Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £90, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1944, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Economic Warfare."—[Note: £10 has been voted on account.]
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare (Mr. Dingle Foot)
It falls to me to-day to present the Estimates of the Ministry of Economic Warfare and to give an account of at any rate some of its activities. This is a form of warfare which we in this country have practised, generally with success, for rather more than 300 years. I think that some hon. Members may possibly recall the terms of one of the very earliest contraband proclamations in English history. It was issued by Queen Elizabeth in the year 1601, and was couched in language which should, I think, serve as a model for all State documents of this kind, because after reciting the perfidies of King Philip II and pointing out how dependent he was upon seaborne supplies, she went on to say: 2291The stopping, hindrance and impeaching of all commerce and traffick with him in his territories of Spain and Portugall will quickly in likelihood give an end to these bloudie unnaturall warres which disturb the generall peace and quiet of all these parts of ChristendomeBut in modern times the term "economic warfare" covers a great deal more than stopping ships and seizing cargoes. It includes every measure which is calculated to strike at the enemy's home front and to reduce his capacity to carry on the war. Broadly speaking, the duties of my Department fall into three categories. Firstly, we have to administer the blockade, and that includes every measure which is designed to cut off enemy supplies either by sea or by land. Secondly, we advise particularly on all other operations calculated to weaken the enemy's home front and to undermine his industrial and financial structure. Our third function is an Intelligence function. It is our business to receive and interpret all the economic intelligence which comes from inside the enemy country and enemy-occupied territories. The results have to be made constantly available to the Chiefs of Staff, the Service Departments, the Political Warfare Executive, and not infrequently to other Departments as well. Obviously this part of our work has had to be increased very considerably during the past year. I should like to add that in these matters we have worked, and will continue to work, in the very closest co-operation with our opposite numbers in the United States. All important decisions on economic warfare questions are now Anglo-American decisions, and in particular, speaking I think on behalf of every member of my Department, I should like to acknowledge the tireless and quite invaluable assistance which we have received, and which we continue to receive every day, from the Economic Warfare Division of the American Embassy.
The problem which always confronts a belligerent Power when it is seeking to impose a sea blockade is how to prevent supplies from reaching the enemy in neutral ships. In the early months of this war that was a comparatively simple affair. We only had to begin where we had left off in 1918, and up to June, 1940, every ship carrying cargo which might teach the enemy had to pass 2292 through the Straits of Gibraltar, the English Channel or North of the Shetlands. As in the last war all we had to do was to bring in those ships for contraband control. But when the Franco-German Armistice was signed we were faced with an entirely new situation, a situation which was entirely new in this form of warfare, because not only had we lost for a time all assistance in blockade matters from the French Fleet, but the British Navy had to deal single-handed with a Germany which was installed in bases from the North of Norway to the Pyrenees. In addition it had to meet the Italian Fleet in the Mediterranean. The result was that ships which would normally have been used for patrolling the high seas had at once to be diverted to other and much more urgent tasks. In these circumstances the question at once arose as to whether it was physically possible to impose a blockade on the whole of this vast area of German-controlled Europe.
As the Committee I think knows, that problem was solved by the system of compulsory navicerts and ship's warrants. As was said at the time, we had to transfer our control from the seas to the quays, and to ensure as far as was humanly possible that no suspect cargo which might find its way into enemy hands should ever be loaded at all. I think that was in keeping with the line of historical development, because throughout the last 100 years the tendency has been for blockade to become more and more a long-distance affair. But although it was in keeping with historical developments, the system which we instituted in 1940 was nevertheless a completely new departure, and I can say now, what we could not say then, that it worked far more smoothly and far more effectively than any of us could possibly have expected in the summer of 1940. I am speaking now of neutral ships which sail to and from the European ports. It is broadly true to say that for the last two years at least no item of cargo has been loaded and no ship has sailed without our prior approval. I should like to say here that, in my opinion, this country owes a very considerable debt of gratitude to my right hon. Friend who is now the President of the Board of Trade for having in 1940 invented and brought into 2293 operation this entirely new form of blockade.
Before passing from that subject, I must make it clear that this system of compulsory navicerts, effective as it has undoubtedly been, can never be sufficient in itself. It operates successfully only because of our continued control of the seas. The exercise of belligerent rights at sea must always remain the ultimate sanction. The neutral ship-owner complies with our navicert system because he knows that any breach of our regulations is liable to lead not only to the loss of the cargo concerned but very probably to the loss of the ship as well. I think everyone in the Committee will remember our unhappy experience over the Italo-Abyssinnian dispute in 1935, when the League of Nations in effect sought to impose a blockade merely by control at the source, merely by the respective nations each passing measures to withhold their particular products from Italy. We learned then, and I hope we shall not forget in future, that no blockade can be fully effective unless the blockading Powers are in a position to police the seas.
I am occasionally asked about the volume of imports into European neutral countries. I do not think it is always understood that those imports are regulated by a system of quotas designed to ensure that while, so far as supplies are available, those countries can obtain sufficient for their essential needs, there shall be no surplus which they can accumulate, and no surplus which they can pass on to the enemy. I must make it clear that if at any time we had reason to believe that goods imported through our controls were being passed on, we should have no hesitation in at once stopping the import into the neutral country of the commodity in question. But it is not enough in these days to prevent the neutral from acting as a conduit pipe to the enemy. We have in addition to do everything in our power to limit the trade which is carried on with Germany and with Italy from the neutrals own domestic sources. Situated as they are, we cannot prevent them entirely from trading with the Axis, but there are various measures which we can adopt in order to limit the volume of that trade.
I propose to-day to refer only to two of them. The first, of course, is the method of pre-emption, under which we buy up supplies which otherwise the enemy would 2294 like to obtain. The second is the Statutory List, commonly known as the "Black List." The use of that weapon has been carried a good deal further than ever it was in the last war. I do not want to exaggerate, but undoubtedly it has acted in the various neutral countries as a most valuable deterrent. The United States Proclaimed List, whose legal effects are just the same, is precisely identical with our Statutory List, and there are many neutral firms and neutral companies who, particularly at this stage of the war, are not prepared to run the risk of being proclaimed as enemies both of the British Empire and of the United States. Indeed, it sometimes happens that firms which have been placed on the List or which are in danger of being placed on the List show a most praiseworthy desire to redeem their characters. In those cases, if we are satisfied that the conversion is genuine, we take them off the List on condition that they sign an undertaking as to their future behaviour; and in important cases that undertaking has to be supported by a substantial money bond which will be forfeited if the undertaking is broken. One of the conditions on which we insist in those cases is that the company or firm concerned shall be purged of all enemy influence both on its directorate and on its staff, and we insist, of course, that the firm shall get rid of any member of the staff who is known to entertain Nazi or Fascist sympathies. This weapon was invented simply as a weapon of economic warfare, but as the war has persisted, it has tended to become a weapon of political warfare as well.
I should like to make this general observation on the position of the neutrals. We appreciate the difficulties and dangers with which neutral countries in Europe have been confronted during the last three and a half years, and we know that it has been impossible for them to avoid a certain volume of trade with the Axis. But we also know that in those countries we have a great many friends among the people, friends who realise, I think, that we are fighting their countries' battle just as much as our own, because there would be no tolerable place for them inside the German new order. We have no doubt as to where these people's sympathies lie, but at this stage in a world war I think it ought to be said that sympathy is not enough. It surely is not unreasonable to expect that 2295 manufacturers and merchants in neutral countries, and, I would add, the Governments of those countries, should give practical expression to their sympathies by reducing as far as they possibly can the contributions which they make to the enemy's war effort.
Before I pass from the neutral world to the enemy world, there is one matter to which I think various hon. Members will want me to refer, and that is the question of food relief in enemy-occupied territories. My Noble Friend and I both receive a fairly steady flow of letters, either directly or sent on by members of this House, urging us to relax the blockade in order to despatch foodstuffs to territories which are now in German or Italian occupation. I do not propose to discuss this issue in any detail at this stage, because I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey) and certain other Members wish to raise certain specific points, and I will do my best to answer them at a later stage, but there are two or three things I should like to make clear now. First, a large number of the persons who write to Members of Parliament on this subject seem to be under considerable misapprehension as to the actual facts. I do not underrate the hardships which are imposed on our friends and Allies who are now in occupied countries, and no one in this Committee would, I think, underrate the fortitude with which those hardships are borne. Undoubtedly there are acute shortages in the towns and cities and urban districts throughout German-controlled Europe, or at any rate acute shortages of certain kinds of foodstuffs. Nevertheless, it is a mistake to suppose that a condition of famine generally prevails throughout occupied Europe, or that there is any real analogy between the conditions now in northern and western Europe and the conditions which prevailed in Greece in the winter of 1941–42. I have no doubt that those people in this country who are concerned about this matter are actuated by the most altruistic and humanitarian motives, and I agree with them that we ought not to shut our eyes to the very widespread and real distress which exists in many parts of occupied Europe; but having said that, I cannot see that any useful purpose is served by the exagger- 2296 ated and sometimes misleading statements which are so freely and widely made upon this subject.
Secondly, we are asked to make various concessions in respect of particular 3ccupied countries, and in each case the argument is used that the amount involved is really very small, that it would be confined to certain limited classes of the population, and that even if it found its way into the wrong hands, it could make no appreciable difference to the blockade. As I have already informed hon. Members, we do not think that the problem can be narrowed down in that way, and we do not feel that action of the kind which is proposed could be confined to one or two areas only. We have no doubt that any substantial or widespread relaxation of the blockade would inevitably be exploited by the enemy greatly to his own advantage. Thirdly—and I say this with all respect to hon. Members who are particularly interested in this question—I do not think that hon. Members who ask us to make these concessions have fully appreciated the consequences of the policy which they propose. When the Prime Minister announced in August, 1940, that we intended to maintain a complete blockade of enemy and enemy-occupied countries, he made it clear that, in our view, the legal and moral responsibility for feeding, or rather for making food available to, the occupied countries rested upon the occupying Powers, in this case Germany and Italy. That is not merely a legal formula or a form of words. It is a very real obligation. It is an obligation which we have discharged in every territory which our troops have occupied—in Iceland, in Persia and in North Africa—and it is an obligation which we are fully prepared to recognise in any area into which our Armies may penetrate.
It is true that in food-producing countries in Europe, the enemy has seized and requisitioned local crops quite ruthlessly, with comparatively little regard to the needs of the native population. But he needs the labour and the production of the occupied territories, and in food-importing countries, such as Norway and Belgium, he has actually been compelled to send in consignments of cereals and fats from his own resources. If we had not adopted a policy of complete blockade or if, three years ago, we had acceded to some of the humanitarian appeals that were made to 2297 us from both sides of the Atlantic, can anyone doubt that those consignments which have, in fact, been sent to Norway and to Belgium would either have been consumed by the German people themselves or would still be forming a part of German reserves? At the present stage of the war, and with his present internal conditions, nothing would suit the enemy better than to be able to shift the responsibility of feeding the occupied peoples, or some of them, from his own shoulders to ours. I must make it quite clear that that is a form of assistance that we do not propose to give him.
Now I want to pass to what I may call the enemy world, and first of all I should like to say a word about—
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
May I put a question to the hon. Member? If he wants to dispel the allegations that we are not treating people in neutral countries in accordance with international law or the laws or humanity, would he help to answer some of the charges, with particular reference to Belgium? I have had a good deal of correspondence with regard to the situation in Belgium, particularly in regard to an alleged falling-off in the general health and the enormous increase, as it is alleged, in the rate of infantile mortality.
§ Mr. Foot
I was proposing to deal with some of these specific points later in the Debate, but I shall be happy to answer my hon. Friend's question in regard to the rate of infantile mortality. He might not have observed that a week or two ago I gave some actual figures of the death-rate in Belgium for children under 12 months, showing that there has actually been a substantial decline during 1942 as compared with 1941. I do not want to lay too much emphasis upon statistics of that kind, and I do not say that by themselves they present a complete picture, but I think they dispose of some of the illusions which are widely held on this subject.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
Further to that point, would not my hon. Friend agree that the rates are still very substantially above those of 1939?
§ Mr. Foot
I think the rate was 73 in 1939. It was 89 in 1940, 83 in 1941 and 79 in 1942. I certainly agree that the figure is above that for 1939, but I am 2298 pointing out that the figures do not appear to indicate that in that particular class of the population—I am not making any generalisation—that is to say, of children under 12 months, the situation has been getting worse.
§ Mr. Foot
In regard to the enemy countries, I want to say one or two words about economic intelligence. In these days of total war when the Aimed Forces are more dependent than they have ever been on the development of new weapons and on production behind the lines, the importance of economic intelligence is greater than in any previous war. There is an interesting passage in the war memoirs of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), in which he describes the food shortage and other economic difficulties in Austria-Hungary in 1917, and the consequent lowering of Austrian morale, and he goes on to say this:The Allied Governments were not fully apprised of the real condition of things in Austria-Hungary. It was vital to the decisions on the plans for 1918 that those facts should be known. But if the Army Intelligence Departments were in possession of the truth they did not pass it on to their respective Governments.It seems reasonable to suppose that this serious omission was due to the fact that in the last war there was no one Department of State which was charged with the task of watching and assessing the developments on the enemy's home front. That is our business in this war. The first purpose of economic intelligence is to estimate the enemies' war potential at the present time, and, so far as we can, in the future; second, it is called for in connection with almost every forthcoming military operation, not merely operations which are directed at economic targets, but other operations as well. For example, whenever it is intended that Allied troops should enter any particular area there must be a careful and detailed examination of the resources on which the invading troops will be able to rely for the use of their supply and workshop services, for the provision of transport, and for labour for the reconstruction of roads, railways and airfields. In addition, before any operation of this character, there must be a most careful assessment of the needs 2299 of the local population for whom we shall have to assume responsibility. For all those purposes a most careful analysis has to be made of the economic conditions in enemy countries and occupied countries, and the Committee will not be surprised to hear that for the last 12 months our work in this direction has been mostly concerned with certain areas on the Continent of Europe.
I pass to those forms of operation with which my Department is more intimately concerned. Those are three in number. First of all is the enforcement of the sea blockade, second the destruction of Axis shipping around the coasts of Europe, and third the bomber offensive. From the beginning of the war until the summer of 1941, the blockade runner was a comparatively negligible factor, but after the German attack on Russia and the consequent closing down of the Trans-Siberian road, attempts to run the blockade from the Far East became extremely important. Germany and Japan are very well suited to be partners in aggression, because each possesses almost exactly what the other lacks. Germany at this stage of the war needs the rubber, tin and tungsten, and vegetable oils to maintain the fat ration of her people, which are either in Japanese territory or have passed under Japanese control. Japan is still making every effort to increase her more modest war potential, and needs things like machine tools, precision tools, heavy industrial plant, special components of all types and the services of more technicians. Those are the things which she can obtain from Germany. Therefore, one of the first aims of economic warfare since the summer of 1941 has been to try to keep those two enemy worlds apart, and prevent them from establishing any commercial intercourse, whether by land or sea.
We knew in the late summer of 1941 that there were a number of Axis ships outside the Mediterranean and northern waters which were capable of making the whole journey to Europe, or the other way, without refuelling, and we were quite certain then that, in view of the supply position in both Germany and Japan, there would be a series of attempts to run the blockade. When the time came, as it inevitably did, it was by no means easy to stop those attempts. No one could tell in advance whether the ships were 2300 going to sail round the Cape of Good Hope or round Cape Horn. They would come up the Atlantic, but at its narrowest points the Southern Atlantic is 1,200 miles wide. Those ships used no wireless, they used no lights at night, and the last lap of their journey, when they were making for French Atlantic ports, was always calculated to coincide with the very darkest nights and the most unfavourable weather. Interception of vessels in those circumstances was surely one of the most difficult tasks with which the Navy and the Royal Air Force can ever have been confronted. I think that the Committee knows that in the spring and early summer of last year a certain number of those vessel got through, but I am glad to be able to say that in the last eight months this traffic has been brought practically to a standstill. In spite of the vast expanse of the Atlantic, in spite of the dark nights, in spite of the many subterfuges the enemy adopts, these ships have in almost every case since November last year been spotted and intercepted, and I should like to emphasise that this was only achieved by the closest possible co-operation, first between the Allied Navies in more distant waters and, secondly, in waters nearer home, between the Royal Navy and Coastal Command.
We have been accustomed in the past to think of the blockade merely as a naval operation, but in the conditions of this war the blockade could hardly be maintained without the constant assistance of the Royal Air Force. I do not think that this has been sufficiently recognised. I should like to express, not only on behalf of my colleagues of the Ministry of Economic Warfare but I think on behalf of everyone who is familiar with the facts of this matter, our great admiration for the work which is being done in this connection by Coastal Command. Their efforts have seldom been rewarded with a kill or even the sight of a kill, but they have resulted in the subsequent interception and destruction of these vessels by the surface craft of the Royal Navy, and I think the blockade possibilities of the air arm are illustrated by the fact that when these vessels are coming on to their last lap, making for French Atlantic ports, or when they are coming out from French Atlantic ports, they need never come within 500 miles' radius of any British air base. In spite 2301 of that, Coastal Command have succeeded in the last year not only in spotting but also in identifying nine out of every to of these ships. As a result of these combined efforts the enemy has lost at sea during the last year not less than 30,000 tons of rubber, 5,000 tons of tin, 25,000 tons of edible oils and smaller but hardly less important quantities of tungsten and quinine. The cargoes which have been lost to Japan consist of heavy machinery, machine tools and engineering equipment. In the circumstances I am sure the Committee will agree that that does represent a very considerable achievement on the part of all the Forces engaged.
I have described what I might call the general blockade, by which we try to keep the two hemispheres apart. But I must say a word about the inner blockade, which consists of the attack on enemy shipping round the coast of Europe. It is obvious that the attack on Axis shipping in the Mediterranean has been primarily undertaken for purely military reasons, but it has nevertheless served a very useful blockade purpose, because has had the result of considerably diminishing Axis sea-borne trade with both occupied and neutral countries in the Mediterranean. Moreover—and this is hardly less important—these attacks have forced the Axis to carry on congested Balkan railways the oil which could much more easily have been shipped from Constanza direct to Axis bases in the Mediterranean. If I might quote one figure, since the Allied occupation of North Africa the tonnage of Axis ships either sunk or seriously damaged has been no less than 1,000,000 tons. That represents 700,000 tons sunk and 300,000 tons seriously damaged.
Then, going to the other end of Europe, there is the attack on shipping in the Baltic and the North Sea. We are accustomed to speak of our ocean lifeline across the Atlantic, but it is not always realised that Germany has her life-line in the North Sea, round the coast of Europe, and in the Baltic. Attacks on shipping in those waters serve a two-fold purpose. They prevent Germany obtaining some part of the cargoes which she needs from Scandinavia, and they increase very considerably the strain on German land transport. At the beginning of this war Germany possessed very considerable resources of tonnage in 2302 those waters, and she obtained a large windfall from the countries which she occupied in 1940. With all the other calls on the Navy and the Royal Air Force, the scale of attack which could be launched upon this mass of shipping in Northern waters was inevitably limited, and it was urgently necessary to plan these attacks in a way which would inflict maximum damage on the German programme of sea-borne supplies. Operations of that kind could only be planned with a very full knowledge of the enemy's supply and shipping position, because not every ship of equal tonnage is of the same importance. For example, a cargo of nickel ore sent to the bottom of the sea represents a much greater loss to the Axis than several cargoes of iron ore.
