§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. James Stuart.]
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
The dominating aim which we set before ourselves at the Conference at Casablanca was to engage the enemy's forces on land, sea, and in the air on the largest possible scale and at the earliest possible moment. The importance of coming to ever closer grips with the enemy and intensifying the struggle outweighs a number of other considerations which ordinarily would be decisive in themselves. We have to make the enemy burn and bleed in every way that is physically and reasonably possible, in the same way as he is being made to burn and bleed along the vast Russian front from the White Sea to the Black Sea. But this is not so simple as it sounds. Great Britain and the United States were formerly peaceful countries, ill-armed and unprepared. They are now warrior nations, walking in the fear of the Lord, very heavily armed, and with an increasingly clear view of their salvation. We are actually possessed of very powerful and growing forces, with great masses of munitions coming along. The problem is to bring these forces into action. The United States has vast oceans to cross in order to close with her enemies. We also have seas or oceans to cross in the first instance, and then for both of us there is the daring and complicated enterprise of landing on defended coasts and also the building-up of all the supplies and communications necessary for vigorous campaigning when once a landing has been made.
It is because of this that the U-boat warfare takes the first place in our thoughts. There is no need to exaggerate the danger of the U-boats or to worry our merchant seamen by harping upon it unduly, because the British and American Governments have known for some time past that there were these U-boats about and have given the task of overcoming them the first priority in all their plans. This was reaffirmed most explicitly by the Combined Staffs at Casablanca. The losses we suffer at sea are very heavy, and they hamper us and delay our operations. They prevent us from coming info action with our full strength, and thus they prolong the war, with its certain 1469 waste and loss and all its unknowable hazards.
Progress is being made in the war against the U-boats. We are holding our own, and more than holding our own. Before the United States came into the war, we made our calculations on the basis of British building and guaranteed Lend-Lease, which assured us of a steady and moderate improvement in our position by the end of 1943 on a very high scale of losses. There never was a moment in which we did not see our way through, provided that what the United States promised us was made good.
Since then various things have happened. The United States have entered the war, and their shipbuilding has been stepped up to the present prodigious levels, amounting for the year 1943 to over 13,000,000 gross tons, or, as they would express it in American nomenclature, 18,000,000 or 19,000,000 dead weight tons. When the United States entered the war she brought with her a Mercantile Marine, American and American-controlled, of perhaps 10,000,000 gross tons, as compared with our then existing tonnage, British and British-controlled, of about—I am purposely not being precise—twice as much. On the other hand, the two Powers had more routes to guard, more jobs to do, and they therefore of course presented more numerous targets to the U-boats. Very serious depredations were committed by the U-boats off the East coast of America until the convoy system was put into proper order by the exertions of Admiral King. Heavy losses in the Far East were also incurred at the outset of the war against Japan when the Japanese pounced upon large quantities of British and United States shipping there. The great operation of landing in North Africa and maintaining the armies ashore naturally exposed the Anglo-American fleets to further losses, though there is a compensation for that which I will refer to later; and the Arctic convoys to Russia have also imposed a heavy toll, the main part of both these operational losses having fallen upon the British.
In all these circumstances it was inevitable that the joint American and British, losses in the past 15 months should exceed the limits for which we British ourselves, in the days when we were 1470 alone, had budgeted. However, when the vast expansion in the United States shipbuilding is added to the credit side, the position is very definitely improved. It is in my opinion desirable to leave the enemy guessing at our real figures, to let him be the victim of his own lies, and to deprive him of every means of checking the exaggerations of his U-boat captains or of associating particular losses with particular forms and occasions of attack. I therefore do not propose to give any exact figures. This, however, I may say, that in the last six months, which included some of those heavy operations which I have mentioned, the Anglo-American and the important Canadian new building, all taken together, exceeded all the losses of the United Nations by over 1,250,000 gross tons. That is to say, our joint fleet is 1,250,000 tons bigger to-day than it was six months ago. That is not much, but it is something, and something very important.
But that statement by no means does justice to the achievement of the two countries, because the great American flow of shipbuilding is leaping up month by month, and the losses in the last two months are the lowest sustained for over a year. The number of U-boats is increasing, but so are their losses, and so also are the means of attacking them and protecting the convoys. It is, however, a horrible thing to plan ahead in cold blood on the basis of losing hundreds of thousands of tons a month, even if you can show a favourable balance at the end of a year. The waste of precious cargoes, the destruction of so many noble ships, the loss of heroic crews, all combine to constitute a repulsive and sombre panorama. We cannot possibly rest content with losses on this scale, even though they are outweighed by new building, even if they are not for that reason mortal in their character. Nothing is more clearly proved than that well-escorted convoys, especially when protected by long-distance aircraft, beat the U-boats. I do not say that they are a complete protection, but they are an enormous mitigation of losses. We have had hardly any losses at sea in our heavily escorted troop convoys. Out of about 3,000,000 soldiers who have been moved under the protection of the British Navy about the world, to and fro across the seas and 1471 oceans, about 1,348 have been killed or drowned, including missing. It is about 2,200 to one against your being drowned if you travel in British troop convoys in this present war.
Even if the U-boats increase in number, there is no doubt that a superior proportionate increase in the naval and air escort will be a remedy. A ship not sunk is better than a new ship built. Therefore, in order to reduce the waste in the merchant shipping convoys, we have decided, by successive steps during the last six months, to throw the emphasis rather more on the production of escort vessels, even though it means some impingement on new building. Very great numbers of escort vessels are being constructed in Great Britain and the United States, equipped with every new device of anti-U-boat warfare in all its latest refinements. We pool our resources with the United States, and we have been promised, and the promise is being executed in due course, our fair allocation of American-built escort vessels.
There is another point. Everyone sees how much better it is to have fast ships than slow. This is also true of racehorses, as the Noble Lady was well aware in her unregenerate days. However, speed is a costly luxury. The most careful calculations are made and are repeatedly revised as between having fewer fast ships or more slow ones. The choice, however, is not entirely a free one. The moment you come into the sphere of fast ships, engine competition enters a new phase. It starts with the escort vessels but in other directions and also in the materials for the higher speed engines there come other complicated factors. I should strongly advise the House to have confidence in the extremely capable people who, with full knowledge of all the facts, are working day in day out on all these aspects and who would be delighted to fit an additional line of fast ships, even at some loss in aggregate tonnage, provided they could be sure that the engines would not clash with other even more urgent needs. In all these matters I should like the House to realise that we do have to aim at an optimum rather than at a maximum, which is not quite the same thing.
On the offensive side the rate of killing U-boats has steadily improved. From 1472 January to October, 1942, inclusive, a period of 10 months, the rate of sinkings, certain and probable, was the best we have seen so far in this war, but from November to the present day, a period of three months, that rate has improved more than half as much again.
At the same time, the destructive power of the U-boat has undergone a steady diminution since the beginning of the war. In the first year, each operational U-boat that was at work accounted for an average of 19 ships; in the second year, for an average of 12, and in the third year for an average of 7½. These figures, I think, are, in themselves, a tribute to the Admiralty and to all others concerned.
It is quite true that at the present time, as I said in answer to an inquiry by my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) the other day, we are making inroads upon the reserves of food and raw materials which we prudently built up in the earlier years of the war. We are doing this for the sake of the military operations in Africa and Asia and in the Far Pacific. We are doing it for the sake of the Russian convoys, and for the sake of giving aid and supplies to India and to Persia and other Middle Eastern countries. We are doing this on the faith of President Roosevelt's promise to me of large allocations of shipping coming to us, as the floods of American new building come upon the seas. Risks have to be run, but I can assure the House that these needs are not left to chance and to sudden and belated panic spurts. Provided that the present intense efforts are kept up here and in the United States, and that anti-U-boat warfare continues to hold first place in our thoughts and energies, I take the responsibility of assuring the House—and I have not misled them so far—that we shall be definitely better off, so far as shipping is concerned, at the end of 1943 than we are now, and while it is imprudent to try to peer so far ahead, all the tendencies show that unless something entirely new and unexpected happens in this well-explored field, we shall be still better off at the end of 1944, assuming that the war continues until then. It may be disappointing to Hitler to learn that we are upon a rising tide of tonnage and not upon an ebb or shrinkage, but it is the governing fact of the situation. Therefore, let everyone engaged in this sphere of operations bend to 1473 his or her task and try to get the losses down and try to get the launchings up; and let them do this, not under the spur of fear or gloom, or patriotic jitters, but in the sure and exhilarating consciousness of a gigantic task which is forging steadily forward to successful accomplishment. The more the sinkings are reduced, the more vehement our Anglo-American war effort can be. The margin, improving and widening, means the power to strike heavier blows against the enemy. The greater the weight we can take off Russia, the quicker the war will come to an end. All depends upon the margin of new building forging ahead over the losses, which, although improving, are still, as I have said, a lamentable and grievous fact to meditate upon. Meanwhile, let the enemy if he will, nurse his Vain hopes of averting his doom by U-boat warfare. He cannot avert it, but he may delay it, and it is for us to shorten that delay by every conceivable effort we can make.
It was only after full, cold, sober and mature consideration of all these facts, on which our lives and liberties certainly depend, that the President, with my full concurrence as agent of the War Cabinet, decided that the note of the Casablanca Conference should be the unconditional surrender of all our foes. But our inflexible insistence upon unconditional surrender does not mean that we shall stain our victorious arms by wrong and cruel treatment of whole populations. But justice must be done upon the wicked and the guilty, and, within her proper bounds, justice must be stern and implacable. No vestige of the Nazi or Fascist power, no vestige of the Japanese war-plotting machine, will be left by us when the work is done, as done it certainly will be.
That disposes, I think, of two important features of the Casablanca Conference, the recognition that the defeat of the U-boat and the improvement of the margin of shipbuilding resources is the prelude to all effective aggressive operations, and, secondly, after considering all those facts, the statement which the President wished to be made on the subject of unconditional surrender. But the Casablanca Conference was, in my not inconsiderable experience of these functions, in various ways unparalleled. There never has been, in all the inter-Allied Conferences I have known, anything like the prolonged professional 1474 examination of the whole scene of the world war in its military, its armament production and its economic aspects. This examination was conducted through the whole day, and far into the night, by the military, naval and air experts, sitting by themselves, without political influence thrust upon them, although general guidance was given by the President and by myself. But they were sitting by themselves talking all these matters out as experts and professionals. Some of these conferences in the last war, I remember, lasted a day or two days, but this was 11 days. If I speak of decisions taken, I can assure the House that they are based upon professional opinion and advice in their integrity. There never has been anything like that.
When you have half a dozen theatres of war open in various parts of the globe there are bound to be divergences of view when the problem is studied from different angles. There were many divergences of view before we came together, and it was for that reason, that I had been pressing for so many months for the meeting of as many of the great Allies as possible. These divergences are of emphasis and priority rather than of principle. They can only be removed by the prolonged association of consenting and instructed minds. Human judgment is fallible. We may have taken decisions which will prove to be less good than we hoped, but at any rate anything is better than not having a plan. You must be able to answer every question in these matters of war and have a good, clear, plain answer to the question: what is your plan, what is your policy? But it does not follow that we always give the answer. It would be foolish.
We have now a complete plan of action, which comprises the apportionment of forces as well as their direction, and the weight of the particular movements which have been decided upon; and this plan we are going to carry out according to our ability during the next nine months, before the end of which we shall certainly make efforts to meet again. I feel justified in asking the House to believe that their business is being conducted according to a definite design and, although there will surely be disappointments and failures—many disappointments and serious failures and frustrations—there is no question of drifting or indecision, 1475 or being unable to form a scheme or waiting for something to turn up. For good or for ill, we know exactly what it is that we wish to do. We have the united and agreed advice of our experts behind it, and there is nothing now to be done but to work these plans out in their detail and put them into execution one after the other.
I believe it was Bismarck—I have not been able to verify it, but I expect I shall be able to find out now—who said in the closing years of his life that the dominating fact in the modern world was that the people of Britain and of the United States both spoke the same language. If so, it was certainly a much more sensible remark than some of those that we have heard from those who now fill high positions in Germany. Certainly the British and American experts and their political chiefs gain an enormous advantage by the fact that they can interchange their thoughts so easily and freely and so frankly by a common medium of speech.
This, however, did not in any way diminish our great regret that Premier Stalin and some of his distinguished generals could not be with us. The President, in spite of the physical disability which he has so heroically surmounted, was willing to go as far East as Khartoum in the hope that we could have a tripartite meeting. Premier Stalin is, however, the supreme director of the whole vast Russian offensive, which was already then in full swing and which is still rolling remorselessly and triumphantly forward. He could not leave his post, as he told us, even for a single day. But I can assure the House that, although he was absent, our duty to aid to the utmost in our power the magnificent, tremendous effort of Russia and to try to draw the enemy and the enemy's air force from the Russian front was accepted as the first of our objectives once the needs of the anti-U-boat warfare were met in such a way as to enable us to act aggressively.
