§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.6 a.m.
The Minister of State (Mr. McNeil)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
As the House knows, Treaties of Peace with Italy, Roumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland were signed on 10th February of this year and this is a consequential matter which, I hope, will be non-controversial. These Treaties do not come into force until ratifications are deposited on behalf of this country, the United States, the Soviet Union and France. It is, however, hoped that these ratifications may all be deposited within the next four weeks, or thereabouts. The Treaties, again as the House knows, are the outcome of difficult and complicated negotiations which have ranged over a period of almost 18 months. When the Treaties come into force they will represent the first step in the restoration of normal international relationship in Europe.
It is, therefore, important that when the ratifications have taken place His Majesty's Government should be in a position both to implement their obligations under the Treaties and also to avail themselves of the rights which these Treaties confer upon them. For the most 1530 part, of course, the Treaties impose obligations on the ex-enemy countries concerned, but a certain number of obligations are also put upon the Allied States, including His Majesty's Government. So far as this country is concerned, legislation is required if these obligations are to be carried out. The Treaties, naturally, also confer a number of rights on the Allied Powers, including His Majesty's Government, and legislation is required in order that advantage may be taken of these rights.
While it is possible to indicate to the House in a general kind of way the type of subject in connection with which provision of a legislative character will be needed, it is impossible at present to decide in precise detail what provisions actually will be necessary. As I know hon. Members are aware, a similar situation arose after the 1914–1918 war, in connection with the implementation of the Treaty of Versailles and the other peace treaties of that time. Accordingly, the Bill follows the same precedent of the Treaty of Peace Act, 1919.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would not wish that there should be any misunderstanding. He says, "follows the same precedent of the Treaty of Peace Act, 1919." I think, with respect, that he means it follows the precedent of that Statute, and not follows a precedent which that Statute itself was following. I hope I have made myself plain. I think it is of some importance. I am not quite sure what the right hon. Gentleman meant.
With great respect, may I say that I took the trouble like the hon. Gentleman opposite, to re-read that most interesting Debate, and I rather think my language is accurate.
However, in these legal matters, like the hon. Gentleman opposite, I attempt to be accurate. During this Debate, I will take an opportunity of making sure that I am right in what I have said. I, therefore, repeat that the Bill follows the same precedent as the Treaty of Peace Act, 1919, but I will seek corroboration on that point. It takes the form of an enabling measure 1531 conferring upon His Majesty, if I may quote from Clause 1, the right tomake such appointments, establish such offices, make such Orders in Council, and do such things as appear to Him to be necessary for carrying out the said Treaties, and for giving effect to any of the provisions thereof.Here for the benefit of the House are examples of situations in connection with which action under the Bill may be necessary. In the first place, all the treaties in question confer the right on His Majesty's Government to take over enemy property situated in this country. Such property is of course at present vested with the custodian of enemy property but only awaiting the peace treaties. It still stands in the name of the various enemy owners. The extent to which His Majesty's Government should avail themselves of the right to take over this property might be varied from treaty to treaty, and is indeed still under consideration, but assuming that it is decided to exercise it either in whole or in part, legislative provision by Order in Council under this Bill would be necessary in order to enable this property to be finally taken over and disposed of. Correspondingly, the Treaties provide for the restoration of British property situated in the various enemy countries which have been taken over or otherwise placed under control by the Governments of those countries. It may be necessary to set up certain machinery in order to take full advantage of this right. This, however, is unlikely to require an Order in Council, but it may nevertheless require action of one of the other kinds contemplated in the first part of this Bill from which I have already quoted.
Here, on the other side, are some examples of action which may be required under the Bill in order to enable His Majesty's Government to fulfil their obligations under the Treaties. There are a number of provisions in the Treaties in connection with patents and with contracts and periods and limitations of rights of action which require this country to grant further time to private parties in enemy countries to resume or re-establish their contract and other rights in British territory, rights which in time of war may have lapsed or been suspended or of which it may have been impossible for the enemy national to avail himself.
1532 It goes without saying, of course, that the Treaties make similar provision for the resumption of such rights in enemy territory on the part of British subjects or other allied nationals, and it is of course important that if we are to obtain these rights we should ourselves be in a position to make them available to the enemy nationals who are entitled to them under the treaties. These are matters for which legislation by Order in Council will probably be required. Apart from economic provisions of the types to which I have made reference, there is very little in the Treaties which directly involve this country from the point of view of Parliamentary legislation. Most of the obligations, as the House is aware, are imposed on the enemy countries, and they are mainly of a political or military character. Few obligations, however, of that character devolve upon the Allies, and such as they are, I am sure they do not require any legislation in order to implement them.
As I have said, I hope this Measure may prove to be non-controversial. I think that any controversy will probably be of a legal or constitutional kind. I hope I may be able to meet the points that are raised, but the Bill has one great advantage: It is, I think, in good English and quickly comprehensible to the House.
§ 11.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
This does not look like a very great occasion and perhaps, if there were any doubt about that, the fact that I am rising at this stage will remove all doubts. Yet in a sense this clearly is a very great occasion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Here we are taking the last Parliamentary step towards the ratification of no less than five Treaties, and the Minister of State properly said that he hoped that we were thereby beginning to get back towards a normal Europe. Therefore it is a very great occasion, and I think there are great speeches that could be made and great subjects that could be raised on this matter. But my particular task, I think I am right in judging, on this occasion is to talk rather about the machinery of the Bill than the substance of it, though I shall say a little about that. The right hon. Gentleman, whose candour and reasonableness are always a pleasure to his opponents in these discussions, paid me the compliment of saying I had looked up 1533 the Debates of last time, but I am not quite sure that that was not excessive. The world we live in is now so occupied, that I looked at the volumes but can hardly be said to have read the Debates. If he read them properly, he has a great advantage over me, which I hope, he will not use excessively.
One impression I did get out of the earlier Debate was that on all the earlier occasions, every time the Minister responsible spoke, whether it was Mr. Arthur Balfour, or Mr. Lloyd George, or Mr. Ramsay Macdonald—who came in for the last post-war Treaty in 1924, with Turkey—they all said at least one, if not both, of the following two things to the House. They said that this was no place to discuss the whole of this vast document, Versailles or whichever it might be, and that the House of Commons would be a most unsuitable place for discussing the whole general policy of the Treaty or Treaties in question or for going into the mass of details. That was one thing that all Ministers after the last war said to us. The other thing that they said was that people really must not think criticism was effective when it merely pointed out some error or defect in one of the Treaties. It was said from the Treasury Bench on each occasion that we must remember that Treaties were not simply the results of the wisdom of the Treasury Bench but that other people had a part in it, and all that.
I would hike to make a comment on these two Governmental assumptions which were then made, and I am sure there is no party point in this, for they would probably be made now by whoever was on the Treasury Bench of any party. The first comment I wish to make is that if criticism is not effective merely by showing that there is some error or defect, then there really is a duty laid on the Ministers responsible for the Treaties, to explain how the error or defect came to be there. It is not enough for them simply to tell us to assume that everything that is right in the Treaties came because our representative wanted it put there and that everything that is wrong was because of the wickedness of the foreigners who are we all know generally awkward chaps. They ought really to explain to us some of these points upon which we may be doubtful. When these doctrines were first enunciated from the Treasury Bench, it was the first time we had congratulated ourselves on getting away from what is rather absurdly 1534 called "power politics." Recently, there has been a second such period; I rather think we are getting away from that now. We did it for a year or so after the last war, but it has rather gone out of fashion now. If it is not to be said of anything that anybody questions or criticises in any one of these Treaties that this is simply the results of the actual strategic forces present, then there is a duty upon Ministers to say what else it was that caused these results.
If one were to make general criticism of these Treaties, I think the first question that would have to be asked is in what sense four, at least, out of these five States can reasonably be treated as independent States which will have a real entity of their own in the immediate future; because we were told that these treaties are to be ratified, it is hoped, within four weeks. So it is a very immediate effect that we are dealing with, and I think really we ought to have—I think the country deserves—some kind of reassurance about the reality of these entities. Roumania, and so on, the names we are all acquainted with and can find on the map, though the frontiers have moved a little one way or the other; but what the hope of reality of these entities is, does now really want a certain amount of explaining.
The second general question which I should like to ask about is the principle upon which reparations have been fixed. If the Minister tells us there is no principle, and could be none in the matter, that the whole thing had simply to be the effect of hard bargaining, I do not say for a moment that he is necessarily wrong; but if there is any principle to be found, I think it should be indicated. And I mean from both ends—both the principle upon which it was agreed that x million dollars, or whatever it may be, was the maximum from a particular country; and also the principle, if there was a principle, upon which it was arranged what proportion of those x millions should go to the various Allied and Associated Powers. I am not trying to make party controversy out of this. If the fact is that there is no principle, that we simply had to deal with practical, almost material, pull and push, then I daresay that is quite right, that such procedure was unavoidable; but I think we ought to be told about that.
Then, I think, also we ought to be told a little—because presumably the delegated 1535 legislation which we are now asked to authorise may be concerned with this—about what is to be done with regard to the assets in Roumania, the restoration of British and American property there, and especially the payment for such parts of it as may have gone to Russia as reparations. Again I do not say that it is wrong that such assets should be used in such a way; and even if it was wrong, I do not say the blame was on His Majesty's Government; but now we ought to have some guess whether that is all a matter really at large for negotiation and arbitration; and again, why there is the difference which the Minister of State mentioned between the provisions for payments from Roumania and from the other four. I think I am right in saying that in all the other cases payment is to be in the currency of the defeated country. I hope I have that right, but the Minister of State will remember that Article 33 of the Roumanian Treaty makes other, different, provisions, into which I do not want to go in detail now, but I think we should perhaps have some explanation about that.
Then, while we are in Roumania, I think also we should have some explanation about the question of Russian troops there. As far as I understand it, the treaty authorises an unspecified number of troops in Roumania, to cover Russia's lines of communications, for an unspecified period and, if I am right about that, then I think the House ought to have some indication when and how it is hoped to specify limits, both to the numbers of troops and to the length of time, because if these states are to have some reality, if we are to get back to a normal Europe, then clearly there ought to be a terminus ad quem for such things. We shall not get far back towards a normal Europe, so long as there are countries here and there which have to have in them unspecified numbers of the troops of other sovereign States, and for an unspecified period of time.
Then about Bulgaria. I think we may reasonably ask for more specific information about the suggested demilitarisation on the Bulgarian side of the frontier, and on the relation between, that and the U.N.O. Commission which is now in those parts. I quite understand, Mr. Speaker, that we have, very shortly, discussed this subject on other occasions, and no doubt 1536 we shall have to discuss it again, but it is, I think, strictly relevant upon this Treaty, and I do not think the House ought to part with the Second Reading of this Bill without asking a question about that.
My last substantive question is about the exchanges of nationals and how much—by parting with this Bill and thereby, so much as in us lies, expediting the ratification of the Treaties—how much shall we thereby advantage or disadvantage persons who may now find themselves on foreign soil who may be unwilling to go back to what, prima facie, appears to be their own country—Yugoslays in Italy, for instance, the ones I am most particularly concerned with personally. It is not easy to foresee from the Treaties how much His Majesty's Government will be more bound after we have let this go than before, and I think we ought to know about that. I am quite sure that in the interests of our country it is of immense importance that we should be plainly seen to have done everything we possibly can for men who have been our friends, and are now in the most distressing of all political situations, exiles, cut off from their families, and not daring, rightly or wrongly, not daring to return to their own country. I am sure it is immensely in the interests of our country that we should be plainly seen to have done everything we can for these men, and I think that the House deserves two or three minutes of explanation about any effect which these Treaties may be going to have upon that problem.
