of intricate discussion, and a good deal of give and take, to be embarked on in this field, it would be very foolish to take up a crude stand. I am bound to make it plain, however, that we do regard it as a matter of principle that this clause should not be interpreted in such a way as to conflict with the Declaration of Moscow of 1943, a year and a half before Potsdam, which was a declaration in favour of "giving the Austrian people a chance to find that political and economic security which is the only basis of lasting peace." (I quote the words of 237 the Moscow Declaration.) I hasten to add, lest anything I have said may seem too bellicose, that there seems no earthly reason why this problem should not be settled with good will around the table, if the matter is approached in the same amicable and constructive spirit that has distinguished the treaty negotiations up to the present time. Therefore I should like to answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Teynham—as to whether we were in fact taking up this matter strongly—by saying that we are taking it up very strongly indeed, but, at the same time, in a friendly and cordial spirit. It is a matter to which we attach immense importance. He can rest assured of that.
So much for the schematic summary of British principles in relation to Austrian policy, and of the steps required to give effect to them. The principles, I should think, are common ground among the Great Powers and Austria herself. The necessary steps would appear to involve no inevitable collisions of vital interest, though I should be misleading the House if I implied that complete agreement over German assets was likely to come very quickly or easily.
I feel, having made a flying visit to Austria, and having taken an interest in her economy for a good many years, that I should say a few words about the economic position there, although that matter was not raised so forcibly this afternoon as were some others. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, and other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Schuster, rightly pointed out that the great questions in Austria are food and fuel—those basic necessities of life. Next to Germany, Austria has the lowest food consumption in Europe today. Until November, 1946, the normal consumer's ration was fixed at 1,200 calories per day. In November it was raised to 1,550 calories. Various categories of worker receive larger rations—the heavy worker obtaining some 2,805 calories—and a considerable portion of the population (about 28 per cent., who are full or part self suppliers) receive about the same amount. Nevertheless, it remains true to say that the normal consumer in Austria to-day probably receives something between one half and three fifths—something more than one half and something less than three fifths—of his opposite number in this country, where we do not find the food over-plentiful or over-agreeable.
238 The picture is not entirely black. The experts on the spot have recently produced some interesting statistics. The death rate, for example, has dropped sharply, and is now below not only the 1944 but the 1939 figure. I will not burden the House with a great many figures, but the one which I am about to give is rather striking. The figure for infant mortality was 162 per 1,000 in 1945, and in 1946 it dropped to less than half; that is to say to 75. Infant mortality was less than half as bad in 1946 as in the preceding year. In fact, the figure of 75 Per 1,000 in 1946 compares favourably with 88 per 1,000 in 1944 and 92 per 1,000 in 1939. Whether by good fortune or otherwise, the more dangerous and immediately devastating infectious diseases have not entered the country.
Summing the matter up in the sense arrived at by our experts on the spot, it seems broadly true to say that the position of Austria to-day is no worse than it was in 1944 and a great deal better than it was in 1945. In some respects, including the one I have mentioned—infant mortality—it is as good as, or better than, the position in 1939, but the broad comparison and the fair one would be, I think, with 1944; and to say that Austria has regained the level of that year—admittedly it is an extremely low one—does at: any rate represent a considerable recovery. At the same time, I do not want to leave the House with any kind of feeling that one can return from Vienna in a complacent frame of mind. If I may put it in this way, without figures, I think perhaps one could say that Austria is not starving, but she is desperately hungry; she is not freezing to death, but she is desperately cold; she is not dying, but it is only by concentrating on the struggle for existence that she continues to live. That is putting it as clearly as I can. I do not think that there is anybody who has been in Vienna recently who would not sleep happier in his bed if and when he heard that conditions had improved and Austria were in a much better position than she is to-day.
Now a few words about the prospects for 1947. As the House is aware, U.N.R.R.A. assistance, which alone has made possible the maintenance of such standards as those. I have mentioned, ceased officially on December 31, 1946. A great question mark, therefore lies across the months immediately ahead. 239 The U.N.R.R.A. shipments have not yet all been received, and the residue, coupled with domestic supplies, should guarantee the maintenance of the existing ration till the end of February. Beyond this date there seems little prospect of the gap between imports and exports being covered in the immediate future, except as a result of direct assistance from this country and the United States and, it is hoped, other Powers.
Estimates naturally vary (it would be highly suspicious if they failed to) regarding the adverse trade balance for 1947. That is a thing in the case of any country about which one can make conjectures. The total gap is expected to be of the order of only $160,000,000 to $180,000,000 or something between £40,000,000 and £50,000,000. His Majesty's Government, as is well known, have come forward with assistance to the extent of £10,000,000 out of a probable gap of £40,000,000 or £50,000,000. In view of our straitened circumstances that will seem to most of us as much as we can do. The American Government are known to be considering the problem very closely, and I need hardly say that their decision is being awaited with great eagerness. Let us hope also that other great Powers who take such a keen interest in Austria will see their way to give her positive assistance.
In the longer future we feel convinced that Austria will be able to support herself, when the foreign armies are withdrawn, on two conditions: first, that the claim of the Allied Powers to German assets is not interpreted in such a way as to exercise a stranglehold on the economic life of the country, or to prevent Austria from drawing the revenue from her promising industries. The second condition is that Austria should recognize that the period of help from outside must be brief, and that ultimately she will survive or perish according to the strength of her exertions and the character of her people.