We have made no secret of the fact that British and American strategists and leaders are unanimous in adhering to their decision of a year ago, namely, that the defeat of Hitler and the breaking of the German power must have priority over the decisive phase of the war against Japan. I have already some two months ago indicated that the defeat of the enemy 1476 in Europe may be achieved before victory is won over Japan, and I made it clear that in that event all the forces of the British Empire, land, sea and air, will be moved to the Far Eastern theatre with the greatest possible speed, and that Great Britain will continue the war by the side of the United States with the utmost vigour until unconditional surrender has been enforced upon Japan. With the authority of the War Cabinet, I renewed this declaration in our Conference at Casablanca. I offered to make it in any form which might be desired, even embodying it in a special Treaty if that were thought advantageous. The President, however, stated that the word of Great Britain was quite enough for him. We have already, of course, bound ourselves, along with all the rest of the United Nations, to go on together to the end, however long it may take or however grievous the cost may be. I therefore think it only necessary to mention the matter to the House in order to give them the opportunity of registering their assent to that obvious and very necessary declaration. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
We may now congratulate our American Allies upon their decisive victory at Guadalcanal, upon the taking of which the Japanese had expanded a serious part of their limited strength and largely irreplaceable equipment. We must also express our admiration for the hard-won successes of the Australian and American Forces, who, under their brilliant commander General MacArthur, have taken Buna in New Guinea and slaughtered the last of its defenders. The ingenious use of aircraft to solve the intricate tactical problems, by the transport of reinforcements, supplies and munitions, including field guns, is a prominent feature of MacArthur's generalship and should be carefully studied in detail by all concerned in the technical conduct of the war. In the meantime, while Hitler is being destroyed in Europe, every endeavour will be made to keep Japan thoroughly occupied and force her to exhaust and expend her material strength against the far superior Allied and, above all, American resources. This war in the Pacific Ocean, although fought by both sides with comparatively small forces at the end of enormous distances, has already engaged a great part of the American resources employed overseas as well as those of Australia and New Zealand. 1477 The effort to hold the dumbbell at arms length is so exhausting and costly to both sides that it would be a great mistake to try to judge the effort by the actual numbers that come into contact at particular points. It is a tremendous effort to fight at four, five and six thousand miles across the ocean under these conditions. It is the kind of effort which is most injurious to Japan, whose resources are incomparably weaker in material than those of which we dispose.
For the time being, in the war against Japan the British effort is confined to the Indian theatre. Our Asiatic war effort is confined to operations to clear Burma, to open the Burma road and to give what aid can be given to the Chinese. That is the task which we have before us. We have been in close correspondence with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, whom of course we should have been delighted to see at our Conference had it been possible for him to come. General Arnold, head of the United States Air Force, and Field-Marshal Dill are at present in Chungking concerting what we have in mind with the Chinese Generalissimo. We have already received from him an expression of his satisfaction about the strong additional help that will be provided for China at this stage in her long-drawn, undaunted struggle. The Generalissimo also concurs in the plans for future action in the Far East which we have submitted to him as the result of our deliberations. A communiqué about this Conference, received only a few minutes ago, declares the complete accord between the three Powers in their plans for the co-ordination of their Forces and in their determination in all their operations against Japan to ensure continued efforts and mutual assistance. Discussions between General MacArthur and Field-Marshal Wavell will follow in due course.
So much for the Casablanca decisions and their repercussions as far as they can be made public. I must, however, add this. When I look at all that Russia is doing and the vast achievements of the Soviet Armies, I should feel myself below the level of events if I were not sure in my heart and conscience that everything in human power is being done and will be done to bring British and American Forces into action against the enemy with the utmost speed and energy and on the largest scale. This the 1478 President and I have urgently and specifically enjoined upon our military advisers and experts. In approving their schemes and allocations of forces, we have asked for more weight to be put into the attacks and more speed into their dates. Intense efforts are now being made on both sides of the Atlantic for this purpose.
From the Conference at Casablanca, with the full assent of the President, I flew to Cairo and thence to Turkey. I descended upon a Turkish airfield at Adana, already well stocked with British Hurricane fighters manned by Turkish airmen, and out of the snow-capped Taurus Mountains there crawled like an enamel caterpillar the Presidential train, bearing on board the head of the Turkish Republic, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, Marshal Chakmak, and the Party Leader—in fact, the High Executive of Turkey. I have already uttered a caution against reading anything into the communiqué which has already been published on this Conference, more than the communiqué conveys. It is no part of of our policy to get Turkey into trouble. On the contrary, a disaster to Turkey would be a disaster to Britain and to all the United Nations. Hitherto, Turkey has maintained a solid barrier against aggression from any quarter and by so doing, even in the darkest days, has rendered us invaluable service in preventing the spreading of the war through Turkey into Persia and Iraq, and in preventing the menace to the oilfields of Abadan which are of vital consequence to the whole Eastern war.
It is an important interest of the United Nations and especially of Great Britain that Turkey should become well armed in all the apparatus of modem war and that her brave infantry shall not lack the essential, weapons which play a decisive part on the battlefields of to-day. These weapons we and the United States are now for the first time in a position to supply to the full capacity of the Turkish railways and other communications. We can give them as much as they are able to take, and we can give these weapons as fast as and faster than the Turkish troops can be trained to use them. At our Conference I made no request of Turkey except to get this rearmament business thoroughly well organised, and a British and Turkish Joint Military Mission is now sitting in Ankara 1479 in order to press forward to the utmost the development of the general defensive strength of Turkey, the improvement of the communications and, by the reception of the new weapons, to bring its army up to the highest pitch of efficiency. I am sure it would not be possible to pry more closely into this part of our affairs. Turkey is our Ally. Turkey is our friend. We wish her well, and we wish to see her territory, rights and interests effectively preserved. We wish to see, in particular, warm and friendly relations established between Turkey and her great Russian Ally to the North-West, to whom we are bound by the 20-years Anglo-Russian Treaty. Whereas a little while ago it looked to superficial observers as if Turkey might be isolated by a German advance through the Caucasus on one side and by a German-Italian attack on Egypt on the other, a transformation scene has occurred. Turkey now finds on each side of her victorious Powers who are her friends. It will be interesting to see how the story unfolds chapter by chapter, and it would be very foolish to try to skip on too fast.
After discharging our business in Turkey I had to come home, and I naturally stopped at the interesting places on the way where I had people to see and things to do. I think that the story I have to tell follows very naturally stage by stage along my homeward journey. I have already mentioned to the House, at Question time the other day, my very pleasant stay during my return journey at Cyprus, which has played its part so well and is enjoying a period of war-time prosperity. But how different was the situation in Cairo from what I found it in the early days of last year. Then the Desert Army was bewildered and dispirited, feeling themselves better men than the enemy and wondering why they had had to retreat with heavy losses for so many hundreds of miles while Rommel pursued them on their own captured transport and with their own food, petrol and ammunition. Then the enemy was 60 miles from Alexandria, and I had to give orders for every preparation to be made to defend the line of the Nile, exactly as if we were fighting in Kent. I had also to make a number of drastic changes in the High Command. Those changes have been vindicated 1480 by the results. In a week an electrifying effect was produced upon the Desert Army by General Montgomery and by orders which he issued, and upon the whole situation by the appointment of General Alexander as Commander-in-Chief, Middle East. At the same time great reinforcements, despatched many weeks and even months before round the Cape of Good Hope, were steaming up the Red Sea and pouring into the Nile Valley. The American Sherman tank, which the President gave me in Washington on that dark morning when we learned of the fall of Tobruk and the surrender of its 25,000 defenders, came into the hands of troops thirsting to have good weapons to use against the enemy. As a consequence of those events and many others which could be cited, the enemy has been decisively defeated, first in the second Battle of El Alamein, where Rommells final thrust was repulsed, and, secondly, in the great battle for El Alamein, which will do down in history as the Battle of Egypt, for by it Egypt was delivered. On arriving in Cairo I found that now the enemy, who had boasted that he would enter Cairo and Alexandria and cross and cut the Suez Canal, and had even struck a medal to commemorate the event, of which I was handed a specimen, had been rolled back 1,500 miles, and it is probably 1,600 miles by now. What an amazing feat this has been. The battle is one story, the pursuit is another. So rapid an advance by such powerful, competent, heavily equipped forces over distances so enormous is, as far as I am aware, without parallel in modern war; and the Ancients had not the advantages of locomotion which we possess, so they are out of it anyway.
Everywhere in Egypt there is a feeling that Britain has kept her word, that we have been a faithful and unfailing Ally, that we have preserved the Nile Valley and all its cities, villages and fertile lands from the horrors of invasion. It was always said that Egypt could never be invaded across the Western Desert, and certainly that historical fact has now been established upon modern and far stronger foundations.
From Cairo I proceeded on my magic carpet to Tripoli, which 10 days before was in the possession of the enemy. Here I found General Montgomery. I must confess quite frankly that I had not 1481 realised how magnificent a city and harbour Tripoli has been made. It is the first Italian city to be delivered by British arms from the grip of the Huns. Naturally there was lively enthusiasm among the Italian population, and I can hardly do justice to the effusiveness of the demonstrations of which I was the fortunate object. I had the honour as your servant to review two of our forward divisions. The 51st Highland Division is the successor of that brave division that was overwhelmed on the coast of France in the tragedies of 1940. It has already more than equalised the account which Scotland had open in this matter. In the afternoon I saw a mass of 10,000 New Zealanders, who, with a comparatively small portion of their vast equipment of cannon, tanks and technical vehicles, took one-and-a-half hours to march past. On that day I saw at least 40,000 troops, and as representing His Majesty's Government I had the honour to receive their salutes and greetings. Meanwhile, of course, the front had rolled nearly another 100 miles farther to the West, and the beaten enemy were being pursued back to the new positions in Tunisia on which it is said they intend to make a stand. I do not wish to encourage the House or the country to look for any very speedy new results. They may come, or they may not come. The enemy have carried out very heavy demolitions and blockings in Tripoli harbour. Therefore, supply from the sea is greatly hampered, and I cannot tell what time will be required to clear the port and begin the building-up of a new base for supplies. It is not the slightest use being impatient with these processes. Meanwhile General Montgomery's Army is feeding itself from its base at Cairo, 1,500 miles away, through Tobruk, 1,000 miles away, and Benghazi, 750 miles away, by a prodigious mass of mechanical transport, all organised in a manner truly wonderful.
Presently we may be able to move forward again, but meanwhile the enemy may have time to consolidate his position and to bring in further reinforcements and further equipment. Let us just see how things go. But I should like to say this; I have never in my life, which from my youth up has been connected with military matters, seen troops who march with the style and air of those of the Desert Army. Talk about spit and polish. The 1482 Highland and New Zealand Divisions paraded after their immense ordeal in the desert as if they had come out of Wellington Barracks. There was an air on the face of every private of that just and sober pride which comes from dear-bought victory and triumph after toil. I saw the same sort of marching smartness, and the same punctilio of saluting and discipline, in the Russian guard of honour which received me in Moscow six months ago. The fighting men of democracy feel that they are coming into their own.
Let me also pay my tribute to this vehement and formidable General Montgomery, a Cromwellian figure, austere, severe, accomplished, tireless, his life given to the study of war, who has attracted to himself in an extraordinary measure the confidence and the devotion of his Army. Let me also pay, in the name of the House, my tribute to General Alexander, on whom the over-riding responsibility lay. I read to the House on 11th November the directive which in those critical days I gave to General Alexander. I may perhaps refresh the memory of hon. Members by reading it again:1. Your prime and main duty will be to take or destroy at the earliest opportunity the German-Italian army commanded by Field-Marshal Rommel, together with all its supplies and establishments in Egypt and Libya.2. You will discharge, or cause to be discharged, such other duties as pertain to your Command without prejudice to the task described in paragraph 1, which must be considered paramount in His Majesty's interests.I have now received, when, as it chanced, I visited the Army again, the following official communication from General Alexander, in which General Montgomery took great pleasure, and to which it will be necessary for us to send a reply:Sir, The Orders you gave me on August 15, 1942, have been fulfilled. His Majesty's enemies, together with their impedimenta, have been completely eliminated from Egypt, Cyrenaica, Libya and Tripolitania. I now await your further instructions.Well, obviously, we shall have to think of something else, and, indeed, this was one of the more detailed matters which we discussed in the Conference at Casablanca. I did not publish the original instructions to General Alexander until some months afterwards, when the Battle of Egypt had been won, and the House will naturally grant me a similar delay before I make public the reply to him which is now required.
1483 I should, however, inform the House and the country of the various changes in the High Command which the marked improvement in our affairs and the movements of the Armies have rendered suitable and necessary. This brings me to the general situation in French North-West Africa, on which I have a very few general remarks to make.