Now I come to the adjective parts of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman very kindly and, if I may say so, very competently, did try to indicate to us for what parts of the Treaties it is thought His Majesty's Government needs more authority than it already draws from the prerogative. That is a fair way of putting the short point, I think. I do not think if is as clear now as it might be, so could the right hon. Gentleman have another shot at telling us which part of the Treaties it is where these Orders in Council, and so on, will be needed? He thought that there were precedents before 1919, and I would not pretend to have made any investigation into this matter. I daresay he is quite right, but my impression has been that the exact way it was done in 1919 was then new We are all aware in a general way that the treaty-making 1537 power is a part of the prerogative, and I am sure that nobody on these Benches would in the least wish to reduce that. I. is all the more necessary not to take power to do by legislation, direct or delegated, anything that can be done by the prerogative. That is the first step, I think, upon which we ought to be reassured: that it should be made clear that legislative authority will not be used by Order in Council or otherwise to do what might have been done by the prerogative or, if that is not quite clear, then the reasons why it is thought proper to act in the other way should be made quite plain.
My second point, a minor thing, since the right hon. Gentleman boasted about the lucidity and elegance of his English, which I also admire very much, is that it. seems to me there is one small error in the leaving out of a comma. The preamble appears to show that 1947 Treaties of Peace have been signed; there have been several, but not so many as that, and I think really it wants a comma after "nineteen hundred and forty-seven." However, that is a very minor matter which I would not have mentioned if the right hon. Gentleman had not himself drawn attention to the excellence of this prose.
Now I want to come to the form in which legislative authority is to be used, if it is necessary, and where the desired act can be shown not to have been possible under the prerogative. The second "whereas" says:it is expedient that His Majesty should have power to do all such things as may be proper and expedient for giving effect to the said Treaties.That may seem a mere truism or statement of the obvious, but I think it is not quite so plain as that; I think it is not quite plain that it is expedient that it is His Majesty who should do these things and not His Majesty's Ministers. I do not for a moment suggest that whatever is done under this will not be done on the advice of the responsible Minister. Of course I quite understand that, but, as I understand it, and with respect to any lawyers present, the effect of this is that any appointment, office, Order in Council or other thing which may be done by the Government upon the ground that it is necessary for carrying out these treaties, will escape all possible challenge in any British court. I think that may be necessary, and I admit that it was 1538 done on the last occasion, but I think it needs defending and explaining. I think I am right here legally. If for His Majesty were substituted His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State, or possibly a longer list of Ministers—then I think there would still be not any very easy, or loose right of challenge; but it would be possible to challenge something on the ground that it was ultra vires, pretending to be in pursuance of the Treaty whereas in fact it had nothing to do with the Treaty. As it stands, I think I am right in saying—and the leading case is ex parte Bayer Products 1941—I think that with the formula here used all appeal to the courts is cut out. It may be that that is quite necessary, but I do not think we have yet had sufficient argument to make us see that clearly, and I think that ought to be made clear.
Similarly, this is a minor point, but I think it is worth making also, Subsection (3) provides for the negative check on the Orders in Council under this Bill. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider very carefully with his advisers whether that is right. That was done in the last batch of treaties, I fully concede that, but I do not see plainly that it is right. Obviously from the Treasury Bench point of view the natural thing is to take the wider of the two powers, and leave the House with the negative check, and not the positive check. Again, it is natural to say that foreign affairs are more important and intricate, and that here we have home affairs all muddled up with treaties, and that the Executive should have the widest discretion, and that it is pedantry and pernicketiness for the Opposition to challenge that. I can see the force of that, or at least I can see the attraction of that argument, but I do not think it really has very much force. It is equally easy to argue the other way round, I think: that is to say, it is surely of great importance that these Orders in Council, once they are issued, should be there, should have the permanence of Statutes, and be clearly there, and known to be there, because of the relations with foreign Powers and so on, and international law that it is all the more desirable that that should be so. Rut then the negative check nets whittled down to nothing at all, by the presumption that once action has been taken by Order on matters of such moment, it is 1539 effectively impossible for the House to petition His Majesty, to pray against it. I should like to ask for careful consideration whether this is the right way to do it, and whether the Foreign Office would not in the long run be in a stronger position with the positive procedure; because I take it that any Orders in Council urgently needed must be already in draft. The experts cannot be far off knowing the scope of their first batch, and the second, third and fourth will not be of such very great urgency, and not very numerous; therefore the practical disadvantage of trying to get 'a code out under positive consent of the House—I hope the practical administrative difficulties of that are not insuperable, and that the arguments for the positive procedure I have tried to indicate should be considered to have some weight in that connection.
§ 11.34 a.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
The Minister said that this Bill would prove non-controversial and was of a legal and constitutional kind. That is typical of how out-of-date the British Foreign Office is at present. There is far more involved in this Bill, and what lies behind it, than has been touched upon by the Minister. For the second time in my relatively young life we have now passed through two world wars, and we appear to be driftng into a situation which may produce another. I cannot allow this Bill to have a Second Reading today without making a protest about what lies behind. First, may I direct the attention of the House to the fact that the Bill covers Treaties of Peace for several countries including Italy, and on page 2 we read:The expenses of any Minister incurred in carrying out the said Treaties shall be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament.I understand that before Parliament agrees to vote any finance it has a right to reflect the grievances of the people, and I want today to reflect the grievances of the ordinary people of this country. Let me make it clear that in individual relationships I believe in the maximum magnanimity towards one another, provided the people are playing the game with one another. I believe people should treat one another as generously as they possibly can. but we seem to have forgotten what has been involved in the recent war, and all the controversy 1540 that took place prior to it and that brought it about. The people of this country cannot easily forget what the Italians were responsible for. Never let it be forgotten that Fascist Italy entered the war when our country, whose people made such great sacrifices, was in a very difficult position.
How dare we forget what took place? How dare we say that a Bill of this character, which is equivalent to endorsing the Treaty with Italy, is non-controversial, when we remember how the Italians came and bombed London in the very difficult times through which we were going? Do we not remember how many lives were lost and how many houses were damaged in London, and how the Italians bombed and fired on our Maltese fellow-countrymen for months and years? They damaged their houses, docks and ships. Young friends of mine serving in the British Navy can never forget what took place and the many lives which were lost in Malta. Before we can agree to part with this Bill, the whole question arises of our Treaty with Italy, the question of reparations and the damage they did in this country, and what contribution they are to make towards dealing with it. We are calling upon the Germans to make their contribution. If it is right to call on the Germans, it is equally right to call on the Italians and Japanese.
Have we forgotten the terrible situation into which our country was put during the difficult periods of the wars of intervention in Ethiopia and Spain? Have we forgotten how Italian submarines torpedoed our merchant ships in the Mediterranean, prior to the war, and how they caused our men and boys to fight for their lives on the open sea, or how our boys flew night after night over the Alps, and how many lives were lost when our gallant Air Force was operating over there? Not a word is said about the number of British lives lost at the hands of Italians; not a word is said about the millions of pounds we have to pay. In 1920, I was opposed to reparations, but we now need reparations. This country is in a difficult situation as a result of the war. We have received more terrible blows than many people in other parts of the world realise. We are calling on our people to rally to the support of this country. The Italians could have been called upon to assist us. We are in urgent need of more electrical power. Italian engineers are amongst the 1541 most competent electrical engineers in the world—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman is now getting on to a subject which has nothing to do with the Bill. He is now getting on to electrical power. Really, I do not know what will be discussed before long. I do not want to limit the discussion too rigidly, but we must stick to more or less what is in the Bill.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I respect that Ruling, Sir, but may I draw your attention to the fact that we are the people's representatives, and that this is the only opportunity we have to discuss a Peace Treaty which has been drawn up?
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Yes, Sir, but the House should have an opportunity of saying something about reparations before we part with this Bill. I understand that Italy is being called upon to make no reparations to this country; in fact, we are to finance her. Before we accept this Bill, which is equivalent to the endorsement of the Peace Treaty which has been arrived at, we are entitled within limits, I submit, to raise the question of reparations. Our country is now in a very difficult economic position as a result of the war, and I submit that we should be allowed to raise the question of what reparations Italy could make to this country. We are in a serious fuel and power position, and I was trying to show that Italian engineers could be called upon to make a contribution towards Italian reparations by building hydro-electric stations in this country. However, because of your Ruling, Sir, I shall limit the scope of what I intended to say.
We are also in a very serious position in regard to industrial equipment. We are calling on Germany to make huge reparations by way of such equipment. Yesterday, I was reading in the Library the reports of the negotiations that have taken place. Here, may I say that many of us appreciate the extended service in the Library? We are using it more and more in order to keep ourselves informed on these matters, and I want to pay tribute to the staff of the Library for the increasing service which they are giving to Members of this House. In those reports in the Library it will be found that the 1542 Italians are to be called upon to make reparations to many countries, but not to our own, even though they did damage Malta, London and other places.
Those who were in the House when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) resigned his office as Foreign Secretary—and it was a manly stand that he took at that time—may recall something of what the right hon. Gentleman said. He said that propaganda against this country by the Italian Government had been rife throughout the world for years. As we know, the Italians were responsible for creating a situation in Europe which gave rise to the last war. Yet we are not asking them to pay one penny in reparations to our country. I find that Italy is to be called upon to pay reparations to Albania, Ethiopia, Greece and Yugoslavia, and that these reparations must be made within nine years.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I readily accept what the right hon. Gentleman has said. From my understanding of the position, it is this country that will finance Italy so that she can make these reparation payments. That takes some understanding. I strongly protest that this country should agree to do that after all that Italy has been responsible for, after the anti-British poison she poured out for years before the war, after all the damage that she did during the war, when she bombed London and Malta and torpedoed our Merchant Navy. I am not prepared to be a party to this Bill going through without making a vigorous protest on behalf of our people.
§ 11.48 a.m.
§ Mr. John Foster (Northwich)
I am afraid that a Debate on Treaties must necessarily be a little scrappy, owing to the nature and scope of possible discussion and the range of points that can be made. I want to draw the attention of the Minister of State to a possible injustice under the Treaties, and to ask him whether it might not be put right either within the limits of the Treaties, or by administrative action.
1543 The point I have in mind is that in all the Treaties the definition of "United Nations nationals" is that the person concerned should be a United Nations national at the date of the Armistice in the case of the Treaty with Hungary and, I think, at the date when Italy came into the war at our side. That leads to the following injustice, which has come to my knowledge in one or two cases—I am sure there are others. British women who married enemies before the war, and whose sympathies were by no means with the enemy during the war, who were anxious not to be in countries like Hungary or Italy during the war, came back to this country the moment they were allowed to do so. They resumed their British nationality, as they were allowed to do under the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act. But these women were not treated as United Nations nationals, because they were not British subjects at the operative date. This is a real hardship. They are treated, for instance, just like any other Hungarian nationals.
The same injustice existed after the last war, when many subterfuges were adopted to get around it. British women had to get lawyers in their countries to annul their marriages, so that it could he said that they were never married to an Austrian or a German, but were British all the way though. If the right hon. Gentleman would look at the operative Clauses of the Treaty with Hungary he will see, in Article 26, 9 (a) that a United Nations national is an individual who had that status at the date of the armistice with Hungary. But the people I have in mind are people who lost their British nationality on marriage, who were not allowed to resume British nationality because they were confined in Hungary, but who did resume it at the earliest opportunity, and who are now, today, British nationals; and yet they do not get compensation in Hungary on the footing of United Nations nationals. If I am right in my reading of the Treaty, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman will give an assurance that this injustice will be removed, because it affects an appreciable number of people.
