§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. James Stuart.]
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
On a point of Order. Is it not possible, in view of the fact that we have had this long discussion, to have a suspension of the Rule for a definite time? We have lost 40 minutes, and it does seem to me that 40 minutes on foreign affairs ought to be given back to us by using the device of suspension of the Rule.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
We did very well yesterday. We had 17 speeches, and there are to be no Ministerial speeches to-day except mine, which I hope the House will allow me to make, and I suppose we have until the usual hour. If that is so, I think that is a reasonable practice.
Mr. Wedderburn (Renfrew, Western)
Except for a brief appearance in November my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been absent from the House for some two months, on engagements of the highest importance to the country. The House is particularly glad to felicitate him on his return in an undamaged condition, equally unaffected by the hard rigours of the North, and the softer allurements of the East, and to thank him for the work which he has performed. He has hastened back from Egypt without permitting himself any of the rest he might be thought to have earned, in order that he might get here in time to make his report to the House before we rise for the Recess. I did not like his own description of himself yesterday from Macbeth,A poor player, who struts and frets his hour upon the stage.I think, perhaps, the House of Commons might prefer to welcome him back with the words from another of Shakespeare's plays:Let us rearThe higher our opinion, that our stirringCan from the lap of Egypt's widow pluckThe ne'er lust-wearied Antony.My right hon. Friend began his speech by fully describing his first encounter with the Head of the Chinese Republic, who is also Commander-in-Chief of their Armies, Chiang Kai-shek, to whose personal qualities the prolonged 1576 resistance of China must be very largely attributed. I do not intend to speak today about the Far East, but the question which we were most frequently asked on our Mission to China last year was whether the British people attached as much importance to the war against Japan as they did to the war against Germany, and whether there was any chance that Great Britain might agree to a negotiated peace with Japan when the German menace had been removed. We made, of course, the obvious reply, but I think it is well that our war aims in the Far East have now been authoritatively declared by the Governments of Great Britain and the United States.
All these Conferences between our Allies and ourselves, which my right hon. Friend has attended, have concerted and settled the plans for our joint conduct of the war in the coming year. We cannot know what those plans may be, but I think that the present moment, when it is universally expected that there will soon be some great new development in the use of the armies of Britain and America, is a suitable moment to make the assertion that up till now the principles which have governed the conduct of British strategy in this war have been right; that the reverses which we have suffered in various parts of the world have not been due to any fundamental errors in the disposal of our resources; and that the successes which we have won have been a good deal underrated both in this country and by our friends abroad.
In every kind of warfare there are two principles which have always held good. The one is that you should engage the enemy on the ground most favourable to you, and refuse action, if you can, on the ground most favourable to him. The other is that where you find you have an advantage, you should exploit that advantage to the utmost, and not exhaust your strength elsewhere unless it be for the purpose of creating a diversion. If you try to be strong everywhere all the time you will succeed in being strong nowhere at any time. It seems to me that an attempt to invade Western Europe at any time during the last two years would plainly have violated both of these principles. The supreme advantage of sea power is that you can choose, and the enemy cannot choose, where you are going to engage him. We chose to make our military effort in North Africa, where the 1577 enemy was compelled to fight at a disadvantage. At a comparatively light cost in casualties to ourselves we entirely annihilated, with all its equipment, a very large German army, not to mention the even more numerous army and navy of an ex-enemy State, which has suffered the pitiable fate in this war of being compelled to fight against everyone and being willing to fight against no one. We have reopened the Mediterranean, we have occupied part of the Italian peninsula, where 25 or 30 German divisions are now held, and we have created in the Balkans a situation which is even more uncomfortable for those in control than Balkan situations usually are. Many of those people who are complaining of our slow progress in the Mediterranean would never have predicted 12 months ago that anything like so much would have been won by now; nor is it any disparagement of anybody else's war effort to say that these achievements of British arms have contributed to the great retreat which has taken place in Russia. It is part of our tradition in this country that we should always be quick to acknowledge the successes of our friends, and modestly deprecate our own, but other countries, on both sides of the Atlantic, do not always share this amiable habit of ours; and it will be a good thing for the future of the world that other countries should understand what Britain has done in this war.
In Western Europe our offensive has consisted in the aerial bombardment of Germany and the occupied countries. Here, again, we cannot expect to be told exactly what place has been assigned in the general plan for next year to the long-distance bombardment of Germany, but this is eminently a form of warfare in which we possess the advantage, and it is therefore good strategy to exploit this advantage which we have, if necessary to the exclusion of other projects which might make conflicting demands on our war potential. It takes nearly five years from the time when a new type of aircraft is first designed by the inventor to the time when very large numbers of it can be brought into action. The German Luftwaffe was principally designed to support the advance of ground troops, and the German war production programme gave priority to the needs of the German army, a priority which we in this country gave to the Air Force. We did not all notice this distinction to begin with, be- 1578 cause the German programme as a whole had a long start over ours. If the German industrial man-power and materials which had been used to produce 300 or 400 highly mechanised divisions, or even half of it, had been used instead to produce and sustain in action an immense fleet of heavy long-distance bombers, the blitz over this country would have been very different from what it was. If we happened to be underneath at the time, we thought that a bomb load of 200 or 300 tons was quite a lot, but this is relatively trivial in comparison with what can be done by an industrial country which has devoted for some years its power and its skill to the perfection of the art of long-distance bombardment.
I know the War Cabinet have always given a good deal of priority to the requirements of Bomber Command, although I have never been sure that it has received so much priority as it ought to have had. New inventions are constantly being made to remove physical difficulties, so that bombing can take place on a greater number of nights in the year, to improve the accuracy of aim, and increase the quantity of explosives and fire bombs which can be concentrated on the target. Bomber Command has not yet nearly reached the weight or the precision or the frequency of attack which this country can enable it to attain. Of course, when your industrial resources are fully employed, you can only make more of one thing by making less of something else, and it is a perfectly safe prediction for anyone to offer to say that we cannot win the war by bombing alone, because everyone would agree that you must have some number of efficiently equipped ground forces, with the necessary local air support, to enter the enemy's territory when his power of effective resistance has been broken. I am not attempting to judge exactly what balance should be struck between one type of warfare and another, but I am sure that if we were impelled by our own impatience at the length of the war, or by that of our friends, to whittle down in any way the fullest possible exploitation of this aerial weapon in which we have so great a superiority, and on which we have expended so much of our scientific and engineering skill, in order that we might engage the enemy more heavily with some other weapon in which he is more proficient, and on ground more 1579 favourable to him, we should then be departing from those principles of good strategy which we have hitherto followed. Modern war depends on industry and those non-industrial countries whose armies used to be quite formidable are no longer of much account. An industrial country cannot continue to wage war if the defences of its industrial centres against obliteration from the air are finally broken down, nor is it physically possible for industry to escape from being crippled by dispersal. We shall not shorten the war, we shall lengthen the war, if we forget these things.
I wish it were possible to have some Defence Regulation, not to intern, but to render temporarily inaudible, everyone who tries to predict the date on which the war is likely to end. Whatever you say may do harm. If you say it will be over soon you may cause people to relax, and if you say it will last a long time you may cause them to become despondent, and in either case you may look extremely foolish when your date comes round. I think the Government and all others in a responsible position are perfectly right to tell the country that the hardest part of the struggle is still in front of us, and if the war should be over soon, I do not expect we shall hear any apologies from the Government. But there is another type of argument which has occasionally been used by people in high positions, including, I think, my right hon. Friend who is now our Ambassador in Madrid, and by several others, to the effect that if we do not bring the war in Europe to an end very soon then from the point of view of Europe it will hardly be worth while winning, because it will be too late to save Europe. I certainly do not criticise anyone for calling attention to the state of Europe, but I am never quite sure what practical conclusions we are intended to draw from an argument of this kind. Does it mean that if the plight of Europe were not quite so terrible, that if Europe could hold on for a bit longer we would then be justified in taking things easy and in protracting the war; or does it mean that we should be driven by our sense of urgency into some military adventure which, if it did not succeed, would make the war last longer still?
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
I think it is only fair to the British 1580 Ambassador in Madrid, who is a great personal friend of mine, to answer that point. He has often discussed it with me privately, and what he has said publicly is the same as he has said privately. The point he has endeavoured to make is that there may be a danger that in avoiding the very things which my hon. Friend wants to avoid you may wait so long that you will have very little to save in Europe.
That is, I think, the substance of what I was saying. We ought not to allow the condition of Europe to determine our military strategy, any more than we allow it to influence our economic blockade. If you are thinking only of the population of Europe, you could make out a better case for some relaxation of the food blockade than for an impatient and premature assault. Whether the collapse of Germany comes soon, or whether it comes late, the condition of Europe will not be pleasant, and it may well continue to be less pleasant than we should like it to be for the rest of our lives. The whole reason why so many people in this country were so passionately anxious to prevent this war, and willing to go to such lengths in negotiating with those who had committed acts of aggression, was the knowledge that if war came, whichever side won, the health of Europe would be destroyed, and its civilisation would be ruined. So it has come about. Europe lies in ruins now, and we cannot foresee what new growth will come up out of it. So much that is old has been torn up, very likely forever, and so little that is new has been sown, except hatred and ill-health and bad faith, and you cannot expect good fruits from those sources. Many of those whom we hope to liberate, both in the east and the west of Europe, seem to be either fighting, or about to fight, not only against their oppressors but also against each other.
One picture of the new Europe which interested us all profoundly, although it was necessarily drawn with the most slender materials, was given upstairs, and has since been published, by Field-Marshal Smuts. I hope he is right in thinking that there will, at least, be some countries in Europe who will be willing to share with us the ideals for which we are fighting this war, and to concert with us in taking measures to preserve those ideals. We wish to see 1581 all our neighbours in Europe living in freedom, respecting the rights of the individual, if possible, under some system of government which is both democratic and honest, willing to fight if necessary for their common security, but not for their own aggrandisement. That should certainly be the aim of our foreign policy, which we should seek to realise. But we do not know how the war will affect people whose bodies have been starved and tortured and whose minds have suffered utter humiliation and despair, which may be even more lasting in their consequences than physical suffering. Many of them attribute their misfortunes to the corruption and inefficiency of their former rulers. They may have some good will towards us, but perhaps not much towards their Continental neighbours. In their pathological condition they may seek some new structure of society with some enterprising and authoritarian form of government, which we may describe as Fascist if we want to be rude and as Communist if we want to be polite.
The point on which I agreed most strongly with the opinions expressed by Field-Marshal Smuts was this, that we should not try at the end of the war to have a general peace conference in Europe. I do not think we can settle the frontiers of Europe in six months or perhaps even in six years. There must be a period of convalescence which may take longer in some parts of Europe than in others. We shall do very well, to begin with, if we can manage to feed the population. We and our Allies may have to try to compose local fighting between one lot of partisans and another, between Hungarians and Rumanians—I hope there will be no fighting in the west, although many of us have been appalled by vituperation and bitterness among Frenchmen whose country we wish to restore to a position of greatness. We shall also have the enormously complicated task of sorting out the populations of Europe and putting them back into their proper places, millions of Poles, Russians, Czechs, Belgians and many other nationalities who have been enslaved and transported to work in Germany. Their number is believed to amount to more than 20,000,000. We shall have to find out where they all want to go, whether the places to which they want to go back still exist, how much room there is and what transport will be avail- 1582 able. There are many people who think that in this process of redistribution the Germans should not be entirely left out, but that there are some Germans who might well be moved from one place to another without infringing the true purpose of the Atlantic Charter.
As for the possibility of federation in Central Europe, I do not think that either the Russians or ourselves have really made up our minds on the subject. I do not think that Russia has thought it out; neither have we, and neither has Europe. Do not let us commit ourselves in advance to the support of any political or territorial arrangement until we are first assured both of its practicability and of its justice. Do not let us take sides between one faction and another faction in any country that is set free. As the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) said—I am sorry he is not here—in his most acceptable speech yesterday, every country must be free to determine its own form of government. He did add that they should not be allowed to be either Nazi or Fascist, which I thought showed quite the right spirit, but of course no Government in the future is ever going to call itself Nazi or Fascist. It will try to discover whatever title or designation may prove to be most gratifying to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, and I hope he will not spend the rest of his life in perplexity, for I admired his speech very much.
We may not be able to impose our own conception of individual freedom or international justice upon every part of the world. But I think we may find that the one hope for the regeneration of Europe will lie in the regard which still exists throughout Europe—it is about the only thing they have left to regard—for the British word of honour and British fairness of dealing. We are the only great protagonist who entered this war freely of our own volition in fulfilment of our treaty obligations, and we are the only one who has fought for a long period alone without any effective Ally. We may well find that there may be a much better prospect than any that we can see at this moment, that Europe may be willing to share with us the responsibilities which we cannot bear alone.
§ Mr. Graham White (Birkenhead, East)
I want to make a brief intervention into this discussion, and first I would like to 1583 compliment the hon. Member who has just spoken upon the particularly interesting contribution which he has made to it. I do not altogether share his views about what may happen in some of the occupied territories, but I will refer to that subject again in a moment or two. I wish to say with what pleasure we see the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs back again, with all his vigour unimpaired, after his long journeys on the vastly important missions in which he has been engaged.
I would refer to the last sentence in his speech. I do not know what hon. Members expected to hear from my right hon. Friend in supplement to the announcements which had been made officially with regard to the Conferences. We certainly expected to hear not a single word about the arrangements made bringing the vast amount of accumulated men and power into operation against the enemy at the earliest possible moment. We must realise that the military task which lies before us in the first stage of our great work of reconstruction in the next few months, and prior to the period of the armistice, must be one of the most terrible and costly in our history and that we must brace ourselves individually to that task to carry it out, in whatever sphere we are privileged to serve, to the very uttermost of our capacity. I have no doubt that the House and the country will willingly give effect to the pledge for which my right hon. Friend asked.
One thing struck me generally, with regard to the vastly important Conferences which have taken place. It is that, following the Conferences at Teheran and Moscow, it has been made crystal clear to the whole world that Russia and the United States have finally abandoned that policy of isolation which kept them aloof from the main stream of events in the world for far too long. That is an event of the greatest possible historic importance. My right hon. Friend said that those Conferences would shorten the war. There is a realisation of that fact, and it will undoubtedly help in that direction. The blasts of Dr. Goebbels' propaganda will break themselves in vain upon that evidence of a united front. That evidence has brought confusion and dismay into some of the satellite countries in the Balkans, where, with extraordinary cleverness, Hitler has developed his policy of "divide and rule," dividing 1584 one country from another and ensuring that they would, in almost any circumstances, be at daggers drawn. These Conferences are conclusive proof of the unbreakable unity which will continue in peace and war, until the world is again made a place fit for human habitation. I agree heartily with the view which has been expressed that from this aspect alone something very important has been accomplished which may shorten the war.