The descent upon North Africa by the British and American Forces will, I believe, be judged in the words which Premier Stalin used to me when I told him about it in August last. He said that it was "militarily correct." It certainly has altered the strategic axis of the war. By this very large-scale manœuvre, thought by many experts to be most hazardous before it was undertaken, we recovered the initiative in the West, and we recovered it at comparatively small cost of life and with less loss in shipping than we gained by what fell into our hands. Nearly half a million men have been landed successfully and safely in North-West Africa, and those fair and beautiful regions are now under the control of the United States. We agreed with the President many months ago that this should be an American enterprise, and I have gladly accepted, with the approval of the War Cabinet, the position of lieutenant in this sphere. The Americans attach the greatest importance to unity of command between Allies and to control over all these Services being in the hands of one supreme commander. We willingly and freely accepted this position, and we shall act loyally and faithfully up to it on all occasions and in every respect. Some people are busily concerned about the past records of various French functionaries whom the Americans have deemed it expedient to employ. For my part, I must confess that I am more interested in the safety of the Armies and in the success of the operations which will soon be again advancing to an important climax. I shall therefore not take up the time of the House with the tales which can be told of how these various Frenchmen acted in the forlorn and hideous situation in which they found themselves when their country collapsed. What matters to General Eisenhower and to our troops, who, in great numbers, are serving under him, and what matters throughout this vast 1484 area of population of well over 16,000,000, 90 per cent. of whom are Moslems, is, first and foremost, a tranquil countryside, and, secondly, secure and unimpeded communications to the battle-front, which is now steadily developing on what I have called the Tunisian tip.
I have not seen this battle front, I am sorry to say, because it is 400 miles distant by road from Algiers, where I spent last Friday and Saturday with General Eisenhower and Admiral Cunningham, and also with our Minister-Resident, the right hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Harold Macmillan), who is doing admirable work and becoming a real solver of problems—friends with everyone—and taking, with Mr. Murphy's co-operation, an increasingly heavy load off the shoulders of the Commander-in-Chief in regard to matters with which a military commander should not to be burdened. Although I did not have a chance to see this front—because one does get a number of communications from home from time to time—I can tell the House that conditions are absolutely different from those which the Desert Army has triumphantly surmounted. The Desert Army is the product of three years of trial and error and of continued perfecting of transport, communications, supplies and signals, and the rapid moving forward of airfields and the like. The Armies now fighting in Tunisia are still in a very early stage of building up their communications. The enemy opposite to them, although largely an improvised army, have something like the advantage which we had over Rommel in front of Cairo, I mean the advantage of lying 30 or 40 miles in front of your bases; while we have to go over very long, slender, tightly stretched and heavily strained approaches, in order to get at them. Very nearly did General Anderson, under General Eisenhower's orders, clear the whole province at a run. Very little more, and we might have achieved everything. It was absolutely right to try, but it failed. The Germans effected their entry, and made good their bridge-heads. We had to fall back to gather strength and to gather our resources for heavy battle. I cannot pretend not to be disappointed that the full result was not achieved at the first bound, Still, our main object is to fight the Germans, and one cannot be blind to the fact that we have made them fight us 1485 in a situation extremely costly to them and by no means disadvantageous to us. Although the enemy's lines of supply on land are short, they are under constant attack by sea. Before they reach the battlefield they lose one-quarter, or one-third even, of everything they bring across the sea. Our power of reinforcement is far greater and more secure than theirs. The portentous apparition of the Desert Army, driving Rommel before them, is a new, most potent and possibly even decisive factor. Air fighting is developing on an ever-increasing scale, and this is, of course, greatly to our advantage, because it would pay us to lose two machines to one in order to wear down the German air force and draw it away from the Russian front. However, instead of losing two planes to one, the actual results are very nearly the other way round. Therefore, it seems to me that the House need not be unduly depressed because the fighting in North Africa is going to assume a very much larger scale and last a longer time than was originally anticipated and hoped. It is, indeed, quite remarkable that the Germans should have shown themselves ready to run the risk and pay the price required of them by their struggle to hold the Tunisian tip. While I always hesitate to say anything which might afterwards look like over-confidence, I cannot resist the remark that one seems to discern in this policy the touch of the master hand, the same master hand that planned the attack on Stalingrad and that has brought upon the German armies the greatest disaster they have ever suffered in all their military history. However, I am making no predictions and no promises. Very serious battles will have to be fought. Including Rommel's army, there must be nearly a quarter of a million of the enemy in the Tunisian tip, and we must not in any way under-rate the hazards we have to dare or the burdens we have to carry. It is always folly to forecast the results of great trials of strength in war before they take place. I will say no more than this: All the disadvantages are not on one side, and certainly they are not all on our side. I think that conforms to the standards of the anti-complacency opinion in this country.
French North-West Africa is, as I have said, a United States operation, under American command. We have agreed 1486 that the boundary between our respective spheres shall be the existing frontier between Tripolitania and Tunisia, but the Desert Army is now crossing that frontier and driving forward on its quest, which is Rommel. Its movements must, therefore, be combined with those of the First Army and with the various powerful forces coming from the West. For some weeks past, the commanders have been in close touch with one another; these contacts must now be formalised. As the Desert Army passes into the American sphere it will naturally come under the orders of General Eisenhower. I have great confidence in General Eisenhower. I regard him as one of the finest men I have ever met. It was arranged at Casablanca that when this transfer of the Desert Army took place, General Alexander should become Deputy Commander-in-Chief under General Eisenhower. At the same time, Air Chief Marshal Tedder becomes Air Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean, responsible to General Eisenhower for all the air operations in his theatre. He will control also all the Air Forces throughout the whole of the Middle East. This is absolutely necessary, because our Air Forces of Egypt, Cyrenaica and Libya, and also our powerful Air Forces operating from Malta, are actually attacking the same targets, both by bomber and fighter aircraft, as the United States and British Air Forces now working from Algeria and Tunisia are attacking. You must have one control over all this, and that control must be exercised under the supreme command of one man—and who better, I ask, than the trusty and experienced Air Chief Marshal Tedder, for whom General Eisenhower so earnestly asked? Under him, Air Vice-Marshal Coningham, hitherto working with the Eighth Army, whose services have been so much admired, will concert the air operations in support of the British First and Eighth Armies and other troops on the Tunisian battlefield. At the same time, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham, who already commands all the British and American naval forces in this theatre, will extend his command Eastward so as to comprise effectively all the cognate operations inside the Mediterranean and the present Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean will become, with his headquarters in Egypt, Commander-in-Chief of the Levant, dealing also with the Red 1487 Sea and all approaches from that quarter. There is no need for me to announce exactly where the line of demarcation between those commands is drawn, but everything is arranged with precision. The vacancy in the Command of the Middle East created by General Alexander's appointment as Deputy Commander-in-Chief to General Eisenhower, will be filled by General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, now commanding in Persia and Iraq, where the Tenth Army, now become a very powerful force, is stationed. It is proposed to keep Persia and Iraq as a separate command for the present, and the new commander will shortly be appointed.
Meanwhile, General Eisenhower has already obtained the consent of General Giraud, who commands the French Army fighting on the Tunisian front, an army which is being raised by American equipment to a very powerful force and which will play its part later on in liberating the French Motherland, to this Army being placed all under the command of General Anderson, together with the strong United States Forces, which have been moved forward into Tunisia. Thus we have a hierarchy established by international arrangement completely in accord with modern ideas of unity of command between various Allies and of the closest concert of the three Services.
I make an appeal to the House, the Press and the country, that they will, I trust, be very careful not to criticise this arrangement. If they do so, I trust they will not do it on personal lines, or run one general against another, to the detriment of the smooth and harmonious relations which now prevail among this band of brothers who have got their teeth into the job. In General Eisenhower, as in General Alexander, you have two men remarkable for selflessness of character and disdain of purely personal advancement. Let them alone; give them a chance; and it is quite possible that one of these fine days the bells will have to be rung again. If not, we will address ourselves to the problem, in all loyalty and comradeship, and in the light of circumstances. [Interruption.] I have really tried to tell the House everything that I am sure the enemy knows and to tell them nothing that the enemy ought to know: [HON. MEMBERS: "Ought not to know."] 1488 There was a joke in that Still, I have been able to say something. At any rate, I appeal to all patriotic men on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean to stamp their feet on mischief-makers and sowers of tares wherever they may be found, and let the great machines roll into battle under the best possible conditions for our success. That is all I have to say at the present time.
I am most grateful for the extreme kindness with which I am treated by the House. I accept, in the fullest degree, the responsibility of Minister of Defence and as the agent of the War Cabinet, for the plans we have devised. His Majesty's Government ask no favours for themselves. We desire only to be judged by results. We await the unfolding of events with sober confidence, and we are sure that Parliament and the British nation will display in these hopeful days, which may nevertheless be clouded o'er, the same qualities of steadfastness as they did in that awful period when the life of Britain and of our Empire hung by a thread.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
I wish before the Prime Minister leaves the Chamber just to say two things. First, that I feel that certain aspects of the speech of the Prime Minister may need further consideration at a later stage, a matter which I raised about Business. The second is to say that I think the House will wish to offer to the Prime Minister a welcome on his safe return after an arduous and a hazardous journey, the fruits of which we hope will be mightily to aid the war effort.
§ Mr. Cocks (Broxstowe)
I have been called at an early moment. I would like to say while the Prime Minister is here that we all welcome his return from his marvellous and historic Odyssey, in which many important events have taken place, as he has told us. At Casablanca, in the shadow of Mount Atlas and almost in sight of the Pillars of Hercules, he and President Roosevelt emulated the feat of that ancient hero in holding up the canopy of civilisation. Then, like a modern St. Paul, he took the Atlantic Charter to Tarsus, and then finally from the clouds he descended upon sea-girt Cyprus like Venus returning to her native home. And now, after touching at Egypt and Tripoli and regions adjoining Carthage, our wise old Ulysses has returned home to his faithful 1489 Penelope, the Deputy Prime Minister, and her handmaidens in the Cabinet, who, in his abs Pence, I hope with the permission of the Minister of Fuel, have been keeping the home fires burning, and have not, like their originals, been just marking time and unwinding at night the red tape which they have been tangling up in the day.
We can say one thing about our leader which the Nazis cannot say about theirs; he is not afraid to speak to his people. Moreover, we are quite certain that he is very much alive and in charge of events. At Casablanca very important decisions were taken. We do not know what those decisions were, but the Germans, I am quite sure, will in due course find out. It has been suggested, however, in certain quarters that an opportunity was missed on that occasion in not bringing about, or setting up, a united command for the military direction of the whole war. I do not agree with that, because apart from the fact that Soviet Russia is not at war with Japan, the facts of geography seem to me to be against such a system. At present the Russian generals are conducting their own campaign in Russia on the Eastern front, and I think we all agree that they are doing fairly well by themselves. The destruction of an army of 330,000 men outside Stalingrad was quite a considerable military achievement, and for some supreme military command sitting, say, in Iceland or Khartoum, to tell these victorious generals that now is the time they ought to strike in the North, in the Baltic or in the centre, or along the shores of the Black Sea, would seem to be an unreasonable procedure. In the same way for such a command to tell the Anglo-American Forces that now is the time to attack in Sicily, or in the Balkans, or in Norway, or oh the coast of France, or that now is the time perhaps to tell their ancient Ally, Portugal, that she should throw open the port of Lisbon as a base for the Allied Armies, would seem to me to be equally unreasonable. It is better for the present, I think, for Russia to look after the Eastern front and for us and America and our French Allies to look after the West and decide when and where to strike. When the time comes to attack in a united way the central fortress of Germany, it may be that a closer unity of command, a closer co-ordination of effort, will be possible and perhaps even 1490 necessary, but I do not think it is time for that yet.
A point I wish to mention particularly is one which the Prime Minister has but lightly touched upon. I think it is an important one, and it is the only one I shall raise to-day. Although it is not possible, in my view, to set a supreme military command for the whole of the war, I think something should be done to bring about a more unified political direction of the war effort and to set up machinery by which the views of the United States of America, of the Soviet Union, and of Fighting France and ourselves could be expressed and co-ordinated before vital decisions are taken on matters of high importance. That was not done in the case of North Africa, and the results have been unfortunate. I intend to speak with the utmost restraint and moderation on this particular point. I think that anybody who said anything which might cause dissension at the present time between any of the Allies would be doing a disservice to the general cause.
But the way to avoid dissension in the future is to get agreement beforehand, and to decide on a policy which all can follow. If that is not done, dissension is bound to recur and great evils to result. Some of the things that have happened in North Africa in the last few months have been shameful. I will not go into them in detail, especially as since Casablanca it seems to me there are indications that the situation is improving, but it is still not good and is affecting the military situation as well as our moral position. But the great question we have got to settle now and in the future—I would ask the Deputy Prime Minister to note this, and I hope he agrees—when the time approaches to drive the Nazis out of the nations and countries they have occupied, is this: "Are we going to make terms with all the Quislings of Europe, or are we going to accept the help only of those who have refused to collaborate with the enemy and have resisted him to the end?" That is he great question, the great problem upon which some decision has to be made.
In France, and in other countries, too, hundreds of thousands of people have never accepted, for example, the Vichy policy of collaboration with the Nazis; they have faced starvation, imprisonment, torture and death for the sake of freedom. 1491 They have seen their friends and relatives cast into prison. They have seen them executed, not by the Nazis in all cases, sometimes by the Quislings doing the vile work for the Nazis. Peyrouton, for example, was the man who threw into prison Messieurs Daladier, Blum and Mandel, and they are there still.