The only other point on which I want to detain the House is this. All the Treaties contain annexes with very complicated legal provisions about contracts, 1544 periods of limitation, negotiable instruments, and so on. The Treaties are worded in terms obviously designed to suit the legal systems of the various countries. Under this Bill, the Government are taking power to carry out the provisions of those annexes, inside the framework of English law. It is inevitable, if these Treaties are carried out, as they must be, that quite startling changes will be made in the ordinary law of England about the abrogation of treaties by war, about periods of limitation. It looks as if Hungarian nationals will get an advantage over British nationals. Hungarian nationals in Switzerland, for instance, will, apparently, get beneficial extensions of the period of limitation, while British subjects, who were unable to get away from there during the war, will not get that advantage. There are lots of anomalies. I do not want to worry the House with legal details, but I ask the right hon. Gentleman to agree that at least in cases where these Orders in Council are going to effect substantial changes in the ordinary law of England, the House of Commons should have an opportunity of debating the matter on an affirmative Resolution.
Taking the Hungarian Treaty again, Annex 5 (a) (1) and (c), concerning negotiable instruments, it will be necessary for the Government, in carrying out these provisions, to alter the common law of England about the incidence of war and contracts concerning negotiable instruments. This may be quite necessary as we have entered into this international understanding, but I think it will be very inconvenient. I ask the right hon Gentleman to bear these two points in mind—the injustice to British-born women who married enemies, and who, through no fault of their own, were not United Nations nationals on the appropriate date; and whether Orders in Council, to carry out the annexes of the Treaties, can be the subject to affirmative Resolution.
§ 11.55 a.m.
§ Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
We have listened to speeches which, on the whole, have been very even tempered; and, in particular, the House was interested in the very direct and robust speech of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith). I, for my part, should like to say a word or two about the Treaties with Roumania 1545 and Bulgaria. It is good to note there is an atmosphere of understanding, an atmosphere of kindliness, in this Debate; and I should be the last to want to tincture it with acerbity by the introduction of what might be regarded as a controversial aspect. In Roumania, which, as the House may know, I had the opportunity of visiting before any other hon. Member after the war, I saw a people, largely composed of peasant stock, who were naturally friendly to this country. I say that in spite of what may be their record during the war.
On 23rd August, 1944, a most historic day in the Roumanian calendar, the Roumanian people turned their arms against the Nazis. While we all know Roumania played an inglorious part under the domination of men like Antonescu in the early years of the war, the greatest possible credit must be given to them for the fine and splendid efforts they made for 260 days, in their fight against the Germans. The Roumanian Army fought with great courage in Transylvania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, with forces nearly 400,000 strong, which represented from 85 per cent. to 90 per cent. of the whole of their available troops. They actually sustained, in killed and missing, losses of 5,000 officers, 5,000 n.c.o.s and 160,000 men. As a matter of fact, which is not generally known, Roumania ranks fourth in the list of the nations suffering casualties on the Allied side, after the U.S.S.R.. the United States and Great Britain, in the first against Nazism. When stocktaking is made of the record of a country, when its sins of omission and commission are taken into account, regard must equally be paid to its valiant efforts once it was liberated from the yoke of wicked leaders.
I found in Roumania a desire—a strong desire—to establish friendship with Great Britain. I admit that cynical people may say of those demonstrations of friendship by 250,000 people in Bucharest, that they were laid on. One can make substantial allowances for the natural enthusiasm of a country like that, when the people see a Member of this honoured House, filled with vigour and vitality, with zip, zeal and punch, entering their country—not as an official representative of the Government, it is true, but, at the same time, animated by an honest desire to inquire into their needs, and to try to understand their point of view. But even when allow 1546 ance is made for that, I believe that the people of Roumania want to extend the hand of friendship to this country. I am very happy to see that today, at least, there are Members of this House who reciprocate that desire for friendship, and who see that this gesture of friendship can be brought to fruition only by an equal desire on our side to extend the hand of friendship. When a country is composed of 80 per cent. of peasants, it can never be fundamentally Fascist, because the peasants, by the very nature of their occupation, are not Fascists. They are producers of the elementary food and needs of the people, and they are the people who comprise the bulk of the populations of countries like Roumania and Bulgaria.
The Roumanian Government, whilst willing to co-operate in this Treaty, feel, perhaps, a little aggrieved to think that they have not been able to get those reparations to which they are entitled from Germany for the spoliation and damage and hurt inflicted on their country during the German occupation. At the same time, Dr. Petre Groza and his Government have said to me, and, no doubt to others, they would co-operate to the fullest extent in bringing about the best possible relations, but there is something more in it than that. I am in favour of getting Roumanian wheat into British stomachs, and I would like to see British agricultural equipment in the Roumanian countryside—British ploughs, tractors, and British threshing machines—and I believe there will be great opportunities for British trade there.
The senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn)—I am rather alarmed at him sometimes, because he often seems to me to be a little misanthropic—was, I thought, a little hard on that country. He said something about what we were going to do to get British oil interests revived in Roumania. I know that a great deal of anti-Roumanian and anti-Russian propaganda has been going about, the argument being that the Russians went to Roumania and deprived that country of the bulk of its material resources, and particularly oil, by way of reparations, and that they so denuded Roumania that the rights of other countries are not going to be respected. In point of fact, that is not quite the position. Whether we like it or not, we must remember that Russia has lost more lives and material than any other country 1547 in the world and the Antonescu régime was, to no small extent, responsible for that. Roumanian troops went to Odessa and looted it, coming back feeling very happy about the whole affair, but that sort of incident does not represent the true feelings of the people of Roumania. They really are a sincere and warm-hearted people who wish to be friendly with this country, and on account of economic, political and other considerations, it is equally desirable that we should introduce that same fraternal spirit into a worthy peace so that we may be as friendly with Roumania as she wishes to be with Britain and America. I think that is a point of view with which few people would quarrel.
But we want something more than a Peace Treaty of words. We have had material disarmament, and I hope there will be no recriminations, no unkindness and no sense of bitterness as a result of what has happened. I am anxious that Roumania should make a great economic recovery. At the moment, on account of a terrible drought, millions of people are dying of hunger, and I think the people of this country ought to recognise the plight of these unhappy people. I know that it is not the only country where people are starving, but, nevertheless, two years of unprecedented drought have put woe and sorrow into the hearts of the Roumanian people, who look to us to help them to rehabilitate their economy, to exchange commodities to a mutual benefit and to establish such a link of friendship as I hope will never be severed by future war.
I now want to turn to that lovely country—and I fuel this deeply in my heart—Bulgaria. It is a romantic country, inhabited by a simple, primitive people who, unfortunately, were at one time, as they readily admit, a satellite of Germany. To their everlasting glory, on the historic day of 9th September, 1944, they purged their country of Fascism, and dealt with their Fascists far more efficaciously than we have dealt with our own in this country. They have rejected their former vicious leaders, and the feelings of the Bulgarian people were released, like the opening of floodgates—
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
Surely, it has always been an old Balkan custom to shoot generals when they lost?
§ Mr. Mack
I know it is very popular to gibe at the Balkan peoples, but I would remind my hon. Friend, who is a child in these matters and who is not as learned as he might well be, in spite of his lore, kindly spirit and personal qualities, that the people of the Balkans, and particularly the Bulgarians, are as kind, honest, decent and sincere people as any people in Britain, and that is putting them on a high level. It is true that in the past, their bad kings and false leaders plunged them in enterprises which were unworthy of their nation, but the fact is that, today, they have a democratic Government which is determined that such circumstances will never be repeated. We should remember that this is a land which, for over 500 years, was under the domination of the Turks, in which the people were never allowed to develop their culture and their own great natural talents, but which, nevertheless, produced men like Alexander Stambolisky, and women like Tsola Dragocheva, one of the most heroic women the world has ever known, who suffered tortures at the hands of the Nazis; and also the great figure of Georgi Dmitrov, surely one of the greatest and noblest working-class leaders in the world, a fighter against Fascism equal to any man in this House or this country or elsewhere. Bulgaria deserves our respect and admiration for its sufferings—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member should address the Chair, and not the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget).
§ Mr. Mack
I was so fascinated by my subject, Mr. Speaker, that it must have been an involuntary physical movement on my part. What can we get from this country? The Treaty opens up great possibilities of trade in tobacco. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State is a smoker. May I ask him if he will be good enough to look at the faces of these Bulgarians in this album which I have here? I hope he will have a look at it. These fascinating people are typical of the peasantry and the workers of Bulgaria, and they can give us tobacco, which must be a very fine economic asset, particularly to this country, if we can get it at a reasonable price. They can give us timber, which is so badly needed by us, and they can supply fruit pulps and hides, as well as essences, such as attar of roses, which I believe the women of this country regard as a semi-necessity. They have made a great fight against the Nazis. They 1549 put all their units into the field, and gave 30,000 of their best young lives in the struggle for liberation. They have, nevertheless, one grievance, which I want to bring to the notice of my right hon. Friend. They still feel that they should have an outlet in Western Thrace to the Aegean Sea. There are 400,000 Thracians who feel very deeply that their claims in that respect have not been fully appreciated in this Treaty. Nevertheless, they are prepared to co-operate wholeheartedly to work within the spirit of that Treaty.
Britain badly needs friends, and friendship is a two-way concern; it means give and take. I have always been one of those who believed that the prestige of our country abroad must be maintained by honourable and righteous methods. I believe that most of the people of the world who know us, love us and respect us. I believe also that we should remember that the prestige of any of these other countries is a vital factor also, not only from the moral aspect, but also from the economic point of view. I would say to my hon. Friends. "When you are dealing with these countries please have regard to the whole of their history and do not necessarily take your advice from diplomatic people who may have had a restricted and chequered existence, or from military men, be they never so able in their own particular vocations. If you want to know something about it, come to people like us—my hon. Friend behind me and others—who go to these places and get to know these people without any particular prejudice or bias, and study them objectively and come to understand them." Although it may not be a pleasant thought for my right hon. Friend, I am always prepared to give him the benefit of my advice if he would not be ashamed to ask me for it from time to time; and if he did, he would not make many mistakes in the Balkans in future.
I conclude by saying how happy I am that we are now about to enter on an era of peace with these countries and, for the gallant peoples of Roumania and Bulgaria, I say that it will evoke a magnificent response in their hearts. I am confident that with understanding on both sides, this will make for an era of prosperity and peace in the Balkans and eventually, let us hope, throughout the world.
§ 12.11 p.m.
§ Major Mott-Radclyffe
I am sorry, but I was about to say that when I saw the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack) hand his right hon. Friend a blue case—which proved to contain only photographs—I was afraid that in his flights of oratory about Bulgarian tobacco he might so far haw forgotten the rules of this House as to offer the Minister of State a Bulgarian cigarette.
The Bill which is before the House today comprises only two pages and the Minister of State has explained that it is only a machinery Bill. None the less I think that hon. Members on all sides will agree that longer Bills have said less. I want at the outset to refer to the reparation Clauses in the Roumanian Treaty and to follow up the questions put by my hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). In the raparation section of the Roumanian Treaty, Roumania undertakes to pay the sum of 300 million dollars to the Soviet Union in commodities including oil. She further undertakes to make good the restitution of all allied property in Roumania. That Clause involves the assets of the British and American oil companies in Roumania and in particuar it raises the whole question of the price to be paid to us for the oil delivered to the Soviet Union by way of reparations. If my information is correct, no agreement has yet been reached with the Roumanian Government on this point. The first question I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman is whether or not this matter is one which could be referred to the Conciliation Commission which is, I believe, provided for in Article 32. Has that Commission been set up; is it yet functioning, and, if so, perhaps the Minister could tell us what kind of progress has been made in the negotiations in question?
