§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
I am sure that the House has listened with interest to the most impassioned appeal of my hon. and gallant Friend. In reflecting on what he was saying, I came to this conclusion, that, while I think everybody on this side of the House would agree with his main contention, it is perhaps a pity that he does not study more closely the economic policy which we ourselves proclaim, because there he would find a solution of his difficulties.
I do not wish to continue that description. I rose for the purpose of raising a very much broader issue. I suppose I must start by apologising to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for not having given sufficient notice. I only knew an hour or so ago that our proceedings were likely to terminate at an early hour, and the Foreign Secretary having sat on this side of the House very often, will be as well aware as I am, of the difficulty of back benchers getting an opportunity of voicing their views, and these occasions must not be missed. Therefore, I assure my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who, I am glad to see, has come to answer, that I have not come prepared with a perfect speech to make against the Government. I have come only to speak my thoughts, but I hope that, at least, he may be stimulated by what I have to say, or that it may 1372 give him a clue as to what reply he should give. Whether they agree with me or not, other hon. Members of the House will speak on this vital issue, and give him further cause for reflection and further material on which to base his reply.
I want to raise what is to me and, indeed, to every person in this country, a matter of vital importance, that is the conduct of political affairs in relation to our foreign policy to-day. I know it is a broad issue but, in my view, the principles upon which our foreign policy should be founded are principles which should be enunciated again and again, and as often as possible, and on every opportunity that occurs, and it is for that reason that I have seized this opportunity to-day.
We meet to-day under the shadow—I call it a shadow in view of what has happened on preceding occasions—of an impending conference abroad. When or where that is to take place I have not the slightest idea, but I would like, if I could, to make my views reach those celebrated personages who are to represent the cause of this great country and great Empire at that meeting. My mind carries me back to the first Teheran Conference in November, 1943. I have said on other occasions, and I have no hesitation at all in saying it again to-day, that in my view—I speak only for myself and not for my party—the principles for which I stand were betrayed at that Conference, and conclusions were arrived at and agreements were made at that Conference, of which this House was not sufficiently informed at the time. I know the Prime Minister came back in February, a few months after the Conference, and made a statement to this House couched in strong language, but sufficiently veiled not to rouse the hostility of many people. I am bound to say I felt a bit angry myself. The Foreign Secretary stood up shortly afterwards and assured us in terms that admit of no equivocation, that there had been no secret understanding. I think it it is worth while quoting to the House the words he used. In reply, I think, to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), he said on 15th December, 1943:I can also tell the House, lest there is any uneasiness about it, that we have not entered into any kind of secret engagement or 1373 treaty or anything which can cause anyone a sleepless night or a sleepless hour, and the hon. Member need not have any fear that the movement of power has been from him to the Treasury Bench. I can give this undertaking, that as long as I have anything to do with the conduct of the Foreign Office, if I make an engagement I shall come and tell the House at once, which is the constitutional practice, and, if they do not like it, they can turn me out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1943, Vol. 395, c. 1651.]With the sentiments expressed in the last two sentences, I profoundly agree, but my feeling is that the Foreign Secretary—I am not speaking of my personal regard for him—in the execution of his duty, did not tell the House the true and honest facts.
I want the House to reflect on what happened at the Teheran Conference so far as we have been told. I have been challenged again and again in my constituency by people of the extreme Left, who would kneel down at the feet of Marshal Stalin "for ever and ever, amen," and by people of the extreme Right, who would do the same to the Prime Minister—there is very little difference between them when dictatorship comes into it. I would like to know what are the facts. I have said, and I challenge my right hon. Friend to dispute this, that, in effect, the Atlantic Charter was betrayed at the first Teheran Conference. He cannot deny that. It is true. It may be disagreeable, it might even be unavoidable, I do not know, but surely we should be allowed to know the facts as soon as possible after any step has been taken contrary to what the people of this country believe.
Secondly, what were we told? I know perfectly well that in our first Alliance with Poland all we did was to assure the Western frontier against aggression by Germany. We gave no guarantee as to the Eastern frontier. That is a point which is not sufficiently known but that, I think, can be proven from the records. The general sentiment in this country was, however, that we went to war to stop aggression, to protect the rights of Poland among other things. I can remember saying in the early days, with great unpopularity, that the longer this war went on, the less of Poland would be left, and that is precisely what has happened. The Prime Minister told us on 22nd February last year, that he had agreed with Marshal 1374 Stalin for what is tantamount to the forcible adjustment of Russia's Western front. I have never disputed the advisability of adjusting Russia's Western front, I have always recognised that that, indeed, would have to be done, the moment Russia had gathered herself together from the last war and was able to assert what she considered to be her rights. But surely the essence of the thing should have been that it was to be done by agreement and not by force. That is my quarrel with the Government.
My mind goes to the Strang Mission. I remember that in June, 1939, we sent a mission to Russia to try to arrive at a treaty with Russia against Germany. I asked the Foreign Secretary the other day whether he would publish, as a White Paper, the discussions which took place in Moscow on that very vital point, and he said that it was not in the public interest. My belief is this—and I shall be very glad to have my argument completely destroyed—that, in effect, what the Russians said to us was, "Let us have Poland to the Curzon Line and the Baltic Provinces, and we will have an alliance with you." We said, "No," and I, personally, think we were quite right. I do not disagree with that. There was no alliance and what happens next? Off go the Germans to Moscow and Ribbentrop is asked the same question. He says, "Yes, not only may you have the Baltic Provinces, but as much as you want of Poland on the East, and we will take out of those Provinces all the German nationals who might be a nuisance to you." So they had an alliance. Now where do we find ourselves? We find ourselves fighting to give to Russia—I agree that Russia is doing a great deal of the fighting, but the philosophical background is that we are fighting to give to Russia—precisely those territories which, had we allowed her to have them in 1939, would have prevented an outbreak of war at all. Is there an answer to that? I should like to know. I do not think there is. It seems to me perfectly terrible that, as a result of what is going on, as I said on another occasion, the seeds of the next war have been sown. You are proposing not only to destroy Poland in effect; you are giving away the Baltic Provinces and doing so in no uncertain terms, which I will quote to my hon. Friend in a moment.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I am trying to follow this, because we agree on so many things that I do not want to differ unnecessarily from my hon. Friend. Would he explain what he meant by the statement that the rectification of Russia's Western frontier in 1939 would have prevented the war?
§ Mr. Stokes
I am stating what is my belief, and I should have thought it was the belief of my hon. Friend. I do not say that war would never have broken out, but surely the belief of a large number of people who have studied this question is that if there really had been an alliance on the East, which involved, naturally, an adjustment of wrongs which Russia considered needed to be set right, then the Germans would at that moment have been afraid to enter into any war at all.
§ Mr. Stokes
I am not arguing that question, I am arguing whether it should be done by force or not. After all, if you ask what is wrong with doing it now, I should reply, "Why waste all those lives, why not have done it in the first place?" If you are going to do it at all, then for goodness' sake save all the human lives you can in doing it. To let the war go on for six years, and then agree that this is the right thing to do, seems to me entirely crazy. As I have said, I do not dispute the necessity for adjustment but it must be done by agreement and not by force.
I would ask my hon. Friend to think of the Atlantic Charter which he and I, at least, think was a step in the right direction. It said that there shall be no territorial changes except by the wish of the people concerned. You can argue whether that would apply to some parts of Eastern Poland, but you cannot argue whether it does or does not apply to the Baltic Provinces. At the Teheran Conference, largely owing to its secrecy, zones of influence were agreed upon and independent action was allowed. Thus you get all the horrible villainies which are being carried on now. I am not in the least afraid of offending my hon. Friends. I know we did not guarantee the Eastern frontier of Poland, but Russia did. If she did not, then I do not know what is the meaning 1376 of the Soviet-Polish Agreement of 30th July, 1941. It stated:The U.S.S.R. recognises the Soviet-German Treaties of 1939 with regard to territorial changes in Poland as having lost their validity. The two Governments mutually undertake to render each other assistance and support of all kinds in the present war against Hitlerite Germany.I do not know what that means unless it means that you are going to do your best to maintain the status quo until a different status is mutually agreed.
I return to the question of East Prussia, and I would remind the House of what the Prime Minister said on this point. I am not talking of the inhumanity of what is proposed—which makes one feel so hot with passion—but it seems crazy to contemplate the removal from territory of persons who have lived there for many generations. I do not see how you can get peace like that. We were told that at the Teheran Conference, in consideration of the cession of Eastern Poland up to the Curzon Line, or something like it, Poland was to be compensated by the cession of German territory in the North and West. I understand that specifically to refer to East Prussia. It may be that there are greater authorities on this point than the present Prime Minister, but at least he made a considerable contribution to international affairs in his writings after the last war. In "World Crisis Aftermath," he said:The Province of East Prussia, although originally in the nature of a German colonial conquest, had become a purely German land, whose population was animated, above all other parts of Germany, by the spirit of intense nationalism.How is it proposed to lift 3,500,000 people from East Prussia, put them down in another place and expect peace, a peace which we hope will be for all time? If you mean only a patched-up peace, which will later mean another war, then I understand the policy. In that case we shall all be dead and forgotten, and it will not matter to us. But it is the future we are all thinking of, at least those who fought in the last war and who fought, and are fighting, in this war. If I may take an analogy from part of the country which I represent, does my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary really imagine that if the boot had been on the other foot and the unspeakable thing had happened, and we had been "licked" in 1940 and Norfolk and 1377 Suffolk had been taken away from us and had been given to the Dutch or Belgians and the population removed to South Wales, this would have meant peace? The moment those people arrived at their new destinations, they would have started to try to recapture their territory. I have been in Suffolk for 20 years, and I am not accepted yet! You cannot change people like that, and every student of international affairs knows perfectly well that you cannot get peace by uprooting people from territory which they consider is theirs, and in which they were born and bred.