I want to speak on this matter with a good deal of caution, but there can be no doubt now that this war on the enemy's shipping in these narrow waters which has been carried on by bomb, mine and torpedo for the last three years has reduced the tonnage at the German disposal to the bare minimum needed to meet their most essential military and economic requirements. Henceforth every ton of shipping sunk in the Baltic, the North Sea or the Channel means an ever greater burden on inland transport or a permanent reduction in imports from Scandinavia. There are many other operations which attract a great deal more public attention, but when the war comes to an end I think it may well be found that one of the most important causes of the German collapse is the success achieved by the Navy and by Coastal and Bomber Commands in this continuing battle of the Northern waters.
The third operation with which we are particularly concerned is of course the bomber offensive. Here I think there has occasionally been some misunderstanding as to the precise functions of my Department. The aims of bombing policy, like those of all other campaigns, must be determined by the combined Chiefs of Staff under the general direction of the British and American Governments. The actual conduct of bombing operations must always be the responsibility of Bomber Command. The business of my Department once the directive has been drawn up is to advise the Air Staff of those targets the destruc- 2303 tion of which is most likely to further the purpose in view. For instance, if it were decided at any time to attack the German output of tanks, we should at once be asked to trace all the processes involved in the manufacture of tanks in Germany, the location and importance of the principal factories and the relative vulnerability of each stage in production.
There are two forms which these air attacks on the enemy's war potential can take. The first is the precise attack on particular factories making munitions of war. Obviously, if it can be carried out successfully, that is the most direct and effective way of reducing the enemy's front-line strength. Of course, the Germans know this just as well as we do, with the result that the most vital targets are the most dispersed, the most carefully camouflaged and most heavily defended. The second method is the concentrated attack on the important industrial areas in the enemy country, an attack which is calculated to strike at the whole of the enemy's industrial production.
§ Mr. Stokes
The hon. Gentleman has been telling us a lot of very interesting things, which really have very little to do with his Department directly. Would he say whether the information which is supplied to him is supplied by officers of his Department or by other Departments? In other words, has the Department its own secret service, or what?
§ Mr. Foot
Information comes to us from a great many sources, most of which I could not possibly discuss in this Committee. A great deal of it, in this case I should say the great majority of it, is information which we have ourselves accumulated over the last 3½ years. The object of the concentrated attack is both to destroy work and to create work. Even in a fully mobilised country like Germany, where there has been the most intensive comb-out of man-power, two-thirds of the population are still occupied in the essential business of keeping the nation going, that is to say, in keeping it fed and clothed and housed and generally maintained, and even in Germany only one-third is left for manning and equipping the forces. Anything which can be done, particularly at this stage of the war, to increase the minimum amount of essential work necessary for feeding, clothing and 2304 maintaining the country must be at the expense of direct war production. Therefore the results of the bomber offensive have to be measured not only in the actual stoppage of production in certain factories but also in the vast amount of additional work which it makes necessary.
German economy is particularly vulnerable to this form of attack, because of the existence, within easy bombing range of this country, of the unique industrial concentration of the Ruhr. This area, which is only about 800 square miles, rather smaller than the County of Leicestershire, covers a coal production which is more than half as great as the whole of that of Great Britain, steel production rather larger than the whole of British output in a good pre-war year, and in spite of all attempts to increase heavy industry in other areas, at the time when these recent heavy attacks began the Ruhr accounted for one-third of the hard coal, one-half of the coke and one-third of the steel ingot and castings production, not of Germany alone, but of the whole of Axis Europe. Although there is no big concentration of light engineering and aircraft and finished armaments in this particular area, the Ruhr is engaged in the supply of raw materials and components to those industries for practically the whole of the territory now under German control.
Of course, it must take a certain amount of time before the effects of these attacks are seen right through the industrial system, but already we can observe certain very interesting phenomena. One is that the Germans are making strenuous efforts to increase steel production in France, in Belgium and in Luxembourg, that is to say, wherever they can find the necessary plant, so that in this case, contrary to what is sometimes suggested, German production is not moving away towards more remote districts; it is actually being compelled to move in our direction. Again, it appears to us from our most recent information that the Germans are engaged in taking away all moveable equipment from the Ruhr. If that be so, it is an extremely significant fact, because it shows that they themselves know that the battle of the Ruhr is lost. Whatever they may say about our own losses in these raids, whatever they may say about their intention to strengthen their defences in the Ruhr, their actions show that they do not regard the Ruhr as likely to be a safe area at any time in the foreseeable future. This dis- 2305 persal, I know, may be a preliminary to starting production elsewhere, but it needs no argument to show that to alter the whole lay-out of heavy industry at this stage of the war with the present position of transport and man-power, is indeed a Herculean task.
Area bombing, which I have been trying to describe, is no longer the only weapon in the armament of the bomber offensive. To the bludgeon, the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force have now added the rapier. Hon Members will, I have no doubt, have observed the significance of the three outstanding precision attacks which have recently taken place on economic targets. The first, on 3rd March, was the attack on the molybdenum mine at Knaben. The second, on 16th May, was the raid on the German dams, and the third, on 22nd June, was the raid on the synthetic rubber works at Huls. Those three operations, taken together, represent an entirely new development in economic warfare conducted from the air. We have always known where the bottlenecks and the vital centres of German industry were to be found, but before they could be profitably attacked it was necessary to await the development of suitable weapons and suitable technique.
§ Mr. Foot
No, two were in daylight and one in moonlight. The results of those operations were extremely encouraging. The Knaben mine, which produced over three-quarters of German molybdenum supplies, was put out of production for some months, and it will be some time before it gets back into full production. The raid on the dams was another in which the damage inflicted was out of all proportion to the damage we suffered ourselves. The damage done by floods in the Ruhr valley has added enormously to the repair work which the Germans have to undertake. Then there was the effect on the water supply. I do not expect that that will be apparent at once. Nevertheless, the Germans are confronted, as a result, with an entirely fresh problem. The maintenance of the water level in the waters of the Ruhr is dependent upon control of the flow of the river, and the means of such control was provided by the Möhne Dam. With the dam gone, the whole of the Ruhr area is 2306 threatened with a depletion of water supplies upon which the heavy industries depend. I should like to re-emphasise the statement made by the Air Ministry in disposing of the absurd suggestion that the idea of raiding these dams occurred to us only by reason of a communication from a Jewish refugee. While we are always glad to receive information from refugees, we do not depend upon casual suggestions of that character. This attack, like a good many others which have been planned, has been under consideration ever since the beginning of the war, and only awaited the development of a suitable means to achieve it. Finally, there was the raid on the synthetic rubber works at Huls by the American Air Force. From the point of view of economic warfare, that was the most successful raid. It was particularly important in view of the success of the Navy in intercepting the blockade runners carrying rubber from the Far East. This plant was responsible for 25 per cent, of German production of synthetic rubber, and, although our information is incomplete, it seems likely to be out of operation for some months to come.
Those are some of the methods by which in this war economic warfare is conducted. It was bound to take time before the effect could become apparent. The conditions are very different from those of the last war. The Germans always recognised that the blockade was one of the main causes of their defeat in 1918. Before this war they made almost every conceivable preparation to meet it. They accumulated stocks of oil, rubber, metal and textiles and all the materials in which they were naturally deficient. They reduced almost to an exact science the spoliation of occupied countries. They maintained an extremely high proportion of their total labour force on the land, and they have increased that proportion since the war began. Finally, they have concentrated for years on synthetic production. To-day, as everyone knows, the German war machine is kept running by synthetic oil, synthetic rubber and synthetic textiles. Those are very formidable defences, but they are not impregnable. In the course of time stocks become exhausted, and, at any rate as far as foodstuffs are concerned, the occupied countries are a rapidly-diminishing asset. In any normal year before the war 2307 the German importation of cereals from South-East Europe was in the neighbourhood of 3,000,000 tons. In the last 12 months they have obtained only 400,000 tons from that source, and they have actually been compelled to send certain cereals to Bulgaria and Croatia. In 1941 Danish exports of meat, nearly all of which went to the Axis, were 150,000 tons. In 1942 they had sunk to 75,000 tons.
But in assessing the enemy's internal position, we have to think not so much in terms of commodities as in terms of manpower. Generally speaking, it is true to-day that almost any material can be replaced synthetically if you are prepared to pay a sufficiently high price in labour and raw materials. You can, for instance, produce synthetic oil if you are prepared to use seven times as much labour in manufacturing a ton of synthetic oil as you would use in refining a ton of natural oil. To a considerable extent, the Germans have eased their commodity shortage by paying a very heavy price in labour, particularly skilled labour. To my mind, the most significant event on the German home front has been the recent comb-out in Germany starting at the beginning of this year, under the Funk and Sauckel decrees, a comb-out which goes considerably further than any we have found it necessary to make in this country. In the armament works and on the railways not only skilled men, but even key men, have been taken away for the Army, and to make good the deficiency there has been the most drastic comb-out in banks, offices and shops. Since January this year no fewer than 150,000 shops have been closed down in Germany. This intense mobilisation is remarkably similar to the measures carried out by the German Government, under directions from Hindenburg and Ludendorff, in 1918, but the remarkable thing is that they should need to repeat the same measures to-day, It is indeed remarkable that this acute man-power crisis should arise in Germany at this stage, in a country which has over 1,500,000 prisoners of war working within its frontiers and several millions of imported workers from occupied countries. That extreme shortage of man-power is due to two causes. One is, of course, the losses on the Eastern front, and the other the combined effect of bombing and blockade. The bomber offensive im- 2308 mobilises at least 1,500,000 workers for anti-aircraft and A.R.P. duties and for making good the damage and dislocation which it has caused. It is impossible to give any exact estimate of the numbers needed to man Germany's economic defences against the blockade, but if we take into account the additional manpower needed on the land to make good the reduction in supplies from overseas, the number needed is higher still.
Let me say one word, if the House will bear with me, about the place of economic warfare in the strategy of the United Nations. It would be, to my mind, a profound mistake to regard the blockade and the other measures which I have tried to describe as completely independent activities, carried on at the same time but otherwise unconnected, with the other sides of the war. The importance of economic pressure lies not so much in the hardships which it inflicts on the enemy's population as in the limitations which it imposes upon the enemy's strategy. Hon. Members may recall a very well known passage in the works of Admiral Mahan, where he describes the net which the British Navy, under Nelson, drew around Napoleon's Europe:The world has never seen a more impressive demonstration of the influence of sea power upon its history. Those far-distant, storm-beaten ships, upon which the Grand Army never looked, stood between it and the domination of the World.He goes on to show how the British mastery of the seas forced Napoleon into the battlefield of the Continental system, where his final defeat was certain. I believe that, when the history of the war comes to be written, it will be seen that we have achieved a very similar result. For example, on 6th November last year a speech was delivered in Moscow by Marshal Stalin, in which he analysed the German campaign of the previous summer and autumn. He pointed out that the main German objective had been the capture of Moscow. He went on:As we know, these calculations of the Germans also miscarried. As a result of chasing two hares, both oil and the encirclement of Moscow, the German Fascist strategists landed in a difficult situation. Thus the tactical successes of the German summer offensive were not consummated owing to the impossibility of carrying out their strategical plan.That was an extremely interesting analysis. It will be found, I believe, that this 2309 division of effort, which was so fatal to the German Eastern campaign last year, was dictated by economic circumstances; and I do not think that that is the only example which will appear when the history of the war comes to be written. I give that instance to illustrate my point that in the final defeat of the Axis Powers our traditional weapon of economic pressure, which we used to exercise through sea power alone and which we now exercise through the combined command of the sea and the air, will prove once again one of the most decisive factors.
§ Mr. Stokes
Earlier, the Parliamentary Secretary said that he would reply in detail to the claims made on the necessity of famine relief. Some of us hoped that he would do it in more detail in his opening speech. Will he do it at the end of the Debate? That will not be very satisfactory, because we want to know what we are to do if his statement is not adequate.
§ Mr. Stokes
What opportunity shall we have if we are not satisfied with the statement? We do not know what the Government's policy is.
§ Mr. Owen Evans (Cardigan)
I am sure the Committee are greatly indebted to my hon. Friend for his very comprehensive review of the operations of his Department, which was characteristic of his usual clearness and lucidity. The Committee will agree that it was high time that we should have a discussion on the very important question of economic warfare. This is only the second Debate in this House in open Session in which the work of this Department has been reviewed since the beginning of the war. There were two Secret Sessions on the matter, but it was high time that we should have a review of the work of the Department, which has naturally changed so greatly owing to changed circumstances since we had the previous Debate, when our French Allies at that time had not surrendered. In the last Debate, which took place only about four months after the beginning of the war, obviously the Ministry was new and in its infancy and had need of an organisation on a very large scale, but 2310 it was generally conceded that it was achieving its purpose and was having a considerable measure of success in its work.
It had very great disadvantages as compared with the enemy. We have heard to-day that the enemy had been in careful preparation for the event of war. It had organised its economic life in preparation for the event of war, but to judge this work to-day, it is necessary to bear in mind the aims of economic warfare. My hon. Friend has given us a fresh definition, but I recall the statement made by his predecessor, the Minister, at that time, and the Committee no doubt would like to hear, considering the aims as stated by him, whether now we can say that the Ministry has successfully carried out its work. He described it as an attack on the industrial, financial and economic structure of the enemy, thus so to cripple and enfeeble his armed forces that he could no longer effectively carry on the war. The question arises, How far have we succeeded on the road to achieve these aims? We certainly have not crippled him yet. He is still able to carry on the war. Have we got as far as is reasonably possible, having regard to the long start the enemy had? He had large stocks, we have heard, of vital strategic material. Our hopes were raised in that Debate in the early part of the war because we were informed by the Minister of that day—four-and-a-half months after the beginning of the war—that Germany was in something like the same economic straits as she was after two years of the last war. We were told that there were shortages at that time of petroleum, copper, iron, cotton, wool and many other commodities, and later in the year the then Minister of Economic Warfare said that there were serious shortages of many key commodities, including rubber and lead. When he was appealing to the United States of America to send us some more planes under Lend-Lease he used this picturesque phrase, "We have too many good targets and too few good bombers."
§ Mr. Evans
It was towards the end of the year 1940. Judging by the very large number of letters and telegrams which hon. Members are receiving and 2311 the Questions addressed to Ministers, particularly in the last few months, one would almost think that the primary duty of the Minister of Economic Warfare and of the Department is to relieve the necessities of the suffering people residing in countries in German occupation. I understand that my hon. Friend is going to deal with that matter later on, and several of my hon. Friends are also going to raise it. I have no doubt that public opinion in this country would undoubtedly regard any attempt to succour the women and children and innocent, helpless people in these countries as a very great and noble act, but I am inclined-'to agree with my hon. Friend when he says that at any rate in whatever can be done, we must be extremely careful lest anything we should do is a help to the enemy. I cannot conceive that the primary duty of the Ministry, however noble and desirable it is, is to relieve the occupants of these countries or to assist the enemy by feeding these people. At the same time, I hope that very effort that is possible will be made by the Ministry to do everything within their power.
I asked myself to-day, What is the situation in Germany and within the other Axis countries with regard to the essential commodities of which there were shortages, we were told, even at the beginning of the war? It is impossible in the time at my disposal to survey the whole field, and I propose to confine myself to one field only, and that is the field of metals, and only to a selected number of them. This is a war, as is well appreciated, of metal par excellence, in which metals and their combinations play a tremendous part in the sea, land and air war. Without them, no power of any kind or high explosives could be used. Not only do they go to the making of the actual weapons of war but they are essential in the manufacture of a great variety of machine tools by which munitions of war are made. It will interest the Committee to know, although I am sure the Committee fully realise it, that their use in this war is incomparably greater than in the last war. Some of these metals which are now essential and vital were hardly even known in the last war. Take the metal called molybdenum, which my hon. Friend mentioned in the course of his speech. The use of molybdenum became 2312 the product of the last war, but it is now largely used in steel. At least ten times as much molybdenum is now used as was used in the last war. Take the metal, nickel, with which I have a friendly acquaintance. I have no doubt that at least three or four times the quantity of nickel, is being used in this war that was used in the last war. The use of tungsten is incomparably greater than was the case in the last war, when production was extremely small. Probably five times as much chromium is being used in this war compared with the last war, and even in regard to a common metal like copper, twice as much is being used as was the case in the last war. On the best information available the outlook in Germany to-day in respect of these metals, which are essential to her and to her associates, cannot be rosy for them. In fact in some respects it must be extremely serious. To take tungsten, for example, which is the same thing as wolfram, that metal has been described by a writer upon it as the dominant metal among the strategic metals. Another writer has said that it is the key metal of them all. It is used in high speed steels and as tungsten carbide. It is nothing new to the enemy. They know all about the use of tungsten for this purpose and indeed they were in advance of us technically until recent times.
Where is the enemy going to get his supply to-day? It is a remarkable fact that very little of these strategic metals can be found in the countries which have been conquered by Germany. At the outbreak of the war two-thirds of the tungsten resources of the world were in the hands of the Allied Nations, but after Pearl Harbour Japan occupied a large part of Asia, and the Axis Powers—Japan and the Nazis—controlled two-thirds, reversing the order. I am excluding from that calculation the production of North and South America which has recently been very rapidly developed. China at the beginning of the war supplied about 50 per cent. of the tungsten to the world, but we have heard from my hon. Friend to-day that even though Japan now is in control of the tungsten mines and resources in Asia, it cannot get much of it to its friends in Germany if the blockade, as we have been told, is tight and effective. , There is only one place where she can get this valuable metal in order to meet the absolute minimum that Ger- 2313 many requires to maintain the efficiency of her war weapons. That place is the Iberian Peninsula. It is well known that both Spain and Portugal have a considerable production. The published figures are probably something of the amount of 4,000 or 5,000 tons for each of these countries. My hon. Friend has mentioned the steps they have taken to prevent trade 'between these two countries and Germany. I would respectfully ask him to give us a little more information as to how far they have succeeded in preventing the export of these very valuable commodities to Germany.
Perhaps the Minister could tell us about the Black List and what steps have been taken to purge these firms from the list. The Black List firms are probably now confined to the neutral countries of Spain, Portugal and Sweden, and it would be very interesting indeed to know to what degree the Government have achieved success in preventing foreign firms in these countries from trading with Germany. I suggest that a little more diplomatic pressure in Spain and Portugal might well be exercised in order that we should get a better bargain from them than we are having now. It seems rather sad that our oldest Ally should be so little amenable to reason in this matter. It should be impressed upon them that the Allies will win this war, and it should be suggested that they might like to be friends with the winning side. Also, we have lent a great deal of money to Spain with which to purchase food and raw materials for domestic needs, and it should not be difficult to carry out a policy of pre-emption in Spain. The position is not quite like it was in the south-eastern countries of Europe at the beginning of the war, when considerable complaints were made against the Government for not pursuing a more active policy of pre-emption in such countries as Rumania, with regard to oil, and the like. But, after all, there was some reason, because those countries were at the mercy of Germany at that time, and probably had we advanced money to them it would have been money thrown down the drain. Now circumstances have changed, and we should now be able to impress upon those countries that they should trade with us rather than with the Axis Powers.