The next point to which I wish to refer is a curious feature in the Roumanian Treaty which has already been pointed out by other hon. Members—namely, Article 21, which concerns the withdrawal 1551 of Allied Forces. Under that Article all Allied troops are to be withdrawn from Roumanian territory within go days of the ratification of the Peace Treaty. But this proviso appears to me to be completely qualified—or I should say nullified—by Section 3 of that Article which allows the Soviet Union to maintain in Roumania an unspecified number of troops for purposes of keeping open their line of communication to Austria. I hope the Minister of State will tell the House at the conclusion of this Debate on exactly what grounds the Soviet Union argued that it was still necessary to keep an unspecified number of troops in Roumania in order to keep open the line of communication with their zone in Austria. Any hon. Member who has taken the trouble to look at a map—as I am sure many have—will have found that the shortest route from Soviet territory to Vienna is from Lwow, now in the Soviet Union, to Cracow in Poland and across Czechoslovakia. This is a distance of 395 miles and I believe that there is a four-line railway running the whole way.
On the other hand, the distance to Vienna from Soviet territory across Roumania is 845 miles, with a single track for part of the way and a double line for the remainder. The arguments do not therefore seem to be very conclusive as to why Russian troops should remain in Roumanian territory on a line of communications operation. Presumably, they would only stay in any case until such time as the Austrian Treaty is signed, which would be a very strong argument that hon. Members on both sides would support for hoping that the present difference of opinion over the Austrian Treaty will soon be cleared up and agreement reached. His Majesty's Government are presumably anxious to open up trade not only with Roumania but with all the Balkan countries, because none of us wants to see those countries become once more a kind of "closed shop" to international trade as was the case in the 1930's under Dr. Schacht's pernicious economic system. I am not quite clear how one trades with a country like Roumania which has a revenue of only 700 million dollars today, which has been bled white by occupational forces, having transferred, either by confiscation or, if a more polite word is preferred, requisition, or again under cover of joint companies, the major part 1552 of its national resources to the occupying Power.
Of the Bulgarian Treaty, I would say only that I hope that the reparations to Greece will include the return of her sorely needed rolling stock, which should have been returned a long time ago under the terms of the Armistice. I must also observe that the recent behaviour of the Bulgarian Government towards diplomatic missions in Sofia hardly augurs well for the dawn of a new era of relationship between Great Britain and the other victorious Powers with Bulgaria. Although the Roumanian and Bulgarian elections were, in my view, a farce, and although none of the original terms of the Moscow Agreement have been carried out, I think that His Majesty's Government were right to accord the normal diplomatic recognition to those countries following the signing of the Treaty, because I do not believe in the principle of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face. I believe that if we were to withdraw or in this case did not reappoint a Minister, the effect would be to withold the best man from the Mission—if he is not the best man in the Mission then he should not be there—and we would be to that extent reducing the influence which we should have in the country concerned.
As far as the Italian reparations are concerned, I think that one of the most remarkable features—although I have not seen it widely commented upon—is that whereas Italy pays 105 million dollars to Greece in reparations, she pays 100 million dollars to the Soviet Union, and I would not have thought that this was a true reflection of the comparative damage inflicted on those two countries. I should like to ask the Minister a question with regard to Article 79, which gives His Majesty's Government the right to seize Italian property in this country. I understand the reasons why that proviso is inserted in the reparations section of the Treaty, because it gives us a certain leeway against other reparations claims which we have waived. But I question whether, taking the long view, that seizure of Italian property in England would be very wise, because I believe, if it were carried out, the only effect would be to penalise individual Italians who might have bought a house or invested money in England before the war. I should have thought that the sum total of Italian property in the United Kingdom was not 1553 very great, and if we seize an individual Italian's house we are deliberately making an enemy of a friend, because if he had not been a friend he would not have bought a house in England before the war. I know this was one of the questions to be discussed by the Italian Finance Delegation; I do not know if they are still here, but they certainly were a few days ago. I do not know if it would be possible for the Minister of State to give us some indication of how the conversations are proceeding on the question of the seizure of property of individual Italians in the United Kingdom.
I do not think the Italians can accuse us of being ungenerous in the matter of reparations, because we presented a bill, for the world at large to see, of about £2,800 million, and we then withdrew it. I only wish the British information service in Italy at that time had made rather more use of this gesture. I think it was a great pity that it was not fully understood. Of course, I do not wish to pretend that the scaling-down of the Italian reparations was entirely a philanthropic act on the part of Great Britain or the United States. The fact remains that the Italian economy, such as it is today, is almost entirely sustained by British and American assistance. Both countries were certainly the largest contributors to U.N.R.R.A. Therefore, if the burden of reparations were far in excess of Italy's capacity to pay, naturally we and America would be among the countries to suffer most.
I am not happy about the new frontier between Italy and Yugoslavia. I admit that on strictly ethnic grounds, it may be argued that the French line is the correct one, but there are other factors which ought to be taken into account beyond the ethnic factors. I would have thought that the right way to draw a new frontier would be to arrive at a fair balance between ethnic and economic values. My view is that the French line does grave harm to Italy's economic conditions, because it excludes from her almost all her coal, leaving only the Sardinian coal which is of very poor quality, and also takes away from her her bauxite deposits. Before the war Yugoslavia, as the House will know, was herself an exporter of coal. I believe, therefore, that the French line to which we have agreed, is damaging to Italy's economic recovery, which is 1554 essential both for herself and for the rest of Europe. Perhaps the Minister would tell us when the International Commission for the free port of Trieste is to be set up, and who will be the British representative on that Commission.
A further question I want to ask is about the Italian Navy. Under the naval Clauses of the Treaty, 60 per cent. of the Italian Navy is at the disposal of the Allied Powers. This is one of the Sections of the Treaty most bitterly resented by the Italians themselves. They recognise that, according to the traditional rules of naval warfare, we are entitled to do what we like with the Italian Fleet; but they cannot square the working of their passage, as they claim justifiably to have done, with the handing over of units of their Fleet to countries against whom they never fought an action on sea. I wonder if the Minister could tell us how far discussions have gone with regard to the actual parcelling out of units of the Italian Fleet. This matter has been under discussion among the four Powers concerned, and I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us, if it has yet been decided, how many warships, of which type, are to be handed over, and to which of the four Powers concerned.
The Italian Treaty arouses emotions on both sides. As the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) said, no Treaty which we could make with Italy could ignore the stab in the back in 1940, or the grave damage which she inflicted upon us from then until 1943. On the other hand, there is the other side of the medal, and I wish to be fair and impartial in this matter. From the end of 1943 onwards, Italy rendered the Allies very considerable service. She entered upon a period of co-belligerency. She was told to work her passage, and I think she can claim to have done so.
Yes, but we must try to weigh both sides of the question, and strike an impartial balance. I am trying to look at the point of view of both sides impartially. There was unquestionably the stab in the back, followed by the assistance rendered during the last three years of the war. During the period of co-belligerency, the Italians provided us with 25,000 operational troops who fought with the Fifth and Eighth Armies in the 1555 North of Italy. They also provided us with a large number of auxiliary troops who worked on the lines of communications. The partisans rendered very considerable assistance in the North, and we used the Fleet for convoy and other work in the Mediterranean. Nor must we forget the many thousands of Allied prisoners of war who, during their escape, owed their lives to the devotion, loyalty and courage of Italian civilians.
The Italians were promised an early peace in return for the assistance they rendered. They now claim that they are not signing the Treaty any earlier than any of the other satellite Powers. I do not believe that the delay in making a peace treaty with Italy was entirely of our own making. It would be extremely difficult, in the first place, to draw up a comprehensive treaty with Italy until the whole country was liberated We would have to co-ordinate the terms of the Treaty with Italy in relation to the terms of the treaties with other satellite Powers, in accordance with the wishes of the Allied Powers. Moreover, Italy has received her independence and during her period of co-belligerency, the terms of the original Armistice Agreement were considerably relaxed; and the Allied Commission did not merely function as an Allied body—a British and American body—solely in order to see that the Armistice terms were carried out. It also nursed Italy very carefully, and, I believe, to her great benefit during what I might call the convalescent period. She received, and is receiving still, from us and the Americans, considerable economic, assistance.
I believe we would he unwise to dwell too much upon the past in an attempt to balance injuries inflicted against assistance received. We can each of us judge individually, according to our own point of view how he scales are weighed, but I am certain that, in the long run, Italy has a substantial contribution to make to post-war civilisation in Europe, in conjunction with the Allied Powers. The key to her attitude and the extent of that contribution is bound up perhaps more closely with her future relations with Yugoslavia than upon any other single factor, and here I believe the Soviet Union themselves could make a very substantial contribution if they were prepared to do so. But if the administration of the free zone of Trieste is to be a continual source of 1556 friction, if there are going to be incessant frontier incidents on the new frontier between Italy and Yugoslavia, and, above all, if we, the United States and France as Western democracies show ourselves either unwilling or unable to ensure for Italy her just rights under the terms of the Peace Treaty, I believe it is questionable whether future Italian Governments will have much faith in the democratic way of life of which we in this country are the leading exponents.
In conclusion, I hope that I carry the whole House with me when I say, we do indeed trust that the terms of these peace treaties will be carried out, not merely in the letter but also in the spirit; and that, far from sowing the seeds of future discontent, which may lead to future human unhappiness and suffering, they will, on the contrary, lay the foundations for a lasting peace.
§ 12.38 p.m.
§ Mr. John E. Haire (Wycombe)
Like most hon. Members, I welcome this Bill, because it enables us to speed on the Treaties, and also enables this Rouse to send a message of peace and good will to nations which have lately been our enemies These treaties raise a number of problems, many of which were the causes of the last war. In particular, we have the minority problem, which is particularly noticeable in the Danubian Basin and South-East Europe. We have the whole question of trade on the Danube; we have the question of the political and economic situation in that area; and I feel that we should study these problems carefully before we finally give our assent to this Bill. First, I think we do not do justice in this House as often as we should to the honest attempt which is being made in this area to establish democratic government. I think it is recognised by most, that the countries of the Balkans and of Central Europe were dragged into the war by totalitarian regimes, and they have sadly paid the price; they have been bitterly disillusioned. But out of the war, out of their underground movements, they are attempting in these countries—in some more successfully than in others—to build regimes which we believe are or can be democratic. I believe it is the purpose of this House to encourage those new democratic regimes, and I regret to say that frequently we do not rise to the opportunity as we should.
1557 For example, I want to refer to the new democratic situation in Hungary. Hungary was dragged into the war by an aristocratic feudal regime which, before the war, had not allowed to its people any width of franchise. Before the war, the Government in Hungary was one of the first totalitarian Governments in Europe. Today, there is a coalition Government, elected in a free election, struggling hard, and not always easily, to carry out its democratic principles. It is not at all easy in a coalition Government, representative of a wide sweep of political views, to reach a common platform. But I believe that in the last year that attempt has been largely successful, in spite of the difficulties which are at present being encountered. Since the liberation that Government has carried out a land reform which has been most necessary in Hungary for centuries—and it has carried it out most successfully. During the last year it has introduced a progressive policy of nationalisation. Hon. Members opposite may not agree with that, but it is in line with the general wish of the Hungarian population. During the last year there have been many measures of social reform. These advances are due to the new Government in Hungary to which we are offering this Treaty.