§ Mr. Cocks
He was never in prison, as far as I know. If he was, he came out very quickly. The three I have mentioned are still in prison. These brave Frenchmen of the kind to which I have referred look on General de Gaulle as their leader. He was a member of the last Republican Government in France and therefore in a sense represents the Third Republic. But far more he represents the spirit of French resistance and has done so from the first. Because of that, he is supported by people of all political creeds in France, from the extreme Right to the extreme Left, Royalists and Communists, who look on him as their champion and the Cross of Lorraine as their symbol of hope and salvation. Recent events have dealt a sad blow to many of these Frenchmen still in France to whom the Prime Minister spoke on 24th April when he said:Lift up your heads, gallant Frenchmen; not all the infamies of Laval and Darlan shall stand between you and the restoration of your birthright.It is not only in France where this situation exists. In Norway, Poland and Czechoslovakia, in Yugoslavia and in Greece there are thousands, and hundreds of thousands, of people resisting the Nazis, sometimes in actual combat, sometimes in other ways. They have never collaborated with the enemy. They have their own Quislings, but they are holding out to the last. They are keeping alive the spirit of resistance in Europe, they are praying for an Allied victory, and it is their faith and hope for that Allied victory that are keeping them alive. When the time comes for an invasion of Europe they will give us every assistance they can. But if we make terms with the Quislings for the sake of some temporary military advantage in the future, we shall break their hearts and we shall betray the cause for which we and they are fighting.
1492 As I have said, this problem is an important one because it is bound to return, and it ought to be settled now. We may be told in the case of some future event, for example, as were were told last November that we must make terms with some traitor in order to save bloodshed. That plea may fall with a reasonable sound on certain ears, although the answer might be made that if you really want to save bloodshed, you can make peace with Hitler or with the German General Staff now. But that plea was rejected in advance at Casablanca when the decision was reached of "Unconditional surrender." The Nazi is a monster and an enemy, but a Quisling is a monster and an enemy and a traitor as well. If anything, if possible, he deserves a double punishment. Are we to ally ourselves with Judas in order to defeat Pontius Pilate, who, after all, was perhaps the better man of the two? I feel that the declaration of unconditional surrender reached at Casablanca should be applied not only to the Nazis but to the Quislings also and to everyone who has helped to rivet the chains of slavery on Europe. I would appeal to the Government to come to some definite decision on this matter, to draw up with their Allies, especially with America and with Soviet Russia, a settled, clear, and united policy upon this particular question, because upon it, I believe, depends one of the chief spiritual issues of the war.
§ Mr. Granville (Eye)
We welcome back the Prime Minister, and, indeed, his very arrival in this country is something of a national event. In my view what has taken place in the past few months, and also, in a sense, what was indicated by the Prime Minister in his speech to-day, suggests that there has been something of a fundamental change in British foreign policy during this war. I think that the House of Commons on this occasion, although it may be unpopular, should try to get something of a true perspective of the war situation. The capture of the Sixth German Army in Stalingrad altered the whole course of the war. I see that it is estimated that 7,000 Russians are sacrificing their lives every day on the Eastern front, and that in the process they are liquidating 10,000 Germans every day. The Russian Army is engaging, holding up, and in the south hurling back, the main might of the Wehrmacht and 1493 other Axis forces. It is clear that Premier Stalin has thrown the Nazi leaders on the defensive, and that to-day the Russian Premier is dictating the main strategy of this war by the march of military events. Undoubtedly, there has been some kind of Nazi crisis in Berlin in recent weeks. I have no doubt that that has been related to the tremendous events caused by the Russian offensive on the southern front. All this has made a tremendous impression on the minds of people in this country.
Whatever we may be thinking or saying in this House of Commons, which was elected in 1935, what I have said is being thought, and is growing in the mind and the imagination and the hearts of the British people to-day. This is the fourth year of the war, and we are not yet at grips with the main forces of the enemy. Nevertheless, I think that the two soldiers whom I heard talking in the train the other day were exaggerating the position when they said, "We can leave it to our comrades in Russia, while we stand on the touch lines and cheer." I am aware that what I am saying may be unpopular here; but the future of this country depends on our ability to co-operate with the Russian war effort, and it may be that that same future depends upon our ability, in spite of all the difficulties of which the Prime Minister spoke, to increase the supply of tanks and aircraft to the Russian Army to a considerable extent to enable them to keep up the offensive and to destroy the German forces. I 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.
The Prime Minister has described his journey around the perimeter of the Middle East as on a magic carpet. An American critic has described the Casablanca Conference as being theatrical but not yet in the main theatre of war. I believe that every one of the people of this country desires to pay tribute to the great courage and initiative 1494 and endurance of the Prime Minister in having undertaken at his age that tremendous journey by air. The Prime Minister entered Tripoli in a blaze of glory and publicity. What has happened in Casablanca has been heady wine for the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Information. As someone has said, there were camera men on the landing grounds, on the beaches, in the streets, and in the fields; and nothing like it has been seen in the world of publicity since Mafeking. It was called a conference of unconditional surrender; and while it was called that, soon afterwards 330,000 Nazis in Stalingrad unconditionally surrendered. The Prime Minister's speech and the communiqué which was issued at the end of the conference stressed the agreement oh enterprises to be undertaken in 1943. I do not believe that this communiqué was issued for the purpose of deceiving the enemy. I credit the Prime Minister and the President with the intention of attacking occupied Europe from Iceland to the Baltic possibly, in this year; because, as we have been told from Washington and in this House by the Minister of Production, Allied production exceeds Axis production to a very great extent, because we have been told that we have complete superiority in the air over the Luftwaffe, and because if we do not there is a growing number of people in this country who believe that Russia may well win the war for us. I was glad that the Prime Minister gave first place in his speech to the problem of shipping and the destruction of the U-boat, about which there has been great anxiety in this country for some time.
But surely, there has been a change in the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government. I was hopeful that the Prime Minister, as a result of his conference at Casablanca with the President and of all that we have been told in the newspapers, not only in America but in this country for some time, was going to make a declaration in his speech to-day of a new policy, on behalf of His Majesty's Government. It seems to me that the foreign policy of the Government has become something of a question mark. If we have to read between the lines, if we have to try to size up this situation, it seems that our foreign policy is heading towards something which commits us to a new balance of power policy in Europe 1495 and the installation of puppet governments on the Continent after military victory. I would like to ask the Deputy Prime Minister to give the House and the people of this country an assurance that no secret agreement was made at Casablanca. Secret agreements were made during the last war, and they did not turn out very well afterwards. I would also ask, in view of what has happened politically in North Africa, whether it is still the policy of the Government that the Forces and people of this country are fighting for the ideals for which we entered the war—for freedom, for liberty, for democracy. There has been a tendency to suggest that with whatever has been happening in respect of the political situation and the political set-up in North Africa we have had very little to do. The Prime Minister has said that he was the faithful lieutenant of the President. That is the general impression which has been given, not only in this country but in America. But on 12th November, in the Debate on the Address in this House, the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs made a speech—I do not know whether it would be called a discreet speech—in which he said:In this North African operation the Political Warfare Executive has really had the first chance it has ever had of developing and seeing through to the end a campaign in political warfare. It has meant an immense amount of work. Broadcasts from this country, from the United States, and from the field of operations itself, have had to be synchronised. Leaflets have had to be drawn up, translated and despatched. In the whole field there has been the fullest co-operation between ourselves and the United States. The burden of that work has fallen upon the Political Warfare Executive, for which my right hon. Friend"—That is, the Foreign Secretary—shares the responsibility. It will interest the House to know that my right hon. Friend has received a letter from General W. B. Smith, Chief of Staff to the Allied Forces, in which he says that the work of the Political Warfare Executive in this campaign 'constituted an outstanding achievement.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1942; col. 150, Vol. 385.]We may seek to justify the political policy in North Africa: we may think it a good policy or a bad policy; but that statement is definite proof that the Government, for many months before the operation began, had assumed their full share of responsibility, through the Political Warfare 1496 Executive, of which the Foreign Secretary is chairman. I hope that in future we shall not be told that the Government do not bear the full responsibility for what takes place in political warfare, and in the unfortunate political set-up in that theatre of war. I am not going to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) on the question of whether we are to recognise Quislings and the like. There are many first-class quotations which could be used on the subject, but I am not going to take up the time of the House on that point to-day. I will content myself with saying that it is no good holding these Debates, having a speech from the Prime Minister, and then all going home as though the whole question had been settled. Whether we like it or not, the people of this country are asking whether there has been a change in war aims and in the foreign policy of the Government. I believe that there are a number of people who are deeply disturbed and suspicious about the deep motives behind this apparent change in our foreign policy. They are wondering whether there has been any change with regard to the fullest co-operation with Russia. This question will have to be answered by His Majesty's Government. This war is a different war. I believe that the people of this country will fight for the ideals for which we entered this war.
I believe that not all the oratory and the propaganda power of this Government will change that. There is another suspicion among the ordinary people. There is a growing feeling among the public that they are getting a purely propaganda version of the war from the most powerful propaganda machine controlled by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Information. A propaganda machine of enormous power has been selling Government sunshine for a long period, with the very serious result that many sound judges are of the opinion that this country has in past months lost its sense of urgency with regard to the conduct of the war. There is a feeling that democracy and the House of Commons have lost control and the check on policy, and that dangerous seeds of Fascism are growing. Therefore, in conclusion, I would quote the words of General Smuts:A new sort of hero-worship is arising very different from that which Carlyle preached, 1497 and which, saps the very foundations of individuality and makes the individual prostrate himself before his national leader as before a god.That way extreme danger lies. The road to Caesarism lies clear. The disappearance of the sturdy, independent-minded, freedom-loving individual, and his replacement by a servile standardised mass-mentality is the greatest human menace of our time.I say to the Deputy Prime Minister here now with his background of responsibility, Make sure that we do not win this war and lose that one.
§ Mr. Martin (Southwark, Central
I only want to take up the time of the House for a few minutes to say a word in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) in what he said at the conclusion of his speech about the unification of the political situation of the war. I hope I shall not be classed among those people to whom the Prime Minister referred as mischief-makers. I shall do my best to avoid making mischief under any conditions at all, but more mischief may be made by silence on some of these matters at the present time than will ever be made by frank and sincere speaking. What I am going to say will be said with perfect sincerity and in the belief that, by saying it, I may do some little thing to pave the way for happier relations between the Allies during the difficult times ahead. It is plain that, whatever may be said in any quarter whatsoever, Anglo-American relations are not on so sound or so happy a footing as we could all of us wish at the present time. That is a natural thing, for two great nations With interests so diverse as those of the United States and this country, engaged in a war with regard to which they must necessarily have somewhat different outlooks. Our outlook is conditioned to a large extent by relations with Europe, and the American viewpoint is equally conditioned by their rather remote relations with Europe and with their rather closer relations with the Pacific. I think that we all understand that there are also slight distinctions in ideological and political outlook between the two countries which necessarily cause a certain amount of division between us at the present time. The question is how to get those relations on to the most satisfactory basis. It certainly will hot be done by a storm of abuse and recrimination, and it clearly will not be done by shutting up and saying nothing at all.
1498 I want to refer to one or two questions only which lie at the root of this matter. The first is the situation that arises with relation to the French people. It has been very widely said in this country that we should not have consented to the arrangement which was made in North Africa. I am not going to criticise that arrangement. The difficulties were enormous, and any country responsible for the safety and well-being of immense armies might well have considered the necessity of avoiding unnecessary bloodshed at all costs in the part that Americans and ourselves were going to play in North Africa, and in our relation to the French people there. It was important to have support among the French people in North Africa if we could possibly get it for the Allied movement. However much we lament—and I think we all do lament—the tragic method by which it took place, we are all slightly relieved that Admiral Darlan is no longer part of the administration, and we are glad that General Giraud is now in his place, as far as that aspect of the matter is concerned. General Giraud seems a thoroughly patriotic and, as far as his word goes, a thoroughly reliable Frenchman of his own type. But what is that type? [An HON. MEMBER: "He is not a democrat."] My hon. Friend has put his finger directly on the spot. He represents the officer class of the French Army. He is entirely different from the type to which Marshal Pétain belongs, because Marshal Pétain believes that the interests of France, or his own interests, necessitated compromise with the Nazi forces. He was prepared to go the whole length with Nazism in the creation of their new order. There is no doubt about it that General Giraud is utterly opposed to that point of view, but none the less he belongs to that authoritarian class of French officer who believes in one of the greatest illusions which has been cherished in twentieth century Europe. He believes in an authoritarian France. He stands for the creation, as I understand it, of an authoritarian France when liberty is restored to the French people.
Necessary or desirable as it may have been to come to some sort of compromise on that point of view from the American standpoint when North Africa was invaded, and desirable as it may have been for the British Government to subscribe to the American position, it is clearly a tremendous menace to the kind 1499 of peace that we on these Benches desire to see established after the war, and to Anglo-American relations as hostilities draw to a conclusion if, when France is freed, some kind of repetition is going to take place of what has occurred in North Africa. I mean that there will be an effort on the part of certain groups in France when the French nation is again able to take some part in the control of its own destiny, to establish vested interests of a particularly objectionable kind but which were common in France before the Third Republic failed. There is scarcely anybody—there is certainly no sincere democrat in this country—who does not feel convinced that the whole odious story with which the names of Flandin and Bonnet were associated during the last 10 or 15 years in France, the whole attack upon the interests of the French people and the French workers, the whole effort to build up a consolidated agreement between the forces of reaction and Nazism in Germany and Italy and a certain group of French politicians—there is no doubt, among students of that situation, that an effort will be made to repeat that if the opportunity is open for such a situation again to arise in a somewhat different form when the Allies are victorious, as they will be, in this war.