There is another metal I would like to mention, nickel. The Allies have an overwhelming superiority of nickel, probably 2314 10 times as great as the Axis Powers. Germany has practically none with which to replace her exhausted stocks and without the Finnish deposits would indeed be in Queer Street. The same is true of molybdenum, the supplies of which America virtually controls. Except for small sources of supply in Norway it does not seem possible for Germany to get any substantial supplies of this metal from anywhere else. We are glad to know that the Ministry selected the molybdenum mines in Norway as a target for the Royal Air Force and successfully interrupted production there. There is another metal, cobalt. Germany is denuded of this supply and her stock must be seriously depleted. This is also a very important metal used in oil processing and in conjunction with tungsten carbide. With regard to copper, Germany is not in too happy a position, but she is better off for zinc. Sardinia promises some source of supply, and I am glad that it is receiving attention today. Possibly in the near future supplies of zinc to Germany and Italy from Sardinia will be stopped. The enemy are probably in short supply of all these vital and strategic metals. Germany is also not too happy about her supply of aluminium. The position is hopeful for us and bad for the enemy.
I have not previously spoken in one of these Debates, and I would now like to offer my opinion, for what it is worth, with some experience of those aspects of German economy to which I have referred. From now on the Axis Powers will not be in a position to fight on equal terms, because of the inevitably inferior quality of their fighting equipment, quite apart from its quantity and the superiority of the Allies in man-power. I urge upon the Minister—not that I think that he needs any urging—to use his powers to the utmost extent to spot the right targets for the Royal Air Force to hit, and to see that by every means Germany is denuded of these essential sinews of war. I also hope he will be able to bring home to all neutral countries some sense of their obligation to democracy and freedom and a realisation that it is to their ultimate good to work with the United Nations rather than the Axis.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)
It seems to me that as a nation we sometimes do not realise to the full the 2315 danger in which we stand from successful submarine attack nor the overwhelming importance to us of the terrible weapon which sea, plus air power, gives us, namely, blockade. The Minister has, therefore, rendered a great service by the excellent and informative speech which he gave us to-day and upon which I would like to offer him my humble but none the less sincere congratulations. The stern lessons of the wars in which we have been engaged have always forced us in the end into full and remorseless application of blockade. The Government, therefore, are to be congratulated on their wisdom in setting up a Ministry of Economic Warfare at the commencement of this war, the responsibilities of which Ministry are hardly less great than the responsibilities of the Service Ministries. Our conduct of blockade during this war shows that some at least of the bitter lessons of the last war have been learned.
People are sometimes inclined to say, "What good is blockade now, because Germany has overrun all Europe and can plunder those nations which she has subdued?" But though she may take from Denmark, butter, bacon, eggs, cheese and milk, she cannot get any further supplies of those commodities unless Denmark can import the feeding-stuffs with which to feed her livestock. Under modern conditions, as the Minister has pointed out, even well-organised Continental countries such as Germany must depend in the long rim upon certain imports from outside. Germany must import rubber or make it synthetically, she must import iron ore, cotton and copper; she must import fuel oil or manufacture a substitute spirit and, above all, she must import lubricating oils. The work of the Ministry must be done in concert primarily with His Majesty's Navy which operates the weapon of blockade, and secondarily with the Royal Air Force so that targets may be chosen which will interfere with Germany's manufacture of substitutes for what under normal conditions she would have to import. If we are to achieve victory we cannot allow ourselves to be swayed by any sentimental considerations so far as Germany and Italy are concerned. The same rule must also apply to neutral countries or belligerent or neutral countries under German control in so far as they are, or may be, sources of supply for the Axis Powers, since it is obvious that Germany will not 2316 have omitted to provide herself with alternative sources of supply and manufacture to take the place of her own plant destroyed by our aerial attack.
I think we are all agreed that the lifeblood of modern war is oil. Without it the war machine of Germany or that of any other belligerent country must immediately be immobilised. But it must now be apparent to all that the key to victory in this war lies primarily at sea. If Germany's submarine campaign were to succeed, then, however great the victories won in Russia or in North Africa we should lose the war because within a short: time we could neither import raw materials, food or munitions nor could we transport them and the men who use them to those parts of the world where we desire to develop our attack. I think it is reasonable to say that the intensity of Germany's submarine attack has been made possible by the facilities which she has enjoyed in Scandinavia and Denmark. The U-boat campaign depends, first of ail, on oil and, secondly, on the manufacture and supply of diesel engines, and it is as important that we should interfere with Germany's manufacture of diesel engines as it is that we should cut off her external supplies of oil and bomb and destroy her oil-producing plant. As in the last war, so in this, Germany realised the importance to her of the supply and manufacturing facilities possessed by the countries which are her neighbours. Of the last war Ludendorff wrote this:A three years' war was only possible because we had in Germany abundant coal and so much iron and food that, together with what we could obtain from occupied territory and neutral countries, we could by practising the most rigid economy manage to exist in spite of the hostile blockade.So far as blockade was concerned, we started the last war with one hand tied behind our backs. Cargo after cargo of copper, cotton and rubber flowed across into Scandinavia, Holland and Denmark, and from there it went to Germany, where it was made into munitions with which our own men were killed in the mud and squalor of France and Flanders. Yet we had it in our power to stop the flow. For example, one of the vital necessities of war is cotton. The imports of cotton to Scandinavia and Holland in 1913 were 73,000 tons, the figure for 1915 being 310,000 tons, of which 258,000 tons went in in the first six months and only 52,000 tons; in the last six months, not because 2317 they did not want to import and re-export, but because we were beginning to put on the screw. I would like to ask the 'Minister what imports of cotton, if any, are we allowing to Sweden, Spain and Portugal at the present time, and how they compare with normal prewar figures. Take the case of foodstuffs. In the last war supplies which used to come to us from Scandinavian countries went to Germany. In 1913 Sweden sent to us 26,567 tons of cattle, fish, pork, bacon, meat, milk, cheese, butter and eggs. In that year she sent to Germany and Austria 37,043 tons. But in 1915 she sent to us only 8,563 tons, whereas she sent to Germany and Austria 104,203 tons. In 1917, she sent nothing to us, but only 16,451 tons to Germany and Austria. Why? Because she had been importing for herself and re-exporting to Germany, and when we cut her imports off she had to decrease supplies to Germany in order that she herself might live.
What is the position to-day? To what extent is Sweden being permitted to import foodstuffs which she will be either tempted or forced to re-export to Germany? I give these figures to show that in the last war the neutrals, afraid no doubt of the power of Germany did aid and abet her war effort, and it was not until we clamped down the blockade and they found themselves hard put to it to live themselves that they ceased to comfort and aid our enemy. In this war Germany has overrun countries which were neutral in the last war, and therefore their lot has been made all the more difficult. Sweden still claims ostensible neutrality, as she did in the last war, but I venture to suggest that she has done as much, if not more, in this war to assist German victory as she did between 1914 and 1918, when she was in fact Germany's workshop. Then Sweden hoped for German victory. When it was obvious that a German victory would not take place, Sweden began to hedge her bets. She is doing just the same in this war. In 1939 Sweden believed in and hoped for a German victory. Now she sees the inevitability of Germany's doom, hence her approaches to us. In the last war it was the effect of our blockade halfhearted as was our original application of it, which in the end broke the spirit of Germany.
It is interesting to observe that in 1916 Germany had only just enough food and 2318 munitions to enable her to go on fighting, It was the supplies she then received from neutral countries which enabled her to go on fighting until 1918. Had we applied effective total blockade and embargo on exports from the beginning of the last war, Germany would undoubtedly have collapsed before Russia failed and before she Germany was able to obtain badly needed supplies from Rumania. Already there is propaganda here and abroad designed to mitigate the severity of the blockade and of our aerial attack. If we could ship foodstuffs to starving people in occupied territory and at the same time be certain that they would not go to feeding the Germans, or that alternatively Germany would not take from the country receiving those foodstuffs a corresponding or even greater amount of that country's indigenous food supply, of course we should do it; but surely no one out of Bedlam believes that any humanitarian principles or any considerations of honour would weigh with the present rulers of Germany, particularly now, when they realise, as they must realise, that they are fighting a loosing battle. I congratulate the Government and the hon. Gentleman on the firm and at the same time understanding way in which they have dealt with this question of importing foodstuffs into what is sometimes called starving Europe, and the hon. Gentleman particularly on what he said on the subject in his opening speech.
Having studied the history of the last war, I have from time to time asked various questions regarding blockade and the war production on Germany's behalf of neutral countries and those countries now under German domination. We have got to smash any source anywhere from which Germany can draw any article or substance which will enable her to continue this struggle. We cannot afford to do otherwise. The price of any irresolution on our part will be paid in the blood of our sailors, soldiers and airmen and in the unspeakable sufferings of our civilian population. But are we doing all that we could do? I believe that we are still swayed by a desire to spare the feelings of the neutral or occupied countries, whose only hope incidentally of salvation lies in a complete and early Allied victory. It is notorious that we permitted cargo after cargo of foodstuffs to be shipped from French North African possessions into Marseilles. I say that it 2319 was our plain duty at whatever cost to have prevented that traffic. No one doubts that through our failure to act Germany took the foodstuffs and that French profiteers enriched themselves while causing a shortage of food in North Africa.
Norway has been tied to us for many years by many bonds of affection and understanding. She was one of our best friends in the last war. She did her best to resist German pressure all through the last war and to play the game by us. It may well be that because of that she is now suffering the martyrdom through which she is passing. It is no fault of hers that Germany is now making use of what facilities Norway can provide. The Odda Works produce large quantities of calcium carbide. Nobody but a fool would think that they were producing it for Norwegian consumption. In addition Germany is undoubtedly drawing supplies of aluminium and metal alloys from Norway. All these plants operate on hydro-electric power, and yet we have made little or no attempt to smash the hydro-electric plants from which the power is derived. Their destruction would be a tremendous blow against Germany, since what they provide would have to be made good from Germany's own resources. It is true that we have attacked the Kuaban mines and the Norsk hydro-electric plant, but, incidentally, it is interesting to observe that the first is controlled by Swedish capital and the second by French and German capital. I can only hope that we are not deterred from attacking the other plants because of any question of Allied capital being involved. On 11th May this year the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare admitted that the Akers Meckanische Verksted at Oslo was making Diesel engines. Does anyone doubt that in view of the growing weight of our bombing offensive against Germany Germany has not made arrangements to draw supplies from any available plant which she hoped would be reasonably secure from attack by us? On 26th January I asked a Question about Burmeister and Wain's yard in Denmark. It is one of the biggest producers of diesel engines in Europe. The reply that I got from the hon. Gentleman was this: 2320Diesel engines have continued to be manufactured in Denmark since the German occupation in May, 1940.I think there is an error in the date. The actual date of occupation was 9th April. The hon. Gentleman went on:But I am unable to give a precise estimate of the number of engines which have been delivered to Germany.When I suggested that this factory should be bombed the hon. Gentleman said:These matters have been and are being very carefully considered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, January 26th, 1943, col. 345, Vol. 386.]It is true that the factory was bombed two nights later. I do not suggest that it was because of my Question, because these targets are decided on a long time in advance. But why had it not been bombed before? We have bombed French manufacturing plants. Why do we not bomb Danish plants? Danish shipbuilding yards and engineering works were staffed by skilled workmen at the time when Germany occupied Denmark. Is it not reasonable to suppose that ever since then these Danish plants have been working at full pressure to supply urgent German needs? In February this year there was a report that 1,000 workers in the Aalborg shipyards were on strike. Denmark's export trade to any country but Germany has come to a complete full stop. What could these men have been making except material for Germany which she needed? I had the honour to serve on the Armistice Commission after the last war, and when we went to Germany we found that Germany was constructing submarines greatly in excess of what any of us had believed possible, and that they were being built in every nook and cranny that was available. In view of the urgent necessity from her point of view for Germany to win the submarine war, is there any doubt that she would seek to use what facilities were available in Denmark and Norway, and indeed in Sweden, for the construction of submarines as well as for their equipment in yards which would be free from interference and attention by our Air Force? To what extent are Diesel engines being made in Scandinavia and Denmark and shipped to Germany? Has Burmeister and Wain's yard been completely knocked out? If not, why has it not again been attacked? It is more important at the present time to stop the flow of propelling plant to Germany for 2321 use in her submarines than it is to bomb Cologne or other targets in the Ruhr.
On 25th May this year the hon. Gentleman, replying to a Question of mine said that Denmark's capacity for man facturing war material was extremely small. Surely that is just what Germany would like us to believe while at the same time taking steps to shift production from areas liable to attack into Denmark and places where she thought it would be free from our attention. Let us bear in mind that it has been stated by Rudolf Blohm, Chief of the Naval Construction Division of the Board of Munitions in Germany, that the work of constructing submarine engines and their components is being done by German workmen in yards in occupied countries. It is reasonable to suppose therefore. that Danish capacity will have been augmented by German organisation. The hon. Gentleman, in his reply to my Question went on to say that small calibre anti-aircraft guns have been delivered to Germany by Danish factories and that the deliveries were still continuing. Why are we not bombing the plant? Surely it is the height of folly to send our magnificent Air Force over Germany and have our planes shot down by antiaircraft guns which Germany is receiving from factories in Denmark, which would offer a far easier target for us to bomb than similar plant in Germany.
I know that the decision as to the priority of targets must ultimately be made by the Air Ministry, and I agree that too open discussion of possible targets is undesirable, but I wonder whether there is any real reason for quite so much ostrich-like policy as is now indulged in. Germany knows better than we do what are the targets we ought to bomb, and the 'more she has to provide defence for any possible targets which may be openly discussed in this country the more her defensive effort will be dispersed. Can we doubt that every factory in Scandinavia and Denmark is now working to full capacity for Germany? On 25th May this year the hon. Gentleman made a most significant admission. He said that it was now estimated by his Department that Germany and Italy were getting approximately 3,000,000 tons of oil a year from Rumania. If we can bomb the heavily defended Ruhr and fly machines from this cc-entry to attack Italy, then there 2322 seems to be no doubt whatever that we could attack with success the Rumanian oil wells from which Germany and Italy are drawing these supplies.
I have often thought that future historians will wonder how on earth it was that before the German attack on the Balkans was launched and when we knew it was coming, we did not take immediate steps to destroy the oil wells which were the prize for which Hitler was invading the Balkans. On l0th April this year I asked a Question regarding the supply of war material other than raw material from Sweden to Germany, and the hon. Gentleman in his reply pointed out that under the Royal Decree of l0th June, 1935, export of war material was forbidden except under licence and that the list of articles included warships, mines, torpedoes, aircraft, bombs, tanks, armour plate, guns, machine guns and explosives. He said that the Government had been assured by the Swedish Government that since the war no licence had been granted for the export of these things to Germany. But that does not mean that they have not in fact been exported indirectly. Hon. Members will have observed that there was one very notable exception in this list, namely, diesel engines.
On 4th May, therefore, I asked my hon. Friend a further Question as to what extent Diesel engines were being manufactured in Sweden and supplied to Germany and whether we had suggested that this vitally important article should be added to the list to which I have just referred. In reply the Minister stated that he accepted the assurance of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Swedish shipyards had not exported Diesel engines to Germany. He had to admit that in 1942 five Diesel engines were sent to Norway, and that after all is equivalent to exporting them to Germany. He did not say whether Sweden was exporting anything to Denmark and if so how many engines had been sent. That too would be the same as exporting them to Germany and what would be easier.
§ Sir A. Southby
I am grateful for the information. Between Finland and Sweden there is a strong affinity. What 2323 undertakings have been asked for or ,given, and if given what evidence is there that they are being carried out, that Sweden is not exporting war material to Finland now under German control? Let hon. Members bear in mind that in the last war there was evidence to show that in spite of protestations of neutrality Sweden, besides providing Germany with food and supplies of all sorts, was actually manufacturing torpedoes at Karlskrona and sending them to Germany for use in German submarines against us. In March this year Sweden built 45 fishing vessels-for the German firm of Hugo Stinnes. Obviously these vessels could be used as mine sweepers. When we protested we were told by Sweden that the vessels were not built for mine sweeping and our protest was rejected.
We are fighting for our lives, and we cannot afford to allow Sweden to supply Germany by stealth or by subterfuge with articles which are capable of warlike use. In "The Times" of 28th June this year it was reported via the Norwegian Information Office that the Knaben Molybdenum Mines north of Flekke Fjord, to which the hon. Gentleman referred in his opening speech, which were partly destroyed by our air attack on 3rd March, are now in operation again and that the machinery for them has been supplied by Sweden. So much for Swedish protestations of neutrality. Not unnaturally her interpretation of neutrality is affected by her proximity to Germany. The passage of German troops to and from Norway across Swedish territory still goes on. If R.A.F. machines have to make forced landings in Sweden the crews are interned, but there have admittedly been instances where German non-civilian aircraft have landed and then been allowed to take off again. Norwegians escaping over the mountains into Sweden are promptly interned in concentration camps, but I am informed that Finns who come into Sweden are not interned. Let hon. Members' realise that in the minds of the Swedish Government and people public enemy No. 1 is our ally Russia and not our enemy Germany.
A Swedish trade delegation has recently been in this country. I must confess that it is difficult to see what advantage we could derive from any agreements made with Sweden at the present time. 2324 In view of the virtual domination of Sweden by Germany no agreement come to between Sweden and ourselves could be implemented by Sweden unless the Germans so desired. Further, any concessions which Sweden might make to us would undoubtedly be outweighed by the concessions which she would be forced to make to Germany. On 1st June this year I asked a question regarding this delegation, and I got no reply when I inquired whether as an earnest of good faith the Swedes had stopped the transport of German troops to Norway across Sweden. I was certainly not surprised to observe subsequently a scream 'of fury in the Swedish Press. The "Social Demokraten," anxious no doubt to advertise its good manners, referred to me, for some reason which I must confess remains obscure, as "a newly baked baron," and complained of what it called my "impudence" against Sweden. The "Svenska Dagbladet," equally informed and equally anxious to be rude, called me "a pensioned admiral whose suspicions over Sweden are as great as his ignorance about it." This rudeness leaves me unmoved. That, to quote the words of the great Lord Balfour, is the manure which will make my reputation grow.