I want to say a few words about the Baltic Provinces. I do not pretend to be well informed on the history of those Provinces, but I protest—and I would be a coward if I did not—against the terrible treatment which is being meted out to the people there, if the reports we receive are correct. If the reports are not correct, let us have them contradicted and proved untrue. What are we told by the Lithuanian representatives in this country? They say that designated families are selected, are visited suddenly and, without notice, are given an hour to collect a few possessions; that they are carried in lorries to the point of entrainment and that the heads of the families are separated from the others, this being kept secret so as not to provoke scenes; that these ruthless separations are enforced upon tens of thousands of private families for no other reason than that they are judged to be unlikely docilely to accept the Bolshevist formation. If that is so, it ought to be condemned outright: if not, it ought to be forcibly denied by the Minister. For the sake of humanity alone, the information which comes to Lithuanians in this country ought to be stated to be entirely without foundation, if that is the case.
I come to another broad question, the question of France. To read the papers in this country one would almost come to the conclusion that the French had won the war. I heard this belief all over the Middle East. Take Lebanon and Syria, about which we shall have a great deal to say in the near future. From the way the French behave, you would think that they had been upstanding for our rights, and that they ought to be given those territories back as soon as possible, whereas in fact it was the French who invited the Germans in. Do the 1378 Government endorse the statement by General de Gaulle that not only must the French have the Rhineland, but also both banks of the Rhine? He stated that at a Press conference the other day. If that is so, there must be another war. It is absolutely certain. There is not anything to argue about.
Finally, I come to the fundamental point of the whole matter. We have to recognise that in the world to-day, there can be no future peace if we try to disintegrate it. Future peace depends on the close coming together of the people. Only is it possible, if there is a greater tendency for unity, and not disunity. Anything which leads to greater disintegration in Europe will certainly precipitate another crisis, and another world war. I feel it is a great pity that at these international conferences only one party is represented. It is a great pity that members of the Government who represent Members on this side of the House should not be present at these conferences. If the Cabinet have a joint responsibility, then members of the Cabinet should have some control over the conduct of affairs. Only if the principles we stand for are carried out, that peace is to be agreed, and not dictated, can there be some hope for the future of the world.
§ Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)
The hon. Member has spoken very feelingly of Poland. I assume that he would wish Poland to have access to the sea. Does he wish to perpetuate the Danzig corridor?
§ Mr. Stokes
I am opposed to the corridor and have never considered it essential to give Poland access to the sea. Lots of countries in Europe have not got it and live economically secure.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Arthur Evans (Cardiff, South)
The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) has gone on a long world tour. He has taken us to Russia, to the Far East and to the Middle East, which I gather he knows well, and back again to France all in the space of fifteen minutes. He said he proposed to indulge in a little loud thinking. I think it was Mark Twain who said on one occasion that people sometimes sit and think, but sometimes just sit. The only difference in my view is that sometimes the hon. Member stands instead of sitting, because 1379 he seems to take a delight in mischief making at critical times in our fortunes. First of all he attacked the policy of the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister in relation to the Teheran Conference, and criticised its findings, though he did not know what those findings were. Of course he does not know. The House knows well that the parleys between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill on the prosecution of the war and the state of the world immediately after the war must be secret. It is impracticable to suggest that it is possible for any Government to disclose with complete frankness the decisions arrived at and the discussions which led up to those decisions.
§ Mr. Stokes
I did not say we knew nothing. I said we only knew as much as the Prime Minister chose to tell us. My whole point was with regard to secret treaties on policy.
§ Sir A. Evans
Is the hon. Member suggesting that it is possible, when a treaty or understanding is arrived at during the prosecution of the greatest war in history, for those agreements to be published to the world—at the time?
§ Mr. Silverman
Would the hon. Gentleman draw a distinction between agreements as to the conduct of the war, agreements as to what is to be done during the war and what after the war? Is there any reason why, if the heads of the great United Nations reach an agreement as to the disposal of territories or the organisation of human affairs after victory has been achieved, that should not be communicated and the sanction of the House of Commons sought to agreements of that kind?
§ Sir A. Evans
I see no reason at all at the opportune moment, when that state of affairs has come about, but is the hon. Member suggesting that those treaties are already in being and that the Government have secretly put their signature to treaties which have not been disclosed to the House of Commons?
§ Mr. Silverman
None of us know what agreements have been arrived at. It may be that we ought or it may be that we ought not. I thought the hon. Gentleman was suggesting that, if an agreement is reached as to what is to be done after 1380 victory is achieved, it is impossible to communicate it, and it was that point that I was challenging.
§ Sir A. Evans
I am afraid the hon. Member did not follow me. The hon. Member for Ipswich charged the Foreign Secretary with making a statement about the Teheran meeting not in accordance with the true and honest fact.
§ Sir A. Evans
Officially we have no knowledge as to what agreements were arrived at at Teheran. The hon. Member admitted that, because he asked the Government to tell us what the facts were. The question of Poland is a very difficult and delicate one to discuss at this particular time. Owing to the military efficiency of Russia, Poland is—at this moment—being freed of the enemy. That is fact No. 1. The next fact is that the Prime Minister has disclosed to the country that one of the subjects to be discussed at the coming international conference is that of Poland. It has also been disclosed in the American Press that President Roosevelt shares the same point of view, that that subject must be reviewed at the forthcoming conference. The hon. Member, in his anxiety to use any weapon with which to hit the Prime Minister over the head and embarrass the Government, chooses this time, on a Debate on the Adjournment of the House, to raise the question of Poland. I do not think he is serving any useful purpose at this time in saying anything which would either embarrass our representatives at the forthcoming conference, or in any way withhold from the glory of Russian arms what they are in fact doing, clearing the Germans out of Poland. To say the least, it is unfortunate and shows little sense of responsibility to seize on opportunities and occasions such as this to add embarrassment to a task which must of itself be difficult.
The hon. Member referred to the treatment likely to be accorded to East Prussia at the conclusion of the war and suggested that, if we ventured to hand over East Prussia and its territory to Poland in compensation for any other territory that might be ceded to another nation, we were doing something which would sow seeds for further trouble. I believe, rightly or wrongly, that it is not only Hitler but the German people them- 1381 selves who must be called upon to pay the price of their errors. If we are to befriend the people of Poland, on whose behalf we entered this war, and the British people have made such enormous sacrifices; if we are to aid them in compensating them for some of their losses by taking away territory from a part of the German Reich, I should be the last to say them nay. I feel that we must review the situation in the realm of reality, realise on the one hand the just claims of Russia, and on the other that what we might wish to do, will not always accord with the views of our Allies, with whom we have to work not only now but in the future. I regret profoundly that, in his anxiety, the hon. Member seizes on anything to attack and embarrass the Government, instead of addressing himself to the larger problem of a lasting peace and using his undoubted ability to make a practical contribution to that end.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I should like to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) that in this matter of Poland I think he is batting on an extremely sticky wicket. I do not know what the complaint is. It is apparently conceded that the Curzon Line was not a line that was unfair to Poland. After all, it was agreed upon at the Versailles Conference. It was agreed upon at the Peace Conference at which Russia had no representatives. It secured the approval of a Commission presided over by Lord Curzon, and there is nobody, as far as I know, who has ever accused him of being too friendly to Bolshevik Russia. It was accepted by the Poles themselves. The Treaty of Versailles and the Treaties accompanying it which created the republic of Poland had the acquiescence of the Polish representatives at the time. The very Treaty which created the modern republic of Poland created it on the basis of the Eastern frontier between Poland and Russia, which has since come to be known as the Curzon Line.
§ Mr. Stokes
I do not want to get at loggerheads with my hon. Friend, but is he correct in saying that the Curzon Line was agreed on in the Versailles Treaty? I do not think so.
§ Mr. Silverman
This is a Debate which, as my hon. Friend has said, has been 1382 staged without any notice to anybody, so that none of us have had much opportunity of looking up the facts. My impression is, however, that the Curzon Line, the border between Poland and Russia, was agreed upon by a Commission appointed under the authority of the Versailles Conference, and was incorporated into the Treaties which created the modern republic of Poland and which, at that time, had the consent of the Polish representatives.
§ Mr. Harold Nicolson (Leicester, West)
My hon. Friend is almost right, but not quite. What happened was that the Western frontier was decided in the Treaty of Versailles, but the Eastern frontier was left vague and was decided two years after.
§ Mr. Silverman
I said it was decided under the authority of negotiations commenced at the Versailles Conference and that ultimately, when the final boundaries on both sides were decided, it had the concurrence of the Polish representatives.
§ Mr. Nicolson
The Treaty of Versailles had nothing to do with it. It was after the Russians had invaded Poland.
§ Mr. Silverman
I speak with all respect to my hon. Friend's much greater knowledge and experience, but surely it is no good saying that the Treaty of Versailles had nothing to do with it. But for Versailles there would have been no Poland at all.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
The same might be said about the apple and the Garden of Eden.
§ Mr. Silverman
I have yet to learn that the Versailles Treaty had anything to do with the Garden of Eden or the apple.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I really believe that this is wholly irrelevant to the arguments of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes); but since the hon. Gentleman has introduced all this learning, which has been corrected and replenished by the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson), and has brought in the argument that it has something to do with and is, indeed, part of and dependent on the Treaty of Versailles, because if there had not been that Treaty Poland would not have happened, let me say that that is an argument which you can apply as between any two events in history, from the first chapter of Genesis to this moment. As 1383 the hon. Gentleman has called me to my feet, perhaps I may contribute my learning. I do so with great diffidence because I like to look these things up, but when the so-called Curzon Line was drawn it was drawn, not as a political line, but as an armistice line, as a line to keep the two armies apart.
§ Mr. Silverman
This goes far beyond anything started by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich, and I doubt very much whether he would endorse many of the things that are being said in his support. The main point is—and I withdraw it completely if it is challenged—that, so far as I understand the argument, nobody really contends that there is anything ethically wrong with the Curzon Line as the border between Poland and Russia. My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich conceded that. If I am wrong as to the details of what happened at the Versailles Conference or afterwards, or on what the historical moralities may be, let it be so, but the argument I put—and I do not understand that anybody challenges it—is that nobody now disputes that the border that has come to be known as the Curzon Line between Poland and Russia is in itself a just and fair border, and that everybody would concede it.