My right hon. Friend spoke with great feeling about the shocking state of affairs in Europe. It is appalling to-day, and nobody perhaps can realise the position which will obtain when the fighting eventually ceases. I think it is true to say that the success of the work of rehabilitation will depend upon the feeling which has been created in the minds of the people in the occupied territory as the result of their appalling experiences of the sadistic barbarity of the Germans. No one could have believed that people in human form could have carried out such atrocities so systematically as has happened in Europe, but if anything could give confidence for the future it is that those calculated atrocities have not subdued the people who have been under the German heel, and that a feeling has been created of resistance which must excite our humble admiration. People who have not had the advantage of speaking with those who have had those experiences can hardly realise what that means. So far from crushing those people, those sadistic atrocities have actually stimulated the highest qualities of resistance, courage and self sacrifice.
The situation may change. Unexpected consequences may flow, and it may well be found when we consider making practical suggestions for the reorganisation of Europe that people who never co-operated before will be willing to co-operate now. It may well prove that in some cases the pressure of the German heel has been an important unifying influence. We have received an encouraging fact, at least I take it as such, in the realisation of the Russian-Czechoslovakian Treaty, built and constructed on the same lines as our own Treaty with Russia on three very simple principles, that during the war we will give the maximum amount of material help, that after the war we will give the maximum amount of economic assistance and that we will not interfere in each 1585 other's affairs. These are admirable principles, and they are not admirable only for Czechoslovakia or Russia or ourselves. They seem to me to be applicable to the case of Poland, and it is with no small satisfaction I notice that a Protocol has been made in the Treaty which indicates the possibility of Poland being invited or choosing to come in as a party to this document and Treaty. It would be no small advantage to the Allied cause at this time if the outstanding difficulties which stand in the way of an act of that kind could be removed and if Poland could be brought into that agreement. It would lead to the removal of apprehensions in the minds of many people, and it would be an additional strength to the Allied cause.
I heard with satisfaction the words of sympathy and confidence with which my right hon. Friend spoke to the people of France. At the end of the last war there were three countries which might be said to have been down and out. One was Russia, another was Germany and the third was Turkey. If one considered the march of events in recent years and the course of this war, one would doubt whether there is really any man living who in the light of the experience of those countries, their condition then and now, who would look at France with her great traditions, her 40,000,000 of population, her culture and history, and say to her, "You will never be great again." Certainly I can think of no man who could take it upon himself in the light of history to say that. When we think of France I hope we will always remember that she had suffered the greatest humiliation that a proud nation would possibly undergo. She was moreover herself distracted, misled, by the factions of men like the Lavals, the Dents and the Doriots. In these circumstances we may well believe that the leaders of France, those who are free to speak, those who are trying to consolidate unity and order and authority—and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State yesterday reminded us that but for the accident of geography we might ourselves have had the same experience—are particularly sensitive to what may be considered to be their rights. This has recently led to words and also actions which, to say the least, are awkward, but I have no doubt myself that in the future we shall see France again a great nation. For my part I cannot see any stable society of 1586 nations in Europe, in the West particularly, unless France and ourselves are on good terms and both of us are strong.
We have been talking a good deal in generalities on policy, but in the meantime there is a great and important work to be done in the really practical work of international co-operation. We have seen some of that new work that has been done in connection with the Food Conference at Hot Springs and the Conference that has proceeded or is still proceeding in Atlantic City.
§ Mr. White
At least we have to ask my right hon. Friend whether he has in contemplation, or whether the Government contemplate, letting us have some more information with regard to what has taken place at that Conference. If so, in what form and when shall we have it? Following the Hot Springs Conference we had a document called, if I remember rightly, the "Final Act of the Conference," which was a useful document. This more recent Conference, which has just finished its first Session, I understand, is of much wider import and consequence than that at Hot Springs. I think the House will be anxious to have authoritative information with regard to what has happened there.
§ Mr. White
I thank my right hon. Friend for that information. I am sure we shall look forward to receiving that document, and also I think there are many points upon which we might wish to have further intelligence and also to express views. I think our Government, all the Governments, may congratulate themselves on the fact that in this war we are not neglecting the economic and human aspect of rehabilitation in the way in which it was neglected at the end of the last war. Hon. Members will remember that a book which received much attention at the time, called "Economic Consequences of Peace," by John Maynard Keynes, whom we are glad to learn is now advising us, showed the lamentable neglect and indifference to the 1587 most vital aspects of reconstruction which occurred after the last war. On this occasion we can congratulate the Government that we are not making that mistake. We shall watch with the importance due to them the developments which have been made in that direction. The reports in the Press are not very great, but I notice that plans have been made for dealing with the medical situation and other important matters.
I regret to observe that the British delegation's proposal that there should be international control of transport in Europe after the armistice has not been accepted. I think that all experience would suggest that if there is not an international control of transport, it will be difficult if not impossible to meet the urgent and most pressing needs wherever the supplies may be needed. I should hope that the work of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Conference may develop as it goes on as a guiding force for the development of a common economic policy throughout Europe. That, I think, must have been the original intention in the minds of those who set it up, not that it would be a permanent power, but that its operations should not simply cease with relief but should in fact carry on to the task of rehabilitation. We shall look forward to having another opportunity in the House of dealing with these matters when we have the White Paper which has been promised.
I would conclude by uttering a protest against a spirit of defeatism which it seems to me is creeping into the speeches of some of those from whom we look for guidance from time to time. It is quite true that our material resources have been dissipated in this war, but provided that the means of production are not broken in our hands as a result of the conflict—and it seems unlikely now that they will—there is no reason why we should not only build up a satisfactory standard of living for our people but make a most powerful contribution to the rehabilitation of Europe. If there are people who doubt that, let them just cast their minds over what this country and nation have done in these last four years, the way we have set to work and the miracles of production we have achieved. No doubt the next few months will be critical months, but we may go forward with confidence until the time when the world is again a 1588 saner place which is safe for human habitation.
§ Major Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)
I suppose that few of us would disagree if I were to say that the outstanding statement in my right hon. Friend's speech of yesterday, certainly the most encouraging statement, was when he said that the result of the deliberations in Teheran and Cairo would in his opinion unhesitatingly tend to shorten the war. These words will have resounded throughout the length and breadth of the world. They will have been heard with joy and satisfaction in every country, but not least in those countries of Europe which have suffered so terribly under the heel of the aggressor. It has been my privilege, indeed it must have been the privilege of other hon. Members of this House, to have made friends among many representatives of European nations who are with us during this war. From that friendship and that intimacy I have been able to gather something of the terrible misfortunes, sufferings and agonies of the people of striken Europe.
This statement that the war will be shortened will have caused infinite relief and the greatest possible joy. For what is the situation of Europe to-day? It is a state of chaos, a state of starvation, a state of suffering and torture and endurance that passes the imagination of mankind. So many terrible things happen in war that it is easy for our sensibilities and feelings to become blunted, but we should never allow them to become so if we can possibly help it. Does anyone really imagine that we have seen the horrors of war in their full intensity in this country? Those of us who are looking forward to reconstruction here and realise the difficulties involved in our plans and aspirations must realise also that these difficulties are accentuated a hundred and a thousand fold in Europe. In Europe after the war the situation will be chaotic for a long time. There will be terrible starvation, there will be terrible suffering. Homes will have gone, there will be hundreds and thousands of homeless people. Her whole economy will have been shattered and will have to be restored from the ground up. In some countries there will be bitter strife, amounting almost to conditions of civil war, were it not for the fact that all will be exhausted. But all will turn with eager 1589 eyes to the great wealthy Powers, to the strong Powers who have been conferring in Cairo, Teheran and Moscow. They will ask for leadership. They will look for help. They have always looked to this country for help and assistance. Throughout our history we have been the traditional protector of the weak.
I know well that the part that we shall play in this great international organisation of U.N.R.R.A which has been set up in Atlantic City will be worthy of our heritage and our great tradition. I am glad to think that in that organisation not only the great powers, but also the smaller powers, are represented. Food, homes and work are the three problems which we in this country will have to consider when the war is over. Yes; and they will not be easy of solution, however much unity we obtain. May I repeat that, while we concentrate on our own difficulties, how much greater will be the difficulties of the smaller, weaker and tortured nations of Europe? If food, homes and work are our problems, how much more are they problems for the smaller nations of Europe They will suffer from lack of food far more than we shall; they will suffer from homelessness far more than we shall. I hope and believe that the weaker and smaller nations of Europe will not look to us in vain. Our honour and prestige will be at stake in this matter.
What are the hopes and fears of the nations of Europe which have been stricken under the heel of the oppressor? They are looking forward—and they were promised it again yesterday by any right hon. Friend—to the day of their liberation, to the hour of freedom, and they will gain confidence and encouragement from the results of the conferences in Teheran, Cairo and Moscow. Certainly the day and hour of their liberation is getting nearer; certainly they can look forward with complete confidence to its consummation. But what does liberty mean? Some of them are asking that question. They are asking what will be their lot at the day of liberation. How do we interpret the meaning of that word "liberation"; is it in the same way as they interpret it? Will all the great Powers who have been conferring recently interpret it in exactly the same way? It is important that we should be clear on this point. I have no doubt, 1590 from conversations I have had with friends among the smaller nationalities, that there is some misgiving in their minds as to the correct interpretation of the word "liberation." Is it to be interpreted as patronage of the smaller by the great; is it to be a real partnership between the great and the small in deciding their problems; is it to be any form of dictation by the powerful to the weak? Certainly the smaller nations have great hopes of their day of liberation, but some of them have misgivings that all the great Powers may not interpret the words freedom and liberation in exactly the same way.
What, for instance, is the interpretation of "liberty"? We in this House have no great difficulty in coming to agreement in defining it, but it may not be defined in the same way in the East as in the West. Does liberation of these smaller nations as we advance mean that we shall do our utmost, all of us, to restore their complete political integrity as soon as possible, and that we shall do our utmost to restore their territorial integrity as soon as possible? Shall we do our utmost to ensure that if they so desire they can form alliances and federations for their economic and other advantages? Will they be given complete freedom, or have they in some cases to pick up the crumbs that fall from the master's table? It would be idle to deny that the hopes and aspirations of the smaller nations, which have been so greatly aroused, are not entirely unmixed with misgivings, and I would be delighted if my right hon. Friend would give some assurance, not only to me but to the smaller nations who indirectly will listen to his remarks, that at Moscow, Teheran and Cairo there has been some agreement as to the interpretation of the words "freedom" and "liberty" and "liberation" in their application to the smaller nations of Europe.
I want to turn to another factor which I am bound to say has not encouraged our smaller Allies and friends in Europe. I refer to some portions, at any rate, of the speech of Field-Marshal Smuts. I, in common with others, listened to that speech with the deepest interest, but it would be possible to argue that its publication at this juncture was not wise. I, for one, would like to go on record as definitely deploring the fact that that 1591 thought-provoking but very provocative speech should have been published at this delicate moment in our affairs. It has not encouraged the smaller nations of Europe, except in so far as it is shot right through with the confidence of victory. It has in some cases caused a certain amount of alarm and despondency among our smaller Allies, for it seemed to predicate from the beginning the fact that power is for the strong—as, indeed, it is—and that might is right. I hope that our smaller Allies will not think that Great Britain will ever accept the principle that might is right. Liberty and justice are far more powerful. Power is for the strong: the smaller nations accept that, but will the strong use that power and the great prestige given them as a result of this war, in the best interests of the weak, or are the weak in some cases to be but satellites of the strong, floating in the orbits of their spheres of influence? I would deplore any suggestion that we in this country should tolerate the dividing up of Europe into spheres of influence, dominated by the great Powers, whether in the East or in the West. Europe will never be peaceful or contented unless it is a free consortium of prosperous nations. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not associate himself with a policy which will advocate spheres of influence.
The smaller nations are looking to us for guidance, they are looking to us for leadership. Shall we fail them? There is a terrible temptation for those who confer together, desiring tremendously to agree, desiring as far as possible to eliminate differences, to adopt, unwittingly perhaps, a policy which might be termed unkindly one of appeasement. We shall never be respected in the world if our attitude towards our colleagues in this war is one of weakness or one which can be interpreted as appeasement. Great Britain's honour and prestige stand out magnificently. Never in the whole of our history has it been higher in the whole world, and especially among the nations of Europe. They will expect us to look after their interests, to adopt and, as far as we can, to insist upon a policy which will ensure the peace of Europe for subsequent generations, and not to allow any section of Europe to be dominated by any one power or group of powers. I rejoice that Soviet Russia is now an intimate in 1592 our councils and is obviously sharing our point of view on so many vitally important matters, especially because the bringing of Soviet Russia into the intimate councils of the nations will ensure that there will be no sloppy sentimentality towards Germany. I had feared that those people who thought that this war was merely an ideological war against Fascism would want, as soon as Fascism was overthrown, to make a soft peace with Germany; because I have believed from the beginning that we have been fighting against Germany just the continuance of the last war. We have no reason to doubt the strength and steel of Marshal Stalin and that his determination that Germany shall never again attack Soviet Russia will result in the sloppy sentimentalists of our country being overthrown by the unity of the United Nations, in which I hope Stalin will take the lead on this point.
I would like to mention a few axioms which I hope will be embodied in our foreign policy, and the embodiment of which in our foreign policy in the years between the wars would have prevented this terrible tragedy. It is such a truism that it seems hardly worth saying that the agreements which Great Britain and our Empire come to must never again commit us to guarantees beyond our resources; yet how often have such guarantees and promises been entered into between the two wars? If we had avoided giving such guarantees and promises, how different would have been the fate of the world. Our intentions and our foreign policy must be clear to all, to our potential enemies and to our actual friends. It was largely because nobody quite knew where Britain stood, and what Britain would do, that Germany started the racket of the last war. Again this time, it was because Hitler and Germany were doubtful what in fact Britain would do, even though at the end we made it clear, that they decided to launch this war. Our foreign policy has always been vague and uncertain to the nations of Europe. They have accused us of that for 25 years and more. Let us make a resolution that in future our foreign policy will be a clear and unmistakable one, of which we can be proud, one in accord with our strength and resources, one in accord with our honourable record in the past. We must not abandon the leadership in Europe to any power—let us share it certainly, but 1593 do not let us climb down and abandon it to anybody. The smaller nations are looking to Great Britain. Let us give them a lead: let us give them confidence that under the guidance of Great Britain and the Empire the peace of Europe will be assured for generations to come. I hope and pray that in the closest conformity and harmony with our great Ally in the East, under the protection of the great Power in the East and the great Power in the West, the small nations of Europe may settle down, with help and assistance from across the Atlantic as well, to a long period of steady reconstruction, and to peace, prosperity and contentment once more.