In view of Sweden's record in the last war and her record in this war, we would do well to be suspicious of her unless her words are made good by deeds. If when my country is fighting for its bare existence it is impudent to point out in this House sources from which Germany is receiving or is likely to receive help and encouragement, then the more publicity my "impudence" gets the more harm I shall do to Germany and the better I shall be pleased. I have always understood that when a patient is being psycho, analysed the near approach of the practitioner to the real cause of the trouble invariably provokes an outburst from the patient. The outburst in the Swedish Press would seem to show that the same rule applies to nations as to individuals. I congratulate the Government on the work they have done and the hon. Gentleman on the way his Department is handling this vital matter of economic warfare. At last it seems that we are taking to heart the lessons we neglected in the last war, the lessons of centuries of history, which have made it plain to us that blockade by sea and air is the one terrible 2325 weapon which will inevitably bring down anybody who fights against us, What matters is that no considerations should stand in the way of our application to the full of that rigorous blockade and that carefully planned bombing offensive which will defeat Germany and all those who seek to help her.
§ Mr. Barnes (East Ham, South)
I should like to associate myself with the congratulations to the Parliamentary Secretary on his comprehensive review of his Department. As I listened to the various aspects of his administration and the way it touches on other phases of the war it was difficult to resist the temptation, to which I observed the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) fell, to review the whole strategy of the war. It appeared to me that the administration of this Department has passed through four stages. If my deduction is correct I should say that the present is the period in the war when we shall be able to see the most effective results of our economic warfare. Probably in the first stage of the war our experience was not very different from that of the last war. Our Army was on the Continent and Germany was more or less confined to its old frontiers. After Dunkirk that position fundamentally changed. Germany was in the position of over-running the greater part of Europe, and I can appreciate that the Ministry of Economic Warfare found an entirely different situation to confront when Germany was able to add to her accumulated stocks the plunder of practically the whole of Europe. From my observation at the time I considered that that was the least effective period in our handling of the weapon of economic warfare. At that time Germany was not only able to replenish her stocks by a policy of plunder in Europe, but she had opened to her many important sources throughout the world. I am referring to supplies through ports and channels like Vladivostock, Marseilles, Gibraltar, the Dardenclles and the Baltic. I mention these because the changing conditions of the war have now sealed these great avenues of supply. I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether there is any leakage of supplies through Germany through the Dardenclles and along the coast to Italy.
The third phase of this economic war appeared to me to surround the period 2326 when Japan entered into the war. One observed that at this stage military strategy proved to be much more important than economic strategy, and the results of the military struggles in the Middle East have now brought this Department to a favourable situation. One cannot study the economic side of the war without recognising that at certain stages economic policy appears to have almost dominated military strategy. When one reviews the efforts of Germany and Japan to link up through Persia, India and the Indian Ocean one is prompted to reflect on the added magnitude and advantage of the series of military victories from El Alamein to Tunisia, because there is no doubt that they completed the military ring that has barred the way to Germany and Japan linking up. It is no use endeavouring to ignore the fact that if by any chance they had succeeded in this effort their economic resources brought together would have been a formidable thing to overcome. When we reflect on the military successes in North. Africa we are entitled to appreciate that in this field they have undoubtedly saved us a long war and an uncertain conclusion.
We have reached this position—and here I should like to link my remarks to those of the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom on the problem of supplies to Germany through neutral sources; we are now in the position of what I would describe as the fourth phase of our economic warfare. There is no access to Germany of any substantial sources of war material and supplies except through certain neutral States. When we review the conditions and circumstances of the war at the moment we are entitled to ask ourselves whether this is not the period when we should review our attitude to the problem of the neutral States. The Parliamentary Secretary made it clear that now that we have closed practically all avenues of supply to Germany one aim of the air bombardment of Germany is to destroy not only her productive power but her existing stocks, and so we are probably in a position to reap the reward of this four years of struggle. If that be the case, do we not bear a great responsibility in view of the widespread misery, suffering and loss of lives and resources which mankind has suffered?
2327 I understand that later in the Debate there will be anxious inquiries as to what our own Government can do to assist the suffering people of Europe. I want to link the three problems together—our policy of economic warfare in order to shorten the war; our attitude to neutrals who still leave important avenues of supply to Germany open; and the humanitarian problem of our obligations to those who are suffering. I think it is desirable to emphasise the point which the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned that we have no responsibility for the situation which has developed in certain countries in Europe. We must not permit that aspect of the problem to be obscured. That does not mean that we have not a strong humanitarian desire to assist, but in no circumstances should any plea that is put forward give rise to the idea, even by inference, that we have any responsibility for the situation in those countries. I entirely associate myself with the Parliamentary Secretary in saying that the responsibility lies with the country which has overrun those countries. The occupying Power must accept the responsibility before the tribunal of the whole human race. Naturally everybody in this country would desire the Government, if they can do so at any time, to give assistance and relief to the unhappy, helpless individuals in those occupied countries, but I should insert the proviso "if they can do so without prolonging the war," because obviously any relief that can be given must be measured in relation to the total suffering which the war has inflicted, and any relief that would prolong the war would be a false method of expressing sympathy. I have no doubt that it is the earnest desire of the Government to give any legitimate assistance they can, and that would always receive the support of hon. Members.
This Debate provides an occasion for the rising moral indignation of the world to be directed to the position which certain neutral States occupy. Pointing to their difficulties, these countries place themselves on an ethical and moral plane in order to justify their neutrality. I understand that both Sweden and Switzerland have advanced financial credits to Germany in order to promote trade between the two countries. One can understand the difficulties of a country so situated 2328 geographically that it is not entirely the master of its own fate, but I do not think that justifies any undue promotion of trade between itself and the enemy. All nations are suffering at the present time, all nations have had to make over-riding decisions as to what contribution they would make towards the future of the world in a struggle of this kind. Parliament here had to make such a decision on the question of whether it would honour the Government's pledge to Polar d, taking into account the general consequences to the world which would follow, and I do not accept the position that any country can contract out of its international liabilities in the present situation.
We are entitled to ask the Government spokesman to say very definitely whether, on the question of the Government's policy towards countries like Spain and Sweden, the neutrality of those countries represents on balance an advantage to the democratic countries, to the Allies in this struggle, or is proving to be of advantage to the Axis Powers. Unless the Government can answer that question definitely, they are not completely discharging their obligations to Parliament. When we are thinking of Sweden or Spain we feel that the Government ought to be prepared to adjust their policy according to whether the sympathies of Foreign Governments are with the Allies or against them. I have no desire to do injustice to any country, but it appears to me that the policy of Spain and the attitude of its Government all the way through has been definitely on the side of the Axis Powers. I believe the attitude of Spain in international affairs has not been in any way different from Italy's. I believe that with a change of circumstances Spain would have been just as ready—I am talking now about the Government of Spain—to stab this country or her Allies in the back as was Italy. Therefore, one wants to know why the Government does not follow a different policy towards various nations. Turkey has probably stood in a different position from that of Spain or Italy. One appreciates that Turkey has not been in a very strong position hitherto.
I approach all these problems from the angle of shortening the war. We all have an obligation to mobilise whatever resources are in our power to shorten the war, and thus save an immense amount of 2329 unnecessary human suffering. Their military strength and their air strength have put the Allied Powers in a position of overwhelming advantage to shorten the war considerably. Like many other hon. Members I have listened to spokesmen of the Department of Economic Warfare who have got on the platform—and it was the same here to-day—to try to prove that the butter position in Germany, or the clothing position, or the potato position, was a little more severe than in this country, but I suggest that that has fallen on more or less stony ground. The average citizen of this country knows that restrictions have been universal in this war, and the difference between the conditions of the citizens of one country and another at any moment has not always had any bearing on the ultimate outcome of the war; but the fact which is emerging very definitely is that after four years of conflict Germany must now have used up her accumulated stocks. Replenishments from plunder can no longer continue, because of the military situation, and our air power, properly directed, can drastically undermine her production and stock position. We have an obligation to review all these circumstances and apply, not ruthlessly in the moral sense hut in the military sense, all the contributing factors which can bring this war to a rapid and successful end.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
I think the Committee ought to be very grateful to those who initiated this Debate and to the Department of Economic Warfare, which is doing a most extraordinarily good job of work without much publicity. In the first few months of the war I had the advantage of being in the Department and got to know a little of its inside working, and the devotion shown by all who have given their services to this Ministry since the beginning of the war ought to be recognised by Parliament. There are a great many Government Departments which have been staffed by people from outside the Civil Service, but very few, I think, have assembled under one roof so many experts in the different aspects of its work as are to be found in the Ministry of Economic Warfare. Those individuals have worked seven days a week and very long hours. As the Parliamentary Secretary has explained, the Department is rather like a Government Ordnance Department, in that the work comes in rushes in connection with operations of a military character, and the Department has never 2330 been found wanting and has always been able to provide the information required.
The Committee should remember that before the war it was laid down that there should not be a "Ministry of Blockade," as it was known in the last war, because that is a rather more peaceful organisation. It was decided that in war-time it should be called the Ministry of Economic Warfare, which is much more pugnacious, much more offensive to the enemy, and it is its policy of offensive economic warfare which has distinguished this Department throughout the war. One aspect of the work done by the Department is possibly not realised. Not only is it the business of the Commander-in-Chief, Bomber Command, to accept what he considers to be operationally proper targets having regard to weather and other conditions, but it is essential for the Air Ministry to have the expert advice of this Department. To have a knowledge of the internal conditions not only of Germany but of countries on the Continent occupied by Germany would he an impossible task for a Service Department. I should like to see an official, the head of the Department of the Ministry of Economic Warfare, sitting in with the Deputy Chiefs of Staff Committee. I believe that would ensure more contact than there even now is. I look upon this Department, and I am sure that the House does also, as the fourth arm of the Service. We should take the advice of the Parliamentary Secretary and of the Government when we are strained by the tuggings at the heart to allow our heads to be rather weak about appeals to provide foodstuffs; we should rely upon the advice of those most competent to judge.
The most ill service that we can render our country at the present time is to allow sentiment to prevail. We must support the Government in anything which may bring the war to an end a day sooner. It is impossible for any of us who have not the inside information which is at the disposal of the Government to come to any other conclusion. I know that plans have been carried out in Greece, as well as elsewhere, by which Swedish Ships have been able to convey foodstuffs to the starving people. Those of us who know Greece, have been there and have worked there for a time, are aware of the appalling feelings of conscience lest, after the war, the Greeks should say to us that we 2331 allowed them to starve. We have to face that risk. The very natural feelings of a mother who has seen her children dying of starvation in the street will lead her to blame anybody that German propaganda or her own heart may indicate as the cause. British sea power is known to all, and our power of blockade has been known for centuries. It is of the utmost importance that we should consider this matter in the light of the cold, hard facts. We know that almost everything we could send would result in advantage to Germany. The only possible way of doing it is to send things in such a form that they can be useful only to the people for whom they are intended, such as vitamins, which are useful to children, cripples and old people and would not be used by the S.S. troops.
A word as to the co-operation between this Department and the R.A.F. Many hon. Members will have noticed in the communiqués, after some very interesting information about bombing of great cities or industrial works on the Continent, perhaps one line, "Mines were laid in enemy waters." I wonder whether the Committee realise that that task of Coastal Command and Bomber Command is one of the most difficult that the R.A.F. have to do. It is a job that pays a wonderful dividend, but long after the operation has taken place. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to point out when he replies how effective the mining of enemy waters has been, but one result has been virtually to cut off the whole of the shipping that as in the Baltic and to keep it in that part of the European waters and prevent the enemy from using it to any great extent. There is a very great difficulty in attacking the considerable traffic that passes down the West Coast of Norway, where the weather conditions are appalling. There is no doubt that a good deal of traffic does go that way.
With regard to the running of the blockade, the work done by the Royal Navy and by Coastal Command working in co-operation, and seeking out and finding vessels far out at sea, is wonderful. As the Parliamentary Secretary very rightly said, those were vessels making their landfall in darkness. Let it not be forgotten that there is the closest co-operation between them and 2332 enemy U-boats, which are so positioned that they can render effective assistance to the blockade runners should our surface vessels attempt to interfere. What is true of the submarine is also true of the air cover which the enemy is able to supply to protect his blockade runners as they approach the coast. In spite of all this, the results have been extraordinarily successful. If we can pull down the right ships with the most essential cargoes, we strike a blow which will have a tremendous effect upon Germany.
I want to take up some points raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby). I did not know that he was going to make the speech he did about Sweden. I hope the Committee will forgive me if I venture to say one or two things about Sweden which ought in fairness to be known. I know I may be said to be assisting the enemy in so doing, but I assure hon. Members that I am not. At the time of most delicate negotiations between the Foreign Office and Sweden in regard to a trade agreement, it should not go out from this Committee that the position is entirely what we were led to believe by the hon. and gallant Member. In the first place, I ought to explain that I have some association with Sweden and that I know the country. The pressure which has been brought by Germany upon Sweden ever since the fall of Norway has been terrific. The Committee ought to appreciate the difficulties in which the Swedish Government were placed. Sweden has been under a Socialist Government for many years, they have a very small force, and practically no Air Force and only a very small Navy, yet they have been able to resist that tremendous pressure. Our situation would have been worse if Sweden had been in league with Germany or in alliance with her.
With regard to Finland, there has always been the closest alliance between the Finns and the Swedes. I would remind the Committee that the Swedes were not alone in what they said about the attack upon Finland. I remember the Debates in this House when Russia attacked Finland. I remember what we felt, but I am not ashamed of what this House said. We should be false to ourselves if we went back on it. We were all with Sweden for standing with the Finns then, and we sent help. The 2333 situation has changed, and it would be true to say that the Swedes have exercised what pressure they can on the bellicose leader of the Finns to induce him to come out of the war. That has not been very easy.
There is one point which I am sure the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom will allow me to make. He quoted the list of licensed articles which were put on the contraband list of war weapons. He mentioned torpedoes as having been exported from Sweden to Germany in the last year. It is very necessary to say that, from the best knowledge I have, not one weapon has been exported from Sweden to Germany that was on that list. The Committee will remember the gun upon which we rely more than any other and which has saved thousands of lives, the Bofors gun. The inventor of that gun is an eminent Swede, and he is a strong pacifist. His name is Hammerstein. I saw him at Bofors, and I asked him, "How can you reconcile the design and manufacture of the finest anti-aircraft gun with your views on pacifism?" He replied that he could do so because the gun was a purely defensive weapon against air attack.
§ Sir R. Glyn
I am not suggesting that Sweden is a non-profit country; of course we have had to pay for the gun. There is another interesting fact which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to confirm, and it is that the Swedes have invented a completely novel form of exchange. In all the exchange that goes on now between Sweden and Germany, the Swedes refuse to accept gold. The Germans have been trying to make the Swedes take gold, but the latter have absolutely refused. They have invented a form of exchange based on man hours. The man-hour exchange is quite new, and it works in the most extraordinary way. More man-hours are needed to raise iron ore than to raise coal. The result is that the Swedes are now working their exchange upon a basis of equivalent man-hours rather than upon gold, and it is a much more equitable arrangement. It means that the Germans have to work longer to get the exchange and that they cannot get what they want by giving Sweden stolen gold. That is important.
2334 In regard to the passage of German troops, I know that is a matter which we all regret, but what is the position? The German troops going through Sweden are locked in trains. Their arms are taken away from them, and they are merely passengers across the territory. If there is any evidence that any other action is taken, we ought to know about it, but at present I think those are the circumstances.
§ Sir A. Southby
That statement is most misleading. The passage of troops across-a neutral country in war-time is contrary to international law. It does not make the slightest difference whether the troops are in carriages or not or if their arms have been taken away; if those troops were sent by the only other way by which they could get to Germany, they would run the risk of being attacked by us. In going across Sweden in that way they are safe from our attack.
§ Sir R. Glyn
I do not think it is against international law, but the circumstances are very peculiar. I am told that it is only on leave that those troops are allowed to make that journey. Of course, it is a most deplorable fact, but it goes to show only that the pressure by Germany and Sweden's geographical position make things very difficult. We all know that the attitude of Sweden towards the U.S.S.R. is very difficult to get over. There is no doubt that the Russian bear has been a nightmare and a great menace, but I would ask the Committee, in fairness, if we run down the Swedish Government, to remember that the United States are not at war with Finland. Is it not also the fact that the U.S.S.R. are not at war with Japan? In this extraordinary mix-up in this war we have to be rather careful to see that we do not estrange our potential friends. If they were doing harm to our war effort, I should be the first to say that we must bring pressure upon them, but I think it is indisputable that Sweden is so threatened by Germany that it is almost a miracle that she has not been drawn by now into the greater Germany.
The work of the Ministry of Economic-Warfare ought to be considered by us not. only as part of the war effort but in regard to the accumulated knowledge that will be of the utmost benefit in the period immediately after the war. Enormous destruction has been done, and there are 2335 terrible poverty and suffering in many parts of Europe. The enemy has no pity or mercy, and we must have the best possible information in order that we may bring aid to those wretched people who have been suffering for so long. I hope that the Ministry are now considering the immediate post-war position, not only in regard to relief, but in regard to the assistance of countries which have been ravaged by Germany for such things as machine tools, which must go back, if those countries are to get working again and establish their internal economy. The Ministry will be congratulated for their great work in advising the Government as to the right and proper course to pursue when the war ends.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)
I join with the hon. Baronet who has just spoken in hoping that the Ministry of Economic Warfare may have every success in this most important aspect of its work in the preparation for the restoration of Europe, and the return to the inhabitants of the occupied countries of Europe of some at least of the precious things of which they have been robbed. They may be able to bring back machine tools, they may be able to bring in, with the help of the United Nations, great stores of food which will be so much needed, but they will never be able to bring back the children who are dying to-day. I want, if I may, to turn the thoughts of the Committee for a few minutes to this aspect of the duties that lie before the Ministry of Economic Warfare. In doing so, I want to say that although I deeply regret that so far it has not been possible to take more action than has been taken, I recognise the courtesy and consideration that that Ministry have shown in dealing with appeals made to them, and I recognise with thankfulness that some steps have already been taken, particularly in regard to the need, the great and supreme need, of Greece. But I hope that the Minister in replying will take the opportunity of making far clearer to the Committee and the country the position of the Ministry both as to changes that have taken place in the past and as to possible developments in the future, for there have been changes.
I wish to remind the Committee that when the subject was raised by my hon. 2336 Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir E. Graham-Little) in a Question for written answer, the then Minister for Economic Warfare replied on 14th October, 1941:As there has been considerable misapprehension about this matter, I welcome this opportunity of making it clear that recent arrangements regarding Greece do not involve any departure from the general policy of His Majesty's Government. We do not flow foodstuffs to be shipped through the blockade, but subject to suitable conditions we have no objection to the purchase by our Allies of foodstuffs inside the blockade area for the relief of their peoples. These principles are, of course, impartially applied and certain other occupied territories have already benefited by their application. His Majesty's Government maintain their view that it is the responsibility of the enemy to feed the peoples he has enslaved, and they remain convinced that it would not be possible to allow foodstuffs to reach these territories through' the blockade without defeating the objects of economic warfare." [OFFICIAL. REPORT, 14th October, 1941; col. 1264, Vol. 374.]That principle there laid down we all agree to. Of course, it is the duty of the enemy occupying Power to maintain as far as possible the population he has subdued. We do not want to deny that for a moment, but it is no less true that we too have in our own way a duty laid upon us, and it is all the greater in so far as we are trying to stand for an ideal of civilisation, an ideal of human culture, a Christian and religious ideal that is deeper and we believe fuller and truer than that which inspires the Nazi leaders. We must not be faithless to that idea, and the Government recognised in the case of Greece, in spite of those words of the Minister, that something must be done, for within four months of that statement a single food ship with 8,000 tons of wheat was permitted in the month of January to go to Greece.