§ Mr. Silverman
That is another point. If we are agreed that the Line itself is conceded and that it is conceded that it is a fair Line, we can go on and deal with the other point, whether it has now been established by force or by agreement. I deny that it has been done unilaterally or by force. As I understand the situation, a provisional agreement was reached between Stalin, the Prime Minister of this country and the Prime Minister at that time of Poland. As I understand it M. Mikolajczyk was party to the agreement so far as this Line was concerned. It is true that the Polish Provisional Government in London did not endorse it and that M. Mikolajczyk resigned the premiership of Poland because they did not.
§ Mr. Stokes
May I ask my hon. Friend on what authority he said that the Polish 1384 Prime Minister agreed to this? I have not seen it.
§ Mr. Silverman
My hon. Friend and I are equally in a difficulty, and I sympathise with him and join with him in his protest that none of us have been given enough of the facts. I am only trying to do what he did and reach a fair inference from such facts as are known. It is known that there was a conference, that these three gentlemen were present, that it was announced that a provisional agreement had been reached between them, that M. Mikolajczyk came back to London, that he reported on the conference to his Government, that they did not agree with him, and that he resigned. It is not an unfair inference from those facts that if he had had his way he would still have been Premier of Poland and there would have been no question of anybody imposing anything by force. It is a great pity that he did not do it.
If there was anything wrong ethically with the Curzon Line, it might be a different story. I am dealing with my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich, who concedes that there is nothing much wrong with it as a frontier. If there is anything much wrong with it as a frontier, whatever happened in 1939, I still say it is a pity from Poland's point of view that the Polish Government in London could not agree with its then Premier. If they had done so, there would have been a settlement of this question by agreement. There would have been no dispute, and the Polish Government in London would have been recognised to-day by all the great nations as the lawful Government of Poland, and very soon it would have been back on its own territory and governing it with the consent of everybody. I cannot help feeling it was a very great pity that those concerned in London could not be persuaded to take that view. It would have removed a great many of their difficulties and a great many of the difficulties of the world.
My hon. Friend says, and says very rightly, some things about East Prussia and the population of East Prussia. I take it that his reference to the Atlantic Charter does not affect the Eastern side at all. He is surely not suggesting there ought to be a plebiscite there, that the population on the East of the Curzon Line ought to be consulted? If so, he is on very dangerous ground. There is a 1385 place called Teschen, which was taken by Poland from Czechoslovakia after Munich in September, 1938, and the guarantee to Poland, even of the Western frontier, could not be taken to have included that.
§ Mr. Raikes (Essex, South Eastern)
May I ask the hon. Member one question on Teschen? This question has been raised often. Is it not a fact that Teschen was taken by the Poles when Hitler, after Munich, had marched into Czechoslovakia, and so far from Teschen having been taken from Czechoslovakia, Poland only marched in to prevent it being taken by Hitler?
§ Mr. Silverman
I daresay they marched in with the most altruistic motives in the world, but if they did, and did not desire anything for themselves, I have no doubt they would be perfectly ready to agree, and I think they have already agreed, that it should go back to Czechoslovakia when the time comes. No one would suggest that the Atlantic Charter provision that the population should be consulted by some kind of plebiscite, should apply to circumstances of that kind. Therefore, it cannot apply to the population East of the Curzon Line either. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] For the obvious reason it should be on that side. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is not agreed."] My argument has been based on the supposition that that frontier is a fair frontier. I have not heard it challenged. If it is, I will address my argument to the challenge.
East Prussia, I concede, is a totally different case, but after all, the concession of East Prussia to the new Poland was not a Russian of British interest. It was done in order to compensate Poland for the loss of territory on the other side. It may be very wrong, but I have yet to hear that the Polish Government in London have ever repudiated the idea. If Poland does not want it, the Polish Government have only to say so. They have never said so. I am afraid that some members, at any rate, of the Polish Government in London are actuated by ideas of territorial megalomania that go far beyond East Prussia on one side, and far beyond the Curzon Line on the other. I think this case of Poland is a very bad one from my hon. Friend's point of view.
§ Mr. Stokes
It is only part of the issue. The main issue is whether there shall or 1386 shall not be secret treaties of which this House would not approve.
§ Mr. Silverman
On the main issue I am with my hon. Friend, as he knows. I only detain the House for a moment longer to say that I entirely agree with what was said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman below the Gangway. Even if it involves temporary territorial aggression, no one in his senses would embarrass any Government charged with the successful prosecution of the war by bringing all these issues to the House, or to any assembly, as matters of debate, argument and vote. But I think that when you are dealing with the reconstruction of the world after victory has been achieved, you are in very different country.
I am one of a small group of people in this House who, right from the beginning of this war, have taken the view that, so far from doing any harm to our war effort, it would have been of the greatest possible benefit to our war effort if we had defined and put down in clear terms our aims and objects in the war. I do not mean that we should seek to draw or redraw an exact new political map of Europe. That is not necessary. But at any rate we ought to have been able to make up our minds what our main objects were. We ought to have been able to set them down in clear terms and invited our Allies and others to join with us. There ought not to have been any kind of doubt, ambiguity or hesitation, or doubtful controversial debate about our objects in the war. These ought to have been clearly stated from the start. Enemy peoples ought to have known from the start what we proposed to do after the victory had been achieved.
I have never quarrelled very much with the idea of unconditional surrender. I do not quarrel with it now. On the contrary, I agree with it, but I urge that it should be understood that unconditional surrender is not a policy. Unconditional surrender means that you undertake yourself the sole responsibility for what happens after victory has been achieved. Unconditional surrender means that you do not negotiate with anybody about it, you do not bargain with anybody about it. It surely means also that you know what you want it for. Unconditional surrender, without saying what ultimate purposes you have, is a mere slogan and nothing else. If you get your uncondi- 1387 tional surrender—and I hope we shall get it soon—you are then at the beginning of your problems. You have still to evolve your policy of reconstruction. Why wait until then? Why not do it now? Why not take the House and our Allies into consultation? Why not take the world into consultation, as far as that can be done, in framing a clear picture of the kind of world we want to see, in place of the ugly, murderous world out of which we are emerging?
I think the Government have been rather inclined, because of difficulties and possible disagreements in doing that, to burke the issue, and to cloak the difficulties under this curtain of the reiterated slogan of unconditional surrender. Those of us who object to it, are not objecting because we want to make terms with Hitler—far from it I do not want to make terms with Hitler, or the Nazis and Fascists, in Germany, or anywhere else. I want unconditional surrender so far as they are concerned. But I do want to see a clean, decent, sane world afterwards. I want the responsibility which we assume when we insist on unconditional surrender to be adequately discharged. I want it to be clear on what lines and on what basis we propose to rebuild shattered Europe and the shattered world. I think the Government are very much to blame in not having formulated long before this a plan, which would be known and understood, which would be clear and sincere, and accepted by the world, so that wherever there may be people prepared to support us in rebuilding the world along those lines they would know that we were with them, and that we would support them.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
I find myself in the odd position of disagreeing with my colleague the hon. and gallant Member for Cardiff South (Colonel Sir A. Evans) and, for once, agreeing largely with the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes). I think the hon. Member has done a good service in raising this matter to-day. My hon. and gallant Friend says that the hon. Member has always tried to cause trouble, and that this is not the time to embarrass the Government by expressing convictions upon matters of foreign policy. With great respect, I think that is an entirely wrong attitude to take.
§ Sir A. Evans
I said that this was not the time. After all, if we are to discuss matters of such importance as this, it is essential that hon. Members should have an opportunity of informing themselves of the facts and of hearing from the Government their views on the situation. They should not have to deal with the matter on what I might call an irresponsible occasion, on the Adjournment Motion.
§ Mr. Baxter
I do not think it is an irresponsible occasion. The House of Commons is a very adjustable place, where Debates of great value can quite suddenly and unexpectedly arise, such as the Debate to-day, which none of us expected. Nor do I think it right that on matters of eternal values, we should have Government construction. I feel that there is altogether too much legalism and expediency in our foreign policy to-day. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are tried to the utmost of their patience; they have had a hard task and carry enormous burdens, but there is always a danger that Ministers who are too close to things will lose track of the philosophy which must be behind Government and foreign policy, as it must be behind human life. There is an old joke to the effect that we never like to have a Foreign Secretary who speaks French, because he becomes too much involved with French influence and French policy. There is a danger of the Foreign Secretary of this country becoming too intimate with the personalities and problems on the European chess board.
It seems to me that we have to fall back upon the eternal governing principles which have made this country so honoured through the centuries. None of us would try to minimise the dreadful problem of Poland, quite outside the justification of Russia's case and the necessities of Russia's strategical position, but is there any one of us who does not wish with all his heart that Stalin would approach the matter in an entirely different spirit?
§ Mr. Baxter
There is a beautiful word in our language, "magnanimity." There has not been to my knowledge, in the last two years, a speech by this great and mighty leader of the Russian people, expressing any warmth or pity or feeling for the Polish people.
§ Mr. Silverman
Surely the hon. Member, who I know speaks with a great sense of responsibility, is speaking too hastily now. There have been a number of speeches quite recently in which the Russian Premier has said how much he wants a strong and independent Poland. This difficulty about the frontier, which has been handled with great magnanimity and great patience over a long period of time, was only settled as it was when it became necessary in order to advance towards the West. So many people who talk about this Polish issue seem to wish that the Russians had been able to advance from Russia to Berlin without touching Polish territory at all. Unfortunately, geographically that was not possible.
§ Mr. Baxter
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman's interruption, but it does seem to me that there are times when the legal mind does not speak for this country as well as the more simple and uninstructed mind that I am going to use to-day. Is it true or is it not true that there have been cruel deportations from Poland? I am not speaking with the least idea of embarrassing the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary, but I am not happy about the dexterity of our dealing with foreign Powers in Europe. It seems to me that we might get back to very simple things, one of which is our desire that the weak shall be free, and to give every country the right to choose its own form of government. We ought to be true to those who have been our honourable friends, and no considerations of policy, or strategy, or expediency should take away from a nation or from a man the right to be true to those whom they regard as their friends in this cause for which we are all fighting.