We ought to help these Governments to carry out these Treaties. I believe that the Treaty which we, along with the other United Nations concerned, are offering to Hungary is largely a punitive treaty. I remember that after the last war the Treaty of Trianon was not received in this country with favour by many hon. Members. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) as well as hon. Members on this side complained in the years after 1921, that the Treaty of Trianon was a disgrace to this country. It greatly reduced the size of that small country; it reduced its population; and it created minority problems where it ought not to have created them. Today, not only have we not tried to revise that Treaty, hut, in my opinion, we have worsened the situation. We have created fresh minority problems. The Treaty which we are offering to Hungary out-Trianon's Trianon. I can see no recognition in the Treaty now being offered of the fact that, however late in the war it may have been, Hungary, along with the other satellite nations, did ask for an armistice and come over to our side. My 1558 hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) may say, "Yes, that was when they saw how the ball was rolling." But I am sure he will agree with me that these small nations had no control over their destinies at all, either before or, indeed, during the war. In the case of Italy, I will concede the pain—
§ Mr. Haire
These small nations did come out of the war, in my opinion, as quickly as they could. In the case of Hungary, there was an attempt—a misguided attempt, it is true—to make an armistice six months before they eventually got rid of the Nazis. It was bungled, I think, by the then Regent Horthy; it had bad luck, and it was only four or five months later that the armistice was finally accomplished. In the Treaty there is no recognition of the fact that they did attempt to get out of the war. I have tried to read the peace negotiations with some care, but I regret that I can see very little sign in the Paris records of the voice of Britain being raised to recognise, not only the efforts made to get out of the war, but the difficulties in which these countries are now placed. I feel—and here I support my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke—that in many ways the Treaties being offered to these satellite nations are worse and more punitive than the Treaty being offered to Italy.
Hon. Members opposite have mentioned the question of reparations and the anomalies which exist in that regard. It is interesting to note, for example, that the sum of 330 million dollars is being charged against Italy; yet the sum of 300 million dollars is being charged against Hungary, 300 million dollars against Roumania, and 300 million dollars against Finland. I want to know the significance of this mystic 300 million dollars. It seems to me to be completely arbitrary, and it certainly does not appear to be in ratio to the damage done to the Allied Nations by Italy and by these satellite countries.
§ Mr. Haire
This House should pay the greatest attention to the minority problems which this Bill and these Treaties do not remove. We remember well that in 1938 and 1939 it was always under the pretext of minority difficulties that Hitler played his game of annexation, Today, we still have minorities in South-East Europe, but I regret to say that these treaties do not appear to give sufficient guarantees to the unfortunate persons concerned. It is rather difficult to see what principle has been adopted. An ethnic principle seems to be adopted in one case, but not in another; an ethnic principle seems to have been applied in the case of Trieste, but not in the case of Transylvania. One of the burning problems in the Danubian Basin has been the Transylvanian problem. There you find 1,500,000 Magyars placed under alien rule. This Treaty does not remove that difficulty. Requests were put forward for even a small slice of territory which would have helped them, but they were not accepted, though I am very happy to see that the Roumanian Government have conceded to that minority full citizen rights and all the fundamental freedoms. I have been in or near that area three times since the war, and I believe that there that minority is more hopeful than it has ever been.
When we turn to another minority problem the situation is very much worse, and here I refer to the minority problem of Slovakia. This concerns some 650,000 Magyars who are living on the Slovakian side of the Danube and some 72,000 Slovaks living on the Hungarian side of the Danube, and it appears to be difficult to solve. Since the war the Czechoslovak Government have taken the view that they must try to create a homogeneous State, and have, therefore expelled the Germans from the Sudetenland. I believe that the attempt to apply the same method to a minority which has never been guilty to the same extent of a subversive policy is in contravention of all that is best in democratic principles. Since the war these half million or more Magyars in Slovakia have been deprived not only of employment rights but also of property rights. They have been deprived of the right to use their own language officially—
§ Mr. Speaker
We are dealing with the Treaties of Peace with Italy, Roumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland; we are not talking about Czechoslavakia.
§ Mr. Haire
This minority problem arose during the discussion of the Treaty, and is referred to in Article 5, and if I may be permitted I will come quickly to that point. Their own language has been largely forbidden in public places, education and religious freedom have been curtailed. For these reasons I believe that Slovakia at the moment is probably one of the black spots of Europe.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I do not want to increase your difficulties, Mr. Speaker, but this does raise a great controversy, and I hope that my hon. Friend will remember that before the war Czechoslovakia was the finest democratic State in Europe.
§ Mr. Haire
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke, and that is why I am so surprised that the situation which has developed in Slovakia is so undemocratic. I believe it has arisen because of internal political difficulties. However, I will come to the discussion which occurred during the peace negotiations on this point. Both sides presented a case, and the United Nations found it difficult to draw a line, so they agreed that there should be bilateral negotiations between the two parties. I think that was a wise decision, but unfortunately those bilateral negotiations have not met with any success. The situation, which showed signs of improvement, has considerably worsened within the last three months, and in the extreme weather of January last many unfortunate persons fled across the frontier because of the new edicts which had been made in Slovakia.
Those bilateral negotiations have broken down. Tinder the new Czechoslovakian labour edicts many Magyars have been moved to other parts of Slovakia; their families have been left behind, and in some cases the farms they were living on seized. I would urge my right hon. Friend the Minister of State to go further than he assured me he would in an answer to a question of mine in the House, when he said that the British Government were seeing what they could do in this matter. By Article 5 of the Treaty,Should no agreement be reached within a period of six months from the coming into force of the present Treaty, Czechoslovakia shall have the right to bring this question before the Council of Foreign Ministers and to request the assistance of the Council in effecting a final solution.Has only Czechoslovakia the right to bring that case to the United Nations? Cannot 1561 Britain bring it at once, and is Hungary within her rights in referring the matter, as she has already done, to the representatives of the four great Powers in Budapest? Whatever may be the solution of this problem, and it is a very vexed one, I hope both those countries will soon be able to cure this running sore in their side and face the future with the hope of greater friendship and understanding.
One of the territorial changes which occurred as a result of this Treaty was the cession of what is known as the "Bratislava bridgehead." Some three villages, a few square miles of land and 20,000 population have been ceded by Hungary to Czechoslovakia. The question immediately arises, can we guarantee to the population transferred with that territory all the necessary human rights and privileges? I am not in entire agreement with this cession, though I recognise that it may be of value to Bratislava to develop its port facilities, but I think it was carried out more for strategic reasons—and indeed that point was put forward in the peace negotiations. If it is for strategic reasons that the bridgehead has been given, may I ask for whom and against whom? I should like the Minister of State to tell us. If it means that a few more thousand Magyars are to be transferred from this territory, then is it unreasonable to ask that in some other place there should be a cession of an equivalent amount of land in order to provide them with the means of subsistence? One of the difficulties in this minority problem arises as a result of the land reform to which I have previously referred. The land of Hungary has been parcelled out into units of five or ten acres and practically every peasant has a little farm, but there is no land left, and if a minority has to be moved into Hungary there is the difficulty of finding them a livelihood.
I wish to refer once again to reparations. My view of the economic situation as I have seen it in Hungary on several occasions is that 300 million dollars, at 1938 values to be paid within eight years, is far too heavy a burden, and I am happy to think that we in this country have included no demand in that total. We quite rightly take the view that heavy reparations would prevent the economic recovery of some of these countries. But 300 million dollars is a vast penalty which, in a country which has been wrecked 1562 and ruined by the war, must be almost impossible to bear. I only hope that in some way the demands that we ourselves make for the restoration of British property in Hungary can be somehow lessened. It is agreeable to think that we have reduced them from 100 per cent. to 66 per cent., and that possibly we may even be able to postpone our demands.
As a result of this Treaty I believe that Hungary recognises the great friendship which Britain has attempted to show to her. She recognises our difficulties in trying to find a just peace. It is perfectly clear to any one who knows Hungary today that there is a very great desire in that country for friendship, for trade and for full and cordial relations with this country. I hope we will not be found wanting in giving her the full opportunity to enjoy them.
§ 12.52 p.m.
§ Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow, Central)
I must drag the House back from the interesting speech on Czechoslovakia and Hungary to which we have listened from the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire) to concentrate for a few moments on something less nostalgic and more mundane, namely, the two lines at the beginning of this Bill which say:to do all such things as may be proper and expedient for giving effect to the said Treaties.From there I should like to lead the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Works, who I hope will carry my words to his right hon. Friend the Minister of State and also to the President of the Board of Trade, firstly, to the question of the reparations Clause, about which we have already heard a number of views, and secondly to some words in the Preamble of the Treaty of Peace with Italy which read:to support Italy's application to become a member of the United Nations and also to adhere to any convention concluded under the auspices of the United Nations.The self-abnegation and altruism shown by this country at the conclusion of two wars are having some curious effects. The clemency of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State, or perhaps I should more properly say the Prime Minister, is, in fact, producing some effects which are having a pretty detrimental reflection on certain parts of our industry. One thing which the Italian people learned 1563 thoroughly before the war was that intricate German technique of using double or triple exchange systems. The reparations, in which we take no part and from which a number of other nations are benefiting, are forcing the Italian people in order to meet them to resuscitate their industry as quickly as possible and by any means which they can. One of the industries for which Italy has always been well known and which is starting to thrive again is the industry of shipbuilding. At the present time the Italian shipbuilders, no doubt in order to be able to meet these reparations, are, in fact, undercutting by something like 30 per cent. comparable British prices. Only the other day inquiries for quite a fleet of vessels came not only to this country but also to Italy from South America. As a result of those inquiries from the Argentine and also of a similar case which arose recently in Turkey, the Italian price was something like 30 per cent. cheaper than the best Britain could do.
That result was achieved by the technique of using double exchanges. While the Italian shipbuilder has to convert half the price for the ship he has delivered into dollars or pesos at the standard rate of exchange, he is allowed to use the black market rate of exchange in respect of the other half of the contract price. The effect of that is that it makes the contract price extremely attractive, and it strikes once again at one of our industries and gives another twist of the tourniquet on the flow of our trade. These Treaties are going to be ratified very shortly and the Government are taking power to appoint such controls as are required under this Bill to carry out the spirit of the Peace Treaties. So may I underline at this point once again the Italian obligation to adhere to any convention which has been concluded under the auspices of the United Nations. One of those conventions is Bretton Woods, and the Bretton Woods Agreement is expressly designed to stop this manipulation of exchanges under which the detrimental action which I have already explained can take place.
I hope, therefore, that when these Treaties are passed and when this Bill has been passed by Parliament, His Majesty's Government will see, in fact, that Italy does become a signatory to the 1564 Bretton Woods Convention and so stops the manipulation of exchanges. If she shows any reluctance to do so, I hope that the powers taken under the Clause which I first read, namely, to appoint a control to see that this manipulation of exchanges can no longer take place, will, in fact, be adopted. Altruism and magnanimity are noble qualities, but the defence of our own trade and consequently the standard of living of our own people is a noble quality, too.
§ 12.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
I have a great deal of sympathy with what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel Hutchison). Where we see our own industries destroyed by reparations which we ourselves participate in we have only ourselves to blame, but where we see the same thing happening to our industries because other people are taking the reparations and we are not, it is perhaps even more irritating.