§ Mr. G. Strauss (Lambeth, North)
I hope that it will not be considered too unusual if I say that it is my intention to follow the theme of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd). I hope, however, he will forgive me if I devote the first two minutes of my speech to another subject with which he has not dealt and with which probably the Conferences we are discussing to-day did not deal either. It is a matter with which the Conferences certainly should have dealt, because the duration of the war does not only depend on strategy, the number of our Forces or their equipment. It depends equally on the war material available to the enemy, and I want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that to-day Germany is only able to keep up her vast output of war weapons because she is being supplied with certain materials from neutral calm-tries, one of whom is supposed to be an ally of ours.
What are the facts? One of the most essential materials for the waging of modern war is wolfram or its substitutes. These materials are used for hardening steel, and we know that to-day Germany, with her present capacity for importing wolfram and its substitutes, is very hard pressed indeed and that these metals are in fact one of her major bottle-necks if not her major bottle-neck. We have evidence of that from the fact that Japan has attempted to run cargoes of wolfram to Germany, fortunately unsuccessfully. The present position is that Germany is likely to lose many of her substitutes in the near future, if she has not lost them already. There is molybdenum which is produced in Norway from the mines which we have 1594 recently bombed, and presumably the output of those mines is to-day very much reduced, even if it exists at all. There is manganese from Russia from the Nikopol mines, which are very close to the fighting front, which may be out of action already and which soon, one hopes, at any rate, will no longer be available to serve the German war machine. And finally there is chrome which comes from Turkey, and one hopes that at least one outcome of the recent discussions with Turkey will be a cessation or diminution of the supplies of chrome from Turkey to Germany. So much for the substitutes.
When we come to wolfram, about one-eighth of Germany's wolfram supplies come from Spain and about a half from Portugal. It is understandable that the Spanish Government should be willing to send to Germany all the wolfram she can. We know that General Franco is in general sympathy with the Axis. He has sent officially a Blue division to help to fight the Axis enemies and he owes a great debt to the Axis, and that is where his entire sympathies are. The only pressure I suppose that one could bring upon the Franco Government—and I would like to know what pressure has been brought by our Ambassador—is either force or threat of force. I want to deal with the much more important supply of that which comes from Portugal, for which there is no excuse whatever. In 1940 Portugal exported to Germany 185 tons, by 1942 that figure had risen to 2,000 tons, and I understand that last year the figure was equally high; and incidentally, the exports of an equally important metal, that of tin, from Portugal to Germany has risen by an even larger proportion. It was 30 tons in 1940 and boo in 1942–43.
Portugal is nominally our Ally, and I would like to remind the House of what was said by the Prime Minister when he talked about our Treaty with Portugal a few weeks ago on the occasion when he announced the concession with regard to the Azores. He said on that occasion, on 12th October, that the Treaty—a very ancient Treaty of the 14th century—says that the two countries, Portugal and Britain, shall maintainTrue, faithful, constant, mutual, perpetual friendships … and that as true and faithful friends they shall henceforth reciprocally be friends to friends and enemies to enemies, and shall assist, maintain and uphold 1595 each other mutually by sea and by land against all men that may live or die.But quite plainly, from Portugal's recent action she is not being a friend to our friends, but she is being a friend to our enemies, because she is enabling our enemy to carry on war effectively against us. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare, in reply to a Supplementary Question which I put to him on 26th October, agreed that the cessation of these exports would have a very serious effect on German war industry. It is true that Portugal is also exporting a considerable amount of wolfram to this country but I really do not think that that is any excuse. If I am fighting another man in a desperate battle and I have someone who is supposed to be a friend, I do not really consider it very close friendship if he supplies my enemy with a weapon at the same time as he supplies me with a weapon. That is not friendship.
I would also like to draw the attention of the House to a statement made only about a fortnight ago by Dr. Salazar to the National Assembly, when he declared—and here I quote his words:Since the beginning of the conflict, and even during its darkest moments, Portugal has always expressed her fidelity to Britain with simplicity and without reservation.If that declaration means anything beyond empty words, it must mean that Portugal will refrain from aiding and abetting our enemies as she is doing today. Moreover, there is no geographic, economic or military reason why Portugal should continue to send these supplies of wolfram to Germany. She does not depend upon Germany in any way. This country, I am sure, or the United Nations together, would willingly purchase the surplus amount of wolfram; and Portugal is suffering under no military threat if she should not send these supplies to Germany. Moreover, there is no internal political reason which forces Portugal to take this action. The people of Portugal are probably 100 per cent., or 95 per cent. at any rate, in sympathy with the cause of the Allies in this war. The only stumbling block appears to be the semi-Fascist Government which, unfortunately, controls that country to-day. I have been told that our Government have sent representations to the Portuguese Government that this flow of material should cease, 1596 but, nevertheless, those representations have so far not been successful and I therefore hope that the Foreign Secretary, on behalf of the Government, will take far more drastic steps than has been taken in the past in this direction and that they will frankly and publicly inform our Portuguese ally that, if her position or her interests are to receive any consideration in the post-war world, she must show goodwill at this moment towards the cause of the Allied nations. What in fact Portugal is doing is bringing about the death of thousands, may be hundreds of thousands, of British lives and the lives of soldiers, sailors and airmen of the United Nations.
We were told by the Foreign Secretary that the result of the Conference was to shorten the war. I hope that that is so, but nothing can probably shorten the war more than this small friendly action on behalf of our Ally to stop the flow of these goods going to Germany. I have only one word more in this connection. The United Nations have every right to make such drastic demands on a neutral country even if it is not our Ally, not only on the grounds of our selfish interest—if the lives of our Service men can be considered a selfish interest—but because no neutral country would maintain its independence for a moment if the Axis won, and if that happened Portugal would be treated at best like Denmark and at worst like Poland. If for political reasons the Portuguese Government are unable or unwilling to enter the war to prevent such a catastrophe happening, the very least the civilised world will expect of her is to refrain from aiding these evil and barbarous forces in their attempt to dominate mankind.
I want to say a few words about the Conferences themselves. I am unable to make any comment on the military decisions that were arrived at, for the one reason that we do not know what those military decisions were, and, even if I did, I am not competent to make any observations about them, except that we were told that this was the first occasion in which the leaders of the three great Powers among the United Nations have met and that as a result of that meeting the war was definitely shortened. One is bound to ask why these leaders did not meet before and who was responsible for that failure. I do not know where the responsibility lies; it is one of those ques- 1597 tions which history will doubtless endeavour to unravel. The only matters on which one can comment therefore—and here I follow the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew—are the political decisions which were made at these Conferences. These decisions were very general and very vague and were altogether negative. The hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew asked a number of questions about what the pattern of Europe is going to be after the war; will this happen, that happen and the other happen? We can all ask these questions, and the answer is that we do not know. We have not been told anything about them. Apparently, all that happened at these Conferences in regard to post-war affairs is that there were general expressions of good will and there was a general desire to co-operate. But the difficult essential problems, the great problems which are likely to arise, were, so far as we know, completely shelved and postponed until some later date. We do know that the three great Powers want to co-operate and intend to co-operate in order to maintain their power, but one wants to know what they want to maintain their power for. What are they going to do? It is no use having power for power's sake or power in order to keep Germany disarmed. That is a perfectly simple operation. One wants to know, Are they going to use that power to make Europe a prosperous group of nations? Without economic prosperity peace for any length of time is really quite impossible. We were not told of any plans about that.
But, frankly, I am not very disturbed because I do not believe that it would have been possible for the heads of those four nations, assembled together at Cairo and Teheran, to do anything else but produce the broadest generalities. The interests and outlook of the different nations vary so completely. Also, I do not believe it is possible to establish a really prosperous Europe or to devise plans for doing it so long as the present National Government, dominated by those industrial and other forces which are the backbone of the Conservative Party, continues to exist and so long as the American Government, where business interests are dominant, continues to exist as it is at present. May I put it more specifically and concretely? I do not believe there is any possibility of a permanent rehabilitation of Europe—the temporary giving- 1598 out of food to relieve famine and such like work is comparatively easy—until the power of the big landlords, not only in Prussia but in the Balkans, has disappeared, until the influence of "the zoo families" in France has been completely curbed, until the I.G. Farbenindustrie in Germany and the Comité des Forges in France no longer remain under pricate or national control, and until the big monopolies which exist in Europe to-day are brought under public control and ownership. I do not believe there is any possibility of having peace and prosperity in Europe so long as these things exist. I do not see how it is possible for our Government here, as it is constituted today, with the views held by the Prime Minister and other leading members of the Government, or the present Government of the United States, to agree to such essential plans as I have suggested in rough outline for the establishment of prosperity in Europe.
If we are to have the sort of Europe which I am sure most members of our Government and probably many members of the Government of the United States would like—a Europe not very dissimilar, economically, from the Europe which was there before the war—then we are bound to have a continuation of poverty, insecurity, international rivalries, jealousies and threats of war continuing for decades to come. So, as I have said, I personally am not very disappointed that we have not any plans emerging from those Conferences. I do not believe those plans could have been any good at all. Nevertheless, I am optimistic, because I place great faith in the actions of the people of this country in the immediate post-war years. Their responsibility will be great. Britain's economic and geographic position and prestige in the post-war years will be extremely powerful, and if the people of this country are ready to take action and adopt policies which are progressive internally and externally, I think much may be done gradually to see the emergence of a prosperous Europe. I thought General Smuts' statement about the future of France was deplorable and quite untrue, but I think he was perfectly right when he said in his recent speech that the power and strength of this country after the war will depend very considerably to the extent to which we are able to co-operate with the democracies of Europe. I believe, 1599 as a corollary, that the European democracies will never emerge and take their rightful place in the world and make their full contribution, materially and spiritually, to world affairs unless they have the leadership of a Western European country and, obviously, that country must be ours. The responsibility on us will be considerable.
The best thing the people in this country can do is to put their own house in order and bring about such fundamental changes as will be an example to the rest of Europe and will enable us to co-operate whole-heartedly with those nations. I think that is the only hope. Taking into account public opinion in this country, which is growing more and more radical, I think there is considerable hope that in the post-war years we shall produce a policy and the people to carry out that policy which will have that sympathetic outlook, which will be prepared to support radical, Socialist and even revolutionary movements in Europe to ensure that the old Europe, governed by the old interests, shall disappear and that in its place there shall be established Governments which are prepared to co-operate and devote their resources to the welfare of their own countries and the peoples of Europe. Only by such a fundamental change of outlook do I see any hope for the future. There will be a heavy responsibility on the British people to see that leadership and policy in this country in the post-war years will be adequate for the great responsibilities that will fall upon them.
§ Mr. Harold Nicolson (Leicester, West)
I wish I could follow the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss) the whole length of his speech, but I cannot do that. I wish I could really feel that by abolishing big business and the 200 families of France we should secure peace and prosperity in Europe. I do not feel that the future of Europe can be solved solely on sociological grounds, and though I most warmly endorse some of the remarks made by the hon. Member and by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd), I do feel that on the whole it would be better for us to raise points of criticism, and ask for further information in regard to the actual Conferences which have taken place than to concentrate upon vague eulogies.
1600 I confess that I shared with hon. Members who yesterday and to-day have paid tribute to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary their pleasure in the tremendous victories which on the field of foreign affairs we have quite assuredly won. The fact that on every diplomatic field the enemy have been beaten during this war is due in some measure to the special qualities of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. He does possess very special qualities. He has knowledge which in a Foreign Secretary is exceptional; he has vision, which enables him to see beyond the ancient parapets of Europe and out into the Middle East and even further; and, above all—and more necessarily and essentially above all—the fact that he resigned his high position some years ago merely because he was asked to carry out a policy which he knew to be not inexpedient but also to be untrue, has given him a special quality of authority and a special quality of confidence, not only in this House and the country, but also abroad. After having added my little stone to the cairns of eulogy erected in honour of my right hon. Friend, I hope he will forgive me if I proceed, not to criticise, but to express acute anxiety about one aspect only of our foreign policy, namely, our policy towards France.
It is the avowed intention of the Government—the Prime Minister and others have said so, and the Foreign Secretary repeated it in most agreeable terms yesterday—that France should be fully restored to her position of independence and greatness. This is not merely an honourable aim that we should have in mind; this is not merely an obvious necessity of British policy; this is not merely something that we owe to a friend of ours of more than 40 years' standing. It is an absolute physical necessity for this country that this should be so. Whatever we may feel about the future of France, whatever developments, tendencies and phases that future may develop, we can most certainly be positive that whatever may change in France, its geographical position will not change. We know, if we know nothing else, that the geographical position of France is such that the very vitals of our Commonwealth and Empire can be—and perhaps will be within a few weeks—bombarded from French soil. It is important to remember that the British Government's 1601 averred, proclaimed and emphasised policy of supporting France is one which is not only wise and honourable but is one which is also physically necessary. I cannot quite understand why having thus proclaimed a policy and a principle, the Government appear in all their actions to run counter to it. I dare say it is because Members of this House and large sections of public opinion are unaware of what France really is. We cannot foresee exactly what France will become, but we know quite certainly that whatever happens France will not become; it will not be Vichy. We can be quite sure that whatever cleavages may develop, that whatever tendencies may arise, that whatever appalling dissensions may follow upon the liberation of France, the France which emerges eventually will emerge from the Resistance Movement—a movement which is magnificent in its endurance, its amazing sacrifices and its extremely skilful organisation, and a movement which will dominate French policy for several years to come. It is a movement which will render France what de Gaulle always hoped it would be, "Une France pure et dure"—a tough, clean country. It is to that France, which is not a fiction and which is divided by no spiritual issues, that we owe so much. I do not believe that we have adopted towards that France—which is so necessary, so fine, and which will be so powerful in the future—either that sense of proportion or that constancy of policy, or that delicacy of touch which we have adopted so consistently towards the United States and the U.S.S.R.
It is not my intention to drag up all the past history: all the misunderstandings, outrages and affronts—we might say certainly "instances of lack of consideration"—which have on both sides marred Anglo-French relations since the beginning of the war. I would refer only to two recent instances, the instance of General Smuts and that of the Lebanon. I have the greatest esteem for Genera] Smuts. It was my privilege in very curious circumstances to work under his leadership some years ago, and I have retained from that experience the greatest respect and the greatest affection for him. I agree, moreover, with what he said in his speech, although I think he put the emphasis rather wrongly. In theory he 1602 was absolutely right to remind us that the old balance of European power is destroyed and that we must clear the old 19th century furniture out of our minds. Neither this country nor France can with their own strength and power possibly maintain the security of Europe. He was abundantly right to reverse the formula of Canning and to insist that we must call the old world into being in order to redress the balance of the new. I regret that in giving an example of this principle he was too polite to take this Island and made statements about France which were not only cruel and ungenerous but quite untrue. What I object to is not that the General made his speech, which was of great value to all of us, but that it was published. What I feel is that the Government have put up no defence of that at all. The implied defence is that there is no censorship of opinion in this country. There is however a rule of censorship that nothing can be published which is the material for creating bad relations between us and friendly Governments. That certainly should have prohibited the publication of the speech. Above all, it is not to my mind convincing when we are told that a man in his position who is just speaking in terms of conversation and there was no reason why his remarks should not be published. Does anyone imagine for a moment that if General Smuts had used terms as insulting to Russia or the United States as those that he used towards France, publication would have been allowed? Of course it would not.