§ Mr. Baxter
We went into this war for Poland, because Poland represented a point in the history of humanity, and it has not been made easier for us by the Russian Government, who want us to stand aside and see the Polish nation treated almost as if it were an enemy State. Look at the attack this morning on General Bor, the man who led the tragic but wonderfully brave rising of patriots in Warsaw. To-day, he is accused by Moscow of being a quisling. It is in "The Daily Worker" and I presume that it has come from reliable 1390 sources. Is there any man in this country who believes for one moment, that General Bor was a traitor to Poland? I doubt it. From the same source, we are told that the Polish Government here are in league with the Germans. We must realise that Poland and Russia have to live together, but if this is the approach to it, God help them.
If ever this troubled world was in need of magnanimity, consideration and compassion, that moment is now. Poland has seldom or never, in the history of mankind, had such a chance of starting well. I sometimes wonder whether the Kremlin, in their lack of knowledge of the Western world, realises the immense reservoir of good will in this country from which they could draw from all classes. There is no longer the prejudice against Russia that there was formerly. We realise that Russia has emerged into the world as one of the greatest, and perhaps the greatest, dominating factor in the future. We want to do business with Russia and march side by side with her, but we do not want to make concessions to Russia of everything in which we believe. That matter should be taken into account. If we are to be true to our friends and to our alliances and ideals, I wonder whether the party opposite would consider their attitude towards such men as King George of Greece and this young boy, King Peter of Yugoslavia.
There is too facile a tendency among many hon. Gentlemen opposite to brand as Fascists everybody who disagrees with them. King George of Greece was responsible head, with Metaxas, of the Greek nation when it gallantly declared war against Italy. When Germany went to the rescue of Italy, there was nothing finer in the whole of this war than the determination of Greece to fight on against Germany as well. It may well be that, when history can unfold the whole story, that delay, caused by the heroism of Greece, will be shown to have postponed the attack on Russia sufficiently to save Russia. The Greeks fought on; the King left at the last moment to fight in Crete, and eventually came away to this country. I hope that Scotsmen will not object to this; but is it English, is it as we understand the word "England," to sneer at and deride the man who was the head of the nation at that time, and to call him a quisling and a traitor now?
1391 What happened in Yugoslavia? Prince Paul had gone to sell his country across the carpet to Hitler. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] At any rate, he went there, and was induced to agree to the ultimate sale of his country. The effect was the same; the sale was projected. Back in Belgrade a boy king and the brave men who surrounded him decided that they would not dishonour their country, that they would go to war against Germany, and take the spear of the German Army in their breasts. He was a boy, but a boy of 15 can have great courage and vision. Maybe he was romantic; perhaps my hon. and learned Friend opposite can find some legal explanation. To us it was a great moment. Yet to-day this boy is referred to on the opposite benches far too often as a silly child of no consequence, a boy of no character. We cannot go wrong in foreign policy if we adhere to the values which have instinctively governed this country for so many centuries; which we who were born in the outer Empire have in our blood; which built up this great Empire, which has rallied twice in these two world wars; and which to-day, with all the criticisms of this country, are the great hope of every country in Europe—because it is to England that Europe looks for the future. Therefore, I once more say that I am very grateful to my hon. and troublesome friend the Member for Ipswich for turning this available hour into what I think has been a very useful discussion.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Strauss (Lambeth, North)
I am not sure what the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) suggests has been our traditional principle, and should be now, but I gather that it was the principle of standing by our friends. I should have thought that, when we were dealing with Greece, our friends in Greece were the Greek people, the Greek army, the Greek soldiers who fought against the invaders, those who composed E.A.M. and fought with the guerillas. But as there seems to be no shadow of doubt that the great majority of the Greek people are republican and do not want the return of the King, because of his association with the tyrannous Metaxas régime, I cannot understand how, in logic, the hon. Member suggests that we should stand by the King, when it is clear that the great majority of the people do not want him.
§ Mr. Baxter
I do not mean that we should try to force the Greek King on the Greek people, but that we should, in our references in this House, treat him with respect, and not as a traitor.
§ Mr. Strauss
We are entitled in this House to speak as we like, and the more frankly the better. In my opinion, in view of the past association of the Greek King with the Metaxas régime, which was a horrible Fascist régime, the language of progressive people in this country has been very restrained.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
On a point of Order. There used to be in this House an understanding that the heads of foreign States should not be referred to in derogatory language, of the kind used by the hon. Member just now. Is not the Greek King at present the head of a friendly country; and cannot the same be said of King Peter?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
While the situation in many countries is difficult, it is generally left to hon. Members to give their own opinions on such subjects, within reasonable limits, remembering that it is very easy in our language to say something which may be offensive to other people.
§ Mr. Strauss
I was only referring to this matter in passing, to make the point that our friends in Greece are the Greek people as a whole, and that it is quite illogical, in view of their feelings about the King, that we should give our support to him as against the expressed view of the people. I leave that matter there.
I want to speak about the wider issue referred to by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman), particularly in regard to Poland. A great deal has been said this afternoon about dexterity and manipulation, and so on. I submit that we should still consider these problems not so much as questions of power politics, in the sense of what one nation can do or cannot do, but in relation to certain basic principles on which Members of the Labour Party should at least be agreed. The principles are two. One is embodied in the Atlantic Charter, which was supported, I think, not only by everybody in this House, but by everybody in every democratic country throughout the world. That is, that there 1393 should be no transfers of territory without the consent of the people concerned.
The other principle—perhaps "principle" is not quite the word—arises from the first. It is to consider all these problems from the angle of what is most likely to bring about peace and contentment in Europe, and to make a future war less likely. It is from that angle that I feel that this problem should be regarded, and from that angle primarily. In the past I have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne speak very eloquently, and indeed vehemently, on behalf of that first principle in the Atlantic Charter, because it is the right principle. It is certainly a Socialist principle, that there should be no transfer of territory or populations on any large scale unless it is going to lead to the greater contentment of the people concerned. It may very well be—and, in fact, I have said so in this House—that probably it would lead to the greater contentment of the peoples concerned if those who live on the East of the Curzon Line were incorporated in the Soviet Union. That is my view. But the people who live there may take a different view. There has so far been no agreement whatever about the transfer of that territory. No Polish Government has agreed to it. I would point out, particularly to my hon. Friends, that the Polish Socialists have not agreed to it. People living there have not agreed to it, because they have not been asked. There has been no referendum nor has an election been held. The only people who have agreed are the Lublin Committee.
It may be perfectly right that this territory should be transferred, but there is a question of principle involved that is going to arise throughout Europe, and I, as a Socialist, would be very much happier if my belief that this suggestion is justified could be confirmed by some sort of plebiscite among the people concerned, as soon as the war is over. There is no reason, as I see it, why it should be finally concluded now. There could be a provisional government meanwhile. I would like to see, not only here, but in regard to all the major territorial adjustments proposed by various nations for the post-war period, that the people concerned should be asked their views. That is the principle which has been agreed and accepted by the whole democratic world in the Atlantic Charter, and I think it is tragic that it has now been aban- 1394 doned. It is tragic, not only for the people concerned, who are going to be pushed about here and there as on a draughts-board but because I believe the violation of that principle is going to make another war highly probable.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member is not being quite fair about this. This is not a transfer of territory in the ordinary sense. This is territory which the Russians have always said, and most of us agree with them, had been wrongfully taken by the Poles from the Russians when the Russians were weak. The Russians had to advance over that territory if they had to make any advance, and, if they did not make any advance, we were all sunk together. Was it very unreasonable for the Russians to say, with regard to this territory, which should never have been Polish and was never rightfully Polish, "We want this settled, and we are prepared to make compensation and do everything we can to make a strong, free and independent Poland, but this bit of territory——"
§ Mr. Strauss
I think they are perfectly entitled to put forward the demand for the return of that territory, and, if their case is strong, as I believe it is, I think it would be acceptable in any international conference afterwards, particularly if the same view were taken by the majority of the people concerned. Certainly, some areas which Russia is claiming to-day are almost wholly Polish. All that could be a matter of compromise.
§ Sir Geoffrey Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I am not quite clear how far my hon. Friend goes. Would he apply the principle he lays down to enemy territory, and insist that the Germans in East Prussia or other places must give their consent and be consenting parties, before there can be any transfer of territory?
§ Mr. Strauss
The Government of this country signed the Atlantic Charter, which said that the Allies required no aggrandisement of territory, and that there should be no transfers of territory without the consent of the people concerned. This was accepted by everybody at the time, and not challenged in any quarter, to apply to all territories, 1395 including enemy territories. It was only subsequently that various nations have put forward demands for cutting off a bit of Germany, saying that the Charter was never meant to apply to the enemy. If it was never meant to apply to Germany, to whom was it meant to apply? Nobody has ever answered that question. Of course, it was meant to apply to Germany. I say that, for the future peace of Europe, it is the height of folly to make any considerable transfers of population without the consent of the people involved. A minor frontier adjustment here and there may be highly desirable from every point of view but, when you are proposing to move, as these proposals suggest, 7,500,000—that is the population of East and West Prussia, North and South Silesia, involved in this Polish issue—without taking into account the feelings of the present population, I say that, to move all those people against their will, people who have lived there for generations, is not likely to lead to a permanent settlement of European affairs.
§ Sir G. Mander
Have they not gone already? Are they not going as fast as they can? The transfer is taking place.
§ Mr. Strauss
Maybe they are. I do not know what the situation is, but the point I am trying to make is really a simple one. In this Polish issue, there are certain matters of important principle involved which affect the whole European scene. I would like to see these principles, which I believe are correct principles, carried out and accepted in the Russo-Polish dispute and elsewhere.
If the Russian demand in this case is a perfectly sound and good one, as I believe it is, I do not understand their suggestion that Poland should be compensated by taking over part of another country. If the people on the East of the Curzon Line will be happier if they were part of the Soviet Union, I cannot understand why the question of compensation arises at all. I think that, if compensation is to be forthcoming, it should be on the lines of making the Polish worker and peasant a more prosperous and contented person than before by giving him, from Germany and elsewhere, machinery, fertilisers, and capital of all sorts. I am convinced that if Poland is to take over the territory which is suggested, she would be creating, on her West, a permanently 1396 hostile people, more hostile than before. We should be doing our best to plant the seeds of hatred and discontent in the hearts of people now children who will grow up and want, inevitably, to go back to the land in which they lived as children and their parents and grandparents.