I would in the very few words I have to say like to dissociate myself rather strongly from the speeches of both the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) and of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack) for precisely opposite reasons. The most remarkable thing about those two speeches was that the two gentlemen who were delivering them seemed to agree with each other when they were enunciating principles which were as categorically opposite as one could imagine. The hon. Member for Stoke was demanding vengeance upon the Italian people whilst the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, as far as Roumania was concerned, was arguing that her admirable conduct should be recognised and rewarded. After all, both of these peoples were brought into the war without having very much choice in the matter. The only difference seemed to be that the individual Italian had rather less choice in what he was ordered to do by Mussolini, but whenever he got the opportunity to change sides he did it rather quicker than the Roumanian. If such steps by Roumania are to be regarded by us as admirable I find it difficult to see how the same cannot be said of Italy.
But with Bulgaria—really, why must we have panegyrics about Bulgaria? If the record of any nation has been quite 1565 abominable, it has been that of Bulgaria. They were the first of Hitler's Balkan satellites. They came in to turn upon the Greeks and upon the Yugoslavs. They were the one Hitler satellite which never gave him the slightest anxiety until Hitler had been defeated, upon which they murdered the set of rulers whom they had so faithfully followed up to date and put in another set of rulers quite as autocratic and rather more bloodthirsty. Why that should be praised as the great unique date in Bulgarian history, I find difficult to follow. It is at least the fourth time that the Bulgars have murdered one set of rulers and imposed the murderers. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme is not here. When he appeals to u, to consider the whole history, I would say that ever since the Bulgars, as a Hunnish tribe, arrived in Europe, I think in about the fifth century, their history has been simply deplorable. Let us not go into sentimental nonsense of that sort. I apologise for having digressed in this way upon matters which really are irrelevant.
What I wish to speak about is this Bill. I am sorry that the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) is not here at the moment. In one of those speeches which we all so much enjoy in this House, he dealt with a point with which I wanted to deal. He said that this Bill took all jurisdiction from the courts in regard to anything that was done for the performance of these Treaties. Another hon. Member who followed him made the similar point that it was undesirable, for the purpose of performing these Treaties, to legislate in matters which affect private as well as public law by Orders in Council. I agree that there is a good deal to be said for that point of view, but I would like to put an opposite point.
When a country comes to the Treaty table to negotiate, it is absolutely essential that the Government that makes the Treaty should be in a position, and should be known to be in a position, to deliver the goods without any question. That has been a great difficulty with the Americans. When the Americans are at a Treaty table, neither they nor anybody else are really in a position to know whether they can deliver the goods. The Treaties must go back for ratification and it may be that the Supreme Court in America will declare unconstitutional, as it has on 1566 occasions, things which the American Government have agreed to do in Treaty negotiations. That makes negotiations most difficult. People who are negotiating are not apt to give so good a bargain if they feel that the bargain they have made may be interfered with and altered by the domestic courts of one of the people sitting round the table. Therefore, I suggest that this is an occasion where one ought to submit to such domestic inconveniences that may arise from excluding from the courts consideration of steps necessary to the performance of this Treaty, and excluding the convenience of having matters affecting domestic law dealt with by this House rather than by Orders in Council, in order that we may make it abundantly clear that the Government of Britain at a Treaty table can perform, without reference to anybody, what she has bargained to do. I commend that to the House.
There are at present a large number of Yugoslavs in Italy. They were men who came out when the Mihailovitch movement broke down. I will not go into the question of who was right between Mihailovitch and Tito. There are all sorts of views with regard to that. On the other hand, a point upon which I do not think there is very much difference of opinion is that the ordinary peasants who were driven out of their country were perfectly sincere people struggling in what they believed to be a proper cause. In Italy at the moment they are in very great and pressing danger. There are still the Italian prisoners of war and these men can be used as a bargaining lever to extract the Yugoslavs from Italy for what is, quite frankly, the purpose of murder. I feel that these are people who came to us, were accepted by us, and that we bear a strong moral responsibility for them. I urge upon the Minister of State that in the performance of these Treaties he should make it very clear that the Yugoslavs in Italy are a British responsibility. We are morally responsible, and anybody who sends those men to a place where their lives are in danger should be answerable for those lives to us.
§ 1.8 p.m.
§ Professor Savory (Queen's University of Belfast)
I am delighted to be able to say that I am in full agreement with almost every word spoken by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I thoroughly endorse what he has said with 1567 regard to Bulgaria and the Yugoslav refugees in Italy. I also congratulate an old pupil of Queen's University, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire), upon his very able and impartial statement on the case for Hungary. There again, I myself wished to speak on the same lines but, as I agreed with every word which he said in regard to Hungary, this dispenses me from the necessity of going at length into this subject.
In regard to the Treaty as a whole, this is a very historic moment and I am sorry that there is such a small House. It has always been the prerogative and the privilege of the House of Commons to express its approval or disapproval of Treaties. If we go back to the reign of Queen Anne, we remember the very ardent discussions which took place on the Treaty of Utrecht. Again, we have not forgotten the heroic efforts of George III to force approval of the Treaty of Paris in 1760, though it was not nearly as advantageous to this country as it should have been in view of our amazing victories during the Seven Years War. When we come to 1815 and see the length of the discussions which took place in this House on the Treaty of Vienna, we feel that we are following a very great tradition. I only regret that we have so little time, that all these Treaties are being combined in one Bill, and that it is very difficult for us to discuss them in detail.
I am glad to see the Minister of State on the Bench opposite because I want to make this appeal to him from a practical point of view. It is exceedingly difficult and very disappointing when one reads through these Treaties to have detailed references made to maps and then to look for the map which is said to be there and find that it is not there. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be possible for hon. Members, by paying, to get the full editions of the Treaties with the maps because I have had to go to very great difficulty in borrowing from my French friends some of the detailed maps in order to understand some of these rectifications of frontiers in the Treaties. It seems to me that when Treaties are submitted to the House which depend so much upon geography it is rather hard not to give hon. Member, the maps on which the Treaties are based.
There is a further general consideration which is a very important one. I greatly 1568 regret that we have so far gone back from the ancient tradition that the French language was the international language of Europe and the language by which Treaties should be interpreted. I do not wish to depreciate my own mother tongue, but I am bound to say, when I take the English text of these Treaties and compare it with the French, I see at once how infinitely superior the French drafting is. In fact, many of these Clauses are drafted in such English that it is reminiscent of what we have to put up with here in this House on the Finance Bill, and it is necessary to read the French text in order to understand what those Clauses mean.
The Treaty of Utrecht was the Treaty which for the first time broke with the old Latin tradition; it was drafted in French and the French text was the sole authentic text. That was also the case with the Treaty of Vienna and with almost every subsequent Treaty of European importance. It was very regrettable that the Treaty of Versailles departed from this great tradition. It was stated in the Treaty of Versailles that both the English and the French texts were valid. Now we have gone a step further. In the case of the Finnish Treaty, for example, it was drawn up in Russian, Finnish, English and French. I submit, from a small knowledge of history, that if there is a dispute over these Treaties we shall find if the case comes before the International Court at The Hague that because we have not adopted the French language, the historic diplomatic language of Europe, as our sole guiding text, we shall have endless disputes as to the meaning of the Russian or English text and so on.
Having made these preliminary remarks—I do not know whether I carry'the House with me, but on this point of language I feel very strongly—I pass now to the text of the Treaties. Let me take first the Italian Treaty. I am very sorry that no explanation has been given to the House in view of the attacks which have been made upon France with regard to these slight modifications of the territory between France and Italy under the Italian Treaty. May I offer a defence, because I have studied these questions on the spot? The reason for these changes is historical. When in 1860 the Duchy of Savoy and the County of Nice were handed over to France as compensation for the marvellous victories she had won against 1569 Austria—Magenta and Solferino—under which Lombardy as taken from Austria and was transferred to Italy, this was the reward of France, but the French people were exceedingly anxious that this annexation of the Counties of Nice and Savoy should not take place till after a plebiscite. The people of both these districts ratified by enormous majorities their adhesion to France, but unfortunately, when the transfer of these two territories was made, certain regrettable sentimental considerations were allowed to dominate the geographical point of view. The King of Italy said that in those upper valleys he had been accustomed to hunt the chamois and that it would be a very hard thing to deprive him of his hunting ground. That is why in the County of Nice instead of the frontier following the old line of division between the County and Italy, which was a division according to the watershed, the heads of those valleys remained Italian territory whereas all the rest of the valleys were French. The result was that those French peasants who in the summer sent their cattle right up to the heads of those valleys and went there themselves to live in chalets were in Italian territory.
During the mild regime of the ancient monarchy they were unmolested, but as soon as Mussolini came into power he disturbed these people and evicted them in spite of the Treaty. He refused to allow them to occupy for their pastures the upper valleys of Tende and Brigue. Here again I must protest to the Minister of State that in the Treaty we are using Italian names. We should not use the Italian names of Briga and Tenda for districts which are French and purely French speaking. Do let the Minister of State in his reply employ the names Brigue and Tende. What I have said applies to those two changes made on the frontier between the old County of Nice and Italy, a geographical and historical rectification which is amply justified in spite of the charges brought against the French of having Imperialistic designs.
I come now to the ancient Duchy of Savoy. There a very important change is the rectification of the Mont Cenis frontier. Those hon. Members who, as I have done, have crossed that frontier on foot will recollect that Italy when she ceded the Duchy of Savoy insisted on maintaining the whole of the strategic points dominating that historic pass of Mont Cenis in 1570 spite of the old clearly marked frontier between the Duchy of Savoy and Italy. The French have never forgotten this, because when war broke out with Italy—in 1940—we have heard a good deal today about the "stab in the back" but I prefer to call it the "coup de Jarnac"—it was over the Mont Cenis that the forces of Italy passed in such numbers, Mussolini having beforehand carefully planned this coup.
§ Professor Savory
In view of the immense latitude that was allowed to the hon. Member by Mr. Speaker when he spoke about matters which are not in the Treaties at all, surely I am in Order in referring to these very specific Clauses in the Treaty, especially as the Minister of State has not given any explanation so far as I have heard of these changes? Now I come to the important fortress of Briançon. That was the most famous fortress of the great Marshal Vauban but it was completely dominated by the Italian frontier, and in order to give France security, there has been a very slight rectification of the frontier there. I only regret that the French demand was not fully acceded to and that the question of Mont Genèvre was not also settled. Hon. Members will remember that it was by the Pass of Mont Genèvre that Hannibal crossed into Italy. [Laughter.] I hope that I am not going too far back into history, but it is the Pass which has in all history seriously threatened the security of France. Lastly we come to the Little St. Bernard. There again we are in the old Duchy of Savoy. I have crossed it three or four times on foot, and I have always been amazed that the French ever conceded this frontier at the time of the transfer in 1860 of the Duchy of Savoy to France because, from the French point of view, it was so absolutely indefensible. Here again Mussolini took advantage when he struck his blow in 1940.
There is one other point that I regret the right hon. Gentleman in helping to draft this Treaty did not insist upon, because of the very great British interest in the matter, and that is the rights of the Waldensian Valleys. Our interest in these valleys goes back to the terrible massacre of 1655 when it will be remembered that 1571 Cromwell dictated that magnificent letter to Milton protesting against these atrocities, and Milton wrote that marvellous Ode:Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints Whose bones lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold,Even they who kept thy faith so pure of oldWhen all our fathers worshipped stocks and stones.Cromwell proclaimed a fast and ordered a collection in all the churches on behalf of these people which, for that period, reached a very large sum. It was invested in trustees for the benefit of these people, and the interest was regularly paid—in fact it was only commuted in recent times. We have an immense interest in this district in maintaining its rights which were guaranteed by the famous Charter of 1848 brought about by the efforts of our ambassador in Turin. ratified again by the Italian Constitution. Can we forget that General Beckwith, the hero of Waterloo, the great General who lost his leg when fighting by the side of Wellington, took an immense interest in these valleys? He went all through England and Scotland, through Northern and Southern Ireland, and collected large sums for the building of over Too British schools, and handed the money over to trustees with the proviso that instruction should be given in the native language, namely, the French language. Will it be believed that Mussolini seized and confiscated the whole of those schools, and prohibited the teaching in those schools of the French language?