The second point I wish to raise, which seems to show lack of delicacy is our handling of the Lebanese question. It was, I fully admit, absolutely essential for the British Government to intervene in that crisis. We could not allow the little match lit at Beirut to flame throughout the Arab world as it might have done. We were absolutely right to insist on a solution of the problem; on a reversal of M. Helleu's; upon the release of the President and the ministers. But we ought not to have done it quite in that way. We ought to have remembered certain other things. We ought to have remembered that in the Lebanon and Syria the ascendancy of France represents a tradition of 1,000 years. We ought to have remembered that there is hardly a Frenchman living, or dead for that matter, who is not convinced that the main object of 1603 British foreign policy is to turn France out of the Levant. They all think we have a policy of creating a huge Arab federation under British influence and hope to turn them out of the Levant. We ought to have remembered that the French are an extremely logical race. They would think it illogical that a country which arrested Ghandi and Nehru and sent two armies to turn out Raschid Ali from Bagdad should throw up their hands in righteous horror when France does the same. Not only are they a logical but they are a legalistic race; it seems strange to them that if the National Committee has not sufficient sovereign power to be recognised as in any way representative of France, we should in a matter of our own convenience insist on such an extreme sovereign action as the abandonment of a mandate which the French people had themselves refused to abandon. The French Chambers have had occasion to express their opinion about this Lebanon question. The last opinion they expressed was to reject the admirable and liberal solution drafted by M. Viénot, who I am glad to say is the representative to-day of the French National Committee in London. Thus the last time the French Chamber was able to express a view it refused absolutely to abandon the Mandate. Now we say to General Catroux and then to the National Committee, "You have sufficient sovereign powers to reverse that decision. In no other way have you any sovereignty at all." Being a very logical race the French do not fully appreciate such an attitude of mind.
§ Sir Alfred Beit (St. Pancras, South East)
In that case what right had de Gaulle or General Catroux to promise independence to the Lebanon in 1941?
§ Mr. Nicolson
They had no right to do it. They only did it under pressure. We insisted that they should do it. It was the right thing to do, but we should have realised that our, position is not a very logical one; and we should at least have adopted this time the admirable procedure that we followed when the original promise was made. When the Catroux pronouncement was made we were not there. It was made with French flags flying and French trumpets blowing.
I have not the information in my right hon. Friend's possession, but I daresay that on this occasion it was not quite so 1604 easy. I am prepared to believe that this time a worse situation was emerging, and we had to act quickly. It may have been necessary to take action by means of pressure more drastic than we could possibly have taken had we had more time. But I cannot believe that the representation of the case, here in London at any rate, might not have been handled a little more tactfully. I have had great experience of the Press during the crises in this war, and I have never known a single occasion on which they have been lacking in responsibility. I have never known a single occasion when, if we said to them—"We want to go quietly on this"—they have not responded generously and immediately. Nothing will convince me that the outcry let loose about the Lebanese question and the inaccuracy of the reports which were published were not due to some hint to go full steam ahead. That is a great pity. I have listened to the German wireless and heard how they have exploited the situation; I have read what the Vichy wireless said. What it said was, "See whether we were right or wrong. England will do nothing for you. We were right from the first. You ought to trust Germany alone." When I see the appalling publicity given to General Smuts' speech and to our action in the Lebanon I can only regret that our proclaimed policy towards France, which is so right, which was always so expedient, and so inevitable, is not followed in practice by an equal consistency of purpose and an equal delicacy of tone.
§ Mr. Nunn (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
Though there have been many extremely interesting points raised in the Debate which one would be strongly tempted to take up, I do not propose to say anything about those speeches because of lack of time. I wish to devote myself entirely to the question of the Far East. There was one point which seems to me to be of supreme importance arising out of the first Cairo Conference. That was the statement made by Russia, by China and by this country that there was no intention to seek additional territory as the result of the war. That seems to me to have been a declaration of the highest importance. Most of us know that throughout the world, and particularly in the Far East, there have been some extremely awkward and sinister rumours going about. First of all, it has been 1605 strongly rumoured that Great Britain has had every intention of acquiring territory as a result of the war. Then America has been charged with the same intention that, if she does not intend actually to acquire territory, she intends to try to get an economic stranglehold. Thirdly, there have been extremely sinister rumours, which one can only refer to lightly, as to Chinese post-war intentions with regard to territory. Those things have done us no good, they have done the American cause no good and they have done the Chinese cause no good, and this declaration made by all three nations seems to me to have been of the highest importance.
Arising out of the position in the Far East, there is one point which I think needs a little comment. I think it is unfortunate that the statement was made that as the result of the war Japan should be entirely stripped of her outer possessions and should retain merely her own islands after the war. It is, of course, necessary to do everything that can be done to restrict Japan's power of further aggression, but Japan has not lately adopted the idea of aggression. It dates back at least to the 1500's. She then made an expedition to the Philippines. She was attacking Korea about that time. I do not think you are going to kill a deep-seated love of aggression by making the position of the Japanese entirely impossible. If the Japanese are to be confined to the Japanese islands, what will come of it? It may be necessary to do it, but it is unfortunate that at this stage of the war the declaration should have been made. It will not help very much in certain parts of the Far East.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd) said that British prestige all over the world was being enhanced by the war. I think that that was much too wide an assertion. British prestige has suffered a crushing blow in the Far East, and we had better recognise it. Even in my time in the Federated Malay States and in Java it was customary for the Malay speaking people to refer to British people as "orang tuan," meaning roughly "the lordly man." All other white people had the different title of "orang blanda," meaning "the lesser man." I merely mention that as indicating the position in which we stood in the regard of people out there. When some considerable body of 1606 British troops marched practically straight off the ship into captivity with their full equipment, when the Japanese swept like a jungle fire straight down the Malay peninsula and to Singapore island, when they swept into Burma and went right down until they nearly reached Australia, it is possible to see why British prestige does not stand high in that part of the world.
Many generations of strenuous and the best type of work will have to be done before we can regain anything of the position that we once held. I know that one or two hon. Members opposite might like to attack me on this question of prestige, but I want them to realise that I am not flag-wagging or that I believe there is any special merit in Britain having a high prestige except for one thing. That is that we were responsible right up to the time of the Japanese war for maintaining law and order, peace and good government over very large areas of the Far East and that we did that work extremely well. It seems to me obvious that when the war is over and the Japanese have been driven out it will be our duty to undertake that very difficult task once again, just as it will be the duty of the Dutch to undertake the work which they were doing so splendidly in the Dutch East Indies and the duty of the French to resume their work in Indo-China. I have no belief in suggestions which have been made for some form of international control over those areas. We have the lives of the people of those areas to consider, and no form of international control is ever likely to be so successful as a control exercised by the people who have had long experience in that work and who know the areas and their problems. The loss of our prestige will make the problem of the post-war control of those areas extremely difficult. Not only has our prestige gone, but the prestige of the Dutch has largely gone too. It will be very difficult to get back a sufficient standing to allow us and the Dutch to undertake that work again. It will be of the most vital importance, not from the point of view of the extension or the maintenance of the British Empire, but simply and solely from the point of view of the good of the people who live in these areas.
That brings me to what is I suppose my King Charles' head—Siam. One of the problems that will arise acutely after the war is what is to happen to Siam. My 1607 hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) put in a plea yesterday for a reasonable attitude towards Finland. I want to make a plea for the same reasonable and generous attitude towards Siam. Siam made a mistake. In 1932 it had a quiet and orderly revolution, as a result of which a body of inexperienced but well-intentioned liberal politicians gained control of the Government. It was obvious in those days that the experiment was ill-timed, that the country was not due for many years to come to a new form of government, and the Government failed. Instead of a democracy there arose a dictatorship. That dictatorship undoubtedly played into the hands of the Japanese, with the result that there was no physical possibility of the Siamese ever resisting the Japanese, who were given a much easier walk-over than they would otherwise have had. The people of Siam, most of whom are extremely childlike and innocent people without any knowledge of politics, have no sympathy with the small clique which is now holding the power of Government under the Japanese. They would welcome after the war the resumption of a real liberal democratic form of government. It will be vitally necessary, merely for safety reasons, to maintain an independent area between Indo-China and Burma. I would like to suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should keep in his mind that when the war is over there shall be some means of establishing in Siam a liberal democratic form of government. It may be necessary to have some sort of advisory assistance, given perhaps by America and Great Britain, and possibly to a certain extent France. That was a system with which the Siamese were familiar. They had it for many years, as I know personally, and they would like it again. In spite of the comparative unimportance of Siam, the re-establishment of an independent Government will be a point to be considered with some seriousness.
I hope that the result of the recent Conferences will not be to give too strong an impression in this country that all is over bar the shouting. We British people fight and work best under a certain cloud of adversity. We are rather apt to feel that when things are going well we may safely slack off. I do not suppose there is a Member in the House who has not had 1608 that feeling at election times. I felt it very strongly at my last election when I found my people going about saying, "You are going to have a record majority." The result was that there was a deficit of 300 votes. I hope that the Press and our general propaganda and all our leaders who undertake to make speeches in the country will make it plain that the effort has still to be kept up at full blast and that we are by no means out of the wood. If we can do that, I think that perhaps before the coming year is over we may have a real chance of seeing some of our post-war problems being matters which can be taken in hand at once. I make a very earnest request to the Government not to allow the somewhat odd people of this country to feel that they have done their job.
§ Mr. Granville (Eye)
I agree with much of what my hon. Friend the Member for West Newcastle (Mr. Nunn) said in the last part of his speech, but he will forgive me if I do not follow his discussion with regard to the Far East. He has been fairly right in his prognostications in the past and, therefore, the House always listens to his experience and knowledge. I hope his advice, in view of the events that have happened in that theatre of the war, will be heeded. I was glad that the, hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson) referred to Lebanon when the Foreign Secretary was in his place, and I hope the Government will take notice of his remarks as I believe there has been a widespread feeling that the Lebanon crisis was not handled with altogether consummate skill by the Foreign Office. I am glad that my hon. Friend referred to it and that the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State were present to take note of his warning and advice. I wish to add to the tributes which have been paid to the Foreign Secretary for his speech yesterday and to those of our leaders who were responsible for the success of the Teheran and Cairo Conferences. I am delighted to hear that the Foreign Secretary left the Prime Minister in good health and good heart. I am sure that no better birthday present could have been given to the Prime Minister than the agreement between Great Britain, the United States and the U.S.S.R. When seeing the pictures of the Prime Minister at that Conference one's mind went back to his fine broadcast on the night of the 1609 day when Russia came into the war and the great effect that had on Russian confidence. The Foreign Secretary has during a number of years been to Moscow a good many times. According to the newspapers, he has flown 23,000 miles in two months. That in itself is a tremendous accomplishment.
The Moscow, Teheran and Cairo Conferences and the 20 years' Alliance with Russia set the seal on a great deal of good and patient work which has been accomplished by the Foreign Secretary. He spoke yesterday in modest terms of the part that he had played, but only those who have seen him at work at these conferences know how much depends on his zeal and enthusiasm. I would like to pay my tribute to him because very largely to his patience and hard work and diplomacy were due the getting together of these great conferences and perhaps some of the results that have been obtained. The Foreign Secretary said in his speech yesterday—the war will be shortened. The close co-ordination of all our military plans which was reached at the Conference will ensure it. … The decisions … will be unrolled on the fields of battle,"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1943; col. 1429, Vol. 395.]—and he went on to say that the agreement confirms a hope of a real peace. If the Casablanca, the North African, the Darlan, Badoglio policy can be justified on the grounds of military expediency in saving life, how much more can the agreement at Teheran and the Allied unity achieved there be justified and advocated?
Yesterday the Foreign Secretary, towards the end of his speech, appealed for a national spirit to back up the agreement. I know that there have been difficulties in the way, but I would suggest that the people of this country have been ready for this agreement for a long time. I would suggest that public opinion has been a long way ahead of the Government on this, and that is why the result of the Conference upon public opinion has been, to a certain extent, already discounted. On 11th February of this year, in this House, there was the Casablanca Debate, and I was one of those who suggested that the Casablanca policy, as enunciated by the Prime Minister on that occasion, was only a half-way house. I ventured to suggest on 11th February, if I may be allowed to quote it: 1610I believe that our future vitally depends also on the co-ordination of our strategy with the strategy of the Russian High Command. I also believe that our future depends very much upon whether we, together with the Russians and Americans, obtain an agreed policy on the occupation of Europe after the military victory has been achieved. That is absolute reality. I repeat that, in my view, this will be dictated by military events."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1943; col. 1493, Vol. 386.]But, apparently, modern political convention is that it is easy to be wise before the event or, as Mr. Wendell Willkie said, it is just too bad to have been proved right. I am not a Dominion citizen, although I had the great honour of fighting with their troops in the last war, but perhaps I have advocated too often in this House the closer working arrangements within the British Commonwealth. I would like to ask the Minister of State, or the Foreign Secretary if he is going to reply to this Debate, whether—and I sincerely hope there has been—there was the closest consultation between Dominion representatives and the War Cabinet on the Conference at Teheran, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us that assurance.
Marshal Smuts recently made a speech which has caused a great deal of interest. He referred to parts of it himself as an explosive speech. I do not want to deal with that except to say that I am one of those who do not accept completely what he said with regard to France and also with regard to the position of this country at the end of the war. But yesterday a speech was made by another Dominion leader, Mr. Curtin, the Australian Prime Minister, and I noticed also that my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) has been making a number of speeches on this same subject. But yesterday the Australian Prime Minister made a speech on the machinery of consultation. He said during the course of that speech that these principles should govern consultation on foreign policy within the Commonwealth:The Australian and other Dominion Governments should have full knowledge of all essential facts and they should obtain these in good time to express their views before decisions were taken. They should have opportunities through their representatives of presenting and discussing in the War Cabinet, with the Prime Minister and other Ministers and also in important committees, any suggestion on new policy which their Governments might from time to time desire to submit.1611 Some of us have been pressing this on the Government for a long time. I think that those observations by Mr. Curtin, made, I believe, for a meeting of his own party, are worth while studying alongside the recent observations of Field-Marshal Smuts. So in asking the Foreign Secretary whether there has been close consultation between the Dominion Prime Ministers and the War Cabinet at Teheran, I would say is it not about time that we now had a meeting of Prime Ministers or an Empire Conference and can the right hon. Gentleman give us an approximate date of when such a meeting is likely to take place?