The Government and the Ministry agreed that something should be done. The need was great, the claims of Greece were so great, and it had been so stripped by the occupying Powers that all food resources had been taken; and they could get no more, and children and people must die if no help could come. As I say, the Government agreed, and since then a regular supply has gradually been permitted to go into Greece, largely the gift of the Canadian Government, so far as wheat is concerned, partly the gift of sympathisers in America, and partly paid for by the Greek Red Cross or the Greek 2337 Government. But this Government have been responsible for providing the navicerts, and I believe they did provide a very considerable gift of wheat in the very early stages. For this we must be most thankful. Still wheat is no food for babies. My hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), I think, spoke about everything now being better, because milk and vitamins were going out as they should. Yet, in fact, vitamins have not gone to Greece as far as we know. My hon. Friend told me, in reply to a Question some little time ago, that a supply of vitamins for Greece had been authorised but that so far as he knew it had not yet gone. In the meantime all these young children have been suffering.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
Is it not a fact that millions of children under the Nazi rule are short of vitamins? How does the hon. Member propose to deal with them?
§ Mr. Harvey
I think the brief reply to the Noble Lord is that in varying degrees there are shortages. In Denmark there is no acute shortage. The position there, as throughout the different countries, was given by my hon. Friend in a table which can be referred to in Hansard of three or four weeks ago, giving the conditions in the various countries. Greece and Poland are the worst, and Belgium comes afterwards. In all cases there is a certain amount of shortage, in some a very serious shortage.
§ Mr. Stokes
May I put a question in elucidation of what the Noble Lord has said? Is it not a fact that at one time earlier in the war food was supplied through the Red Cross to children in Poland?
§ Mr. Harvey
That is so. There were difficulties which arose which prevented that from continuing. But we are dealing with the particular condition of Greece at this moment, and I do not want to run away from that. It is a fact that it has been proposed to the Government that there should be, in addition to the wheat and milk going in, enough suitable food to provide just for the very young children, the babies and nursing mothers and invalids, to consist solely of dried milk and vitamins. It would only involve shipping of 2,000 tons a month. That 2338 would be sufficient to supply the whole of this most urgent need, and I do hope that the Minister may be able to give an assurance that that request, which has been put to him more than once from authoritative sources, will receive favourable consideration. It is not a large amount to ask, and we are not asking that one single ship in the Allied pool should be diverted. What is needed is that the navicerts should be given. Shipping is there. The Red Cross would undertake the supervision. Here I want to point out how admirably we have been served by the International Red Cross and the Swedish Red Cross in undertaking this great service. It has been a noble, humane service that has been undertaken, and they are willing to undertake a similar service for Belgium.
I am going to speak to-day only of the position of Greece and Belgium, because these are the two most urgent cases which we could help, even if we cannot help others. I realise the force of the Minister's argument that if we begin, there will be no end. I think the answer is simply that we only ask that such help shall be given as can be given and that it shall be given where the need is greatest. We do not ask the Minister to divert any of his own ships or the ships serving the Allies now, but simply to give leave to the Allied Governments concerned to make arrangements for the purchase of this form of food, which could only be used for nursing mothers, young children and invalids. We are not asking for a great scheme to feed the whole population of the occupied territories. That would be open to all the objections which the Minister has raised, and it would not be possible to find the shipping or even the kind of food needed for such a vast scheme, even if it could be undertaken without risk of its being seized by the occupying authorities. But it will be possible, as has been proved in the case of Greece, to do this in the case of nursing mothers and children.
I wish to give a single quotation to show the urgency in the case of Belgium. The Minister has said that he did not feel there was anything like the same urgency in the case of other countries as in the case of Greece, but we have had a report issued in December, 1942, by Dr. E. J. Bigwood, who is the Vice-President of the Belgian Red Cross, and who has done very im- 2339 portant work for the Belgian Government about conditions in Belgium. Since then the position, as is shown by my hon. Friend's own statements is, if anything, a little worse, certainly not improved. Dr. Bigwood said in his report—and it should be noted that there is a contrast between the authorised rations stated on paper and the real amount of food that gets to the people:The rationed diet on the cards is purely theoretical, and the available fraction would seem to be the following: For the 2,000,000 people who have to rely on daily supplies, the rationed diet falls from 1,160 calories to about 800–900 calories. When meat is lacking, the figure is nearer 800. In that case, the bread ration alone supplies about two-thirds of the calories, and the protein intake falls below one ounce. This, indeed, is not far from corresponding to true starvation.That is the statement of an eminent doctor who has served on the Nutrition Committee of the League of Nations Health Organisation. I give that single striking example of the urgency of the need.
We have had to-day several appeals to us not to be led astray by sentiment. I do not want either the Committee or the Minister to be led astray by sentiment. I am sure that we need to think of all the effects of the course we have advocated, but we have had a statement by my hon. Friend that in the case of Greece there has been no substantial withdrawal of supplies by the occupying Powers in any way, and that the scheme is working satisfactorily. We have the offer of the International Red Cross, which is already doing such admirable work for our own prisoners of war, to carry on this work of supervision, and we have the offer of Swedish volunteers. I hope that that may help the Ministry to look once more into this with favourable eyes and realise that they will not be merely helping the children of Belgium by doing this.
They will be helping in the rebuilding of Europe. If we allow these conditions to continue during the remaining period of the war, can we picture for a moment the kind of Europe there will be when the war is over? We want to see a better world built up. If in every home there is a vacant place, and if in every home there is bitterness because children have died when their lives might have been saved, will that help in that rebuilding? I wish we could have at the Bar of this 2340 House some of these children themselves. How many Members of this Committee have seen a starving child? I had the awful privilege—if it is a privilege—of travelling amongst the war-ravaged countries after the last war on relief work. Even a year after the war, I can remember in Serbia children crying out for bread. I was passing by in the train, and, alas, at the moment, although I was on relief work, I had no bread with me to give. I tried to hand out a few dinars, and I remember a boy shaking his head sadly—money was no good to him; he wanted bread. That was over a year after the war had ended. We can see those wan, pale faces, prematurely aged, pleading with us, not only for themselves but for their families, for their countries, for the Europe that is to be.
I believe that it is no mere appeal to sentiment that we are making: we are responding to the best that is in all of us. It may be said that this is a totalitarian war, and that we have to put aside all these thoughts and think of nothing but destroying the enemy. There can be no such thing as a totalitarian war so long as man is man, because there is in all of us a conscience, there is a sense of pity, there is a sense of right; and so long as those things are stirring within the heart of man, there will always rise up something which will say, "You must do this, be, cause it is right." I make that appeal to the Government, and I cannot doubt their response.
§ Mr. Loftus (Lowestoft)
I find it very difficult to follow immediately after the most eloquent and moving appeal we have heard from the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey). I would like to deal with the points which he has raised, but first I will refer, if I may, to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, and join in the general chorus of congratulation. I think that those who heard the speech—and I regret that more did not hear such an admirable speech—found it an intellectual treat. The Parliamentary Secretary had a vast canvas to cover, and he filled it in with masterly strokes; and at the end we had a great picture presented to us of a Government Department working under the high pressure of war-time with the utmost effect. He left us in no doubt that the weapon of the blockade to-day is still as powerful and effective as it was in the Napoleonic 2341 wars. Indeed, he referred in the closing words of his speech to the words of Admiral Mahan about the storm-beaten warships of Britain defeating the Grand Army of Napoleon. He also pointed out that quite probably it was the effect of our blockade which forced the German High Command to divide their attack last year in Russia, in order to try to secure the oilfields of the Caucasus. It is a remarkable fact that it was the British blockade, in the earlier days at the time of Napoleon, which broke down his Continental system and forced him to go to war with Russia. It may well be that history will say that in this war Germany was forced by the menace of our blockade to embark on the disastrous attack on Russia.
I would ask my hon. friend the Parliamentary Secretary whether, when he replies, he would mention financial warfare. I know that his Department is interested in it. He had not time to refer to it in opening the Debate, but we know that Germany, under that very clever individual Dr. Schacht, is capable of every financial dodge and trickery, not only to provide for the present but to provide for every possible future contingency. Are we, for instance, taking care to prevent Germany securing foreign exchange assets, say, in South America? Are we taking steps to warn neutral banks that they should not accept these foreign exchange assets owned by Germany if they are transferred to them? I will give an instance of what I mean. There may be foreign exchange assets in the Argentine banks, owned by individual Germans or by German companies. If the Argentine is coming into the war, those assets may be transferred to neutral banks in Switzerland or Sweden. Are we taking steps to warn those neutral banks that we will not recognize the validity of such a transference? We know that the German authorities looted banks in occupied countries. In France they opened private safes in every bank. They took foreign securities. But there were many hoards of gold in those private safes. Is there any means by which we could notify neutral banks that gold transferred to them will not be recognised as stolen gold, but as the property of the former holders? There is a technique which the enemy are following to-day in occupied Europe. The Germans sell, say, to merchants in Hungary goods 2342 for delivery after the war, but they insist on cash payments to-day, thereby getting exchange. I do not know whether anything could be done to cover that. I refer to those matters because I think that financial' economic warfare is an important part of the Department's work.
I would now turn to the speech of the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities. I find myself in great sympathy with much of it. I would refer to the words of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, in dealing with this matter when he warned us that we must not exaggerate, and said that it was a mistake to think that famine conditions prevailed generally in Europe. I do not think there is any need to exaggerate. Famine conditions do not exist, throughout Europe generally, but in many parts of Europe, matters are desperate. It is hard for us ordinary back-bench Members to know the truth. We get information from generally well-informed sources, but we cannot tell how far it is correct. I have heard from a well-informed source that probably one-quarter or one-third of the young children of Paris to-day are already showing signs of tuberculosis. We hear stories of children so hungry that they have to be given aspirin night after night, to induce sheep,. Those stories may be exaggerated, but the facts known are sufficiently sad, and ought to command our most earnest consideration. The Parliamentary Secretary said that any substantial alleviation of the position in Europe to-day would be exploited by Germany. I think there is much substance in that remark. Any attempt to deal with the general conditions of under-nutrition, semi-starvation, in many places would be impossible. If you could carry it out, it would certainly alleviate conditions in Germany itself, and would reduce the effect of our blockade to a marked extent. I admit that, frankly and fully. Then he said that many hon. Members advocating famine relief did not appreciate the consequences, and that the onus of food supply to occupied countries rests on the enemy. We do not contest that statement in the least.
But what the Famine Relief Committee propose is not universal relief; and it is relief under stringent conditions, not interfering with 'the blockade. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton), who, I regret, 2343 is not now in his place, interrupted my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined Universities, and said, "You are referring to Greece or Belgium. How are you to deal with the mass of starving or half-starving children in Poland or occupied Russia?" That interjection, I submit, is not unanswerable. Because we cannot save all, are we to save none? We recognise that we cannot help the adults, that there must be some starvation of children in occupied Russia and Poland, that there people in great numbers may die of starvation while we are compelled to stand aside and do nothing. Further, we recognise that we cannot help the great mass of people in occupied Russia, Poland, occupied France and Belgium to any very great degree. But we can help some.
What are the conditions which we propose? First, that only food in small bulk, concentrated food, not heavy stuff, should be sent, consisting chiefly of vitamins for children and dried milk. That is the first condition—consignments small in bulk and comparatively light in weight. The second condition is that the help should not be for adults, with the possible exception of expectant and nursing mothers. Apart from this, it should be confined to young children. We recognise that we cannot help the adults however much they suffer. Though they may be starving, we cannot help them. The third condition is that we cannot spare a single ship, especially as things are to-day, and therefore this food must be carried in neutral ships. It is believed that we can secure the necessary neutral ships and inquiries are being made. The fourth condition is that the food would be distributed and controlled by the Red Cross. We distribute food to prisoners of war through the machinery of the Red Cross and it is done most efficiently, and under the control of the Red Cross this food should be distributed to the children whom we could reach. Another condition is that, if any attempt were made not to play fair or if the Red Cross were interfered with and not allowed a free hand, the whole scheme would shut down at once. The final condition is that no British funds will be used. There would be subscriptions by other Governments and private individuals throughout the world.
Those are the six conditions and hon. Members will realise that this does not 2344 mean a big breach of the blockade and the pouring in of thousands of tons of foodstuffs and feeding the adults and all children in Europe. It is an attempt to save some of the children of Europe so as to have some foundation upon which to build in the future. I ask the Committee to bear this in mind. What will the condition of Europe be like after the war? If you could say, that when the war finishes or a few months after the war finishes, there would be sufficient eggs and milk for children in order to build them up again, you might have a case against our proposal. But we know that for 10 years after the war there will be insufficient meat, fats and butter, eggs and so on in Europe. Therefore, you cannot suddenly build up devitalised children.
I plead with the Government to realise that we are not attempting to make this a big breach of the blockade. We are asking for a small thing. Do let hon. Members realise this. When we talk in this House from time to time, perhaps with undue optimism, of the wonderful new world we are going to build after this war; when we talk of a peaceful Europe with happy contented people and friendly nations, are we proposing to have as the foundation of that world anaemic, rickety children wrecked with tuberculosis? You cannot build a new Europe on that foundation. I feel that there is a great deal in what people of all parties said some years before the war, that another war might well destroy our European civilisation. These people in Belgium, France, Holland and in Greece—nations that have largely helped to make our civilization—are suffering today. They will suffer, whatever happens, to a much greater extent in the future, but I want to build up again after the war these nations, large and small, and to rebuild our European civilisation. To do that we must have healthy people as a basis. Therefore, I appeal to the Government to do the utmost possible to save as many children as they can by supplying them now, not with large quantities of food but with the essential vitamins and the dried milk, that will enable some of them to come through these terrible times and be the forerunners of future generations.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
The Committee must have been deeply affected by the last two 2345 speeches which appealed so much to our sense of pity. At the same time, the Committee must have been attracted by the picture painted by my hon. Friend. It was a fascinating and dramatic story of the work carried out by his Department, involving many complexities and difficulties and sometimes imponderable factors, based on forecasts of what is going to happen in the countries against which we are fighting. I think sometimes that one of the greatest difficulties facing my hon. Friend and his Department is to balance, or to keep an even keel between, the conflicting calls of sentiment, humanity and pity on one side, and on the other, the urgent demand to win the war as quickly as possible. My hon. Friend and many others have used the argument frequently in this House—and rightly so—that the best way to help these unfortunate people, for whom our hearts feel so deeply to-day, is to win the war and win it quickly.
There is great force in that argument. But supposing the war goes on for much longer, what is to be the future? Is Europe to be salvaged at all? Will there be any hope for these children? May it not be a Europe in which there will be only one nation with healthy, well-nourished, fit children? That is a danger that perhaps the Department sometimes allow themselves not to see too clearly. If one takes Greater Germany, with its 200,000,000 population, one is forced to the conviction that whatever we can spare and whatever can be sent in the way of dried milk or even in the way of vitamins, could not be of any very great influence or effect. We are prevented, unhappily, from getting at Poland, Russia, Czecho-Slovakia and other countries. I do not know the position there, although the Minister gave a complete survey the other day, but we can get at France, Greece and Belgium and undoubtedly these are the countries that need our help most. We have had an assurance fully fulfilled by the hon. Gentleman's Department in regard to Greece. Although 25,000 tons was supposed to be the minimum amount of wheat to keep the Greek people just alive, 15,000 tons is a great deal better than noshing. The dried milk promised is something to which to look forward, but will the dried milk came in time from Argentina or from wherever it is being sent?
§ Mr. Foot indicated assent.
§ Sir T. Moore
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for that information. I am not standing up here to criticise the Government. I do not want to do that. I think that the Government, with their tremendous responsibility of preventing the enemy from benefiting in any way by what might get into Occupied Europe, are carrying out their work with great efficiency and are making a great effort to do the right thing. But I am impressed by what was said by the last two speakers of the danger of seeing a charnel-house in Europe when we eventually liberate these countries. We know that we must retain a certain amount of food for the countries we liberate, as we did in North Africa, but there is a danger of being too late. The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) has just said that we cannot build a new Europe and a new world on bodies that are twisted and wrecked. Bodies alone will not be wrecked, but minds, too. Without intending in any way to appeal to sentiment I would say to the Government that in order to make Europe worth saving, let us exert every effort which is commensurate with the interests of winning the war, to help these unfortunate devastated occupied countries so as to make it possible to build a better Europe after the war.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
I propose to follow both the speech to which we have just listened and the two previous excellent speeches on the subject of famine relief, but before I do so there are one or two points in the Minister's speech to which I would like to refer. I regret that he did not give us more light as to the 2347 Government's policy on this matter of famine relief. He has left us in the usual position of always having to put forward the arguments, and then he winds up late, leaving no opportunity for us to go for him again for not being as constructive as we expected him to be. But perhaps I am cashing-in on the future and anticipating his remarks. He laid emphasis on the importance of the blockade, and I appreciate it. I understand what he was saying, but let the Committee not forget that there is an extraordinary difference to-day between the blockade in this current war and the 1914–18 war. It is an altogether different thing. To a very large extent you might almost say that the blockade does not exist. There are many ways it can be made effective, but compared with the 1914–18 war the blockade to-day is really a very feeble thing. Particularly on the question of food relief it is obvious, as I propose to develop later, the only people who in the end are going to be well fed on the Continent of Europe are the Germans, when all our friends are down and out and starving. The effect of the blockade on the food side will be to destroy the very people we are setting out to save. That is a form of fanaticism.
I must say, in regard to the congratulatory messages passed over to the hon. Member, against whom I nurse no animosity whatever—that he has made a most admirable speech—but I am bound to tell him that, given access to the other Departments, I could have made the speech for him without going anywhere near the Ministry of Economic Warfare. It-might indeed not be a bad thing if the Ministry of Economic Warfare was wound up—and I want to have that on record if only for the sake of having it on record. The thing that struck me very much about the Parliamentary Secretary's speech was his constant references to Anglo-American decisions. That seems to me to be a most deplorable approach. I suppose he meant United Nations' decisions. I do not know, but there is a suspicion, fast growing in people's breasts, that the bigger boys take most of the decisions, with the emphasis on the "Yank." I do not think that will help at all, and perhaps when the hon. Gentleman winds up the Debate he will use the term "United Nations."