I remember, when I was out there in 1938, going through the churches and seeing workmen tear down the texts in French, and substitute for them texts in Italian. I went out to attend the Synod of the Church with the credentials of our Archbishop of Armagh, and Primate of all Ireland, and also with the credentials of the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Huguenot Society of London. The Moderator asked me to address the Synod at La Tour, the capital of these valleys, and I said, "I insist upon my constitutional right to address the Synod in French." The Moderator said, "But you have prepared a speech in Italian?" I said, "Yes, but I will only deliver my speech in Italian if I have to submit to force majeure." They 1572 said, "We shall have to telephone to Mussolini to get permission for you to address the Synod in French." I said, "Do it, and I will pay for the message." I am glad to say that I did vindicate the honour of this country and the Treaties to which this country is a party, because, never let it be forgotten, when the Duke of Savoy became King of Italy, he guaranteed to these people the use of the French language, and, in the Constitution, they were allowed even in the Parliament of Rome to address the Assembly in French. They took me—and it is relevant now—to see the wall which was built on the instructions of Cromwell to keep back the overflow of the River Pellice which otherwise would have flooded the village of Bobbio. If only the Duke of Bedford, when draining the Fens, had erected such a wall, we should not have been faced with the catastrophe with which His Majesty's Government are confronted today. Cromwell's wall is still standing, it is still effective, it protected the village only the other day from another serious flood. [An HON. MEMBER: "We could do with it here."] I would, therefore, appeal to my right hon. Friend that we have a great historical and sentimental interests in this country and that it is for us, before the Treaty is ratified, to see that assurances are given to these people that their religious and linguistic rights will be protected.
Further, while I am dealing with the Italian Treaty, I would like to say that I cordially agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Windsor (Major MottRadclyffe) who insisted on the great hardship to which the Italian people are being subjected with regard to the whole territory of Venezia Giulia. I held very strongly, after going over the district myself minutely, that the line suggested by President Wilson, after the most careful and impartial inquiry, was the real ethnic and economic line. We have, unfortunately, gone back from that position and we have placed the town of Pola, the most important port of Pola, in Yugoslav territory, with the result that the other day we saw the exodus of the whole population of 75,000 people. Nothing has been seen like it in history since 1870, when the French-speaking population of Alsace and Lorraine refused to accept German citizenship, and crossed the frontier into France. I cannot help thinking that Italy has been 1573 treated with extraordinary harshness in this respect, and the frontier which has been adopted is one which will be the seed of future trouble. An international port has been set up at Trieste. Very well, but do hon. Members realise the fact that, as Yugoslavia controls all the railways, Yugoslavia can divert the whole of the traffic from Trieste, can starve Trieste commercially, because she can divert to Pola and to Fiume the whole of that traffic and can leave Trieste stranded so that the grass will be growing upon the quays? I know that our valiant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a great fight for justice for Italy, both in Paris and New York, and I only regret that his efforts were not more successful.
Let us pass for a moment to the Treaty with Bulgaria. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman who spoke so sincerely and with such conviction with regard to Bulgaria is not here—
§ Professor Savory
I mean the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who opposed the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack); I regret that the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme did not hear his reply. It is very unfortunate that Greece has not been given the rectification of the frontier which she demanded. If we look at the map—I have had to borrow a map from a French friend, as the right hon. Gentleman has not provided us with any—we see that the frontier now between Greece and Bulgaria is the most fragile in the whole of Europe. It has a length of 480 kilometres, and a depth of 30 to 40 kilometres. One hundred thousand people had to abandon their homes at the time of the Bulgarian aggression. Now Greece puts forward a very reasonable demand that there should be a rectification of that frontier, and that the mountain heights dominating the frontier should be handed to her. She knows what happened at the time of the German invasion. The Germans seized Salonika, and isolated the whole of the Greek troops to the East of that town. That will happen again in the case of further trouble between Bulgaria and Greece. Bulgaria will advance, and occupy the town of Salonika, and completely cut off the whole of the district to the East. I feel that we have been very wrong, in view of the heroism of Greece, and the way in which she fought 1574 on our side, and enabled our retreating Armies to escape to Crete and Egypt by endless sacrifices, that she deserves a better fate, and this was the very least rectification of the frontier to which she was entitled.
§ Professor Savory
Is that not laughable? Can anyone who knows the countries concerned and the present amount of troops in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, dominated by and supplied from Soviet Russia, think that poor Greece is going to be a danger to Bulgaria? It is fantastic, and it is not reasonable to bring such ideas before the House.
Now I come to a point which I need not elaborate, because the hon. Member for Wycombe, who has succeeded another great Ulsterman in that constituency, has put forward the case with such strength and conviction. I very strongly support his arguments. We should never forget that the whole Province of Transylvania was given to Roumania in 1918. This was reversed by Hitler and Mussolini in 1940, when they divided the country into two, not pleasing either party. Without any semblance of an inquiry, without sending a committee to the spot, without appointing a boundary commission, but by a stroke of the pen, the whole of this country of Transylvania was given back once more to Roumania. In Northern Ireland we are accustomed to border difficulties and boundary troubles; that is a matter with which we are extremely familiar. From this experience, I maintain that it would have been possible to have adopted a line much more in accordance with the ethnic and economic features of the problem. Does the House realise that the number of Hungarians who are being transferred to Roumania is nearly half of the whole Transylvanian population? It an immense proportion, and a very serious injustice is being done to those people of Hungary, those people for whom, in spite of errors, we cannot help feeling a great deal of sympathy.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Erdington)
Is the hon. Member 1575 suggesting that that part of the Vienna Award should stand?
§ Professor Savory
I am suggesting that I have a right to protest that no boundary commission was employed, but, by a stroke of the pen, it was decided to go back to the injustice of the Treaty of Trianon. An impartial commission would have devised a line, which would have been infinitely more satisfactory to both parties. At the same time, I deeply sympathise with Roumania, though she has acquired this immense territory. I feel even that Transylvania scarcely compensates her for the loss of a territory to which she was so historically entitled as that of Bessarabia. I must raise my protest on these benches against the alienation of Bessarabia, which is one of the most deplorable Clauses in the Treaty.
Lastly, I feel in honour bound to put in a plea for Finland. When Finland was invaded in 1940, the whole House, and the whole country, expressed deep sympathy with her. It was a war of aggression, a war without any historical or political justification. We all admired her resistance and, in fact, wanted to send an army to help her. I do not defend what took place afterwards, although I know from the facts that it was under absolute compulsion and terrorism that she was forced to throw in her lot subsequently with Germany. Even so, I submit that this Treaty is doing very grave injustice to Finland. I think that to transfer not merely the whole of the territory of Karelia, but to deprive her of her access to the Arctic Ocean at Petsamo, is inflicting something on her which she does not deserve. The hon. Member for Wycombe spoke about the 300 million dollars which he complained were being exacted from Hungary. Are we not much more entitled to complain of the 300 million dollars which we are exacting from a poor country like Finland, deprived as she is by the Treaty of so many of her territorial resources? I cannot help feeling that we are dishonouring ourselves by putting our signatures to this Treaty, and I deeply regret it from the point of view of the history and traditions of this country, which always supported Finland in maintaining her independence against the Tsars. Now not only is she to be condemned to these territorial changes which I have described but Russia is given a lease of the territory of Porkkala-Udd, an area near Helsinki, 1576 where she can maintain forces, dominate the country, and deprive it of any vestige of independence.
I join with my colleagues here, and with friends on the other side of the House, in expressing the hope that these Treaties will, in spite of their defects, bring about a real peace and that we of our generation, who have gone through two terrible wars, shall at least be spared a third.
§ 1.40 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, West)
I do not wish to detain the House, particularly in view of the rather lengthy speech which has just been made by the hon. Member for Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory). I do not know that I want to indulge in geographical excursions, or in historical references to Hannibal, or anything of that sort, but I do want to refer to the appeal what he made on behalf of Finland. It is important that we should remember that Finland is included in these Treaties. I know the great censure that Finland has come under because of her experience under German dominion during the war, but, nevertheless, there is a record of friendship, going back for many, years, between this country and Finland, and it is a pity that pressure has been brought to bear upon her to the extent that she is to be stripped of territories which are very important to her welfare. I will not say that there need be more said about it than that, because we are so much more responsible for equally bad arrangements in other parts of the world, where our will has had the opportunity of being expressed more clearly than has been possible in connection with the decision concerning Finland. It is interesting to note that in this Debate very little protest has been raised about Finland. It is an indication from the benches opposite that criticisms of Russia do not run so strongly on this occasion. However, I hope that there may be some reconsideration for Finland, particularly regarding Karelia and important economic areas which involve the prosperity of that country and this country.
But I will leave that to speak of another matter. I am sorry that in these Treaties we are now finally placing our ratification upon an arrangement made by which Italy takes over a very large section of old Austria. I know that this matter has been raised in previous Debates but we 1577 ought, at the last moment, to voice our protest again on this question Italy is to have many things which, if she had her deserts, she ought not to have. But the handing over of this considerable area of the Tyrol is one of the worst blemishes in connection with these Peace Treaties. It is beyond any shadow of doubt that from an economic and political point of view that part of the Tyrol ought to have gone to Austria in whatever further settlement we might be able to secure. There is no shadow of doubt that the present arrangement has been made in order to secure payment to other parties in settlements regarding other areas in the world. To make it easier for the claims of Yugoslavia. and of France, in another direction, we have agreed to the dismemberment of an important part of old Austria to meet unjustifiable Italian claims. It is more than ever necessary to make this protest, because we are giving to that part of Italy people who ultimately swung in behind Mussolini and supported him in his advances. They will get encouragement again because of the action we have taken in this matter. In view of the long historical association between the Tyrol and Austria, and because of the necessity for helping Austria to get on her feet again, it is a great mistake that this arrangement should have been made.
I know that it has been said by the Foreign Secretary in our Debates that the Austrians have come to an agreement. Well, they have only agreed because they have been forced to agree. I cannot forget that on the day it was announced that we had decided to let that section of the Tyrol go under the control of Italy I met the President himself, when I had the privilege of being a member of the Parliamentary delegation that went to Austria at that time. I shall never forget the grief and protest which he expressed. Maybe he afterwards said other things, but I remember his first reactions and words of great sorrow, that Britain should have found it necessary to have made an arrangement by which that territory was to be handed over to Italian rule. I do not want to make foolish predictions, but I believe that for years to come we shall hear protests from people from that area, people who are, in every sense of the world, old Austrians Those protests will not redound to our good name. I wish it had been possible, in 1578 these Treaties, to have come to a different decision in this matter.
§ 1.46 p.m.