I believe that this question is bound to become an important topic in post-war policy, and whether there is to be a Western European Federation as suggested in the report of Field-Marshal Smuts' speech, whether that is to come about or not after this war, I am more than ever convinced that our future depends upon a new economic strategy within the Empire during both peace and war. This does concern the Foreign Office very vitally. If you are to have a United Nations International Air Force, or whatever machinery of security you set up in the future, I believe it will be of little avail if we do not avoid the mistakes referred to by my hon. Friend who preceded me in his speech but certainly unless you carry out a comprehensive economic policy of the decentralisation of the industrial war potential throughout the British Empire. As my hon. Friend indicated in his remarks upon Singapore, we have to learn from the errors of the past. The defence problem of Singapore, or part of it at least, was worsened by the fact that we were forced to bring aircraft to Singapore on the decks of ships in that theatre of war, and those of us who were pleading for fighter cover for our troops in Malaya realised the difficulty of taking aircraft on the decks of ships and getting them safely through the sea warfare.
If the British Commonwealth is to operate as an economic entity after the war from the point of view of reconstruction, and if it is to play its part with the United States and with Russia, believe me, unless you decentralise your basic industrial war potential throughout the British Common-wealth, you will have the same problems to solve in facing an aggressor that we had to solve with regard to the defence of Malaya 1612 and Singapore. We must establish a basic industrial war potential in the Middle East, in South Africa, in Australia, in Canada, and I hope the Foreign Secretary and the War Cabinet, when they are considering the real strength behind any system of security after the war—I remember that the Foreign Secretary has been a consistent advocate of that since his earliest days, since 1931—will bear in mind that a system of security must have adequate force to back it. The right hon. Gentleman learned that lesson early on, but I say to him this: If you are to have that force in modem terms, it is no good merely getting guns, aircraft and the rest. What matters is that the basic industrial war potential should be strategically disposed throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations, so that in the event of an aggressor striking in any part of the world your war implements will not have to be sent on the decks of ships; they will be already there.
The Teheran communiqué said that agreement had been reached on timing with regard to the attacks in the East, the South and the West. I was no one of those who expected yesterday that the Foreign Secretary would be able to give us any more detailed information than he indeed gave us, but he did indicate—and we ought to pay our tribute to him for it—that the machinery has been set up, that the crumbling of Germany may affect the timing, and of course, that there must be other Conferences in the future. There is one thing I would suggest to the Government that they can tell the people of this country, and that is, as was referred to by my hon. Friend who preceded me, they can tell public opinion now of the stupendous effort that is going to be required in the near future. There has been far too much, in my submission, of "It is going to be over by Christmas" "or "it will be all finished in the spring." The Prime Minister very wisely said that the hardest fighting is yet to come, but Ministerial week-end speeches are being contradictory. There is a good deal of puzzlement among public opinion, both in factories and in villages, and, if I may say so in friendly criticism of the Government, it is due in large part to the fact that our official hand-outs have been over optimistic. There will be a tremendous psychological problem to handle unless there is complete consideration, not only of the policy of political warfare, but of propaganda on the home front. You 1613 may have to put up with propaganda and a propaganda version of events in wartime, but there is the danger that the newspapers, the radio, the news reels, and the dissemination of public opinion have overplayed the effects of our successes upon the enemy. When you repeat to the people the kind of speeches the Prime Minister has been making, calling upon them for the greatest war effort for the coming stupendous military events, public opinion in this country may say, "Yes, but look what the Press has been saying. Does not that count for something? We thought things were nearer the end than this."
I would advocate, therefore, as I have done in the past in this House, that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Information should read again "The Life of Lord Northcliffe" and particularly that part which refers to the time when he was responsible for propaganda in the last war. It was Northcliffe who said, "Tell the people of this country the facts. They will back you through anything." I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, who is recovering from an operation which we are all sorry to hear he underwent yesterday, will pay special attention to this problem of the dissemination of information upon the home front because there is a great deal of uncertainty about what is going to happen in the future. I was very glad to see that my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester referred to this in his speech. With the defeat of Germany on the Continent of Europe, what are we going to find? Are we going to find a brave but impoverished France, a Belgium absolutely bare and broken, a Greece famine stricken, and Norway and Holland debilitated? Shall we find from Poland to the Channel a whole generation imperilled and their future existence endangered? The reports from Italy, if we are again to take as accurate what is stated in the newspapers, show something of what we may expect. I am glad the Government have played their part in the setting up of the organisation which is to deal with this, but will the efforts of the United Nations be in time to save a whole generation in occupied Europe? We shall not be in time if the organisation is not so perfect that it can become effective at once when we have finally broken German military power.
1614 It was realised after the last war that a whole generation had been lost on the Continent of Europe, but unless we are ready with relief for occupied Europe the casualties of this war will be far worse than the casualties of the last war. No more important task rests upon the statesmanship of the Allies. The organisation which has been set up is hoping to supply a certain amount, a minimum, perhaps, of food, but I will venture to say that not only on the Continent of Europe but in this country the fertility of the soil has been strained. I am not sure how far, owing to the necessity for intensive agricultural production, the acres of this country, and certainly the acres of the Continent, will be able to provide food after the war to save a whole generation on the Continent. I hope that one outcome of this discussion will be that the Prime Minister will get together with the Minister of Agriculture and decide upon the long-terra policy for agriculture in this country, to show the contribution we can make when discussing this matter on an international scale with our Allies. And what will be the position as regards transport, medical supplies and raw materials? All those things will be required on a tremendous scale at a time when perhaps we shall still be fighting Japan in the Far East.
I believe this will be the biggest task of regeneration in the history of mankind, and if there is a word of criticism that I will venture to make on the speech of the Foreign Secretary yesterday it is that surely something more could have been told us about the discussions at Teheran Conference on this all-important question of the plans we are preparing to deal with the rehabilitation of Europe. I hope that in his reply he will be able to tell us a little more on that matter, because surely it could not have the effect of endangering military security. I have said that a great burden will fall on the leadership and imagination of this country at the end of the war.
I sometimes look around this House and wonder what kind of leadership is forming behind the formidable stature of the Prime Minister. It is not enough to say that there is a gap between this House and public opinion and that when the young men come back from the war there will be a great opportunity for them in this House after the next General Election, because the tremendous problems we shall have to 1615 face at the end of the war must be taken in hand now if anything effective is to be done. Therefore, whatever criticism may be made against this long Parliament it will have to be a school for leadership and it must function in debate as never before during the war. If we are to save Europe from chaos and from revolution this is the vital, the all-important, task not only of the United States of America and of Soviet Russia but of the people of this country.
I am not a pessimist about our future. I believe that if we found the young men and the leadership to survive 1940 we shall find them to surmount 1944 and 1945. In conclusion, I think we should pay our tribute to the leaders who have travelled half way round the world and have achieved a united policy for the first time during this war. I see, according to the newspapers, that President Roosevelt may return the Prime Minister's many visits to America by visiting Great Britain on his way home. We can assure him that he would be given a welcome that would set the seal on the Conference and upon allied unity for the great task which has to be undertaken for the future.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I want to congratulate the Foreign Secretary on once more opening a Debate on the war situation as a bearer of good news. We have had a number of Debates during the last six months, and the Government have been fortunate enough on each occasion to be able to tell an agreeable story to the House, and yesterday the Foreign Secretary was again in that happy position. He was able to announce that at last the four great Allied leaders had met and had reached agreement on military and other matters. While we are pleased with the information, naturally we are unable to congratulate the Government very much about it, because what most people have been asking and what hon. Members have said in the Debate is, Why has it taken so long to bring about so obvious a result? I was going to say something to-day about the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, but I have been saved the trouble. It is always lucky to speak on the second day of a Debate, because so many people have made comments before you, and all you have to do is to remember what they have said. I see that one newspaper this morning 1616 describes the speech of Mr Eden as a masterly speech and says that it was "distinguished alike by its clarity and vigour." That was from the "Daily Worker." Another paper says:Mr. Eden brilliantly discharged yesterday the difficult task of putting some flesh on the necessarily dry bones of the Conference communiqué.It goes on to say:By common consent Mr. Eden's speech in the House of Commons yesterday was one of the best of his career.That is the "Daily Telegraph," and obviously when both the "Daily Telegraph" and the "Daily Worker" combine together in congratulating, the right hon. Gentleman upon his speech, it is not necessary for me to say anything further, except to express pleasure that we have a Press which so faithfully and accurately records events in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Member is no doubt priding himself upon being in the company of the "Daily Telegraph." We have seen the hon. Member in that company before, and we probably shall again. I have been impressed recently by Debates in this House on foreign affairs with a particularly depressing consideration. It seems to me that our Debates get more and more unreal, and indeed, that the House of Commons itself establishes a more and more remote contact with what is being done by the Government. We did not expect yesterday that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to tell us the military proposals and plans which were made at that Conference, but the right hon. Gentleman went on to hint that other decisions were taken in international and foreign affairs and upon foreign policy. He told us nothing about these so we are unable to tell what the Government's decisions are until they have been disclosed to us by Government action. It means therefore that the House of Commons is coming to have less and less control over the policies of the Government.
I have spent now more than a quarter of a century of my life in public affairs, and as I grow older I become more and more pessimistic. I started—if the House will forgive me this personal note—my 1617 career in public affairs in a small colliery town in South Wales. When I was quite a young boy my father took me down the street and showed me one or two portly and complacent looking gentlemen standing at the shop doors, and, pointing to one, he said, "Very important man. That's Councillor Jackson. He's a very important man in this town." I said, "What's the Council?" "Oh, that's the place that governs the affairs of this town," said my father. "Very important place indeed, and they are very powerful men." When I got older I said to myself,, "The place to get to is the council. That's where the power is." So I worked very hard, and, in association with my fellows, when I was about 20 years of age, I got on to the council. I discovered when I got there that the power had been there, but it had just gone. So I made some inquiries, being an earnest student of social affairs, and I learned that the power had slipped down to the county council. That was as where it was, and where it had gone to. So I worked very hard again, and I got there—and it had gone from there too. Then I found out that it had come up here. So I followed it, and sure enough I found that it had been here, but I just saw its coat tails round the corner.
The ordinary man in Great Britain has been spending his life for the last couple of generations in this will-o'-the wisp pursuit of power, trying to get his hands on the levers of big policy and trying to find out where it is, and how it was that his life was shaped for him by somebody else. We were convinced by our institutions and representative democracy that the House of Commons itself was that instrument, and that seat of power; but these Debates, and especially the speech of my right hon. Friend yesterday, convinced me that the House of Commons is becoming almost irrelevant. I do not understand my hon. Friends being angry, because I do not mind the Foreign Secretary making a speech—I say it deliberately, without any desire to be unkind—which was a masterpiece of ambiguity—a masterpiece. I do not blame him for that, and of its kind it was a good speech, but it was impossible to find out anything at all from it.
He was not telling us the decisions at which the Government had arrived; he was preventing us from finding out what 1618 the decisions were. Judged from that point of view, it was an extremely successful speech, but it leaves the House of Commons entirely in a position of not knowing at all what decisions have been made on our behalf. It means that I have now got to start out on my journey once more. I have got to set out on a global journey to find out where this power has gone to, and by the time I have circumnavigated the globe and established communication with Mars, I shall have lost it again. This is an extremely serious matter. All we can do is to deduce what the Government propose to do from what the Government have already done. That is all that is left to us. The intentions are not disclosed, so that we must pursue the scientific method and proceed to deduce from what they have done what it is that they propose to do.
The right hon. Gentleman said yesterday a few words about the Atlantic campaign, and I would like to recall to hon. Members' minds the Debate we had some months ago on the Mediterranean situation. I ventured then to make a few observations, and I made the right hon. Gentleman very angry, and particularly angry about the position in Italy. If hon. Members would do me the honour, if they have a few moments' leisure, they might look at that Debate, which was immediately before the summer Recess, and compare the situation which now exists in Italy with what was said in that discussion at that time.
Has not the right hon. Gentleman's secret service department told him that it sometimes rains in Italy in the autumn and winter? What is the use of getting up in this House and saying that we had just made our dispositions and brought up our artillery, and down came the rain, but nevertheless, with indomitable vigour and courage we overcame obstacles, crossed this river and pressed forward again over this or that ridge? A friend of mine who is home from the Eighth Army says, "The whole country is hills. Up you go; up one bloody bill and then down another"; and the right hon. Gentleman expects us to sympathise because, after going up one hill, down comes the rain.
The whole of this country wants to know what strategical conception behind the war put the British and American Armies to fight their way right up the whole peninsula in the autumn and winter. 1619 That is what they want to know, and you hear it all over the country. Does anybody suggest to me that that is a wise strategy? It is nonsense. Is that the "soft under-belly of the Axis"? We are climbing up his backbone. The trouble is that hon. Members listen to the Prime Minister's speech, and after the Prime Minister has made a speech he has won a victory. They never compare it with events, or one speech with another. It is true that we are in a most fortunate position with regard to the war and that there is a general atmosphere of optimism, but I venture to ask hon. Members to realise that had our position depended upon our own military dispositions alone and been unassisted by the totally unexpected victories of the Red Army, we should have been in a very dire position.
The fact of the matter is that apart from North Africa, which was a most magnificent military exploit, the Government's military handling of the war has been one grievous blunder after another. I heard the hon. Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd) daring to suggest that we were in this fortunate position because we had followed fundamental principles of military strategy. First he said, and I nearly lost my breath—
§ Major Lloyd
On a point of Order. The hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew made no such remark. The hon. Member may have been mixing him up with the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Wedderburn).
§ Mr. Bevan
I beg the hon. and gallant Member's pardon, I mean the hon. Member for West Renfrew. He said we had followed the fundamental principle of military strategy of not dispersing our forces. I thought that was precisely what we had done. What about Malaya, Hong Kong? As a matter of fact, Hitler for three years bas put our Forces into a series of concentration camps and immobilised them. We have been unable to gather them and concentrate them against the enemy at any vital point. We have never, in fact, deployed more than 30 divisions in a concentration against the enemy. We have so dispersed our Forces—[Interruption.]—no, not 30 divisions, but I do not want to state it to strongly on the other side. At the moment in Italy we are succeeding, I think, in engaging 1620 about half the number of troops that the underground movement in Yugoslavia is engaging, about 10 divisions.
What is the matter, what is responsible for this? The Italian people gave us Italy. The Italian people refused to fight in Sicily. The Italian people rose in the North. The Italian people, by their hatred of Fascism, at the first opportunity when we unbolted the door drove Fascism from Italy. They did it, and we have been unable to take military advantage of that fact. There is no doubt at all about the bravery with which our people have been fighting in the Italian Peninsula. I was very glad that the Foreign Secretary paid a tribute to the Royal Engineers. They have had a shocking time, but no wonder, because what we have been forced to do by our position is to smash every means of transport and supply ahead of our Army and before we can move on the Royal Engineers have to put it all back again.