I should have thought that, if we wanted a settlement of Europe, not only should we disarm Germany so that she may never have the power of going to war again, but we should see that the German people lose the will to go to war again. But here you are presenting the young people of Germany to-day with such grievances, that the time will inevitably arise when they will want to readjust their frontiers, peaceably, if possible, and if not, by other means.
I suggest that we should look upon all these matters from the point of view of these basic principles, because they apply everywhere through Europe. If we once say "Good-bye" to these principles, and everybody tries to get bits of territory here, there and everywhere, putting forward claims which may or may not be good, that process of bargaining will end in chaos, and we shall make almost certain that there will be another war. I feel that my hon. Friends and I and those who think along these lines should press, to-day and constantly, for an adherence to these principles set out very admirably in the Atlantic Charter, which not only hon. Members on this side of the House but the whole Parliament and country agreed are the only principles upon which permanent peace can be secured.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Raikes (Essex, South Eastern)
I find myself largely in agreement with what the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss) has just said. There is one thing that is quite certain. If at the end of this war there is a sphere of influence, say, a Russian sphere of influence over half of Europe or a British sphere of influence over the other half, we shall be inevitably drifting towards another great conflagration at an early date. The only hope for the future lies in the nations of Europe deciding by free consent their own forms of government, whatever that government may be, and providing that position is reached, I would sooner see States in Europe adopting forms of government of which I disapprove than I would see them com- 1397 pelled to accept forms of government which are contrary to their desires.
I feel bound to say a word or two with regard to Poland. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) was nearly right, but not quite. He said that the Curzon Line had been really agreed upon by both sides at the end of the last war. As a demarcation line, yes, but the hon. Member will bear in mind that it was also stated that that was to be a demarcation line subject to any rights that Poland might have East of that line. The hon. Member also left out a further point that the Russians themselves stated directly that, with that demarcation line, they were prepared to offer Poland something rather more than the Curzon Line. The Curzon Line at that time did not include Eastern Galicia as part of Russia. The Curzon Line pressed for by Russia to-day includes Eastern Galicia as well as territories which are East of that line. I do not regard the pre-war boundaries of Poland as being sacrosanct, but it is a tall order that Russia, who not only recognised the Riga Line but re-ratified it in 1932 and 1934 and re-ratified it again in 1941, should suddenly say, "We have come to the conclusion that we are going to have half the territory of pre-war Poland." I would be willing, like the hon. Member opposite, to see these Eastern territories, if it could be done, going into other areas if they wished to do so. Russia because she is powerful—and she is powerful—because she has fought well—and she has fought well—is saying, "I am going to take so and so not because of the right of it but because I want it."
§ Mr. Silverman
When did Russia say that? Surely the Russian claim has been that they were having it because, on the merits, they were entitled to it and because the Polish authority had agreed to it.
§ Mr. Raikes
It is easy to talk about the merits, but it was on the merits that the Russian Government four times ratified the Treaty of Riga. Why has the Treaty of Riga suddenly become out of date? The hon. Member cannot find an answer to that. M. Stalin has not attempted to find it. I want to go a little beyond that. I think that a Debate like this is a good thing, as we are able to clear up matters which it is not possible to clear up at any other time. It has been 1398 said that if Mikolajcyk had remained Prime Minister all would have been well and there would not have been any of this trouble. The Curzon Line was not the only thing considered at Moscow. At Moscow the Russian terms were clearly laid down—first of all the Curzon Line; secondly, the majority of the new Government were to be members of the Lublin Committee; and thirdly, Poland was to be compensated by certain territories in the West subject to conditions which would mean that Russia would have control of Poland's outlet to the sea. Whatever Mikolajcyk agreed to, he did not agree to those terms in Moscow. He came back and said he must discuss those matters with the Cabinet, and that as far as he was concerned, the terms, as they stood, could not be accepted. The Polish Cabinet met, and at their first meeting they unanimously decided that they were not prepared to agree to the Russian terms, which covered all those other things to which I have referred. Later there was disagreement between Mikolajcyk and the majority of his Cabinet as to whether it would be worth while to go back to Moscow and negotiate on the basis of those terms and try to get something better. It is not for me to express an opinion one way or the other, but Mikolajcyk took the view that it might be well to negotiate, and the majority of his Government took the view that further negotiations would not be worth while on those terms because they were already so bad. That, I understand, was the position of Poland, and it is rather a different picture from that which the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne painted.
§ Mr. Silverman
Surely the picture which the hon. Member is giving is much more unfavourable to the London Government than the picture I gave.
§ Mr. Raikes
I have some difficulty in following that intervention. There was this difference of view in the London Government. The terms meant to the majority the end of Polish independence and they may well be right. Mikolajcyk felt that it might still be worth while to try and negotiate something better than that which the Russians had offered. But the question of Poland is really only a small part of the picture. It is an important part. If the future of Poland is to be decided not by the will of the Poles 1399 themselves, or indeed by the will of many Germans on the Oder, but by the decision of Russia and by hat they want in contradiction of their own treaty signed and re-ratified time after time, the whole future for peace is not very great. I agree with the hon. Member opposite that it would not be a satisfactory arrangement by which Poland was given completely non-Polish territories as part of the west. I would accept the corridor, because I think the corridor is a different matter, but to say that Poland is to have a large proportion of territory to the west in exchange will not be of any use.
I sometimes think that His Majesty's Government do not always sufficiently realise the degree of misery and despair caused by the moving of millions of people of different races from their homes in order to make a geographical settlement. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) is interjecting mildly to himself and I know that he will not agree with what I say, but that will not prevent me from saying it. I recall to the attention of the House, and particularly to the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, a decree which has recently been issued by the Lublin Committee—it was signed by President Bierut and reported in the "Daily Telegraph" of 20th January—which called for the round-up of "irreconcilable members of the Polish Home Army and followers of the London Government." It urged all armed forces in the liberated areas to co-operate with the Soviet and Polish military authorities to outlaw "the Home Army murderers who are provoking civil strife." Whatever our views of the future of Poland may be, the Government which the right hon. Member the Under-Secretary is representing on that Bench at the moment is a Government which still recognises the London Government of Poland.
It is a Government which has power to speak to Marshal Stalin and inform him of our own views, and I think that whenever the meeting of the great three takes place it must be urged that if there is to be any hope for future friendly relationships between East and West, you cannot have decree after decree issued by the present Lublin Committee, recognised by Russia, calling for the death penalty on all persons not connected with Lublin, for hundreds of thousands of these people have fought against Germany in the 1400 underground movement for a considerable number of years.
The same thing applies in part to Yugoslavia. I do not want to take any side between one party and another in Yugoslavia, but I say again that unless the future of Yugoslavia is settled by free elections and by a fair vote of the population, we shall have no peace and no settlement in that country. It is not a question of whether there is a Communist Government, or a non-Socialist Government, or a Radical Government in Yugoslavia. If we are to have peace in that country it is our duty to press and use our influence to see that the country has the right to choose what form of government it wishes after the war. We have a very great responsibility towards Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia came into this war under almost impossible conditions. The leaders of Yugoslavia sacrificed themselves and their country for an ideal, and the least that Yugoslavia can ask for is that at any rate it shall be made plain by popular vote whether they want Marshal Tito or someone else as their Prime Minister and leader in the days that come after the war.
Other countries will also be involved, but if only this House can come clearly down to the real principle in the years after the war—I do not believe there is a great party difference over this—that we want to see a free Europe, a Europe not carved up in spheres of influence, a Europe in which the ordinary man and ordinary woman can live in his own home, in his own place, without being forcibly transferred, a Europe in which Governments can operate by free consent of the peoples themselves, a Europe in which the small State will have the rule of law enforced in its favour as against the great—if we build such a Europe we shall have peace; but if we have to consent to a dictatorship Europe where Russian influence may be building spheres of influence in one part so that she forces us to set up something to offset them, perhaps, in the West, we shall not have peace but an uneasy armistice, and in that uneasy armistice we shall sow the seeds of a greater and worse war than the present one.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)
I think it is necessary that someone from my party should make quite clear what our views are on this question. 1401 For my own part, I am in very general agreement with what was said by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and with the very grave words which have come with great significance from the other side of the House. I speak with all the more confidence because I know that any words from an obscure back-bencher cannot possibly embarrass the Prime Minister or the Government in any negotiations they may be conducting at present or in the future. It may be well, however, to assure the Prime Minister that the country as a whole is not quite as acquiescent in everything he does as is the present House of Commons, that there is a feeling in the country that at this very moment we may be hanging a tragedy around the necks of our children and our grandchildren.
The hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Sir A. Evans) protested violently against any discussion of peace negotiations before peace had actually been signed or before the enemy had been conquered. I can only say this, that I am convinced that unless we discuss now, in general, the principles which we would see applied at once, and in the future, we shall never have an opportunity of doing so. That was the great trouble after the last war—when the time came for the country as a whole to make its voice heard in the councils of Europe, it simply was not heard, because it had not prepared itself, it had not informed itself of the problems, and the people in the Government, the people responsible at the time, had not educated the country to the problems that were to arise and which they knew perfectly well were to be the issues of the future.
Mussolini once used a phrase which has been condemned at large—sacro egoisimo—the holy or the sacred egoism. I appeal to this House to use a little of that sacro egoisimo in its proper sense. One would think that we are the most altruistic people in the world. We discuss the fate of Poland, we discuss the future of Germany, we discuss what Greece is going to do, what America feels, but we never think of the one thing of which the House ought to think before anything else—what will happen to our own children and grandchildren after this war. I appeal to the House to think of that and to keep that in their minds when 1402 we are discussing the fate of other countries, because the fate of our children and our grandchildren will depend directly on whether we take the right line and whether we judge rightly in the matter of the external politics of Europe. That will depend very much on the amount of discipline which this House exercises over the Foreign Office.
At the end of the last war I was interested in a society called the Union of Democratic Control. At that time, we found it was very necessary to protest in season and out of season against the secret commitments which were made then by the Government. There has been no difference, as far as I can see, in the last 30 years in the method which the Foreign Office have followed from that time to this. In one respect they have not learned a single lesson from the last war. They have not learned that they ought, first of all, to have learnt some indication of the feeling of the country in general, not merely the feeling of Parliament but of the country, before they enter into undertakings of which we know nothing. With those words, I will sit down. I am glad to have had the opportunity of stating a view with which I am confident most of my party will agree.