Part of the trouble, I think, is that the American people have a long-standing affection for the French people. They feel differently towards the French people than towards almost any other people outside their own borders. You can call it sentiment or what you like, but it dates back to the time of Lafayette, and since that time they have always felt a particular admiration and tenderness for France. That makes them think—and no one can blame them for that—that they have a special understanding of the French people and a special relation towards them. I am not prepared to deny that it may be so and that the American people have a relationship with France which gives them an advantage over us at the present time, and it might be well to allow the American Government to develop that relationship and for us to stand back a little in the shadows while that is being done. They certainly do not feel towards France in the sense of what Jefferson called "the entangling relationships" against which he warned his country. It may be that that warm accord between the American 1500 and the French people might be turned to some advantage to the Allied cause. But the American people are 3,000 miles away and we are only 21 miles away and it is going to be of a different order of importance and of urgency to us when hostilities come to an end that the kind of government which is of interest to the British people should be established in France from what it will be to the Americans. We on this side of the House cannot look with indifference—and it is extraordinarily important that we should say it how before the situation becomes too involved or too urgent or too dangerous—upon efforts not to establish any particular government in France but to prejudice the interests and opportunities and chances of certain other forms of government. We do not desire, and I do not think that we shall make any effort to see, that a Socialist or Labour administration is established in France when hostilities come to an end, but it is of vital importance to us—and I believe we are united on these Benches and have the support of every sincere democrat on every side of the House when we say that it is of vital importance to see that no effort should be made to prejudice the chances of such a government taking office when the war comes to an end.
That must be clearly and unmistakably represented between us and the Americans. I do not see any reason why it should cause unfortunate friction in the relations between us. But whatever the results, I think that situation is one which should be made plain before efforts are made by any interested parties in North Africa, France or America to try and jump a claim for any particular movement to establish such an interim Government in France which might, during its period of office, prejudice the prospects of democracy and of labour when the French nation comes again to stand on its feet.
The danger is that when this war comes to an end the American nation may feel tempted to relax into some form of isolationism. I am quite certain that that danger is in the mind of all thoughtful people in this country and America. It is quite possible for there to be the most cordial and sympathetic relations between the two Administrations, between the present British Government and the American Administration, but very cool, or even hostile, feelings between the two peoples. The thing with which we are 1501 concerned is that the relations between the American and British peoples should be put on a sound and lasting footing, however cordial and sympathetic the relations between the two Administrations may be. So, for that reason, this question of unification of the Allied political effort is becoming one of great significance. I think it is important that the peoples should be reassured that we can establish a common effort and a common understanding between our two nations and the Russian people. There is no question whatever that there is a feeling in Russia and this country that there are groups and parties over here and in America who may be glad to see relations with Russia—I will not say become cooler—but be left so elastic that after the war it might be possible to push the Russians back into their own sphere of interest and create an Anglo-American sphere elsewhere. At all costs we have to avoid that situation coming to pass, and I do not think it will be satisfactorily avoided until there is some kind of established political council existing between our three countries. Both in Russia and the United States there are elements which are critical of ourselves; they are critical too of our own policy with regard to India and the Colonies. I think we must face the fact that part of the price of a satisfactory peace is the admission, not that Great Britain must break up her Colonial Empire, but that Great Britain has to concede the principle of third-party judgment in dealing with these great problems. There is nothing that would do so much to combat the Isolationist movement in the United States and the feeling of hostility and mistrust of Great Britain as the conviction that we shall establish and subscribe to the principle of a third-party judgment in drawing up the final peace settlement in regard to our own interests as well as those of other nations.
If that principle could be established at an early date in regard to the problems facing us in connection with Anglo-American and Anglo-Russian relations, it would do a great deal to clarify and enhance the solidity and cordiality of those relations. However, I cannot pursue this matter further to-day as I have taken a longer time than I had allotted myself. I will merely conclude by saying, as I began, that these matters should be dealt with urgently and comprehensively so 1502 that in the near future there will be a clearing-up of the relations between the three main Allies to such an extent that those of us who believe this war to be not only a national war but a war for the establishment of true democratic principles will feel confident in the further measures to be taken by the United Nations.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
I do not intend to detain the House long. We have had, as we all expected, a masterly review of the war situation from the Prime Minister in which there was one passage which must have given satisfaction even to his most formidable critics. That was in relation to the arrangements he was able to announce with regard to the High Command of the Allied Forces in the Mediterranean area during the immediately forthcoming phase of operations. We had three problems facing us in this sphere. There was the geographical problem; the problem of co-operation between the different Services, namely, the Navy, the Army and Air Force; and there was an international problem superimposed upon these two. It does seem to me, at first glance, that all these problems have been brilliantly surmounted by the arrangements which the Prime Minister was able to announce with regard to the various appointments to high commands, divided so well as between the Americans and ourselves. I am sure that no Member of this House would say that his announcement was not received with great satisfaction. So far from wanting to make mischief, the mood of the House with regard to these appointments is solely one of congratulation to the Government, and to the Prime Minister himself.
The part of the Prime Minister's speech I liked best of all was his reference to the necessity for bringing the maximum possible aid to Russia in the shortest possible time. His references to the superb effort which the Soviet Armies are making at the present moment, and also to the urgent necessity for bringing the maximum assistance to our Ally had both deep sincerity and a great sense of urgency; and when he said that he himself would feel he was falling below the level of events if we did not make every effort to bring that maximum assistance to Russia in the shortest time, I am sure he expressed the views of the vast majority 1503 of Members of this House and of the people in the country.
The only part of the Prime Minister's speech which I did not like was his very brief, cursory reference to recent political events in North Africa. It would be a great mistake if the Prime Minister, or anybody else, dismissed the political situation in North Africa as being of no consequence whatever. It matters a very great deal. The appointments of Darlan and Peyrouton—whose record is extremely bad, and who was, in the opinion of many of us, quite unnecessarily transported all the way back from South America to take up this important appointment, which could not be justified on the grounds of military expediency—affronted many millions of people in this country, in the United States of America, in France, and, I may add, in Russia. I would ask the Deputy Prime Minister seriously to consider the possible effect upon Anglo-Russian relations of any suspicion that we may allow to arise that we are playing with any kind of Fascist elements in any quarter. It is a thing that has to be watched most carefully. We are fighting this war to eliminate Fascism, not to stabilise it in any part of the world; to restore justice and freedom, not to permit freedom to be withheld from those who have been in prison—some of them for many months—because they supported the Allied cause and the cause of democracy in the past.
I do not think we ought to have any truck with Fascist elements, not even for the sake of preserving what the Prime Minister referred to as a "tranquil countryside." I feel it was right that great anxiety should be shown in this House and in America about the régime in North Africa, which was described to me the other day by a distinguished officer who has just come back from Algiers as "a political sewer." While that persisted, I feel it was only right and in the interests of the Allies as a whole, and the cause for which we are fighting, that the gravest possible anxiety should be expressed here. So long as democratic political prisoners remained under lock and key, and so long as anti-Jewish legislation remained in force in North Africa, we could not feel happy about what was going on there. No doubt, in recent days there has been a substantial improvement 1504 in the situation in North Africa, and I am sure the House was gratified to hear from the Prime Minister that we owe this largely to the efforts of our Minister-Resident in Algiers, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Harold Macmillan). But we want to be quite sure that this improvement will continue.
I am one of those who believe that France will rise again one day, and I further believe most firmly that however difficult and obstinate he may have been, nevertheless General de Gaulle symbolises for the vast majority of Frenchmen in Metropolitan France at the present time the spirit of revolt and of resistance to Fascism or Nazi-ism in any shape or form. The mere fact that he is sometimes so difficult increases, rather than diminishes, the confidence and trust that people in France have in him; because they know well that, whatever else you may call General de Gaulle, you could never call him the tool of the British Government. I am not one of those who say that everything should be done for de Gaulle and nothing for anyone else, but I think we have to bear in mind the very important position he holds to-day inside Metropolitan France.
I would like to tell my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who has just come in, that I was saying a moment or two ago that it would be a great pity to dismiss the North African political situation as of no consequence whatever. It is of great consequence. We have had a right to feel anxiety about it, and equally we are happy to feel that recently an improvement has taken place. The impression formed on my mind by one passage in the Prime Minister's speech—had it not been for this. I would not have risen to speak—was that the Prime Minister himself rather thought the whole matter of no great consequence, and that the only thing to do was to get on with the war and not mind about the North African political situation, or bother about a lot of rather tiresome French politicians. But we have to mind these things, because they have vast repercussions; and we must not do anything to prevent the unity of the best elements of the French people both inside and outside France.
Let it not be forgotten that General de Gaulle commands the support of the Communist party in France, and a large 1505 part of the underground movement in France. If they get the impression that we are playing with Fascist elements, we shall have the responsibility of having prevented French unity. I want to encourage such unity. I want to see unity between General de Gaulle and General Giraud. I think that the despatch to North Africa of General Catroux is a most helpful development, and a most hopeful sign. I rose simply in order to put in a plea on behalf of those of us who have been expressing grave anxiety about the developments that have taken place, and which at one moment almost amounted to the establishment of a Fascist régime in North Africa with British and American support. I think that in expressing anxiety in the House about these things, hon. Members have done a service and not a disservice to the Allied cause.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
The nation and the House, and indeed the whole world, have been waiting for the statement which the Prime Minister has made, and I believe that he has given universal satisfaction by his speech, which covered such a vast area. I think that we should not allow an occasion such as this to go by without making one or two comments. The Prime Minister referred to Turkey. We want Turkey to have all the help possible. The Prime Minister remarked that Turkey could not take all we wanted to give, and he also said that Russia was getting as much help as could possibly be given. It crossed my mind that if Turkey could not assimilate all the help we want to give, could we not attempt to send all that we have to Russia? Although I am not criticising the position, one is bound to recognise that at the moment Russia has to carry the brunt of the war, although I am confident that we shall come in later. If an assurance could go out to the people of this country that everything possible is being given to Russia, it would be in keeping with the sentiments of every individual in the country. If the Prime Minister could have said that what Turkey could not take we would do all we could to send to Russia, his statement would have received a very hearty response.
I welcome very much what the Prime Minister had to say about the U-boat menace. We had all been wanting to hear a statement on that matter, because our fears had been growing. I can assure the Prime Minister that his statement has 1506 cheered me up appreciably, because I had wanted to have an assurance from a responsible person that we were more than combating that menace. The U-boat is the only thing on which Germany can rely finally. I believe that the Germans have been beaten on land and have no chance on land and that all the hope they have is to try to starve us out by submarine attacks. Once that menace has been removed, victory will be within our grasp. I was glad to have an assurance from the Prime Minister that our shipbuilding is going ahead of what we are losing as a result of destruction by U-boats. That is a message of hope to the land.
I was very much struck by the Prime Minister's statements about unity of command in North Africa. As has been pointed out by hon. Members who have spoken already, none of us has been fully in agreement with what has taken place in North Africa, but I realise that it is very difficult to criticise on that matter because of the extreme difficulty of the conditions obtaining there. For instance, in regard to the landing of the 1st Army, one had to do something to land the 1st Army with as little danger as possible, and probably those concerned did over-step the mark by making an agreement with some people there, Darlan in particular; but when one balances the two things, whether or not the 1st Army should be held up in its landing or whether one should come to some terms with a man whom one did not like—because none of us liked Darlan—when one considers whether it was better to get the landing of the 1st Army by making a compromise with a man we did not like or whether, by not having anything to do with him, we should give the 1st Army the terrible job of getting its foot on shore—
§ Mr. Horabin (Cornwall, Northern)
As I understand the situation, Darlan was actually imprisoned by the French forces helping us in North Africa and was released after we had landed.
§ Mr. Tinker
One cannot get a proper picture of what the position was. This is wartime, and to win the war I would make peace with the devil himself [An HON. MEMBER: "With Hitler?"] Hitler is beyond that. We cannot hold on to the strict letter of what we believe to be right and wrong in time of war. Therefore, I look upon the arrangement that 1507 was made with regard to the landing of the 1st Army with a great deal of sympathy, because I believe that if the 1st Army had not landed as it did, there would have been much more trouble than there has been. The main thing about which I want to speak is the Prime Minister's remark that we must put our foot on those who are trying to raise trouble.