2348 I know the Committee does not like technical points, and I do not want to talk about my own profession, but I was much interested in the hon. Gentleman's statement about our air raids on the German dams and the effect on water supplies as the result of the bursting of the two dams that were hit. No doubt he has much more information than I—and I do not pretend to have studied a detailed plan of these dams showing how the mechanical equipment works, where it is sited or which parts have been thrown out of action—but from the admirable display of photographs which we recently had here I take the view that while the mechanical gear may be temporarily in disorder, it has not been destroyed at all. While it is right to say that the effect of letting the water out of the dams has certainly destroyed the effective use of the water for hydro-electric purposes, I join issue with the hon. Gentleman when he says that it will interfere with the regular water supply of the regions lower down. The reason is, strange as it may be, that water insists on going down hill; it does not flow up hill. You have helped it to run down hill. I agree that you have let the head down and that it cannot be used for hydro-electric purposes, but you have not seriously interfered with the regular flow of water to the lower regions. Therefore, I say, with unusually great respect, that perhaps the bombing has not had entirely the effect which would appear from the Minister's remarks.
I now want to refer to a particular Department which I know is not entirely under the control of the Parliamentary Secretary but which is under the direction of his chief, who sits in another place and whom I cannot get at, because he does not come here. The hon. Gentleman is therefore my only channel of communicaiton, and I presume I am in order in appealing to him to convey a request to his Noble Friend to examine the particulars of this certain Department, which I do not wish to specify, as it is not in the public interest, but about which I have given him precise information. Really, it is a public scandal. We are not allowed to talk about it in detail here, but anybody who moves about the West End of London knows about it. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are wasted every week; young men who have never heard a shot fired 2349 in anger sit there doing nothing; 500 or 600 secretaries sit down with hardly a day's work to do, and are not pooled, and the whole thing is monopolised by bankers, oil magnates and solicitors who masquerade as high military officials, most of whom have never seen any service at all.
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)
Is it not the duty of my hon. Friend to give the Committee more information? I think we are all interested in what he is saying.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
I must remind both hon., Gentlemen that we cannot go beyond certain bounds which are allowed at the present time on the grounds of expediency.
§ Mr. Stokes
That is why I was only making a vague reference to this matter. I have struggled with it for nearly two years, and my only channel of information is the Parliamentary Secretary. However, I hope that under different conditions I may be able to give more information.
§ Earl Winterton
On a point of Order. May I ask with great respect what you mean by your Ruling, Mr. Williams? I am asking for information; I am not criticising—it would be grossly improper for me to do so—but you used the word "expediency." Surely we have not reached that point in this House in wartime. A thing is either in Order or out of Order, and I hope it is not suggested that if it is in Order, it cannot be dealt with.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
No, I think I was wrong in using the word "expediency." I meant from the point of view of national security. I accept the right hon. Member's suggestion in the spirit in which it has been made.
§ Mr. Stokes
I do not propose to pursue the matter further, but public funds are involved, and we are supposed to be the guardians of public funds. As I have said, I have struggled to get something done, and I thought that a little veiled publicity might not be a bad thing.
As regards the question of food for Europe, as I have said previously, the danger is that at the end of the war the 2350 Germans will be the only people in Europe who have been comparatively well fed and all our own friends will be down and out, disease-ridden and half starved, unless we take steps to do something, not necessarily by means of a great scheme, but something which will at least help children and their mothers. After all, the suffering nations are supposed to be our Allies. They bore the first brunt of the attack—I wish the Parliamentary Secretary would pay attention. The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), who is talking to him, has already made a speech, and no doubt he would like to make another, but I wish to say to the Minister, who said that tremendous help was expected from occupied countries as and when we invade Europe, that if the Government pursue their present policy, there will be nothing but a disgruntled, starving and useless population. Leaving aside the question on sentimental grounds, it is of the utmost importance in our own interests that something should be clone now, without a moment's further delay.
There is another point and a strong one. Men and women will, on the whole, endure practically anything in order to achieve the end which they desire. Unfortunately, I am not a parent, but I know from what men and women have said to me that they will not endure sanely seeing their children starve. If you are to reduce our friends in Europe to the state in which they were at the end of the last war—and I, like my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey), had the tragedy of seeing children who had been starved—all you- will do is to create a desperate feeling of bitterness which will be extremely hard to eradicate.
I want to speak particularly about Belgium, because I fought with the Belgian Army for some considerable period in the last war, and I was in action with them when they made their great attack on the Houthulst Forest. I have a number of friends who are Belgian soldiers and whose children's children are now suffering from food shortage in this war. I think the time has come for some of us in this House to be upstanding in order to press for something more to be done to aid the peoples of that country. The Parliamentary Secretary said that perhaps the death-rate of babies in Belgium was not so bad as some seemed 2351 to think and that conditions had improved of recent years. I do not deny that, but what the hon. Gentleman has lost sight of is the fact that young men are not there. You cannot have babies without men, and if the Germans pull away 1000,000 men from their homesteads, where are the babies to come from? What the Minister should have given us was the death-rate of the children between one and five years of age. I have not the figures, but I hope that on some future occasion—and I shall certainly put a Question to the Minister—it will be possible to say what the figures are. My belief is that they will show a very different and deplorable state of affairs.
Now I want to deal with one or two of the arguments which will probably be used. I understand that the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) proposes to speak, and no doubt he and the Minister will use some of these arguments. We are at a disadvantage in that we have had no argument from the Government. The last time that happened was during the Crete affair, when I found myself in the same predicament. It is said that it is a mistake to think that a real famine exists in Europe. I agree, but I am much more influenced by what the genuine representatives of the Allied Nations in this country have to say on the subject. For instance, so far as I know the Belgian Government are at variance with His Majesty's Government about the policy which we are pursuing. They do not agree that conditions are so satisfactory that nothing need be done. It is said that any relief action could not be limited to one or two areas and that any wide relaxation of the blockade would be exploited by the enemy. Why? What is being pressed by these famine relief committees is not that there should be a sudden opening of the door to let in a terrific flow of foodstuffs to all and sundry in Europe, but that there should be limited supplies for, possibly, a week or a month at a time. Such supplies could be knocked off at any moment if it was found that they were being misdirected or misused in any way. One of the common arguments is that it is the obligation, under international law, of the occupying Power to feed the peoples of the countries they occupy. My answer is twofold. First, you cannot feed starving children on 2352 international law. Their bellies are still empty when you try it, and the hon. Gentleman had better remember that. Secondly—and much more important in the case of Belgium—70 per cent. of the food which Belgians consumed prior to the war came from overseas and not from the Continent of Europe. If the hon. Gentleman argues that there is both an economic and moral obligation on the enemy then the economic obligation on us is over 70 per cent. of the total food requirements. But we are not asking for that, and it is a shame, in our view, that the Government are being so niggardly.
Then there is the argument that the food will not reach its proper destinations. Is there any evidence of that? So far as I know, there is no evidence of any kind whatsoever. We go to the extent of sending parcels to prisoners of war, and they get there. Why do the Government allow that? Is it not the obligation of the enemy to see that these prisoners are properly fed? Why do the Government give in on that? Because they are afraid of the electorate. The people of this country would not stand it, and they would not stand it if they were told the truth, which they rarely are, about the conditions of the mothers and children in some of our Allies' territories. It is absurd to compare the relief that we are urging with what was done in the last war. As far as my figures go, under the Hoover relief scheme something of the order of 100,000 tons of foodstuffs a month was sent into Belgium. All we are asking is something of the order of 2,000 tons, and that specialised stuff, such as dried milk. It is not fair to say that because the Hoover relief scheme was abused—I believe it was—it necessarily follows that these limited supplies will be abused in the same way. It is not the same thing at all. Then there is the argument that we shall be feeding those who work for the enemy, but that is precisely what we shall not be doing. I believe they have now collected about 12,000,000 workers, including prisoners of war, on German territory in munition factories and elsewhere, and they are fed properly by the Germans. It is the people who cannot be used who are left starving. The people we are trying to help are not those who are helping Germany now but those who can help us when the war comes to an end.
2353 I understand that in the early days of 1941 what is known as the Hoover scheme was put forward and approved by the Belgian Government. That involved sending help to 1,000,000 destitute adults and 2,000,000 children and, quite contrary to what is the prevailing belief, this was not a one-sided show. It required the Germans to contribute a great deal more than they are doing at present. From the information that comes to me, the Germans agreed to that scheme.
§ Mr. Stokes
It was a statement made by the Executive Committee of the National Committee on Food for Small Democracies in March, 1941. It is referred to loosely as being one of the Hoover schemes, and it involved the sending by Germany of a million bushels of grain a month and a certain quantity of stuff front outside. I hope I am wrong, but I understand that the German Government agreed and the British Government refused. It seems perfectly outrageous if that is so. If the hon. Gentleman cannot clear it up to-day, I hope he will have that looked into and thrashed out and satisfactorily dealt with.
We are supposed to be fighting for ideals. We do not want to win the war by starving all the women and children of Europe. In fact, we shall certainly lose it if that is the way we set about doing it. I believe in war-time it is more important than ever to stick up for your principles. There is no sense in putting them into cold storage till the war ends. There is no sincerity or honesty of purpose in doing that. We should follow our principles now and not wait until the end of the war. I appeal to the Government and, above all, to the Prime Minister. He has the power, and what he says goes. He knows the terrible things that happen when people are starving. He knows the terrible effects of starvation on mind and body. Unless something is done about this, when we finally succeed in bringing the war to a satisfactory conclusion we may very well get thanks from the peoples of the friendly countries for their liberation, but they will say, "Cursed be ye for all time for the methods you indulged in in bringing about our liberation."
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
I think the Committee was very deeply moved by the eloquent speeches of the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus). It is clear that no one could stand up to speak against the appeal that they made to the Government unless he was absolutely convinced that to give way to an appeal of that kind, however well intentioned, would in the long run have the effect of lengthening the period of the war, and therefore increasing the sufferings of Europe. The argument is generally put forward that the only way in which Germany could benefit by any supplies being sent into Europe would be if those supplies were intercepted by the Germans and fumed to their own purpose. As things are at present, the whole of Occupied Europe and Germany is one great war machine fed from one single larder, and anything that makes more foodstuffs available to the quartermaster in charge of that fortress means that to that extent the effect of the blockade has been diminished. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) mentioned that before the war Belgium was a food-importing country, and he may or may not be aware that within the last two or three years Germany has found it necessary to export more than 400,000 tons of grain for the purpose of keeping the Belgian population going. Therefore, if in any way at all this country provides the people of Belgium with some of the necessaries of life, it reduces to that extent the burden that rests upon the German quartermaster. The hon. Member made a most important admission. The argument has been put forward, certainly in the country if not in this House, that because we allowed relief to be given to Belgium during the last war by Mr. Hoover, we should now be willing to allow relief of the same kind. I therefore noted with special interest and satisfaction the fact that the hon. Member admits that, from knowledge that has come to us since the last war, the relief given under the Hoover scheme proved beneficial to the German war machine. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that we should not allow anything of that kind to be repeated in this war.
§ Mr. Stokes
I am sure the hon. Member does not mean to misrepresent me. He referred to 400,000 tons of grain supplied from Germany to Belgium. All we 2355 are asking for is 2,000 tons of special foods, under control, and with no possibility of its being abused.
§ Mr. Molson
It is important that we should get the whole situation quite clear. There is another country under German occupation where the children are undoubtedly suffering from malnutrition. An exchange of commodities has been thrust upon Norway, which means that the products of fish, and especially cod liver oil and so on, are being taken away and being used in Germany. Obviously, therefore, if the same concessions were applied to Norway as it is now being asked should be applied to other countries, it would merely be facilitating the trade that it at present taking place between Norway and Germany and which is part of the deliberate exploitation of the occupied countries. I feel that not enough has been said about the importance of putting fairly and squarely upon the Germans the responsibility for the starvation that is taking place in Europe. Everything done by us to take upon ourselves any of the responsibility for feeding these people is naturally an inducement to the Germans to put an ever-increasing burden upon us, and, if they have occupied those countries and are using them for the purpose of obtaining foodstuffs and raw materials for their own people and their own industries, manifestly the whole responsibility for any of the consequences of that must, in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of history, rest upon the occupying Power.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
Assuming that that is so, the fact still remains that the people themselves, who are not receiving the food and for whom the German Government are really responsible, are meanwhile being starved to death.
§ Mr. Molson
When we are engaged in total war, and when we are trying to win the war in the general interest of the whole world, and especially of the subject populations, it is not possible in our view for us to accept any responsibility for the consequences of the German occupation. A great deal has been said as to what is the point of view of the United Governments in this country. It would obviously be improper if I gave the name of the Prime Minister of an Allied country with Whom I discussed this matter, but I am 2356 prepared to give the hon. Member for Ipswich an assurance that the Prime Minister of one of these countries said to me that, although he admitted that his own Cabinet was divided on the subject, he believed that in the general interest of winning the war it was right for us to stand absolutely firm.
§ Mr. Stokes
On what point? On the whole question of general food supplies or the particular supplies the hon. 'Member has been talking about?
§ Mr. Molson
The point has been made that there will be no ill effects of the blockade if it is confined to these special small quantities of foodstuffs specially suitable for young children and nursing mothers. My hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus), with that fairness and frankness which always distinguish him in controversy, admitted that in his view it would be of material assistance to Germany—
§ Mr. Loftus
I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks, but I think he has misunderstood me. I said that any big attempt to feed the adults of Europe would be of great material assistance to Germany but that a small quantity of vitamins and dried milk would not be of such assistance.
§ Mr. Molson
My hon. Friend admitted that he desired it to be extended to as many countries as possible. He used the argument that it must not be said that because all the children could not be relieved, some of them should not be relieved. He would extend it as far as he could—and he would carry relief to the whole of occupied Europe if he could.
§ Mr. Molson
And to nursing mothers. It is obvious that if in any of these countries the large populations are going to receive any substantial measure of relief, that must mount up to a point when it will be of considerable assistance to the enemy. If it is to be on such a very small scale, I can only say that hon. Gentlemen cannot have it both ways. It cannot be 2357 enough to give substantial relief to large numbers of starving children and at the same time not he enough to give substantial relief to the problems of the Germans in feeding Europe.
§ Mr. Loftus
I would rather feed Do per cent. of the children of Europe, even if I had to sacrifice 90 per cent., rather than sacrifice all of them.
§ Mr. Molson
I do not want to indulge in any controversy about this, but I really cannot understand the logical position of hon. Gentlemen who are arguing two things simultaneously. They first argue that the scale of relief which they are asking for would be so modest that, although it is to extend as rapidly as possible throughout the occupied countries, it would not be of assistance to the German quartermaster of Europe, and at the same time they say that it should be sufficient to do substantial good to the children.
§ Mr. Stokes
Will the hon. Gentleman go into it more closely, because he has clearly not studied the problem at all?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
A few minutes ago the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) was objecting to other people interrupting. Perhaps he will remember that.
§ Mr. Molson
After I had written two letters to "The Times" on this subject, when I tried, in no spirit of controversy, to put forward certain arguments why I felt that, however great one's sympathy might be, it would not be right or proper for the British Government to give navicerts for this purpose, I received so many letters, some criticising me and some from people who were responsible for the blockade in the last war giving facts and figures to justify the line I had taken, that I felt that I had a certain insight into this subject.
I have spoken at some length on this point, because I think there is a danger that, although it is so unpleasant to have to adopt a line which appears as hardhearted as the line that I am taking today, and although there are so many hon. Members who feel strongly upon this subject, there might be in this and other 2358 countries a mistaken idea as to the point of view of the majority of hon. Members upon this subject. There have been several occasions on which persons who are interested in this subject have come to the House and met Members upstairs. Although they were given the most courteous and sympathetic hearing, they all went away with the feeling that, however great the sympathy of the House might be with the point of view they were putting forward, there was a consensus of opinion in the House that the weapon of blockade is a particularly effective one and that it would be wrong to allow even a trickle to get through which would gradually become widened as time went on, until at last what has been all through our history so effective an instrument for bringing wars to a successful conclusion was frittered away.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
I am sure that most of us appreciate the logic of those who argue that economic warfare is merely one variant of warfare as a whole. I cannot see any essential logical difference between the bombardment of towns which inevitably means the destruction of human life on the one hand, and the starvation of children on the other; excepting, perhaps, that in the case of bombardment the child may be destroyed instantaneously and in the other case it suffers from prolonged starvation and malnutrition and may eventually perish. It is death in the end in both cases. I therefore appreciate the argument of those who say that we should not be too squeamish about this form of warfare. I would go further and say that though I do not accept, yet I can understand, the argument of others who claim that, taking the long view, even though in the meanwhile a number of innocent people may suffer, it is better to harden one's heart against the appeal to pity and compassion in order 'that ultimately a much greater good might come. I know that the hon. Gentleman who is to reply to the discussion is as aware of the facts that have been brought out by many speakers as I am, and I need not, therefore, emphasise them. I am equally certain that he is aware of the proposals that have been made. In fact, many attempts have been made during the Debate to make it clear that no wide and comprehensive scheme of general food relief for the depressed populations of Europe is anticipated and that it should merely be 2359 a specific type of relief to the children and in some cases to the mothers.
Therefore, it is unnecessary to go over the ground again, but I am driven to ask why there is obviously a difference of opinion among Members. Why is it that some of us are anxious to see this specific kind of relief granted, particularly to Belgium and Greece, and possibly where occasion requires to other areas as well? I can only come to the conclusion that it is because of a different judgment of human values and of what ultimately will affect the future of mankind. For instance, the hon. Member for the The High Peak (Mr. Molson) believed that taking a long view, even though many may suffer meanwhile, it is for the good of the human race that they should suffer now so that complete victory may he obtained. My judgment is quite different. It may be because my mentality is more limited or not so informed as that of the hon. Member. I would submit this, however, respecting the hon. Member's argument, that Germany has responsibility for the famished peoples in occupied areas, we all agree that she has not only a legal responsibility according to international law, but a moral responsibility as well. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) pointed out that 70 per cent. of the imports of food to Belgium came from abroad, and therefore to that extent we have a certain technical responsibility in withholding supplies. Nevertheless, with that possible qualification, I agree, as I think all hon. Members would, that legally and morally Germany has a responsibility for the feeding of the populations she has conquered.
Even though that be so, what then? As I tried to point out in the intervention during the speech of the hon. Member for The High Peak, it means that if Germany does not exercise her responsibility, the obvious result will be that in all probability thousands of people will starve to death. I can still understand the hon. Gentleman saying that that cannot be helped, for there is no difference between that and their being bombed to death. But surely it also means that those who die or those who are affected by starvation will not be able effectively to come to our aid when the war is over and will be disinclined to appreciate our motives and intentions. We know that 2360 where we have desperate conditions of famine, prolonged malnutrition and other economic disorders which have inflicted Europe for so long the criterion of reason begins to go. An amateur study of human psychology teaches us that. One of the causes of the collapse of democracy in Germany was the gross economic conditions and political confusion in which the element of reason began to be dissipated and sheer demagogy, bitter emotion, dangerous rhetoric and the appeal to primitive instincts more and more secured a response. Therefore, in those areas where there is starvation, or conditions approaching it, we may have during the war and after an increasing number of people who are unresponsive to reason and become more and more responsive to base appeals that are made by viciously disposed people who arise under such circumstances.