It is no longer a war of movement, it is almost a static war. General Eisenhower does not seem to have understood the position at all. He never anticipated this. He said on 10th September that the Allies had decided against attacking what he called stepping stones such as Corsica, Sardinia and Crete in planning the offensive against Italy. He said it was thought better to launch an all-out invasion of the Italian mainland. He said that the time had come to stop nibbling at islands and hit the enemy where it hurt. On 2rst September he expressed pleasure at the comparatively small losses involved in the landing at Salerno. On 22nd September he expressed the fullest satisfaction with the Allied position, and as recently as 6th November he said:We are on the mainland of Europe carrying the battle daily closer to the vitals of the enemy.At the moment when General Eisenhower was expressing satisfaction, when we were delivering blows at the bowels of the enemy, the Germans, now satisfied we were in a hopeless strategic and tactical situation, transferred three Panzer divisions from Italy to Russia and launched them against the Kiev bulge. Will the right hon. Gentleman deny that the enemy was able to take first-class German troops from Italy at a vital moment in the war on the Eastern Front and launch 1621 them against Kiev? If the attempt against the Red Army had succeeded, it would have been a very serious reverse to the Russian Forces on this side of the Dnieper. Indeed, I am bound to say, if the House, will forgive the metaphor, that the Allied High Command have approached the problem of attacking the Italian mainland like an old man approaching a young bride—fascinated, sluggish and apprehensive.
The House need not rely upon my authority; I have no authority in these matters at all. I have no military authority whatsoever, no experience of warfare any more than the Prime Minister has. I am only able to use such information as I obtain, and study the facts as they are and then express my opinion. But I have before me a very important article written by the military correspondent of "The Times" for the "Illustrated London News," which has special facilities for going all over the world. He wants to know, What are we doing in Italy now? What are we doing there at all? He thought that we were going to take the Italian mainland by a series of amphibian operations, that we were going to use our sea power and deploy it in such a manner as to nip off one German force after the other. General Eisenhower said he was going to encompass the enemy. We have not done it. The result is that the gravest crisis with which the German High Command was faced since the Battle of Stalingrad is now eased, is now over, and the Germans can transfer first-class troops from the Italian front at a critical stage of the war with Russia against the Red Army. I ask hon. Members, in fairness, Do they consider that to be an intelligent disposition of our military might?
Furthermore, in this period we have lost important islands in the Dodecanese. Not only have we not got islands we ought to have captured—no naval man can understand why we have not got Rhodes. What is the use of expecting your diplomacy with Turkey to be successful in face of that lamentable military situation? No amount of persuasiveness by the Foreign Secretary and no matter what amount of personal dynamism by the Prime Minister can overcome the logic of those facts. The Turks are not anxious to have Turkey made a battlefield as Italy has been made. It is therefore only to be expected that when we engage in these world tours we shall bring back home merely ambiguous 1622 sentences, because we have not been armed with the necessary military successes to back up our diplomatic finesse.
I have one or two more things I would like to say about the Yugoslavian and Italian situation. Furthermore, it is our duty, certainly a duty on these benches, to call attention to the situation in Italy. I want to know, When are we going to get the terms of the Armistice made known to the House? If the right hon. Gentleman tells us, as the Deputy-Prime Minister has done, that the terms of the Armistice cannot be disclosed for military reasons, I say at once that I do not believe him. I put it on record, so that when the terms of the Armistice are known, the world will be able to judge between those terms and the present military situation, and to find out what, in fact, are the reasons for not disclosing the terms. One of the reasons is that behind that mystery they can keep on dealing with King Victor Emmanuel and Badoglio. I shall read out a statement made by Salvemini in an American paper the other day:The treaty of alliance with Hitler of May, 1939, explicitly forbade a separate armistice and a separate peace, to say nothing of 'co-belligerency' with the enemy. That treaty was negotiated, agreed upon, and signed not only by Foreign Minister Ciano, not only by Mussolini as head of the Government, but also by the King as head of the State. By agreeing to the Armistice and then to 'co-belligerency,' the King committed an overt act of perfidy and treachery. It was treachery even if it was done against a criminal like Hitler. A gangster does not become a gentleman if he betrays, not a gentleman, but another gangster. The King of Italy first forsook his oath to the Constitution of the realm and associated with Mussolini for 20 years in the betrayal of the Italian people; then he associated with Hitler in an attempt to betray all the peoples of Europe; then he betrayed Mussolini; then he betrayed Hitler. Whom will be betray to-morrow?We had the same thing over Pétain. I had better not go any further on that line, or I shall be indiscreet. He says:We are being told that the King of Italy is the symbol of the sovereign power and as such commands the allegiance of the army and the civil service. Therefore, we need him. Symbols cease to command allegiance as soon as they have become targets for hatred and contempt The King of Italy has become a symbol of cowardice, defeat and treachery. In England, Charles the First was the symbol of sovereign power and commanded the allegiance of the army and the civil service, but the English beheaded that symbol. Another symbol of the sovereign power in England, James II"—1623 and the Prime Minister should know something about this—had to decamp in order not to be beheaded like the first symbol. And a third symbol, Edward VIII, was put out of commission owing to the fact that he wanted to marry a woman who had already had two husbands.I know that this is a shocking thing to say, but it is being said to millions of Americans, and it might be said to a handful of Members of Parliament. He goes on:France also had her symbol, Louis XVI, and beheaded it in 1793, and then during the 19th century got rid of four more symbols. Russia got rid of her symbol in 1917, and Austria, Hungary and Germany of about 40 symbols in 1918. It is beyond human understanding why Italy alone has to swallow her symbol for ever.How on earth is it possible to convince Italians of the seriousness of our democratic intentions in Europe, when we do our very utmost to support and buttress a man who has so evil, disreputable and venial a reputation as that? What effect has that on the rest of Europe? The hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew talked about not being influenced by the situation in Europe until our military preparations are complete. But our military preparations and the condition of Europe are one and the same thing. The readiness of the people there to co-operate, their power to co-operate, the amount of damage that they can do to the enemy in control, is a factor of military importance. We must have regard to what is happening there. We have not done so.
Take the situation in Yugoslavia. Last year Tito sent to Mihailovitch, who was then Secretary of State for War in the Yugoslav Government in London, saying that he was prepared to put his own troops and himself under Mihailovitch's command. I believe that the liaison officer under Tito and Mihailovitch was at that time a man called Hudson. Mihailovitch refused, and said that he did not believe in the possibility of an underground movement of any considerable size in Yugoslavia. I believe that Mihailovitch was perfectly sincere in that judgment. It all depends on whether you are looking at society from on top or below. He looked at Yugoslavia from the point of view of the governing clique, and he could see no help. But the people down below saw Tito. Tito believed in the people, and Mihailovitch did not. Neither 1624 did the Foreign Office. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman shaking his head; the facts are all against him. The British Government had peculiar access to what was happening in Yugoslavia; they had all the sources of information. Yet the B.B.C. were praising up Mihailovitch, even though Mihailovitch was receiving arms from the Axis Powers, shooting up the partisans and betraying them to the enemy. When an organ with which I was associated produced evidence that Mihailovitch was doing this, and that Tito was leading the real resistance movement in Yugoslavia, we received unofficial rebukes from the Government for saying things which would hurt the feelings of a friendly Power, but a few weeks later the Soviet newspapers produced similar evidence. Tito escaped from Montenegro, from encirclement, with about 8,000 men. Now he is sustaining between 200,000 and 250,000 men, and I am glad to say, as the right hon. Gentleman said yesterday, that he is now having considerable supplies of arms from us. But those supplies did not start in any size until the middle of October. It is true that there is a liaison officer with Tito who is a Member of this House, but the Americans may also have something to say on this now, because the full burgeoning of military supplies to Yugoslavia started after American intervention. This is nothing to sneeze at. These are not people we can despise, because as soon as the Sicilian campaign started Tito moved his troops between the area which he occupied and the Italian-occupied part of Yugoslavia to take advantage of an Italian collapse which he knew was coming, and which we ought to have known was coming. Immediately the collapse took place he moved to take a strip of the Adriatic coast, and held it for three or four weeks. We had so failed to inform ourselves of this situation that we never took the slightest military advantage of the fact that the Adriatic shore was being held by Yugoslavia. This purblind adherence to the reactionary forces in Europe is costing us thousands of British lives, and may cost us hundreds of thousands of British lives.
The same thing is now true of Greece. The German radio last night reported that the Greek resistance movement had established a Provisional Government. What are we going to do about the King? We are very fond of him. The Prime 1625 Minister went out of his way to say nice things about him at the time of the Quebec Conference. So I am informed. The right hon. Gentleman can contradict me if he likes but I regard my source of information about this as almost as good as his, because his has been wrong so often. At least, if it has not been wrong, he has concealed a good deal of information from the House. When the Foreign Secretary was at Cairo on his return from Moscow, did he see the King of Greece? Did he try to get the King to make a number of concessions on the original agreement? Was the King adamant? Did he refuse to make any concessions and did he also demand a correction in the Prime Minister's statement in the House of Commons that the question of his return would be settled in accordance with the Atlantic Charter? The King stated, so I am informed, that the terms of the original agreement provided for his inexorable return.
§ Mr. Bevan
It is alleged to be an agreement or understanding between the King of Greece and the British Government concerning his return to Greece. That is what it is alleged to be. I am not saying it is so, but our allegations often turn out to be true when other Members have forgotten them. I am informed that the King refused to make any concession whatever, and asked that help should be given to the National Liberation front and that the King had continued to send help to Colonel Zervas, assistant to the man who organised the plebiscite under which the 1626 King returned to Greece before—and a somewhat disgraceful plebiscite it was. I want to know, therefore, whether the right hon. Gentleman has agreed to send military assistance to the National Liberation front, and are they sending assistance to Zervas? My information is that the National Liberation movement in Greece has now behind it more than four-fifths of the population, and I would ask whether we are sending arms to them and to those who might become our enemies and the enemies of the people of Greece? These are critical questions.
I want to say one thing further about France. Field-Marshal Smuts said he was going to talk frankly, and it gives us an opportunity of talking frankly. Old men become more irresponsible the older they get. Only the young men have any responsibility for the future, because they have only the future for which to be responsible. Field-Marshal Smuts has done deadly damage in Europe. Hon. Members should get in, formation about what has been done, in Europe. Here we have concerted plans. We understand, after waiting three years, that this is a moment selected by a Minister of State, a member of the War Cabinet, to wound deeply and mortally all our friends in France. It is disgraceful. If there were an organised Opposition in this House, the Government would have been brought down on that fact alone. Field-Marshal Smuts said a number of other things about the future organisation of Europe, but what he said is not very new. It goes back to the torn-torn. He talked of the necessity of leadership. The Fuehrer has talked about that also. The House should recognise that there can be no peace that merely rests upon the armed might of Russia, Britain and America.
Hon. Members opposite have talked about conscription after the war. I make no comment upon the wisdom or otherwise of that, but have hon. Members considered what they mean when they talk about building up a war machine and behind that war machine finding self-security? Before the last war, for every four men in the fighting Forces there was one man behind. At the end of the war it was one to three, at the beginning of this war one to two, and at the end of this war it will be one to one. The maintenance of the modern war machine involves an expenditure of practically 50 per cent. of your 1627 population to maintain it as it is so highly technical and mechanised. Are we to achieve our safety by that sort of proposal? It is madness. Is America to base her sense of security upon a war machine possessed by Russia, or Russia upon the war machine possessed by America? Will not each one of them once more try to get a war machine equal to all the others that can be brought against it? Is not that the whole problem? This man stands up and talks politics as silly as his philosophy always was. To suggest that we must in this generation start thinking about the organisation of future peace in terms of armed might of three or four leadership Powers is nonsense, on logical grounds alone, and on humanitarian grounds it is criminal.
We have to seek some other way out of the difficulty than that. Fortunately, neither Russia, America nor Britain will have as much to say in the future of Europe as they think they will. Fortunately, the people of Yugoslavia, of Bulgaria, France, Greece and Italy are getting a renaissance. During the past three years, under the heel of Fascism, those people have learned the lessons of personal liberty. In the experience of pre-war years they have learned the lessons of organised society. You have in that part of Europe a number of precipitates of the most promising kind, a love of personal liberty and of economic order. Out of that combination may come people, not in Britain nor in Russia nor in America but from a combination of these oppressed peoples, who have been learning their lessons, who are going to save mankind from a repetition of these horrors.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha (Devonport)
Unlike the elderly spouse to whom reference was made in the speech to which we have just listened, my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) has enlivened the proceedings and also distracted them. The purpose of the Debate, as I understand it, is to examine the results of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's travels—an odyssey which in itself symbolises the fact that diplomacy, like war, has become mobile. Whatever may have been the virtues of the case presented so ably and so forcibly by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, is not its effect somewhat diminished and its significance a little dimmed by the 1628 Moscow-Teheran-Cairo Agreements? For these Agreements, as I understand them, established a complete consentaneity between the three great Powers. If, accordingly, our policy in Italy has been wavering or misguided, and our attitude towards the King of Greece has been misplaced, then, in the light of the arrangements made under these Agreements, we can now proceed upon a single line of purpose. I prefer in these circumstances to examine the future. I do not wish to participate in the commination service which my hon. Friend held. I prefer—at any rate with some qualifications—to praise famous men, and one famous man in particular who sits opposite to me now. The first part of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's achievement is that he has made an agreement upon strategy. The second front which so chafed inter-Allied relations and even bedevilled our domestic politics has been swept out of the realm of controversy. We have a single timetable and a single plan. That is all to the good because it underlines and accelerates the inevitability of the enemies' defeat.
Where, however, do we go from there? The more effective our military arrangements, the more abruptly are we brought up against the problem which it is the purpose of this Debate to resolve. What kind of post-war world do we envisage? What kind of Europe? What is the plan? Of the three great Powers Britain has a greater interest in this question than the others, for the others are self-supporting. Britain is entirely dependent for her prosperity on the kind of settlement which is made in Europe, or whether or not it will produce peace.
It is the second part of my right hon. Friend's achievement that he has brought Britain, the United States and Russia together not only for the purposes of war but for the purposes of peace. Some evidence of the sincerity of this arrangement is contained in the pronouncement about Persia. Russia declares that she has no territorial claims in that region. That resolves many doubts. This aspect of my right hon. Friend's negotiations has not, I think, been referred to but it is important. It is certainly an evidence of the sincerity of the Agreements. But the grand alliance which has been established is only a preliminary to the solution of problems. It is not the solution itself. 1629 What is to be the basis of the new international organisation? My right hon. Friend will, I think, agree with me that there is a tendency in all peace settlements to re-create the conditions that have gone. These treaties are generally written with the dead hand of the past. It was so at the Congress of Vienna. The plenipotentaries there knew the 18th century and liked it—an affection many of us would share with them—but they were not responsive to the ideals of the French Revolution, ideals of political democracy and of self-conscious nationality. They tried to dress the 19th century in the garments of the 18th century. They forced Europe back. They understood one of the aspects of public policy to which General Smuts recently drew attention. They understood the meaning of power and, utilising power, they imprisoned the aspirations of democracy and of nationality within autocratic empires.