§ Commander Prior (Birmingham, Aston)
If I may say so with all courtesy, the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) made a most pro-Nazi speech, a speech which will give immense satisfaction to the German High Command. What we are all searching for is the peace of the world, not only in our own time but in the future. I have had dealings with many young Nazis. I picked one out of the sea not long ago, and the first thing he said to me was, "When we invade England." I asked him how he proposed to do it. These young men now living in Germany love war. They are filled with vengeance and the lust for blood. What we are all searching for now is the peace of the world. How is that to be gained? Hon. Members have taken exception to the transfer of East Prussia. I am unaware that any great musicians, authors or artists ever came out of that country.
§ Professor Gruffydd
The greatest classical scholar in the world, Mollendorf-Williamowitz, came out of East Prussia.
§ Commander Prior
I am unaware of him, but let me correct myself. Many more soldiers and generals have come out of East Prussia than men of peace. We are told that we have to get the consent of the East Prussians before their will to war is stifled for good. Exception is taken to the French advancing to their natural boundary, the Rhine. In my humble opinion unless the means to make war are removed from Germany we will always have war. The Germans want war; they are thirsting for vengeance. How is that to be stopped unless by the dismemberment of Germany, and the break-up of their war potential?
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I do not think I have ever intervened before in a Debate on foreign policy, but I am moved to do so to-day by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes). I want to make it clear that on this issue I am very pro-Ipswich and very anti-South Cardiff. I think it is high time that House of Commons talked about this matter, and here may I say how glad I am to see my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) present, because she has repeatedly pointed out in articles and elsewhere the lack of control over foreign policy in this country. I well remember the Union of Democratic Control. I remember coming back as a soldier from the last war, and those post-war years at Oxford, when we thought we were going to have some control over the foreign policy of this country. If I may say so with all respect, to-day's Debate has been all the better because the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have not been here. This has been the kind of discussion I hear all over the country. In Army groups, "pubs" and elsewhere the ordinary common people are discussing our foreign policy with great doubts. I have heard this Christmas what has been said in ordinary "pubs" in Dorset, where there are many commonsense people, in the constituency of the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). I would beg those who do not agree with me to read an article by Mr. Charles Morgan writing under the thin disguise of "Menander," in "The Times Literary Supplement," which deals with discussion on the "wooden benches."
1404 I have a feeling of guilt, as one who was in the Government before the war. I remember only too well that I was in a Government position when the agreement was made with Germany about submarines. I remember the hesitancy about the whole of our Spanish policy. There was nothing between the sides of the House, so far as I am concerned about this; it was much deeper than that. Every discussion was vitiated by this Communist-Fascist cross-section. We never heard the view of Britain. As I read "Soviet War News," which comes in a little packet to my breakfast table, and the Lublin Pol-Press communiqués, I see, in Russia, a clear-cut policy. They know what they want, and so far as I am concerned they appeal to my interests when they talk about Lublin, because they say they are starting the schools again. I do not know whether they are or not; I do not know whether to believe a word of it. I am told by hon. Members that it is all puppetry and nonsense. But at any rate it is power politics, and how can power politics sit down side by side with the Atlantic Charter? My hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss) talked in eloquent terms about the Atlantic Charter. I have heard it ridiculed and laughed at by many of my Conservative friends, who say that it is just a sheet of paper. It may well represent deep feeling in the country, and so far as I am concerned it does represent something. But it has not become the touchstone of our foreign policy. What is that touchstone? What is it we stand for, as distinct from the Communist clear-cut creed which has cells in France, Greece, and Poland and, for all I know, in this country? The cells may not necessarily be connected, but they talk about a common thing. It is a common conception of society.
I am not so sure that we have not, in this Debate, arrived a little nearer to the kind of unity which must be forged if we are to succeed. You cannot force unity on the people. There is a great deal of nonsense in the talk about the unity of the people of this country, which has been forced on us by Hitler. If, out of the sufferings and experiences of this war, we are to build a unity which represents the voice of Britain we must agree on the main principles of our policy. The only point which seems to have been agreed upon 1405 by every hon. Member is that we should let each country choose its own form of government. But is that a sufficiently clear and heroic policy? Can we say that, in accents which only the Prime Minister himself could use, to the people of Europe? How is this country going to talk about the glory of Europe—which is a phrase the Prime Minister used the other day—and about being good Europeans, if there is a suspicion, at any rate on this side of the House, that arrangements have already been made about spheres of influence? I do not know.
Unlike the Debates in which we tend, inevitably, to have long speeches from the Government benches, when the Prime Minister comes back from a conference, there has emerged to-day a further principle, and that is that hon. Members who usually take opposite sides, Royalist and Republicans alike, have agreed that there is something very unsatisfactory about the condition of Poland at the present time. My hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth, my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich, and, certainly, hon. Members on the other side, seemed to be in very strong agreement on this one point. I wish there could be more Debates of this kind, of an unofficial sort, where we get not merely reports from conferences, and where the House of Commons—it is better to do it here than upstairs in a foreign affairs committee—can work out what it thinks and can, possibly, influence the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary before they go to future Conferences.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Hall)
I commence the few remarks which I desire to make on the basis of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay). I have no complaint—and I am sure the House has no complaint—at my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) initiating this Debate. I would have liked, of course, a little more time in which to deal with some of the points which have been raised to-day, although my hon. Friend pointed out very clearly that the Debate was not initiated for the purpose of a reply but to create much more interest in foreign affairs than he thought existed. For that reason I can say, not only of his speech but of those subsequently delivered, that 1406 we have had some interesting speeches, covering much of the same ground as previous speeches but in some ways laying greater emphasis on the points that have been put, and the Debate has been most interesting in the sense that we have seen a rather strange line-up, the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) agreeing with my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), whereas my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) violently disagreed with him.
In almost all the speeches points of very high policy have been raised, points which have previously been made and fully dealt with. I know of no time during my stay in the House when so much time has been given to foreign affairs as during the last month or five weeks. Six whole days have been devoted to these very important questions, three very long and important speeches have been made by the Prime Minister and three by the Foreign Secretary. Poland has been very fully dealt with—I am sure a number of my hon. Friends will say not satisfactorily, but the Prime Minister has taken the House into his complete confidence and pointed out the difficulties that have arisen, and there can be no ambiguity at all in our minds as to the position of the Government. The same can he said of Greece—no subject has been debated more fully during the last fortnight or three weeks—the Baltic States, Yugoslavia and many other matters, and I feel that there is nothing I can usefully add to the statements of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. The hon. Member for Ipswich questioned the statement of the Foreign Secretary that no secret engagement had been entered into at the conferences which he and the Prime Minister had attended. As far as I know, that still stands, and there is nothing further that I can say on that matter. The hon. Member for South-East Essex raised the question of certain decrees which have been issued by the Lublin Committee. I will certainly see that this matter is brought to the notice of the Secretary of State. The hon. Member wanted it made clear that whichever leader controls or whatever Government governs Yugoslavia should be appointed by popular vote. I think it has been made absolutely clear by the Prime Minister that in each of the liberated countries opportunities must be 1407 given for a popular vote of the people to decide their Government. That still stands.
I wish there was a little more confidence reposed in the Government in dealing with these deeply important matters. One would imagine that it was the British Government that was entirely responsible for framing the new world policy. The British Government are working in the closest possible co-operation with their Allies, America, Russia and France, and the smaller nations are being taken into consultation in connection with matters of very high policy. I have no doubt that at the forthcoming conference—where and when it is to be held one cannot say—many of the matters that have been discussed to-day will be subjects for consideration, and that after their report is given to the House by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary the House will have the satisfaction that it usually has as the result of conferences of this kind attended by representatives of the great Allied nations.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
The speech of my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs was quite proper but it did not enlighten us very much. It was typical of a Minister in this Government saying as little as possible. In that respect my right hon. Friend has, of course, succeeded very well indeed. The hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Sir A. Evans) was very critical of my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) for raising this issue of foreign affairs at all; he added that his speech was mischievous and embarrassing. I can tell him from my experience in this House that no one ever reaches the Front Government bench at any time unless he is mischievous and embarrassing to the Government. I fear indeed that if my hon. Friend persists in what he has done to-day he may arrive there himself ultimately.
§ Mr. Muff (Kingston-upon-Hull, East)
Will my hon. Friend tell us how he got on the Front Bench in 1924?
§ Mr. Davies
By not saying too many nice things of the Tory Government of the day. I do not know as much about foreign affairs as some hon. Members, and 1408 I envy them their wider knowledge. I have, however, been in Poland and East Prussia and without very intimate knowledge of those parts I have a fair idea of what the people of those territories think. I have come to the conclusion that it is as necessary to find out what the foreigner thinks of us, as to say what we think of him. The Polish question does, of course, provide a puzzle; and my right hon. Friend who represents the Foreign Office will forgive me if I tell him bluntly that the average individual in this country is completely unable to understand how it comes about that there is a Polish Government in London which our Government recognises to the full, and which is apparently living at our expense, and that our Ally, Russia, recognises another Government in Lublin, inside Poland. It does not require a university education to make a person bewildered at that state of affairs; and my right hon. Friend has said nothing which would help us to clear away that difficulty. It is an impossible situation; and when the "great Three," as they are called, meet, one of the first things they will have to do is to clear away that difficulty of two Allies supporting separate governments who claim to represent the very same nation. Then somebody has repeated to-day that the whole of the German people must be held responsible for what has been done in this war. How simple! I wish that they would read the history of the Napoleonic wars——
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)
Is it not a fact that Himmler, in his message yesterday, stated that the whole German people must be held responsible?
§ Mr. Davies
I do not descend so low as to read or believe what Himmler says; and I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should do so. The main point that emerges from this Debate is whether Great Britain will lend its power to see to it at the end of the war, whoever are our Allies or our enemies, it shall be laid down as a fundamental principle of British policy that any people living in any territory anywhere, shall have the right to decide for themselves what form of government they want.