I want to draw the attention of the House to what I believe to be a grave position. Many people anticipate an early termination of the war. They are consequently getting ready for what will take place afterwards and considering how we can get a hold on trade. I was much concerned by a two days' Debate that took place in the other House recently. I shall not refer to it in detail, but it struck me that the Debate in the other House on air transport tried to instil into the minds of the people of this country that the time had come when we must make an effort to get hold of air transport, and that if we did not do so America might step in before us. If at this time we begin talking about who is to get trade after the war, and so create dissension among the Allies, it seems to me that that will be the most fatal thing we could do. The war is not won yet. I believe it will be won. If, however, we begin to cause dissension by talking about collaring trade after the war, regardless of the interests of any other country, it will be fatal to the immediate war effort. I would like the Leader of the House, if he replies to this Debate, to give out that our feelings do not go that way, that we are acting together in the war and that when the war is over there will not be a repetition of that keen competition that led to previous wars and created dissension among the nations. At the end of the war everything will be upset, private enterprise will be trying to create a position for itself, regardless of the general good of the community. I want to prevent that. My sole object is to get the war won and then for the combination of peoples that has won the war to try to control the trade of the world to the mutual advantage of every country, and not for one country to get an advantage over other countries. I believe that if we go whole-heartedly into the struggle without giving thoughts to our trading position after the war, the war will be brought to a speedy conclusion. 1508 The German race is already beaten. The Germans are hoping that some dissension will take place among the Allies. If we can prevent that dissension, victory will come quickly.
I was glad to hear the Prime Minister make it clear what was meant by unconditional surrender. It has gone out that unconditional surrender meant that the German people would probably have to suffer many things after the war. I do not want that idea to get abroad. I shall be as bitter as anybody against those men who have led the nations into war, but I want it to go out to the common people of the world that when we talk of unconditional surrender we do not mean that the German people or any other people who are beaten in the war will be driven down to the lowest depths. After the war we shall have to live together and to build up a new world. When the war is won we must say to the other peoples of the world, "Now that the war is out of the way, the whole human race must go forward and make a better world." On these grounds alone the Prime Minister's speech has been very welcome to me, because I believe that the impression had gone out that we intended to take some revenge on the people of Germany. By removing that impression the Prime Minister has done a good thing, and if the German people can get to know about this, I believe it will have some weight in influencing them to give up the war. They are afraid of what will happen to them. The more we can let them know what are our real intentions, the more I think they will turn against Hitler and Goering and the people behind them, clear them out, and bring the war to an end as quickly as possible.
I trust that on this occasion those hon. Members who have anything to say will not leave it over until some future time. If we appreciate the Prime Minister's speech, we ought to say so. I do not believe in simply waiting always for an opportunity to criticise and to find something wrong with the Government. On this occasion, the Prime Minister having made such a speech, we ought to be ready to respond to him and to tell him how we feel about the glorious message he has given to us.
§ Wing-Commander James (Wellingborough)
We have just listened to a 1509 speech such as we always expect from the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker)—a thoroughly helpful, common-sense, contructive speech. I was prompted to intervene briefly by the first part of the hon. Member's speech, in which he alluded with great force to the, as I think, foolish and harmful—although it had every appearance of being sincere—speech of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). I am referring to the North African position. It would be a great pity if the fag end of this Debate left an impression in the country that an undue number of hon. Members wished to see His Majesty's Government interfering in French North African affairs. There is always a tendency for those people who are hagridden by ideologies to express their opinions on these occasions and for the great majority of hon. Members who take a common-sense view not to express themselves. I have probably had as much to do as most people in this House with French officials and affairs since the war began, and one thing of which I am absolutely convinced is that the only way to secure French unity is for British politics not to intrude in French affairs, and to leave it to them to settle their own differences. After all, a large part of French North Africa is French Metropolitan Territory and we should do far better for the cause of French unity now and also post-war French politics not to let our ideals or ideas obtrude.
§ Mr. Boothby
By what right does my hon. and gallant Friend say that the present political regime in North Africa is in any way representative of Metropolitan France?
§ Mr. Boothby
My hon. and gallant Friend said we must not intervene in French affairs and that this was a French Metropolitan Government. The implication was that it must represent some part of France. I do not admit that it is in any way representative of France.
§ Wing-Commander James
My hon. Friend entirely misunderstand my thesis. I did not say that the Government of North Africa was representative but that the territory was part of Metropolitan France. Inevitably any emigré Government—after all, the French North African Government is to some extent 1510 emigré—cannot be representative of the people of the whole land. My belief is that we should not seek to obtrude our ideas, which are not the same as theirs, upon French politics. If we leave the situation alone that will give far the best chance of securing unity for the purpose of the war and facilitating French unity on the whole when the war is over.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
I could not disagree more with the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I appreciate the good points of his observations. I appreciate the point that France must be for the French, and I also appreciate the point that we should not interfere in the affairs of another country, but when I am asked to swallow Darlan I find my collar a great deal too small. I am not prepared to stand by and not protest against the acquiescence of our Government in the appointment of Quislings. It seems to me that it altogether alters the purpose for which we are fighting if we are going to accept that lack of principle. I am not going to accept any Fascist intrigue whether from across the Atlantic or from Europe. The sooner that is understood by our cousins on the other side of the Atlantic the better for all of us. I was glad to hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), with most of which I profoundly agreed. I found myself in disagreement when he said that in war-time we must not define too closely between right and wrong. War seems to me the very time when you ought to do it. Unless you stick to principles in war-time you go up the garden path. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend is evidently mentally indulging in the gymnastic that you can do wrong, in order that good may come from it.
§ Mr. Tinker
When we collared the French Fleet, does my hon. Friend say we did not do a proper thing?
§ Mr. Stokes
I do not understand the parallel. I thought it was extremely open to question whether the episode at Oran was wise or unwise. History alone, I suppose, will prove that to us. With other parts of my hon. Friend's speech I agreed, particularly with regard to trade after the war. What is going on in regard to civil aviation? We read in the Press that the Government say it is impossible for us to put any experts on to designing civil transport planes because 1511 they are too busily engaged elsewhere. As one who has worked in the engineering industry for some years may I say that that is sheer and unadulterated nonsense, and anyone who knows the aviation trade would support me. Very great concern is felt at the whole of our international air transport being handed over to the Americans. Further, has there been any secret understanding with regard to trading in North Africa? Perhaps the Foreign Secretary will tell us. At present traders in this country are debarred from communicating with their representatives in North and West French Africa.
I will not deal in detail with all that the Prime Minister has said. I am not capable enough to grasp all the implications of his very cleverly put together speech. I agree that it was a masterly speech in many ways and—I say it without wishing in any way to be offensive—it was extremely masterly for some of the things that it left out. One thing left out which has been very near my heart, and has exercised the mind of other Members, is the chaining of prisoners. We were told nothing whatever about that. The House has been extremely patient. Everyone knows, and the Foreign Secretary will not deny, that the Government made a grave error in the first instance, and it seems quite wrong that we should not now be told what the true position is and what really did lead up to that unfortunate situation. The Prime Minister referred to the U-boat position and explained that first priority had been given in all the Government's plans to the U-boat war, and that shipping was getting first priority.
While I naturally accept the assurance that that is so now, it is really sliding off too easily because, to our knowledge in the trade, shipping has not had first priority for nearly as long as it ought to have had nor was it given that priority when we and the critics of the Government pressed for it to be given. With the figures that the right hon. Gentleman gave, I was not entirely impressed. When he referred to 13,000,000 tons as the output, I am not sure whether he meant 1942 or 1943. If he meant 1943, the position is no better than I expected it to be and no worse, and it would seem to prove that Hitler still has the initiative 1512 in the West because it all depends on the progress of U-boat warfare, and we are not quite on top of that yet whatever the assurance may be as to the future. He talked about the agreement arrived at at Casablanca, as I took it, for the next two years. Those agreements necessarily in the circumstances were primarily between ourselves and the United States. I did not gather that there had been complete agreement with our friends in Moscow. Perhaps it would clear the matter up if the Foreign Secretary would deal with that also.
My last point concerns the directive. I agree that the Prime Minister was able to stage a bogus communication but, if you examine the directive, it has never been carried out. I am the first to acknowledge the gigantic and monumental success that our Armies have had in North Africa, but there is no reason on that account why one should ignore a glaring inaccuracy merely for the sake of being afraid to criticise at this moment. The directive wasYour prime and main duty will be to take or destroy at the earliest opportunity the German Army commanded by Field Marshal Rommel together with all its supplies and establishments in Egypt and Libya.I agree that they have destroyed all the enemy establishments in Egypt and Libya but, when the Prime Minister told us that there were now 250,000 troops at the "Tunisian Tip," he confounded himself. I decline to let the Prime Minister walk off with the idea that the directive was carried out in the form he first intended, because it was not. We know that 50,000 or 60,000 Germans escaped and were neither captured or destroyed.
The most important point I want to refer to is the question of unconditional surrender. I was very much relieved at what the Prime Minister said. Till I see it in print I am not sure that I have it completely right but, as first put over in the Press a few days ago, it seemed to me to be the most ill-judged name that could be given to any conference—Unconditional surrender, with no qualification would be a negation of the Atlantic Charter and contrary to Labour Party policy. A statement of that kind at this moment, when we ought to be bringing true propaganda pressure to bear on the German people, will only be calculated to stiffen their backs and is serving up something very delectable to Goebbels on a platter. The object of our propaganda 1513 should be to shorten the war and not lengthen it. Now is the psychological moment when we can bring home to the German people the fact that we do not seek their complete destruction. What we seek is the destruction of the Nazi regime, and we look to them to help us to do it. Many people realise that the way that will ultimately do it is a rising from the inside. I so well remember the last war, when we went on with perfectly useless slaughter because the ordinary people on both sides did not understand what they were striving to obtain. Anything that will save the life of a single soldier is worth saying, however unpopular it may be at the moment. Some members of the Government I give up as hopeless, but I should like to ask what the underbelly of the Government—the Labour Members—think about it. I should like to remind the House of what the Deputy Prime Minister said on 8th November, 1939, after the war started, when he was in Opposition:There shall be no dictated peace. We have no desire to humiliate, crush or defeat the German Nation All idea of revenge or punishment must be excluded. Peace, to be lasting, must result from the agreement of all and not from the dictation of a few nations.Later he said, on 9th January, 1940:We are opposed to any attempt from outside to break up Germany. We do not seek the humiliation or dismemberment of your country. We wholeheartedly desire to welcome you without delay into the peaceful collaboration of civilised nations. We must warn you, however, that Hitler and his system prepared and started this war. He would not continue if you ceased supporting him. Until this accursed Nazi regime is overthrown there is no hope of peace between us. If you establish a Government willing that Germany should be a good neighbour and a good European, there shall be no humiliation or revenge.As far as I know, that stands as the policy of the Party to which I belong to-day. There has been no alteration, and I am sure that is the feeling still among ordinary people now. It would be tragic if we did not use this opportunity, when Hitler has to explain his colossal defeat in Russia, and his propaganda machine is telling the Germans that the only way out is victory, if we did not make it abundantly clear that by "unconditional surrender" we mean the overthrow of the Nazi regime, that we want the German people themselves to overthrow their tyrants and that we would help them to do so, making them realise that the one 1514 aim on the part of all good human beings, in Germany and elsewhere, should be to overthrow this tyrant so that we may arrive at a state when we can all live at peace with one another.
§ Captain Alan Graham (Wirral)
I should like warmly to endorse the appeal of the Prime Minister that we in this House should do nothing to assist the troublemakers on either side of the Atlantic, with special reference to North Africa. I feel more strongly than I can say that in spite of the natural tendency there is, particularly in this country, to back one personality against another—a form of sport in which we have indulged—it is an unhealthy practice when we are dealing with international affairs. From the point of view of the interests of our own country the important thing, whether it be France or Rumania or any other country, is that that country as a whole should be on our side rather than that just one section of it should be numbered among our supporters. In regard to France geography has made it plain, reinforced as it is by modern communications in the speed at which aeroplanes can travel, that we simply cannot afford to have any Power ill-affected to ourselves in control of the northern or western French coasts. Therefore, accepting the fact that we are pledged to support the Atlantic Charter which leaves it to nations to decide their own destinies, we would be acting in the most impolitic and unpatriotic fashion if we were to convey to the French people as a whole that we were more in favour of one political party among the French than of another. The sympathy of France herself is much more vital and much more important than the sympathy of any one party.
§ Mr. Boothby
May I ask my hon. and gallant Friend whether he thinks that we should endeavour to eliminate or prevent any Fascist régime in any country? That is the principle involved.
§ Captain Graham
There is so much confusion about the word "Fascist." It is used by people who have never taken the trouble to understand the real meaning of the Fascist philosophy as applied to Italy. It is becoming among members of political parties of the "Left" a word to be applied to anybody with whom they are not in complete sympathy. It is doubly unfortunate to apply that word to 1515 foreigners who would be the last people to accept any Fascist régime. If the hon. Member were to suggest to any Frenchman, however Conservative, that he was adopting a policy sponsored by Italians, he would find himself very quickly rebutted. He would merely by such a suggestion create hostility in a quarter where he might naturally have expected to find friends.