I draw towards the close without having covered all of the points raised, but I would like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, that the question which he raised relating to the B.B.C. will be most carefully considered. He knows that it is not a straight issue for the Government and that the responsibility does not fall directly on the Government. I will do all I can to see whether his ideas cannot be complied with. I am not sure that there was not 240 some misapprehension about the process of civilianization. I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, had it in mind that civilianization was, in fact, being carried further as a matter of policy. There is no question of further civilianizing the Commission as a matter of policy. In some cases the soldiers' term of service may come to an end and civilians may be substituted, but there is no question of going in this direction as a matter of deliberate policy. I accept the very cogent arguments brought forward on that matter by the noble Lord, Lord Schuster.
I will conclude by saying that it does seem to me that to-day, almost more than ever, a discussion in your Lordships' House has done immense good. It will have served, I believe, to demonstrate even more strongly than before to our Allies, to the whole world, and above all to the Austrian people, that our concern for her independence and future welfare is very deep and very genuine, and that we shall spare no pains in our power in trying to help her to stand on her own feet, which is surely the best kind of help which one country can render to another. I would just add that it is very pleasing to think that we have been represented out there in Austria by such splendid Englishmen, whether soldiers or civilians, whether they be in high places or occupying humble positions—including I need hardly say, the noble Lord who initiated this debate. The civilians have impressed all by their great earnestness, devotion and knowledge, and the troops, reflecting throughout, I am sure, the influence of the very great gentleman who is their Commander-in-Chief, have shown firmness, a generosity towards a people struggling to their feet and, in the face of much suffering—as in a Displaced Persons' camp which I visited last Friday—a gentleness which is not perhaps surprising to those who know them, but which certainly has been beyond all praise. On behalf of the Government I am very grateful to the noble Lord for initiating a most helpful debate.
§ LORD SCHUSTER
My Lords, the House has been extremely indulgent to me in allowing me to take so long when I made my opening speech, and the noble Lord who has replied has also been indulgent and gentle. I am not going all over again the ground which we have traversed, but there are two things which I must say. One is a small point. The 241 noble Lord gave the figures with regard to the production of crude oil. I am not an authority on crude oil, but I would earnestly entreat the noble Lord and those concerned to make some investigation, if such an investigation can be made, into the manner in which those who now occupy that particular oilfield are extracting the oil. It is very easy to increase the output of crude oil in such a way as to destroy its future productivity. That, according to the information which I have received, is what is going on.
I must say something about denazification, as the noble Lord did challenge me. He must not say that denazification flowed from my pen. I should be ashamed for all time if it could be supposed that I could have drafted or been a party to the drafting of such an amazing structure of—I do not know what to call them—sections and things all muddled up together, references extending over fifty years and sentences that begin and do not end. The Austrian has many attributes, and he has my sincere friendship and affection; but as a draftsman he is beyond any kind of description. I am not responsible for the form. I am responsible—and I. dare to assume the responsibility in part—in that, acting under instructions, and believing that they were the right instructions—though I would have acted upon them whether I thought they were right or not—I was a party to initiating a passage of the law. I think that everybody in all elements thought that there ought to be a law, and that it ought to be a law as nearly as possible corresponding to that which the Austrians desired. I was not committed to the proposition that is was a good law. I do not think it is a good law. I think it is a very bad law, but it is much better than no law at all, and it enables the Austrians to proceed, they think they ought to proceed, with the work of what they call denazification. I wanted to look beyond that, and to ask if it really is a policy that: can pay in the long run, to drive a great many of the intelligent part of the population into hopeless misery and resistance, which is, I think, the result of the policy now being pursued? I am not complaining of His Majesty's Government in that respect at all. We have had to do what we were told to do, and what to some extent we contracted to do, but I 242 do not believe that you can in the long run bring peace and contentment to a country if a very large section of the more intelligent part of its population are condemned in this way to a hopeless life of misery and are cut off from giving any national service to their own Government or from taking any part in local or central life. I do not want to go on much longer, but I just wanted to put those facts on record.
The only other thing I want to say is this. I am grateful to the noble Lord, and I am sorry that I put him to so much trouble. I think he owes to me the fact that he had a pleasant trip to Austria, and he ought to be grateful to me on that account. What I fear is this. If these policies which have been enunciated, and these means which have been described for giving effect to the policies, were going to succeed, I should be comparatively happy. I am certain that His Majesty's Government—I hope that I am not saying anything that appears to be rude, or anything of that kind—honestly and earnestly desire that those policies should be followed and that the means which the noble Lord has described should be followed to give effect to them. I cannot forget, however, that when he has described those policies, and the means of giving effect to them, he has then gone on to give us the picture of Austria as it is to-day.
What I want noble Lords to ask themselves, and what I want, in particular, the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, to ask himself, is: How are those things consistent? What is the good of talking about withdrawing troops from Austria until we know who is waiting on those beautiful mountains which look down on the valley of the Drau? When will it be that the frontiers of Austria will be secure? We know that if Austria is left alone at present she cannot feed herself. The noble Lord has told us so. We know perfectly well that if she is left as she is at present she cannot get her factories working because, on the one hand, she has no fuel, and, on the other hand, because the factories have largely been sacked.
How, then, can she get on her feet? The £10,000,000 which His Majesty's Government are generously finding is, no doubt, a sum which it is right and proper should be found. I had hoped that that £10,000,000 was going into the restoration of the economic life of the country, But it is not; it is going to fill the gap during 243 which the population will have nothing to eat. Unless capital of some kind, and on a very considerable scale, is supplied, this continual want and need will go on, and this £10,000,000 will be merely gold poured into the Drau and the Danube. What we really want to know is what is to be done to get Austria on her feet. We shall not get her on to her feet by giving her £10,000,000 or £20,000,000—whatever the sum may be—unless that is going into capital works and not into mere consumption. I do not want to run on. I have already taken far too great an advantage of the clemency of the House, and I apologize for it. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.