I would emphasise again that the last people to suffer by the prolongation and intensification of the blockade will be the German people. They will still be relatively well fed. Those in the occupied countries will become increasingly malnourished and therefore more and more incapable of resisting at the suitable time or after the war in giving their best physically or mentally. That being so, I suggest that taking a still longer view than Me hon. Gentleman the Member for The High Peak, and looking not merely to the immediate end of the war but to 50 or 100 years' time—and these are the things that matter—that if we want anything better to arise out of the whirlpool of destruction in which it is to-day, we can only hope for it if we try to build up human reason and strengthen the capacity of men to think soundly meanwhile. Prolonged economic distress and malnutrition take away from men the capacity for thinking well and make them more and more prone to those lethal tendencies which unfortunately are so demonstrated in Europe to-day.
The other word I would add is in regard to the assertion made by some hon. Members to-day that they do not wish to appeal to sentiment, or, if they do, that they want to keep it within close confines. I see nothing wrong in appealing to human sentiment or human emotion. After all, we are not all brain any more than we are all stomach, we have feelings as well. The basic defence against those of us who are trying to appeal for judiciously-extended 2361 relief to the starving children of Europe is, in effect, an emotional defence. In other words hon. Members are saying to the people of Belgium, Greece and France "You may starve now; your children may parish; you may be in anguish about it all; but console yourselves with the fact that after the war is over either you will be able to get your revenge and have a better time or, if you yourselves perish, you will have the consolation of knowing that others who will take your place will be better off than you are to-day." What is that but an emotional appeal? The appeal to revenge is, after all, an emotional appeal. The appeal to justice is an appeal to ethical sentiment, The appeal to a common humanity is an emotional appeal. Therefore it is not a question of rejecting a sentimental appeal; it is rather a question of deciding what kind of sentiment you stress.
This war would not last 10 days but for the strong emotional appeal it arouses. When the Prime Minister, with his well-known methods of romantic appeal to the minds and consciences of the people of this country, raises his hand and extends two fingers in the "V" for victory sign, thousands of people who never follow an argument, and perhaps never wish to follow an argument, are moved by that simple emotional symbolism. I will go further and say the mere appearance of the portrait of the Prime Minister is to millions of people throughout Europe simply an emotional symbol of their ultimate liberation. There is no doubt of the power influence of an emotional appeal. It is emotional and sentimental factors which are of importance whether we are Communists singing the "Internationale" in Trafalgar Square, or whether we be so-called Imperialists singing "Rule Britannia." They are appeals to sentiment. It is the factor of emotion upon which we rely in appeals to the people of France, Belgium, Norway and Greece to sustain with fortitude the sufferings they endure in order that ultimately they may get not merely revenge but also once more an enjoyment of liberty and other emotional values.
If that be our appeal, then one of the strongest ways in which we could substantiate that emotional and ethical appeal would be to say, even if it causes us some little harm, "At least one thing we will do is to see that your children and your women do not literally starve 2362 to death." I would beg of the hon. Member for The High Peak and other hon. Members to believe that it is in no evasive spirit, certainly in no spirit of cunning, and trickery, that we make no suggestion that the blockade should be broken down or that food should be rushed in wholesale, but that—if you like on purely sentimental and humanitarian grounds—where it can be proven that the children in those occupied areas are really starving or are badly malnourished they shall have guaranteed to them not only what is now being guaranteed in some small measure but, if necessary, more adequate supplies. It seems to me there is no valid argument against adopting a principle which has already been accepted and applying it still further as opportunity occurs.
There may be others who wish to speak, and in any case the Minister desires to reply, but I would repeat what I have said already;' that the appeals that are being made during the war are appeals in essence of an ethical and emotional character. I do not deny that reason is there, but it is the emotional factor which determines, not the rational factor—either the emotional factor of fear or hate or love of country, or love of humanity, or love of justice, or whatever it may be. Because of that fact, and taking a long view, I am certain that if when the war ends men and women who then emerge from the present darkness look around and find rickety children, pot-bellied children, children with haunting features, children who are incapable of recovering the life they have lost, they will mingle with their gratitude that the war is over a certain bitterness that when we had the chance to save them we did not do so. I would say Finally—
§ Sir Granville Gibson (Pudsey and Otley)
What evidence can the hon. Member give that these kiddies in Belgium or France or Holland are suffering and being denied sufficient food, when a few months ago the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare said, in answer to a Question in this House, that the birth-rate had improved and the death-rate had gone down in Belgium and Holland?
§ Mr. Sorensen
The simple answer is this: If what my hon. Friend states is 2363 correct, obviously the duty of the Minister who is to reply is to get up and state that no further supplies of food whatsoever will be sent to those areas. The mere fact that he is allowing a certain quantity of dried milk and vitamins to go means he is convinced that malnutrition does exist in those countries. The facts are overwhelming—ask the Belgian Government, ask the Greek Government; they ought to know—that in those areas there is gross malnourishment, and that many young children are suffering seriously; and in Greece, as we all know, there was a substantial increase in mortality directly due to malnutrition. The answer therefore should come from that Box, and I shall wait with great interest to see whether the Minister will say that my interrupter was entirely correct, and that therefore no further supplies of vitamins or dried milk or any other nourishment are to be sent either to Greece or Belgium.
I was going to say in my final words when I was interrupted that it is a simple test, yet a human test and a good test, to ask ourselves what we would do if we knew that our wife, our child, our sister, our mother were living in conditions in which they were likely to perish through sheer starvation or were likely to suffer permanently because of the lack of food. If we heard that our friends in the Channel Islands were likely to die I am certain, whatever the logic of the alternative may be, we should do all we could to see that food reached our brothers, our sisters and our children in the Channel Islands, even though it meant the apparent prolongation of the war. We should do that for our own kith and kin; of course we should. Even the hon. Member for The High Peak would say in such a case, "Whatever happens, for God's sake save my wife or child." Blood is supposed to be thicker than water, but there is something thicker than both, and that is the spirit of our common humanity. Because of that we want, out of the wreckage and destruction that has been inflicted on the world, to have something better arise. Do not, then, let us think merely in terms of military strategy or terms of retribution—however necessary some may believe these to be—but let us also think in warm human terms and try to arouse the best in mankind rather than the worst. 2364 Relief, carefully guarded, can be given and it will pay us in the long run as well as those whom we help.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham, and Worthing)
I had no intention of taking part in this Debate and should not have done so if it had not been for the very truculent speech of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), to which I am going to refer in a moment as strongly as I can, within the confines of Order. First, I would refer to what has just been said by the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), who is sitting behind me. He always commends himself to me, as he does to so many of us, by his obvious sincerity and the very moderate and friendly way in which he addresses this House. He and others are, I believe, getting themselves into a complete dialectical dilemma in this Debate, and it is as well that that should be pointed out to them. Some hon. Members think they can get away with a speech which is nothing but sentiment and has no practical relevance to the question which happens to be before the Committee, or even to the question of humanity. We have had many such speeches to-day, including the one by the hon. Member for Ipswich, and if that hon. Member chooses, more suo, to rush out of the Chamber as soon as he has finished his speech, he will have only himself to blame if he reads something in Hansard to-morrow which he may not very much like.
My hon. Friend behind me, in a phrase which, on the face of it, appeared to be pertinent, said that in these matters we had to have regard to humanity and not to mere questions of strategy. If that is so, he should not be a supporter of the war, because in war you have to have regard to strategy most of all. Otherwise, you do not win. If you had regard to motives of humanity when the tanks were going into action and you saw the other soldiers being murdered, you would stop.
§ Mr. Sorensen
What I tried to say was that from the standpoint of the nation as a whole it is not merely a question of strategy. There must be something more than that, and I think the Noble Lord would agree that there would come a point when even he, believing in total war, would say that there were some things-that even he would not do.
§ Earl Winterton
Yes, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, but what he said was a very dangerous thing to say in wartime. Although I am not going to pursue the matter, because it would be out of Order, I would nevertheless ask the attention of the Committee to this kind of talk, which should take the form of dialectics and debate and not merely that of statement and assertion or the opinions of individuals. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Ipswich entering the Committee, because he is the self-confessed expert on questions of humanity. He is the man who understands above everything else the humane point of view of the fighting soldier. On this question of finding food for babies, would the hon. Member for Ipswich say that it is worse that a baby should die of starvation in Belgium than that a baby should die of starvation in Italy or Germany? Is that my hon. Friend's contention?
§ Mr. Stokes
No. My contention is simply that in view of the fact that, in the case of Belgium, prior to the war 70 per cent. of the necessary foodstuffs came from overseas, there is a moral obligation on us to let a sufficient amount of supplies through to see that there is no undue suffering among women and nursing mothers.
§ Earl Winterton
Very well then. My hon. Friend—for whom I have rather an admiration, and I am afraid I have to confess it—and I are not so far apart as I thought. Here then is a question partly of humanity, and partly of expediency. We are here concerned with the question of whether or not the hon. Gentleman is right, or those who support the Minister. The Minister has contended that what in fact is suggested ought to be done could not be done with any efficiency and would not achieve the object in view. If that is so, all the talk which we have in these Debates and the protests from hon. Members of their greater humanity, fall to the ground. That is not the question which comes in. We are dealing with a narrower question.
§ Mr. Stokes
Perhaps the Noble Lord will allow me to put this point to him, because I should not like to be at variance with him; I should like his support: Would he be willing to accept the views of authoritative and accredited repre- 2366 sentatives in this country of the Belgian Government?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
No, I do not think he would. We cannot go into questions of the opinions of representatives of the Belgian Government.
§ Mr. Stokes
I am not questioning the authority of the Belgian Government, but am merely asking whether the Noble Lord would consider it important to listen to the views of the accredited representatives of Belgium in this country. Surely that is a fair question?
§ Earl Winterton
Even if you, Mr. Williams, had not given the Ruling that you have given on the matter, I should have questioned the propriety of considering the matter at all, and should have asked to be excused from expressing any opinion upon the views of representatives of Allied Governments.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I think it is proper that I, as Deputy-Chairman, should rule that it is not expedient that this Committee should consider the views of the Belgian or Allied Governments in that particular way.
§ Mr. Sorensen
May I ask you, Mr. Williams, whether you remember your recent Ruling in regard to expediency and whether what you said then does not apply to what you say now?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Certainly, but probably the word "expediency" was not the best to use in these circumstances. I should have said that it was not right to do so.
§ Earl Winterton
The last thing I want to do is to have a personal quarrel with the hon. Member, and I would like to make an appeal to him and to my hon. Friend behind me. There is no reason why we should get hot and bothered; there are many things upon which we agree. I will put my point in such a way that my hon. Friends cannot take any offence. I would say to them, Do not make a great issue of humanity on the one side and hard-heartedness on the other. Really it is not so; that is not the point. It is really a question of expediency, using the word in the sense of what is best in the general interests of Europe and of humanity. If this were a general war Debate, which it is not, and 2367 if it were in Order to do so, I should hope to have an opportunity to have a discussion through the medium of debate on the whole question of what is humane and what is not. I am going to say that I think it is impossible to make war humanely. One of the most ridiculous statements made by the late Prime Minister and others who supported him was that we had no quarrel with the German people. How can you say that you have no quarrel with the German people when you are bombing their towns and doing everything you can against them? Therefore, you cannot make war humanely. We have a blockade of Europe, which nobody denies is essential. I hope my hon. Friend will understand me when I say that we, and I may claim to be among that number who, in the last war, were real and not office soldiers, and I did not worry about the blockade, as most of us were so anxious to get home that we did not mind how the end of the war was achieved.
§ Mr. Stokes
The Noble Lord is putting words into my mouth. I said that the attitude of the serving soldier towards this question of starving children was identical with that which I expressed today.
§ Earl Winterton
I do not know how my hon. Friend knows what is the attitude of the serving soldier, because, like myself, he is too old to fight in this war. It is irrelevant to what we are discussing, anyhow. The question is, What is the proper line to take and what is the attitude of the public generally to a most difficult situation? The Minister has had the courage, which is not too common in this House, to state the facts without embroidery. We constantly get Ministers who, in order to deal with these sentimental opinions, which have always existed in the House of Commons, are willing to wrap things up in cotton wool. The only effect of that is that people abroad say, "What humbugs the British are." I do not attempt to translate what the Minister said, but I understand the line he has taken to be that the schemes put forward are impracticable and in any case would not have an effect on the problem, which we all admit is a terrible one.
2368 There is the question of people in Poland. Is it not largely a question of what is expedient and right in the circumstances? Once again, in reply to what was said by my hon. Friend behind, I would like to take up the dialectical point. I do not think emotional appeals are a good thing in time of war, or in time of peace. I think—the hon. Member may think it strange for me to say this—that war is the greatest calamity that can come upon the world, and is at best only justified, as this war is justified, as a most regrettable necessity. But when you are at war, you cannot allow emotion to influence your mind. If you do so, then in attempting to do what your emotional impulse tells you, you may do a great injustice to your own side and prolong the war.
§ Earl Winterton
No, Sir, he does not appeal to emotion in the sense that the hon. Member does. What the Minister of Propaganda does is much more hard boiled, but we must not discuss that now. All I said is that in this narrow instance we have to have regard not to emotion but to common sense and common justice. By which method, by that of the Ministry or that of its critics, shall we soonest end the war? Which is the most commonsense line to take, that of the critics or that of the Minister? I am content to leave it to the Minister to answer that. I rose only for the purpose of begging the Committee not to have regard merely to sentimental considerations but to have regard to common sense and common justice.
§ Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
Up to a very short, time ago I had no intention of taking part in this discussion. I only do so for a few minutes and for this reason: The Parliamentary Secretary used two arguments which alarmed me. One was the argument that the responsibility for the feeding of Belgium and other parts of occupied Europe rested on the German Government. To that I say the fact that a fault has been committed by one person does not relieve of secondary responsibility those who can prevent suffering from arising if they are in a 2369 position to do so. The other argument that I venture to dispute is one which is always a dangerous argument, about the thin end of the wedge, that if we extended this scheme to Belgium, it would be said, "If to Belgium, why not to Poland, perhaps, and the Channel Islands?" If we can do something to relieve suffering on a limited scale in one country without doing greater harm in other areas, we have a perfect right to do it and to say to other countries which perhaps are suffering less, or which it is less possible to reach, "We are very sorry that we are doing this for Belgium and cannot do it for you."
I think the Government have several times given those of us who are interested in this question the impression that they were refusing to help, say, Belgium because they felt it would lead the way to other and larger demands to which they could not yield. But I think that is a sign of weakness, not a sign of strength in a Government. I suggest that the real question at issue is really, Is it or is it not possible to carry out relief on the strictly limited and safeguarded scale which has been talked about by most of the speakers in this Debate, of, sending vitamins and dried milk to certain areas, and to secure that the relief does actually reach those for whom it is intended and that there is not equivalent food withdrawn from the country for the benefit of Germany? If there is to be quite as much food taken away from children or from other people as we give, clearly from that point of view the scheme will be a failure, but I have never heard it definitely said by the Parliamentary Secretary that that is so.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary convinced that the scheme cannot be so safeguarded that the food will reach those for whom it is intended and that there will not be an equivalent diminution to other sections of the population? It rather looks to me as though it could be so safeguarded, because, as the Parliamentary Secretary said, one reason why the Germans did to a certain extent supply Belgium with food was that they needed Belgian labour; they could not afford to draw food from the factory canteens because they could not afford to weaken those who worked in the factories. I should have thought that from knowledge of 2370 what has happened in Greece it looks as though it would be possible to safeguard a scheme so that the food should reach those for whom it is intended and that it should not mean an equivalent relief to the Germans. I challenge the Parliamentary Secretary to say what he thinks about that.
There is one other reason, especially as the possibility of our victory draws nearer, why I think, if we were able to draw neutrals into the work of supervising this scheme, the Germans might be a little bit more chary of cheating about it. They must be beginning to lose the few friends they still have, and they have some motive for keeping in the good graces of the neutrals. Even if there is likely to be a certain amount of leakage—and I am sure you cannot safeguard a scheme 100 per cent.—I must say that I am inclined to feel that it might be worth risking because of the probable effect on the morale of the people of Belgium. I remember once arguing this matter privately with the Parliamentary Secretary. He told me—and I do not think he will mind my saying this—that the evidence was that the Belgians in Belgium did understand, that they blamed the Germans, not us.
I put myself in the place of a working father or mother in Belgium, and I would find it extraordinarily difficult not to feel bitter if I saw my child, not starving to death—I do not think children are starving to death in Belgium—but getting weaker and more languid and miserable every day, and if I felt that all the Belgian Government were well fed and secure in Great Britain, and I knew that the food could actually be got through to us and that the British blockade prevented it getting through, it seems to me almost beyond human nature that there should not be such a feeling, and that it could be a considerable help to Belgian morale if they knew the Allies could not do much but were, so far as it was practicable, at any rate trying to see that the babies and nursing mothers had a certain amount of assistance. I realise it is dangerous to press that argument too far. It might be said, "If you do so much, why not do more?" I think we might do something to help to make those people feel that the hand of friendship was being held out and that we were not unmindful of their sufferings, that we were willing at some risk to try to get a little help through 2371 to them. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with that in his reply. I must confess that I think there has been considerable exaggeration and that it has done more harm than good. A wrong impression of the extent of the starvation has been given, and we hope that we shall be given the facts in the clearest and most explicit way. Above all, we beg the Parliamentary Secretary not to say, "We cannot do this because we cannot do everything."
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare (Mr. Dingle Foot)
Before we pass to the next business, I think I should attempt to reply to some of the points, at any rate, which have been raised in the Debate. I should like to thank a number of hon. Members for the very kindly references they have made to the work of my Department, and in particular to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) for what he said. I assure him that his remarks will be read with the very greatest pleasure by his former colleagues at the Ministry of Economic Warfare. He suggested that the information about enemy and occupied countries which it is our duty to accumulate and interpret, should be made available for the reconstruction of Europe after the war. To a certain extent, that is already being done, and one of the fresh duties laid upon us in the past 12 or 18 months is that of providing information to the various organisations, in this country or elsewhere, concerned with the rehabilitation of Europe after the war.
The Debate was opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. O. Evans). We are very much indebted both to him and to the company with which he is associated for the many occasions on which they have readily placed their technical knowledge and advice at our disposal, particularly in relation to metals. I do not think there was any point on which I would quarrel with the review which he gave us of the enemy metal situation. The last war was a war of steels; this is a war of special steels, and particularly, as my hon. Friend pointed out, of nickel, of chromium, of tungsten, and of molybdenum. That is a situation which we have constantly in mind. Our view of the enemy's metal situation is very similar to that expressed by my hon. 2372 Friend to-day. That is one of the reasons why there took place that particular operation which I mentioned, of the raid on the molybdenum mine at Knaben. As regards nickel, my hon. Friend will be interested to know that information reached me yesterday that a short time ago a cargo of nickel was sunk off the Norwegian Coast. That is no inconsiderable contribution to what we are trying to do. The question of nickel supplies provides an interesting example of the connection between political and economic warfare, or, rather, how economic warfare can be forwarded by the methods of political warfare. Rather more than a year ago information reached us—I think this has been already disclosed—that the Germans were about to call in the nickel coins in certain parts of occupied Europe. We used our broadcasting service to Europe to warn the people concerned to hide and hoard up their nickel coinage, and we have reason to believe that, as a result of that advice being carried out, when the collection came the enemy was de-prayed of hundreds of tons of nickel which he would otherwise have obtained.