The point of my remarks is that France herself is far more important to us than either General Giraud, distinguished general that he is, or even General de Gaulle. My sympathies are quite clear. I was one of those who were principally responsible for bringing General de Gaulle to address a joint party meeting in this House. I am in close contact with his supporters in this country and I know very well what they feel about things. They themselves, as patriotic Frenchmen, would be the first people to admit—indeed many of them have commented on it to me—the unfortunate capacity of English politicians to-day to range themselves on one side or another of French politics and on issues which no longer exist politically amongst Frenchmen. Both these patriotic Frenchmen recognise that France is very much greater than General de Gaulle or General Giraud. It is only wise, if we wish to arrive at the truth of the situation, to face the political facts of that situation as honestly and clearly as we can. Having told the House that I personally have done what I can in a minor capacity to assist General de Gaulle and that I wish to continue to do so, I will go on to say this. Unfortunate as it may seem to us, General de Gaulle is not acceptable to the French of North Africa as a man who is most representative of their ideas. He is an admirable soldier and would be accepted by them as such.
I do not know whether the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), in spite of being a Scotsman, has a profound knowledge of the state of feeling in French North Africa. If he has he will realise that the French population there is very different from the population in Metropolitan France, although, of course, Algeria is legally and politically considered, in spite of geography, a part of continental France. The population consists mostly of people who are called colonists, and apart from the relatively big towns of people who own landed property. In 1516 addition, the labour is not white labour; it is much more coloured labour, with all the problems that coloured labour brings. In addition to the colonials, there is the army. Here I will say something which will come, I know, unpleasantly to the ears of many Members. I wish it were not so; but it is a fact that to the French army in North Africa the word "democracy" brings with it no instant appeal to sympathy whatever. What is the reason for that? Rightly or wrongly, among the French army in North Africa they consider that the main reason for the weakness of France at the beginning of the war was the activities of the Front Populaire. That may be unpleasant to hear and it may be incorrect, but that is what they believe, and what people believe constitutes a political fact. In foreign policy it is impossible to deal with any other than political facts.
That is the reason why even Darlan, contemptible though he was, traitorously though he acted to the Anglo-French Entente, was accepted by these people, not because he acted traitorously to us or to the Entente, but because quite clearly he was not tarred with what they considered to be the ultra-democratic brush. He was accepted gladly by them for these reasons. Actually the same applies to General Giraud. Democracy makes no appeal to them. That may be foolish and regrettable, but it is the fact. We have to reckon with Conservative opinion abroad and not drive it by our abuse into the opposite camp. We have to win it to us because it is just as hostile to Germany, and still more hostile to Italy. For that reason I would beg hon. Members not to make matters harder for the French, for General de Gaulle and General Giraud, to come to a reasonable understanding between themselves by our "butting in." It has been very much regretted by General de Gaulle already in regard to other activities of ours in another part of the world which he considers to be solely a French affair, and where our representative considers that we have interests. That has caused considerable disquiet and annoyance to General de Gaulle. Do not let us make the same error in a far thornier position, where far more is at stake in North Africa.
The same applies not merely to North Africa but throughout Europe. The Press of this country and the wireless 1517 continually make appeals to foreign nations under the enemy's heel and to neutrals which, convince Conservatives of those countries that they have little or nothing to win from a victory of the United Nations. In other words, we have helped to convince these people that what Hitler has told them is only likely to be too true, namely, that a victory of the United Nations would mean in all these countries of Europe a violent, bloody, social revolution. By continually stressing that note we bind them all the closer to the German war chariot. The same thing applies to the far more Conservative feeling of Frenchmen in North Africa. Therefore, I can strongly support what the Prime Minister said as being absolutely vital for our own cause on the lowest motive of all, namely, military expediency, because military expediency properly utilised will achieve the victory of our highest ideals.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The House has listened to what, I suppose, is the most mischievous contribution to its Debates for a long time. The hon. and gallant Member began by saying that nothing ought to be said to encourage the trouble-makers on either side of the Atlantic. If the hon. and gallant Member was sincere in that view he ought to have kept his seat.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. and gallant Member has expressed his view without restraint and I propose to express mine. The view I am expressing at the moment is that no speech at this period in the history of the war, at a critical moment when victory is opening up before us, could have done more to make trouble and mischief than the speech of the hon. and gallant Member. Let us examine the implications of it. He said that it was not our business to take sides between personalities. That is quite right. Then he said that France as a whole was far more important than personalities, principles, ideals or the outlook of any individual in France. So it always was if it is true at all. So it was in May, 1940. There were a lot of people in France in May, 1940, who said that France was more important than anything else. The result of that was the collapse of France and the prolongation of the war by nobody knows how many years.
§ Captain Graham
I said that France itself was more important to us than which party or personality was in charge, and so it is, If France had been united in 1940 she would not have collapsed.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am trying to see where the hon. and gallant Member's argument leads. It leads straight to the justification of Darlan, Laval, Peyrouton and all the other people who took France out of the war.
§ Captain Graham
I must correct the hon. Member on this one matter. To put Laval and Peyrouton in the same boat, considering that Peyrouton arrested Laval when he was Minister of the Interior, shows how little the hon. Member knows of the situation.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not understand where the hon. and gallant Member gets his facts or reads his history. Peyrouton said that he was proud to be numbered amongst the leading people in France who accepted Hitler's view. That also is Laval's view. What, then, is the difference between Peyrouton and Laval?
§ Captain Graham
One has seen wisdom and the other has not. Has the hon. Member never heard of Talleyrand or Fouché?
§ Mr. Silverman
Does not the hon. and gallant Member see that what Peyrouton has seen is not wisdom, but the growing might of the Allied Armies?
§ Captain Graham rose—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
The hon. and gallant Member is not entitled to interrupt unless the hon. Member gives way.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not think that so far I have been ungenerous in giving way, and perhaps I may be allowed to proceed with my argument, and then I will give way again, if necessary. What Peyrouton has seen is not political wisdom, any more than the hon. and gallant Member has begun to see political wisdom. What Peyrouton sees is that it looks now as if the Allies were going to win. The hon. and gallant Member says, "Why not let him do it, why not accept that?" But it does not mean that he has seen wisdom, but that for some other mean or petty reason he is now prepared to sell his collaborators in France precisely as he 1519 sold the Allies at an earlier stage. "Let us welcome that," says the hon. and gallant Member. "Let us make him our Ally, let us put him in charge in North Africa." But suppose something goes wrong with military events in North Africa. The Prime Minister told us that there were 250,000 men in the Tunisian tip, well armed men and of great experience. Heaven forbid that they should have any military success and I do not believe they will, but suppose they do? Is Peyrouton going to see political wisdom again? That is the danger we run. Are we to put in charge of communications, in charge of territory, in positions of authority, in positions of command, people who share the political and social and economic ideas of the enemy? They may indeed be useful when you do not need their assistance, but heaven help you if you come to rely upon them when you do need it.
That is the first thing that follows from the hon. and gallant Member's view. If his view is right it does not apply only' to France. It will apply to Norway, to Holland, to every country in Europe where there are hosts of people who saw political wisdom as Peyrouton saw it in 1940, and who will begin to see political wisdom again as the might of Allied arms and Allied victories grow. What are we going to do in all those cases? Are we going to turn our backs upon those who were our friends during the dark days and make our Allies the fair-weather friends who have come in since we began to succeed? Is that what the hon. and gallant Member is recommending?
§ Captain Graham
If the hon. Member had listened to my speech he would have realised that it was the very opposite of that. I was, and am, a very firm supporter of General de Gaulle. If the hon. Member cannot see the political advantage of using people on the spot who represent popular feeling—not just isolated turncoats, but those who represent popular feeling—then I am sorry for his political wisdom. That is the logical view to take.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not going to debate logical points with the hon. and gallant Member. I want to follow his argument, as far as I am able to do so, on his logical level. What you are to do, he says, is to pick out the people who represent popular feeling. How?
§ Mr. Silverman
I was asking a rhetorical question. How do you pick out people who represent popular feeling? The hon. and gallant Member knows how we do it here. We have a free political system and the ballot-box and a free Press. There is no difficulty about finding out who represents popular feeling in this country. Does the hon. and gallant Member suggest that M. Peyrouton represents popular feeling anywhere? He represents the anti-popular view everywhere, and not merely in North Africa. I daresay that if the speech of the hon. and gallant Member represented the correct view my speech does not. I can follow that logically enough. On the other hand, if my view is the correct one he will make a similarly logical deduction about his own.
What is the third point which seems to follow from his argument? He says, "Let us not intervene in matters that are purely French." Not everybody, he says, accepts our political views. Let each country have its own political views and let us respect them. Does he mean that? Does he really mean that at this time of day it is not the concern of one country what kind of political and social faith has dominance in other countries in our contracting world? Does he really think it is possible to have side by side in Europe Democracy and Fascism? Does he or does he not agree with Abraham Lincoln, who said in a famous passage a long time ago that it was not possible for the United States to go on living half slave and half free.
§ Mr. Silverman
Neither is it possible for the world as a whole to live half slave and half free. Surely the war in itself is the ultimate proof that it is not true that in our day the internal affairs of one nation have no concern for other countries. We are all vitally concerned. If Hitler had never come to power in Germany there would have been no war. We and everybody in the world were vitally concerned when Hitler got power in Germany in 1933 but there were too many people in those days and there have been since who said that that event was the concern only of Germany and was purely a matter of domestic politics with which no one else was concerned. The hon. and gallant Member was one of them.
§ Mr. Silverman
I thought he was, but I accept his denial. I would very much like to know why he holds that view now.
§ Captain Graham
The hon. Member insists in putting fatuous and quite inaccurate ideas into my mouth. I said that it was far more important to have a country on one's side than to have a party in that country on one's side.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is so anxious to disagree with me that he has not appreciated that I left that part of my speech five minutes ago and am now dealing with the other point he made about the internal politics of one country not being anybody else's concern. He gave that as his reason why we should not interfere in North Africa, France and, presumably anywhere else in Europe. I thought it was a fair deduction from that argument that he thought that about Hitler in 1933. He says he did not, and if he says he did not I accept it from him; but it makes the position all the more unintelligible when a man who was wise enough in 1933 to know that Hitler's coming to power was not purely a domestic concern of Germany, 10 years later appears to hold the reverse opinion. In regard to Spain, that was again a matter which was regarded as the internal concern of Spain alone. On which side was the hon. and gallant Member about that matter?
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. and gallant Member is a friend of Franco and a friend of Peyrouton. It is a curious thing that Hitler and Mussolini were on that side too. All the people in the world who are fighting the Axis Powers to-day were on the other side. That is not an accident: it arises out of the fact the nowadays none of these matters is the domestic concern of one nation. Let the hon. and gallant Gentleman beware. If he goes on like this and follows his argument to the logical conclusion, as he assures us he is prepared to do, we shall find him yet advocating a negotiated peace with Hitler.
§ Mr. Silverman
He says "Never," but on the principles of his speech this afternoon it is very difficult to see why not. Some day, perhaps, in another speech—I know that he cannot speak again to-day—he will tell us why.
I have been rather provoked into making a speech which I had not intended to make. Two days ago I was in Liverpool, and an American sailor came to see me. He had been with an American ship to North Africa, and he was disturbed about what he had seen there. He talked of the camps, about the friends of the Allies there in prison, the Fascist-minded authorities, people walking about with Fascist slogans on their arms, pro-Fascist signs and anti-Ally signs written up on the walls at night. He was afraid that we were backing the wrong side again and he wondered what we could do about it. I know, now that the fortunes of war have turned and it looks as though we shall win after all, that a great many people would like to draw the veil over the past and would like to see this country make in the future exactly the mistakes that have brought the world to this pass already. They would repeat the Franco mistakes, the democratic-concern mistakes, the country-against-country mistake. If this war were an old-fashioned war of that type, not 10 per cent. of the people of this country would shed a drop of blood for it.
People are not interested in contending Imperialisms. They do not believe that the fortunes of the common man in one country are not exactly the same and do not depend upon exactly the same things as the fortunes of the common man everywhere else. They do not believe that patriotism consists in helping your own country to dominate as large a part of the globe as you can. They will defend to the death the things in which they do believe and the way of life that seems good to them, and their patriotism takes the form of believing in the contributions to civilisation made by their countries and not in the offences against civilisation which all countries have committed. That is not what people are fighting and dying for, but for a world in which it is possible for men, women and children to live and breathe freely, to work together, to produce and to enjoy the results of their labour, and to live as comrades in a brotherly world and against all the ideas 1523 that the Hitlers, Mussolinis and Francos in this and other countries would like to see preserved.
§ Mr. Astor (Fulham, East)
The speeches of the two hon. Members who last spoke have shown the House how the problem of North Africa can appear in different lights to two hon. Members, both of unquestioned patriotism, integrity and intelligence, and both having in their minds the supreme desire to beat the Germans. I am not going to follow them in their arguments. On a previous occasion I have shown where my sentiments lie. I would like to see how far we can draw the lessons of this episode and prevent it occurring in the future. We have been shown the danger of our national unity being split before the war is over, and we have been very near the point in which a wedge has been driven between Great Britain and the United States. Those of us who believe passionately that we must maintain our national unity and must keep the unity of the United Nations till we have got the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan must look very carefully for the lessons which can be drawn.