Economically, their solution was sound for the nationalities were grouped, but politically it was defective. Consequently, there were recurrent attempts throughout the century to re-enact the French Revolution all over again. There were irredentist movements. When we come to the Treaty of Versailles, all the statesmen there assembled had the ideals of democracy and of nationality as an instinctive part of their outlook and they made a Settlement upon those principles. It was a settlement which would have done for the 19th century but it was no good for the 10th century. It completely excluded economic considerations. It created 13 succession States, comprising over 120,000,000 people, and it gave to none of them the means whereby it could live. That was the Treaty of Versailles. Have we not learned the lesson that more important than the claim for sovereign independence is the necessity for mutual interdependence? Have we not learned that lesson?
We come to the Moscow agreement. I am not about to criticise it. I want to look beyond it and I hope that in what I say I shall carry my right hon. Friend with me. We have reached a stage when it has been proved by experience that sovereign independence is not a specific for the peaceful settlement of Europe. We come to the Moscow Treaty and we find that the new international organisation is to be based on the sovereign equality of States, great and 1630 small. Is there not in this an echo of the past? Are we not in danger, if we stop there, of reduplicating the essential weakness of the Treaty of Versailles? But it does not end there. The greatest surprise of the Moscow Conference was the declaration that Austria was to be free and independent. It is true that there is a statement that the great Powers hope that this will point the way to the economic and political stability of that unfortunate country, but we must base the new Europe on something firmer than a hope. We all rejoice that the first country to be Hitler's victim is the first country to be reconstituted. One of my vivid recollections as Financial Secretary to the Treasury was conducting the Austrian Loan Bill through the House, one of a series of supports and supplements to that country which could not live of its own. Hon. Members criticising the proposals of the Government of that day said, "Why cannot Austria be united with other Powers?" I hope something can be done in that direction. Between 1919 and 1938, Austria lived under the shadow of tariff walls. Indeed, every one of the succession States isolated itself behind insuperable tariff walls. The essential unity of the Danube was destroyed.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
There was no question of voting for it. Even if I have made errors in my past it would entitle me to take a more constructive view of the future. A man who makes mistakes in this world is not to be condemned. He is to be condemned who makes the same mistake twice. But a man who has malice in his heart is to be pitied. Cannot the essential unity of the Danube be revived? As I say, I am looking beyond this Moscow Agreement, which I praise and applaud as perhaps one of the most significant milestones in diplomatic history. But the story cannot end there and we must look further. Why is Europe alone among the Continents to be condemned to fragmentation? There is no other Continent which is fragmented in this manner. The United States have come together and the two peoples in Canada have come together. There is even a pan-American consciousness. Australia is completely consolidated and Mr. Curtin is even stretching out his arms in the hope of 1631 embracing other Pacific territories in the grip of a friendly security. In Africa, you have the Union and you have a movement towards regionalisation. Russia, which is I think two-and-a-half times greater than Europe, is a Union of many races speaking various languages. Is not the whole tendency of civilised life towards understanding and union? Therefore, when we come to settle Europe do not let us see what we can pull apart, but what we can put together.
What can we put together? If the true vision of Europe is one of unity, if that is to be the aim, how can we begin? We have the power. We have been told that. We have the three Great Powers assembled. We have the greatest agglomeration of force that has ever been associated. It can be used to satisfy what are the real desires of the European peoples. They are not separatist by instinct. They would all welcome some means of achieving greater union. The railways of each country of Europe are national railways. Cannot they be made international railways under international control? Cannot the through roads be made international, and the posts and telegraphs. In the present financial collapse, what stands in the way of a common currency? We have the power. A settlement of this kind would be welcome. It would lift us out of the rut of the inter-war years into something more hopeful and more stable. Other services which are not suitable for international control could be regionalsed—the administration of the rivers and canals and perhaps light and power. Once you had these international boards and this inter-locking of financial interests and services war would be very much more difficult.
We are confronted not with the problem of Germany but with the problem of Europe. You may keep Germany down for a time in a military sense by punitive measures, by encirclement, by any kind of force that you choose to apply, but none of these measures would be necessary if you could knit together the productive resources of Germany with those of her neighbours in such a way that she would lose control of the very instruments with which she makes war. Surely these are the lines of thought. If we can pursue them, if we can look at these matters in this economic context, the speech of General Smuts becomes an anachronism. 1632 It deals with the past, it deals with these matters in terms of nationalities, sovereign and independent, exercising power. It becomes a thing of the past. What he said about France I believe to be untrue in the present context but in the context of such an arrangement, as that of which I speak, France, which is bound to us by comradeship in war, in the Great War of 1914 and I think in the present one, and which is united with us inescapably by the facts of geography, would play her part in resurrecting Europe and her spirit would be a great influence to that end. There would also be avoided the necessity of enlarging the British Empire to comprise European countries which General Smuts also adumbrated. One must not be dogmatic, but at the same time one must realise that this would entirely change the character of the British Empire.
If the federation or the association could be made between European Powers on the mainland of the Continent it would be likely to be firmer. It would be likely to avoid any question of our becoming involved in the internal and domestic politics of the various nations of the Continent. Be that as it may, the place for General Smuts to argue the case which he presented so suggestively is at an Imperial Conference and it is to such a Conference that we should now put our energies. The one international organisation that has survived two wars is the British Empire. It is the strongest force in the world. As part of it, we are not a poor nation, but the greatest of them all. Let us read Mr. Curtin's speech, let us respond to his appeal, let us strengthen the ties, let us have a common diplomatic policy. My right hon. Friend who held the Dominions Office with as much humanity and understanding as he now holds the Foreign Office, may, perhaps, lend his support in that direction. He is a child of this age and he understands its problems. We do not have to become part of Europe. We have to show by the living example of the British Empire that it is possible for many races and many religions on that Continent to combine for one great purpose.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
I am sure that the whole House has listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) with great pleasure and a great deal of agreement. There are two or three points to which 1633 I hope we shall get an answer from the Secretary of State. Those of us who remember the Debates that took place in this House at the time of the Treaty of Versailles must be well aware of the danger of going too fast in treaty making. I trust that we may get some assurance that there will be some discussion at conferences and that there will be no wild rush to some capital to try and make a treaty. It will take years before Europe is re-established, and it will take still longer before the economic forces find their proper place. I hope the time may come when there is a sort of United States of Europe, equal in many ways to the United States of America, but divided of course on the question of language. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the possibility of an international railway service. There has already been one, the Wagon-Lit Company, The basis is there and the organisation exists. The only reason that organisation could exist is that those who were responsible for its administration had to see that no contract came to an end at the frontier of any contiguous country. If it did communication from that country outside ceased. That was in the old days and it is hoped that in the coming generations it will be possible to get that kind of thing done, for better communications would promote better understanding.
There is one thing which has not been mentioned in the Debate to which some of us attach considerable importance. That is the whole question of the position of the British Commonwealth in regard to the Moslem races and the Arab world in general. Some of us in the last war had to do with the Arabs and I think that one of the most satisfactory results of that war was the establishment of those independent Arab kingdoms. They have amply justified the confidence we have had in them. They look to us to implement our promises and they look to this House—and I hope they will not look in vain—to see that what we have said in the past and all our desires shall be carried out under the new conditions after the war. An interesting speech was made by the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson). He knows his subject backwards. He is a great admirer of France and has rendered France and this country great service in his diplomatic life. When he dealt with the question of Lebanon and Syria I thought he was somewhat 1634 hard and harsh on the Foreign Office. We know the situation that was created when the British troops had advanced through Syria against the Vichy-commanded French troops. Their instructions were to kill as few of the enemy, the French, as possible. That is a hard task to set a corps commander. I think it is unique in history that you should advance on your enemy and inflict as few casualties on him as possible. The consequence was that this division had to advance until somebody fired on them before they could fire back. In spite of these difficulties that campaign was carried out with success and the great good will of the people.
But what happened then? The anti-Vichy French element under General De Gaulle was unable to find the necessary personnel to carry on the administration of the country. Both in Syria and Lebanon the actual officials who were put back were the very Vichy people who had been opposing us from the start and had behaved odiously to the Arab population and about whom we had been talking about all the time as one of the most baneful influences we had been up against. Here were these people put again in their positions and we were powerless to prevent it. The reason no doubt was that General De Gaulle and the French Committee of Liberation had not had time to re-establish the foreign civil service that did such wonderful work in North Africa under General Lyautey. When it came about, as the hon. Member for West Leicester stated, that Catroux and others had no business to promise the Lebanon people their freedom and liberty, surely they were amply justified in making that promise when they themselves were unable to look after the government of the country by officials other than those of Vichy. In this House let us be honest about what we say in connection with Arab affairs. I believe that the movement in Lebanon and Syria is not a movement to throw away the desire for the closest links of culture with the French, but a movement to help in every way to develop the wonderful work that the French began.
There is a new spirit in those countries, and we in this House will be foolish not to recognise it. Wherever I go and whoever I see, from those parts—and I see a good many people—I feel that I can still hear the whispering in the breeze that is going on all through the Middle East 1635 and the Near East. It is the same spirit that has been able to make General Tito get under his leadership not only people from one part of the Balkans but from all over. What is it that has made it possible to have this Committee in London? I was in the Balkans for many years as a young officer and I served there in the last war, and the one thing one longed for in the Balkans was unity. In the old days we were employed in putting down the comitadji who used to take anything from anybody if they had more money than they themselves had. The Turks were then in command, and that was not exactly what pleased this country, and Mr. Gladstone and others held great meetings in London about the so called Bulgarian atrocities. It is not so far back in history to those days; and therefore, when I read that under General Tito there are Montenegrins, Albanians, Croats and Slovenes apparently willing to work together I feel that now is the moment to grasp their hands. How can we do it best? Those countries are impoverished and poor, and just as we have been supplying them with arms so let us make some arrangement to send people out there who are intelligent and can help them to get ploughs and tractors and all the other things they need to develop their internal economy.
When I was out in those countries there were certain English people whose names were famous, like Dr. Boucher, and Miss Durham in Albania. Miss Durham has done more perhaps for the women in that part of the world than any other woman. Besides them there was Aubrey Herbert, a Member of this House, who refused the throne of Albania incidentally. I remember his talking to me about whether he should take it. He was blind as a bat, he could hardly read. He said "Shall we take it? Who is there to help us?" Though shortsighted he was long-headed, and he would have led those people better than same of the others we know. But the point really is, I think, that there is this new feeling bubbling up from below and that it is all ripe for handling somehow. Those who come after us in this House must interpret the results of this war by jumping at least 25 or 50 years ahead in thoughts and ideas, and casting aside what we thought were frontiers. We have all seen so many frontiers go. Why not let them 1636 go in advance, and build on something that can really stand?
Then we come to far the most difficult point, which has not been touched upon in the Debate. It has been shunned by everybody because they were afraid of it. It is not the business of this House to be afraid of a difficult point. The Secretary of State said yesterday, "I have dealt with these things, let us come to the troubles"—but he did not mention this one. A very dangerous situation is arising south of the Lebanon. It has not been mentioned in this Debate, but it would be a scandalous thing to allow the Debate to end without asking where we stand about it. Every Arab is asking "Are the British going back on their word? Does the White Paper still represent the policy of the British Government? Is the United States, with the presidential election in the offing going to be influenced? Are the British masters of their policy?" Is it always the case that we must ask Washington, must find out from the United States? Can we not have a British policy? Why not have a British policy about things we understand? Let us not forget that the Palestine Mandate was offered to the United States and refused by them. We were fools enough, perhaps, to take it; anyhow we got it, whether we liked it or not, though it was intended for the United States. The United States are with us in this war; we are together—Lend-Lease and reverse, Mutual Aid and the rest of it; but there is one thing I do hope, and that is that the opportunity will be taken by those most competent to do so to analyse exactly what we have done in trying to carry out that Mandate, what the situation is to-day, what are the dangers of that situation and how far we shall have the support of the United States—that is important—in carrying out the policy laid down in the White Paper. If we go back upon it the repercussions will be felt all through the Arab countries. We are the greatest Moslem power in the world. Moslem troops have fought for the British Crown. They have fought magnificently in this war.
§ Mr. Hammersley (Willesden, East:)
Is my hon. Friend inviting this House to go back on the Balfour Declaration?
§ Sir R. Glyn
I am asking one very simple thing. This House has approved, in a White Paper, of a policy for this 1637 country towards Palestine, and I am led away by no Declaration which nobody yet has ever been able to interpret. I am only asking that this House should stand by its pledged word.
§ Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
Does my hon. Friend remember what the Prime Minister and most of the members of the present Cabinet said about that White Paper, how they denounced it as a betrayal of the Balfour Declaration?
§ Sir R. Glyn
The hon. Lady as a good democrat will realise that if Parliament approves a White Paper and it is taken up as the policy of the country, what eminent people may think of it does not alter our obligations as interpreted by the people who trust us. They trust that we do not say a thing unless we mean to stick to it.
§ Sir R. Glyn
I do not propose to go further into that. All I can say is that the Arabs have done a great deal more for us than a great many people whom we have trusted in vain. In connection with this I think it is obvious that the strategy of the war has proved that if there is any nodal point of vast importance to the safety of our country and the British Empire it is Egypt—that part of the world. Otherwise, why did we fight as we had to fight in the desert, and why did the Germans try and get it from us? The Suez Canal, Palestine—all that corner of the Eastern Mediterranean—is vitally important in all the Treaties we have made or thought of with the Kingdom of Egypt and others. I hope we shall not be too bashful in pointing out what are the essential conditions for the safety of the British Commonwealth. I think we have had enough lessons in giving out a lot of slack rope. It is so expensive getting it taut again. One of the things we must remember is that the Dominions and the Colonies are entirely dependent on our strategic policy for their existence, and I re-echo the hope that very soon there will be an Imperial Conference—the sooner the better—and at any rate a conference between the Prime Ministers of the Dominions and our own Prime Minister, because these are not matters really of sectional interest but matters that concern Australia, Canada, New Zealand and ourselves. All of us are equally concerned 1638 on such matters as the defence of Egypt and the Suez Canal. It is not only a matter for this House but one for all parts of the Empire. If you are going to have that you must have a people who believe in you and who live round you, and surely there will be opportunities to help the refugees of Europe to find new homes. I should be anxious to see that done in every possible way. It must not be done at the expense of our pledged word or in a way that is not understood by those who believe in us.