§ Mr. Baxter
Does the hon. Gentleman seriously suggest that when the war is over, the Germans should be allowed to elect a Nazi Government?
§ Mr. Davies
I feel like Voltaire about that interruption. He said:I disagree with what you say, but would defend to the death your right to say it.That is my philosophy. If the German people were foolish enough to elect a Nazi regime, it would be, in my view, as stupid as if the British working-class elected a Tory Government.
§ Mr. Lindsay
We have the Russian communiqués taking a completely opposite view, so that there is a war about ideas as well, is there not?
§ Mr. Davies
That may be so. This is a war of ideas but those ideas are a little bit mixed up with capitalism and rackets of that kind. Let me come to a point which has occurred to me about the Ukrainian problem. It is not commonly known that there are, fighting with the Canadian Forces in Europe, about 6,000 Canadian soldiers of Ukrainian origin; and it may astonish hon. Members to know that I was invited to address them some time ago in spite of the unpopular beliefs I hold. It is as well to understand that these men hold strong views as to whether any portion of the Ukraine should be incorporated in Russia or in Poland. They hold the view that the Ukrainian people should have the right even to determine whether there shall be an independent Ukraine or whether it should be part of the Russian or Polish republics. They are beginning to issue publications in this country giving voice to their views on that. There are more people living in the Ukraine than there are in these islands—about 48,000,000, I believe, That is another problem which may crop up in due course.
Some hon. Gentlemen cannot understand the point of view of my friends on this side about the Kings of Greece and Yugoslavia. I do not pretend to interpret the views of my party on these issues, but I wish that the Yugoslays—and I have been to Yugoslavia, too—and the Greeks had done what they did in Norway. I understand that the present monarch of Norway was actually elected to his post. He will be stronger as a monarch at the end of the war than any other in Europe merely because he was elected by the people. Monarchies have been falling for the past 50 years and are departing slowly from the face of the earth. I do not think that there are more than about 15 left in the world at present.
§ Mr. Davies
Some of them are making a desperate attempt to return and they may, of course, succeed. I am not going to argue that in some countries it might not be beneficial to have a limited monarchy; but if monarchies had been as wise as our own they would have retained their power longer than they have done. One hon. Member said that the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich was pro-Nazi. It is astonishing that if anybody criticises our Prime Minister he is automatically presumed to be a friend of Hitler. They say that about me sometimes, too.
§ Mr. Davies
That is better than hating everybody. The hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff was annoyed at my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich because he criticised our Prime Minister. Why, he asked, should we embarrass the Prime Minister in present circumstances when we are at war? I remember the Prime Minister only a few years ago sitting below the Gangway and getting up every few months and doing his level best to embarrass the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain.
§ Mr. Davies
Of course there was a war on; it was the late Neville Chamberlain who took us into this war. The present Prime Minister embarrassed him to such an extent that he destroyed his spirit and finished him as Prime Minister. Hon. Gentlemen who support the Prime Minister should not complain about others criticising him, because he achieved his power by doing exactly what my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich has been doing to-day.
§ Major Sir Derrick Gunston (Thornbury)
The hon. Gentleman is not fair. The present Prime Minister got up, day after day, to warn the House that the country must rearm against the German menace. He was not attacking the Prime Minister of that day.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that what we are objecting to in the remarks of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) is not his criticisms of the Prime Minister, but the constant championship of a weak peace with Germany?
§ Mr. Davies
We have not been discussing a weak or a hard peace to-day. I will deal with that point any time that the hon. Gentleman likes, but to-day is not the occasion.
§ Mr. Lindsay
My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) has only just come into this Debate. May I tell him that we have had a Debate which has not been confined to the issues referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Davies)? We have been discussing foreign policy for two or three hours.
§ Mr. Davies
I was diverted by the interruptions of hon. Gentlemen opposite. It was they who led me astray, and they will have to forgive the remarks I have just made. I conclude with this. When millions of young men are fighting, it is a good thing that there is this Parliament where we can debate the issues that have compelled them to fight each other; and whatever our views may be on this war, I trust there is no difference of opinion on the point that Britain shall lend its weight to laying down the principles of a peace that will be durable, and that the next generation shall not suffer the misery that the present generation are suffering in this present struggle.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Loftus (Lowestoft)
I regret I did not hear the opening speeches of this Debate. The weather was responsible for my late arrival. I have listened to many foreign affairs Debates in this Chamber, and I have hardly ever had the opportunity to participate in one of them. Listening to these Debates there has always been in my mind my own individual appreciation of what should be the real background of our foreign policy. As I listened to these speeches to-day and on previous days I asked myself this question, Is it possible for us to reconstruct Europe, to save European civilisation, to save the foundation of it, which is freedom? If freedom dies in Europe, European civilisation dies, because for 2,500 years Europe has insistently, if in- 1412 termittently, pursued the splendid dream of human freedom. It is that idea, combined with the Christian religion, which has given Europe its dynamic quality and caused it to permeate and dominate the world. When I listen to these Debates, there often comes back to my mind a phrase of one of the greatest of our archaeologists:Civilisation is an intermittent phenomenon.We are apt to forget that nearly all the continents are littered with the remains of extinct civilisations which have had their day and passed away, and that, of those of which we have any records, we read that they imagined themselves to be just as permanent as we think ours to-day.
The appalling suffering which Europe has undergone, the appalling conditions we shall face there, should make us realise that it will be an immense task to reconstruct Europe, let alone to build that "brave new world" which we all talk of, and hope for and dream of. I think we are apt to underestimate this fact, namely, that in either the life of the civilisation or the life of the nation, or of an individual, one must use just as much effort and care and energy in preserving the gains achieved as in preparing for the next advance.
It takes a great deal of work and energy to prevent retrogression. Consider what has happened in Europe. In the greater part, Russia, Poland, a large part of Italy, large parts of France and all Germany, Austria, Hungary, and so on, the whole plant of civilisation has been destroyed—roads and railways, factories and cities and towns, and so on down to the very farm stock, the accumulation of the work of many generations. We can compare a civilisation to a farm. What has taken generations to build a few years of neglect, or folly, or disaster may destroy. We have seen that happen with the "Dust Bowl" in the United States, where farms have been destroyed through neglect and folly.
The second factor is the immense physical deterioration, the increase of diseases, tuberculosis and so on, due chiefly to lack of food, clothing and warmth. Here I would say there is a factor we must take into account in considering our foreign policy. It is that this physical deterioration has increased since the Allied occupation in many countries. At almost 1413 any sacrifice we must take steps to reverse it. Otherwise, the hope of restoring Europe and getting political sanity and stability back will fail, and many in the liberated lands may sigh for the fleshpots of Egyptian, or rather German, servitude. There is another factor to which I must refer, that is, the immense moral deterioration in Europe. In my own life-time, before this war, there has been great deterioration in the moral aspects of our civilisation. To take a small, trifling thing, before the last war one could travel freely anywhere over Europe without passports or identity cards or any kind of identification.
Take a more serious aspect. Before the last war in the days of my youth, if anywhere in Europe one individual appeared to suffer injustice, the whole world protested. There was an instance in the case of Dreyfus in France. We had others, such as when a German officer struck the blind cobbler of Zabern, and all over the world there was a protest. The man was not killed or anything like that; it was merely a brutal act. To-day we are so replete with injustices, cruelties and iniquities that we have become almost immune to pity, and I think we are getting incapable of that righteous and splendid indignation which was found especially, for example, in the voice of Gladstone, which was heard throughout the world and influenced the conscience of mankind. To-day, to take one case, the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) in a recent Debate, referred to the deportees from Poland. As she pointed out, it was not a question of politics, it was a question of common humanity, about which, in the Victorian age, every man and woman in the country would have rallied and tried to do something to ameliorate the position. These people, a million to a million and a half, were deported in 1939, many of them to the wastes of Siberia and some of the Arctic forests. I have heard stories—whether true or not I do not know—that women teachers, women professors from universities and people like that, in summer clothes, were sent to the Arctic and that there they died in great numbers. To-day, hardly a voice is raised——
§ It being Six o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.1414
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Mathers.]
§ Mr. Loftus
—with few honourable exceptions, in Press or in Parliament on behalf of doing something to ameliorate the conditions of the people and to find out what has happened to them in order to try to bring families together again. Now we have entered Europe we shall be met by all the spectres that haunted the entrance to Hades as described by Virgil in Book 6 of the Æneid. Have we any guide posts to help us, when we thread our way through the labyrinth of Europe which is blazing with hates, with fires ready to burst out, and full of appalling unhappiness? Have we any indications to help us, any principles? I suggest—and here I agree with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay)—that the Atlantic Charter does provide us with such principles. I know it is the fashion in some quarters to deride it, but when it was promulgated to the world in 1941 it embodied the hopes and commanded the enthusiastic support of millions of people in this country and throughout the world. That Charter has been flagrantly broken in some instances, and certainly with regard to Poland.
We talk at Dumbarton Oaks and elsewhere of building the peace structure after the war, but treaties broken with the ink scarce dry upon them will be an ill foundation for any enduring peace structure. The Atlantic Charter was not signed in 1941, but it was signed by all the Allied nations on 1st January, 1942, and that ratification had the signatures of the President of the United States, our Prime Minister and of Mr. Litvinov on behalf of the U.S.S.R. Have we any other guidance? I suggest that we have. The Prime Minister gave an admirable farewell message to the Italian people. He put forward there certain tests of freedom. Hon. Members will probably remember that they included freedom of the Press, of criticism of the Government, freedom to form opposition parties, constitutional means of changing the Government, fair play for all citizens and not only for Government officials. He went on to point out that courts of justice should administer known laws, not under pressure from any one party or from the Executive.