I regret that the Prime Minister did not speak longer on the North African situation. I think the Governments of the United States and this country have a good case. Those of us who have had an opportunity of hearing the strictly military side of the situation and the position with which General Eisenhower was confronted can understand the very powerful arguments which existed. It is very important that those overwhelming military considerations should be shown which may put us in a politically difficult position. These situations may occur again, and if we indulge in pacts, whether it is with France, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia or Norway, exactly the same situation may occur. It is absolutely necessary that we should have a united country and really united nations on a policy of how to deal with the situation if it arises again.
There is this conflict of military necessity, which can be argued on a strictly rational basis. There is the conflict of political emotion. Some people say that in war we cannot afford political emotions, but that is not true, because people do not fight wars on strictly rational lines. The people of this country have only 1524 undergone the sufferings they have because their emotions were deeply stirred, not only against Hitler but against the Quislings, and the Government and the B.B.C. deliberately worked up feelings against the Quislings and the Vichyists, and so on. You cannot turn the whole current of emotion overnight, and so you have the great emotional disturbance in this country which the North African situation produced. So I put it to the House that we must work out our plans for the future; we must have proper political planning. It may be that the ideas should be put across to the country, how, for instance, we might take the view that our first consideration is to judge foreigners solely by whether they are prepared at this given moment to fight the Germans on our side, at the same time giving a formal guarantee that at the end of the war we will supervise the elections in those countries and make sure that the governments represent the popular will. That is one possible idea. But we must prepare the country for what is happening, otherwise we shall split it. You have the B.B.C. taking one line.
The remarks of the Prime Minister today about the Italians in Tripoli being delivered from Germany will be read, and a great deal will be read into them in Italy and elsewhere. It will be regarded as an attempt to split Germany and Italy, and as though we are trying to get a substantial portion of Italians over to our side at some particular moment. If we are to do that, let us think out ahead on what principles we are going to do so and get some principle accepted. We need not only military planning but political-military planning. We need to be quite sure that the plans of the General Staff are co-ordinated with the stuff put over by the B.B.C. In the past I have not seen this unity among our Government Departments. Too often they appear to have been different ones pursuing, to some extent, a policy of their own. I have not seen every bit of information which comes from the Government all going into one Department, and one person issuing everything in a real co-ordination of the political information which we get. We need to get every bit of information, and if we are planning an operation we have to foresee not only the military but the political consequences, weigh them up, make our plan and then prepare the public at home for the acceptance 1525 of this plan, and make quite sure that the United Nations have the same idea as to what they are trying to achieve, and the steps ahead, because if we go with an unprepared and an ill-defined scheme, we are merely playing into the hands of Germany. I am sure that if Germans could have heard the interchange between the two hon. Members who have sat down, they would say "Hurrah, English unity is breaking up."
§ Mr. Stokes
Does not the hon. Member really think that they have enough intelligence to invent it if it is useful to them, and that it does not really matter what one says here?
§ Mr. Astor
I do not intend to take sides in this controversy but to plead that we should avoid one in future and that we should get down with the United Nations and think out the principles of our political-military operations on the Continent of Europe and get the public to understand the background. I quite agree it is very difficult for us to judge foreigners, for us to look into people's minds. Some people might find the Parable of the Vineyard, the labourers in the vineyard, as applicable to the present situation, but the Parable of the Vineyard is not one which any Christian has found it very easy to accept wholeheartedly. Many people are sympathetic with the elder brother of the Prodigal Son. We have to get a co-ordinated idea among ourselves and among the United Nations before we go into another of these operations, or there will be a split, and that will delay our victory for a considerable time.
I would like to say how pleased I was to hear the Prime Minister's reference to the war against Japan. We must always remember that Japan's situation is very like our own. She has her Achilles heel—shipping—and she has not nearly our building capacity for replacing ships which are sunk. If we are going to soften Japan, it is by steady pressure and attrition on her shipping, merchant shipping and warships, by submarines and other forms of attack to soften her for 1526 when the time arrives. I am sure that what the Prime Minister has said will bring great comfort to the people of China who have so gallantly held the fort in that part of the world for so long.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
I am sure everyone in the House was delighted to see the Prime Minister looking so well when he entered the House on Tuesday. He has obviously benefited greatly from his trip, and no doubt from the sunshine, of which we have been suffering a lack here, and no doubt from the very justifiable feeling he must have at the way the war is going from the military point of view. If I may put it in this way, he was, in a colloquial sense, in cracking form, which is exactly the opposite of what those words usually mean. I do feel, however, that it is the job and the duty of Members of Parliament to say what they think, and that they should say it completely sincerely and not be beaten down by any accusation of being mischievous. Because I realise my responsibility, the last thing I want to be is to be mischievous in any way at all. Therefore, I hope the House will appreciate, and will believe, that what I am saying is completely sincere. The Prime Minister requested that we should not go into the history of various French generals. I will obey that request. But I did feel, when he was saying that, that he was referring to the difficult situation in which these people found themselves when France was in such dire straits, that we can look back on certain people who are still Members of this House and members of this Government who, when this country was not in dire straits, were, to my mind, guilty of various actions. These actions are still a serious indication of a viewpoint which, if it is still held—and I do not see why it should not be—does seem rather a menace so far as the future is concerned. We must not forget that this Government still has in it Members who were responsible for, and agreed to, the signing of the Anglo-German Naval Treaty in 1935, which in a sense allowed the German Nazis to build a fleet on condition that from time to time they wrote and told us what progress they had made in that rebuilding.
That conference at Casablanca has been referred to as an "unconditional surrender" conference, but we must remember that in September, 1938, a great 1527 number of Members of this House were quite prepared to agree to the almost unconditional surrender of Czechoslovakia to the Axis. I am very concerned at the fact that there is still a large core of reaction in this House, as witnessed by the heavy vote against the Catering Bill. I find in various parts of the country, where I speak and discuss this matter, that there is great anxiety lest that will result in setting up Fascist Governments in North Africa, and possibly in Spain, Portugal, Finland, Hungary, and so on.
I hope that whoever is replying for the Government will give an assurance that they will not enter into any secret treaties. The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) asked for an assurance that there was no secret political agreement entered into at Casablanca, I would supplement that by asking for an assurance that there was none at Adana. There is anxiety among people with whom I have discussed this matter lest some undertaking was given to the Turkish Government in case of Russia becoming too strong. It is so easy to dangle the fear of Bolshevisation before people in this country, and no doubt in other parts of Europe, too; and there is no doubt that people could by that means be urged to turn over and change their coats, without any difficulty at all. People are anxious to see a future which will be safe for democracy and the peace of the world. If, after the war, treaties came to light, as after the last war, which will rebuild Fascist key points in Europe and in Africa, that would be fatal. Otherwise, the landing in North Africa and the dealings with Darlan and so on would seem to be a turning point in the war from a political point of view. I earnestly ask the Government to give an assurance that no secret political treaties have been entered into which, will come into force if and when what might be described as the Russian menace becomes too serious.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
I think that after this discussion the House would like a brief reply to some of the points which have been raised. I do not think it need be more than a brief reply, because most of the speeches seem to have cancelled one another out. When I listened to the French controversy—which at one time seemed almost to reach the level of the French Chamber of Deputies—I felt 1528 thankful that I was not called upon to intervene between the two hon. Gentlemen. If I have asked my hon. Friends—and I have asked them—to restrain themselves as far as they can from expressing preferences for this or that individual Frenchman, it is simply because I think that there are encouraging indications that Frenchmen are getting together of their own volition. That being so, I am certain that any contribution from us backing one or another individual is not likely to promote the process. From the point of view of winning the war, the most important thing is that Frenchmen who want to fight the Germans should be united. I thank the House for the restraint which it has shown in this matter; and it has helped. That is all I want to say on the French position. I think that in recent weeks the position has improved, and I am not without hope that the movement towards unity will grow in strength.
The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) asked a question about a Debate in another place on the future of civil aviation. He was apprehensive lest some of the things said there should cause ill feeling in the United States, or make our work together more difficult. I must make quite plain our position on future work with the United States. On all these post-war subjects we want to work in the closest association with the United States and with our Russian Ally. We are absolutely certain that unless we succeed in doing so there will be no real permanence in the better conditions which we hope to create after the war.
§ Mr. Stokes
Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that no concessions have been granted to America?
§ Mr. Eden
Yes, Sir: no concessions have been granted to anybody. My hon. Friend may rest assured of that. Equally, I can answer the hon. Member for Nun-eaton (Mr. Bowles). We have no secret engagements or secret commitments of any kind towards any other Power at all. If there is one thing that I have tried to do at the Foreign Office in this war period, when diplomacy is only a secondary instrument trying to help the military power as much as we can, it is to ensure that we should not arrive at the Peace Conference with a lot of commitments on our hands which would embarrass us and 1529 our Allies in trying to make the best settlement we could. My hon. Friend the Member for West Fulham (Mr. Astor) made some observations on the importance of making political plans in connection with military operations. I entirely share his view. In this case we did make political plans, very closely co-ordinated ones, and the staffs worked well together. But you may make political plans, and then events occur which you have not foreseen. I confess that I did not think of Darlan turning up in that way. That was no doubt very backward of me and of the Foreign Office, but I did not think that he would be there at that moment, in that shape, and in that form. Although you make careful preparation, it sometimes happens that the eventuality is not what you expected when you made your plans, not what you hoped would come about.
I was asked by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) whether I could give any information about the shackling of prisoners. He said, quite truly, that the House has shown great patience on this matter. The hon. Member and the House will remember that some time ago the Swiss Government made an appeal to us and to the German Government to unshackle prisoners within a given period. We responded at once to that appeal—in fact, we responded even before the date which the Swiss Government had suggested. The German Government have not seen fit to take similar action. We have been consulting with the Canadian Government, and we have also been in consultation with the Protecting Power, on the situation created by this fact. Only this morning we despatched a further communication to the Protecting Power on the subject; which I do not think the House will ask me to give, because I think we have a better chance of a solution if I do not at this stage give the communication to the House. From the Foreign Office angle, I thank the House for the patience it has shown on a matter on which we all feel deeply.
I have only one general comment to make. I felt, as I listened to this discussion, that hon. Members felt keen pleasure to see the Prime Minister back and to hear his account and to see the spirit he was in and to know that that spirit was based on his own confident anticipation of the present and the future. I feel sure that there could really be no tribute he would like more than the 1530 many generous things which have been said by hon. Members during this Debate, which I will convey to him, and for which I know he will be grateful.
§ Mr. Cocks
I did not hear the first part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. Did he deal with the question I put as to future arrangements and whether we are to have some settled agreement between Russia and ourselves as we enter Europe? Are we going to have agreements with Quislings or with the people who have been keeping up resistance all the time?
§ Mr. Eden
I think I covered that point fairly well. Broadly, the position is that whenever we take action of this kind there is political discussion with the other Powers concerned. Even in regard to the North African business hon. Members are wrong if they think we have not kept the Russian Government closely in touch and informed of the position. When we come to Europe, all the more so shall we need consultation between the parties concerned on the policy to be followed.
§ Sir Edward Grigg (Altrincham)
I rise only to add a very brief footnote to what has been said about North Africa. Everybody will agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the extreme importance of getting unity among those Frenchmen whose one object is to fight and defeat Germany. That is our object. That undoubtedly is the first object we have to consider, but I would also like to say one word on behalf of the military commanders and their difficulties. The military commanders, who have the lives of the men and the success of operations in their hands, have really to deal with people who can deliver the goods. That must be, with them, one of the ruling considerations. I am reminded of a famous occasion in the past when the Duke of Wellington dealt with Talleyrand. No one could suppose the Duke of Wellington had the slightest sympathy with Talleyrand, but he used him. Afterwards Talleyrand went out of the picture. It is a historical parallel that is worth considering at the present moment.
Everybody is agreed that the return of the Prime Minister in such excellent health and spirits, and the review of his travels which he has given to the House, have put everybody in very good heart. 1531 I would like only to express particular pleasure at the attention which he gave to the U-boat danger. That he should have put that in the forefront of his speech and that he should have given us the very clear assurance he gave us on that subject is extremely satisfactory, and for one particular reason, that he showed quite clearly the appreciation of the Government of the important fact that new building and launchings will never quite compensate for sinkings. The most essential thing is to prevent and reduce sinkings if you can, because the losses you make over sinkings are not only in material, but, above all, in men, and it is something you cannot recover by any launchings. On that point the speech of the Prime Minister seemed to be particularly satisfactory, and I am anxious to say so.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle (St. Albans)
I want to say a few words on a subject which, I think, requires to be mentioned. I realise the admiration and the immense loyalty and respect that we owe to the Prime Minister for all he has said and done, but it is constantly forgotten that we are always talking of the progress of the war with regard to the supply of munitions to the troops, and yet the thing upon which they depend infinitely more than the supply of munitions is the condition and health of the men. Some attention has been paid to it, but I am reminded of the times in the past in which the medical service has not been considered worthy of consideration because there has been so little for it to do and there has been no ill-health. The whole triumph of this war is dependent on the health of the troops. Splendid service is being given in this connection, and some mention ought to be made of it in due course and an opportunity given in order to hear what has been done.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.