The only other matter which seems to me to arise out of this Debate is that we ought to feel thankful that these three Conferences have killed at any rate several bogys. If words mean anything, what people used to call "bolshevism" is obviously to be feared no more. Bolshevism never was anything much more than a turnip and a white sheet, which were rattled. Those who have been to Russia, both before the revolution and since, realise its shortcomings and realise also its great advances. We have each much to learn from the other. What will surprise hon. Members is my belief that in five years' time Russia will be the leading country on the Right. I believe that Marshal Stalin will be a greater autocrat than Peter the Great, and I believe that we shall see tremendous changes. Let those changes come. Who is afraid, so long as we keep our honour bright? It seems that in all matters the future of our relations with Soviet Russia are bound up with that fact.
We must bear in mind that we shall find a Europe chaotic and destroyed. We shall find generations of boys—children—in Germany and Austria completely corrupted by the poison of Nazism. How are we to deal with them? They are going to be corrupted, above all, in adolescence, and we cannot leave them, otherwise this horror will burst out again. These are troubles in economics which are far more important than frontiers and things like that. It is the mental attitude of people, their character which matters, and their faith has to be restored. How are we to restore that faith? I believe there is going to be a great revival of religious belief. I hope so, at any rate, because I think that if we are based entirely on materialism, there is no cement for mankind. We must have something which is common to all, faith and belief in something which will not be swept away 1639 by man. It is because we have lost that faith that we have come to our present troubles.
The first thing in these circumstances is surely to show how we have been able, as the British Commonwealth, to find honour, happiness and contentment within that Commonwealth. We must open its doors wider, extol its merits. Do not let us go on doing what we have been doing far too frequently lately, saying that we are doing something that is a mortal blow to Germany. It will take a very great deal to smash Germany, but it will be smashed, not only because of our military effort, but because I believe there are a conception and a spirit that we can contribute to the world—I say this without boasting, God knows—from long experience of working with other nations and other faiths, people and colours. Do not let us be inclined to cry down our own merits. The world is looking to us; do not let us besmirch our honour.
§ Mr. Ammon (Camberwell, North)
If I do not follow the hon. Baronet in the somewhat inflammable speech that he has just uttered, it will be because I understand that on the 4th Sitting Day the matter will be further pursued, when Palestine will come up for discussion. Until my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) quoted from the "Daily Worker" and the "Daily Telegraph," I had begun to think that the Foreign Secretary was going to be in a position to say, "What great evil have I done that all men speak well of me?" Since then a litle antidote has been given both by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and the right hon. Gentleman who followed. I am glad that a tribute has been paid to China. I feel that all along there has never been full recognition of the great part that China has paid. She was the first to stand in the breach against aggression, and she has carried on under very great stress and difficulty ever since.
The Foreign Secretary went on to say that, after the trouble in Europe had been settled, we were going into the fight in the Far East, until that too was finished, But let it not be thought that we were only going in in order to assist the United States and others, we are as vitally bound in the war in the Far East as much as here in Europe. The Foreign Secre- 1640 tary, we are all agreed, made an inspiring statement when he indicated that a common agreement had been arrived at to co-ordinate our war effort and indicated that plans had been made for advance in the South, East and West. That brought pleasure and satisfaction, of course, but I hope it did not do anything to feed the unhealthy optimism that is abroad in some quarters, when he talked about shortening the war, that we are within sight of the end of things. Such a feeling would be more disastrous than if it went to the other extreme.
Satisfactory as was the right hon. Gentleman's statement, to which we pay full tribute, as to what was achieved at Teheran and the other Conferences with regard to the further prosecution of the war, I think he will realise that an undercurrent of disappointment ran right through, on account of nothing being said about what discussions took place with regard to the building of the new world. Surely we have a right to know. The very statement about new war strategy, and understanding among the leading nations being likely to result in a shortening of the war, will accelerate the progress made, and be likely to bring us to consideration of peace terms, totally unprepared with the necessary plans.
Therefore, it is the more necessary to know what is being considered and worked out to meet the condition of affairs which is bound to arise immediately hostilities cease. What is being done to meet the situation that will arise, for meeting the probable famine and pestilence, the need for rebuilding practically the whole of Europe and all the things for which it will be essential that we should have some knowledge in advance? No harm could be done in giving us information in advance. In a passing word, I want to say how I agree with what was stated by the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. Purbrick) yesterday, repeating something which the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) has said and which has been emphasised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale. There is a great deal of uneasiness and dissatisfaction about the position in the Dodecanese, and the replies given on the matter are by no means satisfactory.
That also applies to the uneasiness which exists with regard to our position in Italy. The advance has been very 1641 much slower than we expected, and, as was pointed out by the hon. and gallant Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Wedderburn), the Luftwaffe has been trained and built in order to attack ground troops. It seems that they are very much better equipped for that than our troops, and that may account for a good deal of the slowness of progress in that particular direction.
If we are to be left without guidance, if there are no plans for the future, then one can see an even more grim outlook in the years immediately following than those through which we have come. For instance, what would it mean if China, that great nation, was brought into the orbit of other nations under precisely the same economic and political conditions that obtained before the war? It would simply accentuate all the horrors of the beggar-my-neighbour policy that has been carried out and would hasten a further and more dreadful cataclysm than anything we have known in the past. It would be a tragedy, for here is a nation which has kept itself largely free from the troubles and difficulties that perplex other nations, particularly us in the West.
One cannot emphasise too often and too much that surely we might be taken into confidence as to what are the plans, if there are any, with regard to foreign policy and the condition of the world after hostilities cease. It is for that reason that, like other hon. Members when I heard the speech of General Smuts upstairs, I thought it was an excellent speech to make to us Members of Parliament in order that we might turn our thoughts and attention to the problems likely to arise. But like a good many others I felt considerably disturbed and perturbed when I saw that speech published in the Press to go forth to the world. It would not have mattered if it had been said by one of us here, but uttered by a leading statesman in the British Commonwealth it was bound to create disturbance and unrest and apprehension in the minds of our friends and Allies. No doubt strong leadership will be needed but if that simply means that strong leadership is to be handed over to a group of powerful nations to carry on in the world very much the same sort of thing which we are fighting against the last state will be worse than 1642 the first. To say that France and Italy will disappear and that Great Britain must supervise Europe is surely entirely to underrate the element of spiritual survival of a nation and surely overrates our understanding of the Continent. These things are certainly very dangerous. The British Commonwealth and the United States have not drained to the dregs the cup of bitterness as have the occupied countries. The survival value of countries like Norway, Greece, Holland, and France is surely the grandest and most striking phenomenon of the war and holds the seeds of real revolution—spiritual revolution which comes from a change of thought and outlook on the things that really matter. Rather than that, we should look forward to the domination of the world by a group of two or three powerful nations, might we not turn our thoughts to the fact that from the crucible of suffering of smaller nations may emerge that which will enable mankind to find its soul? That is how I visualise the position, and I beg that we may turn our thoughts that way.
It may no doubt be true that the keepers of the door will have to be well armed, but let us not in anxious fear raise a world-flung organisation of the evil we now seek to overthrow. I wish the right hon. Gentleman had told us of plans to prevent future wars. Glad as I am sure the oppressed people will be to know of the plans for shortening the war, what of the thrill for a plan, considered plans, of the nations to banish want, fear and war from the world? That would have been a far better idea and thought than that adumbrated by General Smuts.
I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman comes to reply he will answer the question put to him yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood). Do the Government intend to go forward on thought-out, considered plans as to how the nations of the world are to live together in the future? They are the points with which we are concerned. They are bound up with the conduct of the war, because unless there is an assurance, some real hope, of these things being achieved, we will not get the spirit and the verve and the necessary drive needed so that we may carry the war to a successful issue.
1643 I wish to say in conclusion—and in this I speak for myself only, knowing my own unworthiness but hoping that others will agree—that when the men return from the Forces they will demand the right to live and will, if necessary, fight for it. A philosophy of force and materialism will lead us nowhere, except into trouble. This is the time to take stock lest the high ideals for which we fight prove but an empty dream. I look with something more than misgiving on what appear to be the signs of moral deterioration in our own and other nations at the present time, which, if not checked, may send this nation and Empire to disaster as others have gone in days gone by. I make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope it has some response in the hearts of Members of this House and the country. Just as our people have responded to the call to defend that which is most valued in human life and society with their lives if necessary, I believe that the call on terms of like equality to rebuild the world on broad moral and spiritual foundations will meet with a like response. We can do that. This nation, with all its faults, with all its failings, recognising that very often none of us live up to our finest emotions and highest ideals, with all that has led the world in days gone by on a high spiritual plane—I believe this nation has within its grasp the possibility of doing that now, and to this end I suggest that our foreign policy ought to be directed.
We must see this struggle through, but behind that we should be actuated by this higher moral resolve, that we are planning to build a new world, not on the foundations of the old, not thinking to go back to the old economy and the old plans of society, but are prepared to say, "Let us see whether we can sit down together." As the nations have managed to co-ordinate their affairs, so we are informed, in order to prosecute the war, is it not possible that we can co-ordinate plans to build a better order of society in rebuilding Europe and get into contact with other nations to preserve the peace, not only on the strength of our right arm, but because our conscience will be clear?
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
I can only speak again with the leave of the House, but as I have been away so long perhaps I may this time be allowed to speak twice. I 1644 would like to open my observations by saying what I think the whole House will feel that these two days have given us some pretty valuable discussion, and it is I think a matter on which we can take same comfort and some pride that this House, perhaps alone among the institutions of the world at this time, can hold such a Debate in which its Members can express their points of view, vigorously at times. At the same time I think I can say that everybody who has taken part has clearly done so with a desire to help rather than to hinder the conduct of the war. I think that has been all to the good. I have a very large number of points to answer and not a very long time in which to answer them, so if I gallop a little I hope the House will make some allowance.
I would like first to take the questions which were asked about U.N.R.R.A. and the refugee problem. Before I embark on that, may I say that I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) is not in his place? He will be here in a moment, no doubt, but I would like to have told him how much I agreed with much of what he said to-day. You cannot dissociate the political and the economic factors. But, admirable as I think his gospel is, its application is not perhaps quite so easy as one might have thought when listening to his very eloquent speech. It is in the application of it that I find my difficulties. I do not want to go in detail into what those difficulties are—they are known to many hon. Members—but I think my right hon. Friend's contribution was a valuable one. Let me take the points about the U.N.R.R.A. organisation first. As I said in an answer earlier to-day, we are laying a White Paper about that, and after the report of the Delegation has been considered the Government will be ready to make a statement. I would like to take this immediate opportunity of congratulating my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Food and those who worked with him on the admirable way they led our Delegation. If the House wished, we might usefully have a Debate a little later on the results of that Conference.
The second matter with which I would like to deal is that which was raised by the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone). She made, if I may say so, not for the first time, a 1645 moving and impressive speech about the subject which we all know she has very much at heart. We understand that this question has lost none of its tragic urgency. I would like to assure the hon. Lady that we shall take all the practical measures we can to ease this situation. She referred to some statement made in the United States lately about the progress which has been made on this problem. There has not yet appeared in the Press here a full report of what was said in the United States.
§ Miss Rathbone
It was a Foreign Office statement, issued here last Saturday and simultaneously in the United States.
§ Mr. Eden
The point I was going to make was that it has not appeared fully in the Press over here, and that I would put a full copy in the Library. In the present state of our newspapers they cannot be expected to report all these things fully.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport, who has now come in, was not here when I referred to his admirable speech—
§ Mr. Eden
It is a question of who converts whom. In this House changes occur: only the hon. Gentleman believes in his own impeccable unchangeability. Forty thousand Polish refugees are being moved from Persia to East and South Africa, to India, to Palestine and to Mexico, and that process is nearly completed. Some 16,000 Greek refugees are being cared for, and an almost equal number who recently escaped from Greece are also in our charge. As regards our own country, it is fair to recall that since May, 1940—all of it a difficult period for us—we have taken some 60,000 non-British refugees into these islands and they are still coming in at the rate of about 800 a month. I think that our record is not one of which we need to be ashamed when we consider the many problems that we have here now. In Palestine, as the House knows, arrangements have been made for some 34,000 potential Jewish refugees to come from South-East Europe. That they have not done so is due to the attitude of the Bulgarian and Rumanian Governments, not to anything over which we have any control. We shall give all the help we can to the Inter-Govern- 1646 mental Committee on Refugees and to the other countries at work on this important task. As the hon. Lady herself realises, this is not a British problem only, nor an American problem only: it is an international problem. My hope is that these organisations will gradually take these burdens over, all of us doing our share, in order to give confidence to these smaller countries, some of them neighbouring, Germany, and to encourage them to give all the help they can.
§ Miss Rathbone
Cannot our own country and the United States do what the smaller countries cannot do, and undertake to provide for the settlement of those who may not be repatriated after the war?
§ Mr. Eden
I would hate to give a pledge. I am afraid I am not familiar enough with the matter, beyond knowing that it is a very difficult question which the hon. Lady has asked me. Perhaps she will let me look into the matter, and I will communicate further with her.
I would like to begin another geographical tour, in the Far East. My hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Sir E. Campbell) asked a very fair question yesterday. He asked whether we are keeping in close touch with the Government of the Netherlands, who are our very good friends, and who are interested in that part of the world. Yes, certainly; and I hope shortly to have an opportunity of seeing the Netherlands Ambassador, and giving him a full report. Apart from that, we are in constant contact with the Netherlands Government. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hornsey (Captain Gammans), in a very remarkable speech, spoke a little harshly about our attitude to the Far Eastern war. He said that in this country there is no realisation of the significance of the Far Eastern war. I do not altogether agree. I think it was perhaps true at one time, but it has ceased to be true now. The Cairo Conference in itself brought the Far Eastern war more sharply into its true perspective. I should have said that there was a wide understanding in this country now that the Japanese war was as important to us as the German war. Certainly, what I said in the House yesterday seems to have received general assent and approval. All of us in this House can help by keeping that constantly before the public mind. My hon. and gallant Friend said that we have made a bad approach to the 1647 Japanese war, in the sense that we were ashamed of our Colonial Empire. I think that there is some force in that, in this sense. I think that the blame does not attach at all to our people who have been out in these distant lands. There has been a good deal of pretty harsh and unfair criticism of many of them. If there be blame, I think it attaches more to us here at home, for not in the past having taken more interest ourselves in what was going on in these lands. That is one reason, at any rate. That is a question which must be remedied and an attitude of mind which must be altered after these lands are free once again. The hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. John Dugdale) asked me a question also about the Far East to which I must reply. He asked, What is our attitude to China? Do we regard China as in all respects equal to any of the other great Powers with whom we deal? The answer to that is, emphatically, "Yes, we do." There is no kind of discrimination or distinction at all. The abolition of extra-territoriality brought that finally to an end. I have been personally much interested to see how men of commerce and business who worked in China before are behaving on that account and working in harmony, and have a very warm appreciation of that.
§ It being the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.