The final point, which is enormously important, was freedom from the secret 1415 police, from arrest, from imprisonment without trial and from the concentration camp. It is a melancholy fact that in some of the liberated countries, such as Poland and Yugoslavia, if the facts are as they are reported, the secret police are as numerous and the concentration camps as full as before those countries were liberated. I hope that that is not true; but reports come in to that effect. I believe that the ordinary man and woman in Europe to-day requires, first of all, to be a free citizen, that is, to be able to stand and speak without having to look over his shoulder for fear that anyone may overhear what he says. He wants freedom from the secret police, freedom from the concentration camp. He does not want perpetually violent politics and threats of civil war. He wants stability and freedom, and a chance to rebuild his family life, reconstruct his home, reconstruct his business or occupation. He wants two or three years for recuperation and rebuilding
I believe that we have an enormous moral strength in the world, if we choose to use it. I think the word reverenced us in 1940 and 1941. In all our history, for centuries past, nations have looked to us as the standard-bearer of liberty in the world; and I believe that they are looking to us to-day, as never before, for help, as the only nation who really can help them, who understands them, who can give them what they want—freedom. When they look here they find division, they find fierce controversy, and, what is more astonishing, they find quite sincere individuals, who believe themselves to be the heirs of Byron and Shelley and Mill, the apostles of liberty, advocating methods of government, régimes or would-be Governments such as in Greece, based on methods which would make all the great British apostles of liberty in the past turn with horror in their graves.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) talked about monarchies with a certain depreciation of the monarchical idea. Let us look at the facts. If a would-be Government to-day, basing itself on the concentration camps and on one party, blares forth to the world that it is democratic, we do not look at the facts; we swallow the label. Take two democratic States in Europe, equally happy, equally prosperous, equally free and democratic. One is Switzerland, 1416 a republic, highly decentralised; I suppose the freest nation in the world. Then take a monarchy, Denmark. I have lived there. It is free, happy, extremely democratic. It has had a Socialist Government for the past ten years; a very free people, and yet a monarchy. Do not let us be misled by the labels; let us look at the tests of freedom, those tests of freedom such as were set out by the Prime Minister in that farewell message to the Italian people.
I would add this word about Poland. I think we have to do our utmost, within the frontiers which will be decided for Poland, though not by us or by Poland, to see that Poland gets that government which her people really desire, and, with it, absolute independence. Poland has suffered as no nation in the world has suffered in this war. I would also add a word about Germany. We have heard discussions as to the future of Germany, and the suggestion of moving masses of people from Prussia. We have heard of the Morgenthau plan for reducing Germany to a purely agricultural country, and have read the vague plans set forth in "The Times" yesterday and to-day. What are the essential things that we must do about Germany? They are two. We must make absolutely sure that she cannot rearm; the second thing we ought to endeavour to do is to see that Germany, to the utmost capacity, makes reparation for the material injuries she has done to other countries.
How are we to accomplish these two things? I would throw out the suggestion that Germany should be taken over by an Inter-Allied Economic Commission, which would run the country for many years to come—its agriculture and its industry—and which would, in fact, run the whole economy of the country. That Commission would organise its production, agricultural and industrial, and would allot a certain percentage of that production for the nations which Germany has damaged and a certain percentage to be retained in Germany for home consumption. The effect of that would be an inducement to the Germans to produce. With all production strictly controlled and organised by the Allied Commission, to the benefit of Europe, the more there was produced, the more benefit to Germany. I throw out that as a rough idea worthy of consideration after the war.
1417 I conclude by urging that we should have unity in this country to face the enormously difficult task of rebuilding Europe on a basis of freedom. I think we have to rebuild the physical side, and we have to rebuild respect for law and respect for the moral law. Incidentally, I think the most terrible crime of the many which the Germans committed has been the reintroduction, after centuries, into Europe of the vile use of the varied tortures as instruments of the police, the Government and the courts. I think that is their unforgivable sin against God and man. Europe looks to us. We cannot impose freedom in Europe. We are limited in our powers. But if we could speak for freedom to-day with the voice of a united people, I believe many countries in Europe would achieve genuine freedom, not the mere propaganda variety. This country has a chance I think of rebuilding European civilisation based upon freedom, and a chance of building up a European order which would preserve not only peace, but justice and liberty.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Barnstaple)
The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) mentioned that in recent years we had ceased to be very much moved by such things as injustices, inhumanities and cruelties. He might have added another thing we have ceased to be moved by as much as perhaps we should be, namely, dishonesty. I make no apology, in the last quarter of an hour of the time which remains to us, for referring to the subject of Greece. I contend that, if the things that were done by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary in the last Debate on Greece had been done by any Prime Minister and any Foreign Secretary at any time in the reign of Queen Victoria or Edward VII or possibly in the first half of the reign of George V, that Prime Minister and that Foreign Secretary would have fallen. I put it as high as that. It would not be denied that, in so far as Greece is concerned, the centre of gravity of the Prime Minister's speech lay around the subject of hostages. We know now that at the moment he was speaking he knew that E.L.A.S. had begun the systematic and progressive release of hostages a day or two before he was speaking. We know now that it was the fact that E.L.A.S. began that systematic release four days before his speech. That has 1418 been published in the Press from undeniable sources and yet that knowledge was withheld from the world and from this House. The centre of gravity of the Foreign Secretary's speech, on the other hand, revolved around the idea that E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. were breaking to pieces. I will quote a brief sentence:I submit to the House that the Socialists, the Agrarians and the Popular Democrats, all of whom formed part of E.A.M. in the earlier stages, have announced their decision to break away and have, in one form or another, denounced the activities of their former associates."—(OFFICIAL, REPORT, 19th January, 1945; Vol. 407, c. 598.)That was the focal point of his speech. He went on to illustrate this and he fortified his case by special reference to the organisation S.K.E., which is the Socialist Party of Greece. He was, I think, a little hopeful in the way in which he spoke about the "bureau of eight" and the central committee of 20 of this Socialist Party, but when it came to names he only gave the names of four gentlemen who came from the North, from Macedonia. Again, at the moment that the Foreign Secretary was making this speech, he knew, first, that those four gentlemen had never been in any sort or kind of way even so much as local leaders of the Socialist Party. He knew that.
§ Mr. George Hall
The hon. Gentleman has questioned the integrity and the honesty of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs——
§ Mr. Hall
—and the Prime Minister. May I say that the information which was given to the House by both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was information which was sent them from Greece and even yet there has been nothing, as far as I know, that has taken place which in any way questions the information which was then given by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ Mr. Hogg
He has accused the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary of—I think I am using his actual word—dishonesty, and he proceeds now to make a speech about it in which he gives what he considers to be grounds for those charges. On this point of Order may I say that the one member of the Government at the moment present, who is competent to deal with foreign policy, has already exhausted his right to speak. Is it really in Order to make these serious charges?
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
On a point of Order. Is this not an obstructionist speech and not a point of Order?
§ Major Procter (Accrington)
Further to that point of Order. Is it in Order for a Member of this House to make such terrible charges against responsible people without giving one iota of evidence that those statements——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
I do not gather that the hon. Member is making charges of personal dishonesty against the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is alleging errors of fact, but I am listening to him.
§ Mr. Hogg
Further to that point of Order. Is it not a fact that the Rules of the House provide that where the conduct or the personal honour of a Member of this House is affected, a substantive Motion is required? Is it not also a fact that the hon. Baronet has clearly stated that the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs are guilty of dishonesty? I ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to rule as to whether or not the term "dishonesty"——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member is making a reflection on the Chair which is quite unjustified. The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) is right in part, but I am not satisfied that there has been any reflection on the personal integrity of the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ Sir R. Acland
Let me put it this way; perhaps it will avoid these points of Order, and allow the facts to be stated before the end of my speech. The Foreign Secretary quoted the names of these four men as signatory to a statement made by the S.K.E.—the Socialist Party—took as proof of his whole thesis that E.A.M. were breaking up. I will not speak about the personal knowledge of the Foreign Secretary but I will say that from information I have received from reputable British citizens in this country, it is certain that the Foreign Office knew, and from its great card-index must have known, that these four men whose names the Foreign Secretary quoted had never been at any time even so much as local members of the Socialist Party in the time before the war.
Also, at the moment at which the Foreign Secretary was speaking in the House, and was saying that E.A.M. was flaking away, I assert that the Foreign Office knew that not one reputable, recognised, known Socialist or trade union leader of any stature whatever had dissociated himself from E.A.M. and had congratulated General Scobie and General Plastiras. Therefore, I do not now say with whom the individual dishonesty lies, but I do say that this House of Commons has been deceived and that this country has been deceived, and that at any time in the 19th century or before the last war this House would not have tolerated it, but would have insisted on an inquiry to find out with whom the responsibility for deception rested. But it seems that we have now reached a position in which it 1421 is all right to say or do anything, and that it is all right to bamboozle people in order to get a vote and give the impression that your policy is approved——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
No, I said that the hon. Member was right in part in that it would be right in certain circumstances to put down a substantive Motion, but I have not ruled that the hon. Baronet has made any personal charge against the Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary. If he made any such suggestion it would be quite out of Order.
§ Mr. Hogg
I submit, Sir, that whatever may have been the case when I rose to put a point of Order just now, the hon. Baronet has now, in the hearing of the House, deliberately made a charge of dishonesty in the last part of his speech. I ask the hon. Baronet: does he, or does he not, make that charge?
§ Mr. George Hall
In view of the very serious charges which the hon. Baronet has made, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may I ask you whether he ought not to have given previous notice to the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister that such charges would be made against them?
§ Sir R. Acland
The coming on of this Debate was only known about 1 p.m. to-day and an assurance that the facts I am stating are true was only given to me between 3 and 4 o'clock this afternoon, and I wanted to take the first opportunity to put them before the House. If there is a serious charge I would be willing to put down a substantive Motion if there is an indication that other hon. Members in the House would be willing to associate themselves with me. If that were so, I should be glad to put down a Motion. However, I want to read part of a telegram which I have just received. I will read only a part because of the shortness of time. It states:We are surprised at the unjustified postponement of negotiations because of obstinacy regarding the reduction of numbers of representatives, and especially regarding the request that only S.K.E. representatives"—that is Communists—should attend.This telegram, sent to the Regent of Greece, was signed by Partsalides, Secretary-General of E.A.M., who is a Communist, Tsirimokos, recognised leader of E.L.D., Gavriledes, recognised leader of the Agrarians, and Stratis, recognised leader of S.K.E., all of whom continue to associate with E.A.M. in spite of the Foreign Secretary's remarks that they were flaking away.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-nine Minutes after Six o'Clock.