I pass to the very interesting speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby). I know there are certain points on which he will not expect me to give a specific reply, because he knows that it is not possible to discuss in public, on the Floor of the House, specific bomb targets or specific operations which may or may not take place in future. I can only say that we will take very careful note of the views which he has expressed. He also asked whether I would give figures of cotton imports into Spain, Portugal and Sweden. The imports into Spain for the last full year were 70,000 tons. That compares with about 99,000 tons in an average prewar year. When one speaks of Spain one has to take the years before the civil war, as obviously the civil war years could not be considered as normal years. The imports into Portugal for the last year amounted to 20,000 tons, as compared with a normal pre-war average of 29,000 tons. In Sweden the imports of raw cotton in 1942 were 30,000 tons, and there were, in addition, 800 tons of cotton piece goods. In the case of Swedish importations, it is very difficult to draw any comparison, because of the irregu- 2373 larity of the Swedish shipments through Gothenburg.
§ Mr. Foot
I have not got that figure ere, but my hon. and gallant Friend can make it that the amount would be considerably higher before the war. Generally speaking. our blockade quotas are fixed considerably lower than the pre-war figures, so that there shall be no danger of any neutral country passing anything on to the enemy. I come to something which Vas discussed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman and also by the hon. Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes), who also referred to our policy in regard to neutrals. We, of course, follow very carefully indeed what happens in the neutral countries. As I said earlier to-day, if we had any reason to believe that goods were being passed on by a neutral country after they had been imported through our controls, we should have no hesitation in at once cutting off the imports of that particular commodity until the matter had been cleared up. This question has been examined again and again, particularly in relation to one or two neutral countries in Europe, and I can assure the Committee that there are no grounds for thinking that any appreciable amount of goods is being passed on to the enemy.
§ Mr. Barnes
That was not quite the point I put. The point was whether, on balance, neutral trade was of greater advantage to the Axis Powers than to ourselves.
§ Mr. Foot
That is, I think, a separate point. I was coming to that. It would be difficult to generalise about all the neutral countries. Perhaps I might be forgiven for not going into each specific case, but each of the five remaining neutrals in Europe—there are five if you count Turkey—is in very different circumstances, and it would not be worth while to make any generalisation about all five. The hon. Member said—and I thought he was right—that it was a mistake to place too great an emphasis upon consumer shortages in Germany. While it is true that to a great extent they are the result of the blockade and of destruction by aerial bombardment, to a certain extent 2374 they are due to deliberate mobilisation of German resources by the German Government. But it should be made clear that the shortage is very much more marked and stringent than anything we have known in this country. To take a single case, we still are able to use a certain number of clothing coupons, although one gathers that the number is to be substantially reduced soon. In Germany it is broadly true that the clothing coupon has ceased to matter except in regard to one or two garments, and that stocks are being virtually reserved for the exclusive use of the victims of aerial bombardment. That is one circumstance to which attention might be directed. The other is the very considerable cut made in the German meat ration only a month ago, when it was cut down to nine ounces, rather less than half the amount available to a consumer in this country.
I am coming in a moment to the question of relief. Before I do so, I think I ought to say something about a question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus). He asked me about the financial blockade and it is true that it is a subject which has received very little publicity in this country. I believe it to be true that the financial blockade has been extremely effective throughout the course of this war and we have in the last year received a great deal of evidence to show that the enemy is suffering from an acute shortage of foreign exchange. I would remind the Committee of a matter which arose a few months ago and which was given full publicity at the time when-we discovered the enemy was trying to raise foreign exchange by the sale of exit permits from Axis Europe. That was a peculiarly mean and cruel form of exploitation, because the enemy would find out persons living in occupied countries—principally they were Jews in Holland—who had partners or friends or relatives in some neutral country. Then the partner or friend or relative, would be told that he must pay a sum of money to the German Embassy or some other German agency. Generally it was about £5,000 a head, and he was given to understand that, if the money was not forthcoming, his friend or relative inside Europe would be sent to Poland or a concentration camp and would never be seen again. That method was being adopted on a very considerable scale. I mention it in this connection be- 2375 cause I think it illustrates the acute need of the enemy to raise foreign exchange.
Perhaps I might tell the Committee in a word what happened in that case. There again, we had to take what appeared to be a ruthless line. We made it known that if anybody attempted to make a payment of this kind from an Allied country he would bring himself within the mischief of Trading with the Enemy Legislation. We said we would at once black-list any person we found in a neutral country acting as an intermediary in this traffic, and also we said that if anyone paid money to, or on behalf of, the enemy for whatever purpose, he would be in danger of appearing on the statutory and the proclaimed list. What was the result? Within a few weeks the number of these cases began to fall off and I am very glad to be able to tell the Committee that within two or three months, as far as we were able to judge, that particular traffic had been killed. But it was only killed because we did not listen to emotional appeals and because we were prepared to adopt what appeared, on the face of it, to be an extremely ruthless policy.
Now I come to the question which has been raised by a number of speakers, and that is the issue of food relief in occupied countries. There is one particular point with which I should like to deal. It was raised by my hon Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) when he referred to the Hoover scheme which was put before the German Government in February, 1941, and he suggested that that scheme had been accepted in toto by the German Government and had been turned down by the British Government. Let me make it quite clear—I am not trying to evade the issue—that in any case it would have been turned down by the British Government. When he suggests that it was accepted by the German Government, I am unable to give him an answer on that point because, for some reason, the terms of the communications to the German Government and the terms of the German Government's reply have never been published. The only document that has come into our possession with reference to that offer, is a document that was handed, at Geneva, to the League of Red Cross Societies. If the Committee will bear with me for a few moments I will read it, because I think hon. Member 2376 swill see that, although it is couched in polite language and is dressed up to look like an acceptance, in effect it falls very far short of an acceptance of the terms which the hon. Member mentioned. It says:The German Consulate has the honour to inform the League of Red Cross Societies that the American plan of providing alimentary relief for Belgium (the so-called Hoover plan) has been examined in a friendly spirit by the German Government. In a statement issued on February 25th to the delegates of Mr. Hoover in Berlin the German Government has fallen in with this plan to a considerable extent. It has particularly accepted the idea of a small neutral Control Commission with residence in Brussels, to be set up should the plan materialise. In addition, it has been promised that neither the foodstuffs which would be imported from overseas countries within the framework of the plan, nor any other similar foodstuffs, would be removed from Belgium or requisitioned in Belgium for the needs of the occupation Power. As regards Mr. Hoover's request that Germany should co-operate in providing supplies for Belgium, it was pointed out that considerable quantities of potatoes and cereals have been furnished by Germany for this purpose and that in the present circumstances which have arisen through the war, this proof of good will is all the greater as in peace time the large majority of Belgian food imports came from overseas countries.I ask hon. Members when they see this in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, to read the statement with a good deal of attention. They will see, in the first place, that the German Government agree with the idea of a small neutral Control Commission with residence in Brussels. Nothing whatever is said about staffs, supervisors or inspectors in other parts of the country. Nothing whatever is said on the freedom of movement from one part of the country to another. All that is agreed to, is a small neutral Commission with residence in Brussels. As regards the other point, the third point, to which my hon. Friend referred, he said—and I accept it from him—it was proposed that the German Government themselves should provide about a half of the relief of foodstuffs. The German Government in this document merely make reference to the foodstuffs that they have sent in and, as we all know, sent in to feed the people who were working for them. I have quoted the document because I think it disposes, and we hope disposes once and for all, of the assertion that the Hoover scheme was accepted, in principle, by the German Government in 1941.
§ Mr. Stokes
Is it possible to give the Committee any information why the exchange of documents between the Hoover Committee and the German Government has not been made public? Does the statement from which the hon. Gentleman has read, from Geneva, purport to contain the gist of these documents?
§ Mr. Foot
I have been reading the only document handed to us and as far as I remember it was made available to us by the League of Red Cross Societies in Geneva. I do not know for what reason the precise terms of the documents exchanged in February, 1941, have never been published to the world.
I want to come to the general issue which has been raised by a number of hon. Members, and, in particular, in the very powerful and moving speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey). I would like to say to him that we would most willingly accede to requests of this kind if we thought we could do so without assisting the enemy. I think that a great many hon. Members sat for years in this House with my Noble Friend who is now the Minister for Economic Warfare and no one who knows him could possibly suppose that he would be unsympathetic to appeals of this kind. The Committee will remember—and I am rather surprised that it has not been referred to in this Debate—that a few days ago my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary answered a Question with regard to a scheme which we had tried to introduce in order to assist Greek children. We proposed early in 1942 to evacuate considerable numbers of children from Athens and some of the other most stricken districts of Greece. The idea was that we should take these children in batches of thousands to Egypt, feed them up and then send them on to various parts of the British Empire where they would remain until the end of the war. That proposal came to nothing because of the refusal of the Italian Government to give the necessary safe conduct. They refused on the ground that they would net con sent to any Greek children being sent to any part of the British Empire.
Following that refusal we approached the Egyptian Government and asked them to agree lo take a smaller number of children and keep them in Egypt while 2378 the war lasted. The Egyptian Government agreed and we once again returned to the Italian Government but, as my right hon. Friend informed the House, once again we were met with a refusal. There was a case where we made an attempt—which would have involved us in a great deal of expense and difficulty—to bring a practical form of relief to the most stricken of the occupied countries. The only reason why it did not go through was because we could not obtain the consent of the Axis Government concerned.
There are, of course, a number of reasons why we are not prepared to admit food through our controls. There is the obvious danger that the food itself might be taken by the enemy. I do not, myself, rank that particularly high; I think the enemy wants to see schemes of this kind introduced, and I do not think he would do anything quite so obvious as to lay hands of the actual imported foodstuffs. But a much greater danger, against which it would be far more difficult to guard, is that you will enable the enemy to withdraw or withhold larger quantities than before of domestic produce. That is something which it is far more difficult to prevent. It would be a matter of the very greatest difficulty—in fact, I think it would be practically impossible—for any neutral Commission, whatever its efforts, to police a whole country which is in the grip of an army of occupation. The suggestion is made that we ought simply to send in these foodstuffs and hand them over to the International Red Cross. How does anyone suppose that the International Red Cross, with its somewhat limited resources of personnel, could police great areas in occupied Europe? I do not intend to dwell particularly on what happened during the last war because we have not been seriously asked to repeat the scheme of the last war but only a short time ago I came across a significant passage in "The Intimate Papers of Col. House." On one of his numerous visits to this country during the last war, he recorded in his diary an interview he had had with Mr. Hoover in January, 1916, saying:H. C. Hoover called in the afternoon to tell of his tribulations in Belgium. The Germans, according to him, are not keeping the spirit of their agreement as to foodstuffs. They are levying tributes upon the Belgians and, with the money, buying Belgian cattle to feed their Army. This is contrary to the 2379 understanding with the British and French Governments.That was one form of evasion and if time permitted it would be possible from the records of the last war to give a great many others.
§ Mr. Harvey
Does not my hon. Friend feel that the case for the request for Vitamins and dried milk, with which to feed babies and children, falls outside the scope of his argument and the difficulties he has raised, especially as there are between 500 and 700 International Red Cross and Swedish workers?
§ Mr. Foot
I was asked to give a statement of the Government's reasons for rejecting schemes of food relief. The argument was used, I think by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich, that the International Red Cross handled very large numbers of parcels for prisoners of war and if these parcels reached their destinations safely, he asked, why should not relief foodstuffs do the same? I would point out that there is a very considerable and very obvious difference. Prisoners of war, in the nature of things, are a class set apart from the community in which for the moment they happen to be living; they have no resources of their own from which it is possible for the enemy to draw. In addition, it is a comparatively simple matter when you have a number of men in camps, or in some other form of imprisonment, to see whether the foodstuffs actually reach them. The question of corresponding withdrawals in their case does not arise. I do not for a moment underrate the work which is being done by the International Red Cross in dealing with prisoners of war but, nevertheless, it seems to me that there is no real analogy between their case and the case for relief for occupied countries.
§ Mr. Stokes
Surely the argument is the same. If you do not send foodstuffs to prisoners of war, a corresponding increase will have to be provided by the Germans.
§ Mr. Molson
Is it not the case that a prisoner of war is entitled to the same rations as the German soldier and that it is a fixed amount, whereas the rations allowed in an occupied country may vary and cannot be checked in the same way?
§ Mr. Sorensen
The hon. Gentleman has paid a tribute to the International Red Cross. Does he believe that, to that extent, war has been humanised?
§ Mr. Foot
I think that is perfectly true; it has been possible in this war to preserve the humanities as regards prisoners of war. It is also said that if the enemy reduced the rations which are given to occupied countries, we could discontinue the scheme. How can anyone believe it is possible to check whether or not rations are being reduced on account of imported foodstuffs?
Take the case of Belgium. There is, in that country, a 30-day ration period and as in other occupied countries—and in our own—rations vary from one period to another and from one time of the year to another for a variety of reasons. Who is to say for what reasons a reduction in rations has taken place and who is to gauge whether an increase in rations has been withheld? Taking, again, the case of Belgium, at the end of last summer, there was an increase in the Belgian ration of meat, bread and potatoes. How could any neutral Commission possibly have judged whether that increase was due to be made or not? Unless you had a Commission which was in complete control of the whole food supplies of an occupied country it would be quite impossible for them to tell to what extent the enemy was receiving benefit from relief foodstuffs imported through our controls.
Thirdly, we think it is quite clear that, if we were to send food in ships to various parts of Europe, we should be relieving the strain on the enemy's administrative and transport system. Fourthly, we should relieve the enemy of his own obligations in the matter, particularly in food importing countries, such as Belgium and Norway Fifthly, the Germans have done their it most ever since 1940, to transform whole of Europe into one economic unit. The resources of all the occupied countries have been harnessed to the German war machine. When our troops invade Europe it will make no difference whether the weapons that are used against them in resisting our invasion had been made in a German factory or a factory in an occupied country under German control and, 2381 if we dispatch food to people in the occupied countries, we shall in fact be feeding either the workers or the families of workers who, however unwillingly, are in fact working against us and being compelled to assist the enemy.
I know I shall be told that what is proposed is simply a scheme for children, and possibly nursing mothers, and that all that is involved is the sending of comparatively limited supplies of certain kinds of foodstuffs, notably milk and vitamins. Milk is one of the most difficult commodities to control in occupied Europe at present. Generally speaking, the German occupying troops have certain supplies sent to them, either from Germany or from some central depot, but, in the case of milk, it is the habit of the German troops to live on the country, and, therefore, in any occupied territory milk would be one of the most difficult commodities to control. Then it is said that all that is suggested is that we should send 2,000 tons a month of milk and vitamins to Belgium, but at the same time the suggestion is made that that would be sufficient to give supplementary rations to approximately 2,000,000 children. That is the suggestion put about by the Famine Relief Committee and other bodies. We have made a very careful analysis of that scheme and it appears to us that that would mean that each recipient would get at most an extra 135 calories a day. That compares with the present ration of 1,200 to 1,400 calories a day. That is to say that the whole benefit of this scheme to Belgian women and children could be completely neutralised by quite a trifling change in the present scale of rations, or by a quite small failure to make those rations available.
It seemed to me that there was very great substance in the point argued so very cogently by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) that those Members who wish us to relax the blockade in this way really cannot have it both ways. In the first place, we are told that we shall, by sending in these foodstuffs, save the lives of many millions of children. On the other hand, we are told that the quantities are so small that they could make no appreciable difference to the enemy whatever might happen to them. That is to say, apparently these consignments would feed a very large number of persons in occupied countries, 2382 but neither they nor their equivalent would have the same effect upon persons in enemy territories. It is impossible to argue both things at the same time. Either these foodstuffs would be substantial in quantity, in which case they represent a serious breach in the blockade, or else they could only bring very limited benefit to the people it is intended to help. There is another contradiction in the arguments which have been presented to us. We are told that we cannot expect assistance from the people of the occupied countries when we invade Europe, if they are too weak, through lack of nourishment, to help us either by fighting or by providing labour. I think it was the same speaker, the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), who emphasised that he was not in any case proposing to send food to feed the male population. All he was asking was that we should send limited quantities for the women and children.
I ask hon. Members to consider the point that I made at the beginning of the Debate, that it really is not possible to deal with this problem in one country, or to confine action of this kind simply to one or two areas, and that it would not be possible to admit certain claims in certain parts of Europe and at the same time to turn down other claims from people who might be even more hungry and just as deserving. It is not a question of feeding a very few people in certain parts of Europe. If you take the whole of German-occupied Europe, excluding occupied Russia, at a very rough estimate there are rather over 30,000,000 children. If you exclude from that number the children in rural areas you have, at the lowest, an urban population of rather more than 10,000,000 children. Those are the dimensions of the problem and I believe it would be a very dangerous thing if we got into the position of assuming responsibility either for those 10,000,000 children in occupied countries or any substantial fraction of them.
Then the suggestion was made—and it has frequently been made—that you must look at this matter from another angle and consider the hatred which the blockade engenders in the occupied countries. It is the business of my Department not only to gather information from occupied countries but, for that purpose, to interview a great many 2383 people who come to us from the occupied countries. I wish to say, as emphatically as I can, that, although in Occupied Europe there is a great deal of German propaganda against our blockade, my information is that it has remarkably little effect. The people of the occupied countries understand the reason for the blockade, and they have no doubts as to who is responsible for the hardships they are called upon to endure. I will give only one case, that of a young man who came to me in the course of last year. He was a British naval officer. He escaped from the Germans in the Greek campaign and had spent eight or nine months in Greece at the height of the famine. Conditions in Greece were far worse than anywhere else. He met all conditions and classes of Greek people. He described the acute shortage in the country districts, and of course there was actual famine in the urban districts. He told me that never, on any single occasion, did he hear from any Greek one word of complaint against the British blockade.
§ Mr. Stokes
If the people in occupied territories are so ready to put up with the blockade, will the hon. Gentleman explain why it is that the Belgian authorities in this country are so anxious for help?
§ Mr. Foot
I am not now dealing with the position of the Belgian Government. I am only informing the Committee about the information reaching my Department. I did not say that anyone in occupied countries liked the blockade. I said that the people fully understood the reasons for our blockade. Finally, I would adopt the point that was made by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) in answer to the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen). That is, that we cannot judge this matter on purely sentimental or emotional grounds. The blockade is an operation of war. The hon. Gentleman himself pointed that out when he compared it with bombing in occupied territories. It is an operation of war and it has to be judged in precisely the same way as any other warlike operation. We should, indeed, not be carrying out our duty if we were to judge it by any other criterion.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again"—[Major Sir James Edmondson]—put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.