Mr. William Teeing (Brighton)
I am tempted to deal with every one of these Treaties, but perhaps it will be more appropriate if I confine myself to the subject of Finland, in view of the fact that I have just returned from there, with other Members of this House, within the last three or four days. The hon. Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson) was, I think, a little unfair in saying that because the question of Finland had not been raised on this side of the House we were not, perhaps, interested in her position. On the contrary, I think it was known by my friends on this side of the House that I wished to speak today on this subject, and it is not my fault if I was not able to catch the eye of Mr. Speaker or Mr. Deputy-Speaker before now, as I have been here since II o'clock. I fully agree that the question of Finland should be spoken of and discussed, just as much as any of the other countries referred to in these Treaties. To my mind the Finns have taken a very dignified attitude over the whole position. I was particularly struck with that, and I feel sure that the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Pargiter) will agree with me when I say that nothing was said by anybody, while we were there, that could have embarrassed us, or made us realise that we were on the point of seeing a Treaty signed in this manner.
I am rather frightened, after the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Queen's University of Belfast Professor Savory), to touch at all on historical matters, or even to try to contradict him on one point. But my hon. Friend said that Pola had evacuated something like 75,000 people. I would remind him that in Karelia there are just over 400,000 people, and that of that number of those given the option of staying under the new regime, or going into Finland, all have decided to go with the exception of 17. I made inquiries as to whether this was not exaggerated, and nobody would go beyond saying that there might be Too people left. What does that mean? It means that 400,000 people are going back into Finland, a country with a population of only some 3 million. For those, not only employment but housing must be found. That is a point of complaint which the Finns might take up. But 1579 they are not complaining; all they are asking is that the Treaty should be ratified quickly, and I am glad that the Minister of State has said that he feels that this will happen within the next three or four weeks. I must say that in Finland the feeling is not quite so certain, people are not quite so happy. But they do beg that the Minister will use all his influence and the influence of Great Britain to get this Treaty ratified as soon as possible.
Finland, after all, as the hon. Member for Queen's University said, has not been in quite the same category as the other countries. We can, and should, admire the pluck and courage, even as an enemy, of an enemy who certainly, so far as we know, never did any really dirty tricks. I think Russia would feel the same—that Finland fought bravely, fought finely; and that, in these present days, when we are going to need strong European countries to pull the world round, it would be a good thing to let Finland get rid as quickly as possible of all her troubles.
I would ask the Minister of State to answer one or two points on Articles in that Treaty. There is Article 6 by which our representatives will have to be responsible for seeing that Finland takes all measures necesary to secure to all persons under Finnish jurisdiction, without distinction of race, sex, language, or religion, enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the freedoms of expression, of Press and publication, of religious worship, of political opinion, and of public meetings. It is, possibly, not known to all Members of this House that there is still in Finland a secret police force. The Parliament of Finland is very anxious about the position of that secret police force, which is employed by the Minister of the Interior. The Parliament of Finland has actually gone so far as to withdraw funds from the Minister of the Interior for the secret police, in order to try to get rid of that force. Yet those secret police go on. Are they working for charity? I do not know. How are we going to find out? How can anybody find out? What is to be done to get rid of the secret police? They are a danger to the country. The husband of a British employee was beaten up only the other day for a variety of reasons. That is something that ought to be looked into. I wonder if the Minister of State would say anything about this police?
1580 Then there is Article 9, about the apprehension and trial of persons accused of war crimes. I should like for one moment to turn to what the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said about the question of Yugoslavs being taken out of Italy. The Minister of State will, no doubt, have seen the letter that the hon. Member for Northampton and I and others wrote to "The Times" recently. Perhaps, he will tell us a little of what is being done by the hon. and gallant Member for Lancaster (Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean), who is at present working on that particular subject in Italy. Will he tell us what he is doing, and if he has been successful? In Finland the trials of people accused of war crimes have gone on, and I do not think anybody has been sentenced to more than a few years' imprisonment. There has been no capital punishment. It might be a good thing if that policy were followed out in other countries at the present time.
I should like to turn to Article 23, which deals with reparations and restitutions. That brings us to the question again of the 300 million dollars. It is not in cash that it is to be paid. It is to be paid in kind, and paid in kind to the full. At the present moment in Finland the people are in a very difficult and unhappy position. There are many commodities that will have to be sent to the Soviet Union, and in the Soviet Union it is now being said that when the goods arrive there they are not of the value attributed to them in Finland. If that is the case, how are the commission going to decide the goods' value? It is seriously felt in Finland that, by this Article, Russia is going to be able to ask for mom and more stuff, and that Russia will never be satisfied that the goods are of the right value. Furthermore, I cannot find where in this Treaty there is any reference to the fact that, if Finland does not deliver the goods within the period stated, the Soviet Union has the right to impose very serious and very strict measures.
I may be wrong in this, but I understand that in Finland they are in difficulties about being able to deliver the goods; and that one of the reasons why they are going to be unable, possibly, to deliver the goods is, that they cannot get from this country certain machines to put the things together in the way they must be put together to be sent to Russia. Which country is going to suffer 1581 eventually? Is Russia going to ask us for the reparations, or is she to ask for them from Finland? But Finland cannot deliver the finished goods, unless we are able to deliver pieces of the goods to Finland; and in many cases we are not able to do that at the present moment. This also affects the position of our own exports, and in that way this is a most serious point.
In regard to Article 30, that deals with the question of international air traffic in Finnish territory. The hon. Member for Spelthorne will remember that we were held up and unable to leave Helsinki by air because of a priority right which is held at the present moment by Moscow. Anybody from Moscow has got the right to aircraft through Helsinki to Sweden. No matter how long in advance one books one's seat in Helsinki, if anybody from Moscow, on the actual morning of one's flight, chooses to go, it means that those in Helsinki have got to sit and wait and watch indefinitely. I hope that when the Treaty is ratified that will no longer be the fact. As regards our own aircraft, we are only allowed to take three passengers. We are not at present allowed to refuel at Helsinki. If we were allowed to refuel we could take more passengers, but we are not allowed to do so. That is on the airport of Helsinki which, according to this Article, is not supposed to discriminate between one country and another.
The Bill provides for appointments for the carrying out of the Treaties. The Financial Memorandum states that we cannot say now how much money will be required. Will it be required by the present Minister and his staff, or by permanent members of the commission in Finland? I may say, in passing, that the members of the commission in Finland, of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, are in most happy relations with the Soviet Mission. This is, unfortunately, not the case in some parts of the world, and it ought to be noted how very well the members of the two missions are getting on together at Helsinki. The work of the members of our mission means that they will have to travel about the country, and to spend more money; more money than they are spending at the moment. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will note that there is a very strong feeling that, even at the present moment, the pay is 1582 totally inadequate for the upkeep of the staff in Helsinki. What is going to happen when extra work has to be done, as it will have to be, according to this Bill, in seeing that the Treaty is carried out?
Extra expenses will be incurred. It has taken no less than two years for a decision to be reached on what are to be the allowances for one or two of the people there, and that has resulted in appalling overdrafts in the case of many of these men. Can we be assured by the Treasury that something will be done at once for these people, so that, when they arrange to send out extra men, they will know exactly what they get and what they can spend, and then the Treasury will realise the high cost of living in that country?
On this side of the House, and, I am sure, on the other side, too, it is felt that Finland has had a very unhappy record in the last few years, but, before that, Finland fought valiantly to try to get a good Constitution, and a democratic one, and a country which, next to New Zealand, was the first to give women the franchise, and that was over 40 years ago, is a country which has to be taken seriously among democratic countries. They took that step long before this country or the United States, and, in many ways, their Constitution is a broad and democratic one. The Finnish people are most dignified in their attitude about the Treaty. They know that Finland has to take some punishment for her mistakes, but Finland asks to be allowed to get on quickly with the job of putting the country in order and of becoming, once again, one of the most advanced countries in Northern Europe.
§ 2.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Erdington)
I should not have intervened in this Debate if the question of Finland had not been raised by the last speaker. I had occasion to pay a very short visit to Helsinki last summer, and, from there, I went on to Leningrad. Probably, if one examines those two cities in conjunction, one can get a rather different approach to this problem of Finland, and to the question of reparations, and of the relations between the Soviet Union and Finland, than has so far been encountered in this Debate. During the Finnish-Russian war of 1940, newspapers in this country were full of stories of terrible air raids and vast destruction in Finland. I had occasion to go to Helsinki, though I 1583 have not made the extensive visits which the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Teeling) has done. I found, during the whole of my perambulations, one building which had been destroyed by enemy action—the Soviet Embassy.
§ Mr. Teeling
In fairness, I think it should be said that it was definitely told us by Britishers and people of other countries, that much more damage had been done, and that it was quite amazing to see how much damage had been repaired and how quickly it had been done. If one went down to the docks, one found far more serious damage, and, of course, the worst damage of all was done in Karelia, and not in Helsinki.
§ Mr. J. Silverman
And, of course, Karelia has been taken over by the Soviet Union. As compared with most of those countries which have suffered damage, the amount of damage suffered by Finland, through enemy action, is comparatively small, and, moreover, the repair of this damage is proceeding very rapidly indeed. I went to Leningrad, and I am bound to say that the Russian attitude towards Finland which I found there was not quite that which has been indicated by the hon. Member for Brighton, certainly not in the Leningrad region. It is not correct to say that Finland was forced into this war. So far ac concerns the other four countries with whom treaties of peace are being discussed today, there was a certain amount of pressure which they found it difficult to resist. So far as Finland is concerned, there is no doubt that she voluntarily and deliberately entered into this war, and, in 1940 and 1941, she invited German troops to enter Finland, and, completely voluntarily, allowed these troops to deploy themselves on Finnish territory before the attack against the Soviet Union.
§ Mr. J. Silverman
Yes, and in 1919. I have seen some of the effects of that attack. The city of Leningrad, in consequence of Finnish intervention, was entirely surrounded. I do not think hon. Members understand the terrible ravages wrought in that particular area at that time—ravages which I have seen and with which there is no comparison with 1584 anything either in this country or even in Germany. I think this is a matter which we ought to bear in mind.
When the city of Leningrad was surrounded for months on end, the only food available to its citizens was a quarter of a pound of dirty, grey, ersatz bread per day, and nothing else. The people boiled leather and tried to make soup of it, to extract some subsistence in order to live, but they died like flies. Men and women went out to their factories in the morning—production went on during all the days of the siege—and there they would drop down dead. I do not know the total number of people who died in that terrible siege, but it has been stated that the number is not less than 800,000, and it is as well that we should remember that There is destruction in the Leningrad area which is comparable with nothing that we have suffered here. It is possible, in an area extending 40 or 50 miles from Leningrad, to see nothing but complete destruction.
If Leningrad had fallen on account of Finnish intervention, as it might have done, the course and duration of the war might well have been different, and its effect, not merely on the Soviet Union but upon this country, might have been very serious. It seems to me that the terms of this Treaty, in so far as the Soviet Union and Finland are concerned, are extremely generous, and they are allowing the rapid and steady reconstruction of Finland. I think the hon Member for Brighton would see, when he went there, that this reconstruction is taking place. Throughout it all, the Soviet Government has adopted the attitude that Russia had to live side by side with that country and, therefore, they wanted to live side by side with a country which, in the first place, was not bankrupt or insolvent, but which was an independent country and reasonably prosperous, and they wanted to make sure that what had happened before should not happen again.
One of the points with regard to reparations which applies to Finland, while it does apply equally to all those other enemy countries, including Germany and Italy, is this. Reparations are not merely a question of revenge. It is not merely the extraction of wealth by one country from another, but the fact that the countries which were the aggressors in the war should not find themselves a short time hence in a happier and more 1585 prosperous condition than the countries they have ravaged or helped to ravage. Obviously, if that came about it would be not only unjust and inequitable, but contrary to the things for which we have fought, and would in itself render another war more likely if the aggressor simply got away with it. So far as concerns Finland I believe that at the present moment, even though she is paying these reparations, a large part of her population is enjoying a higher standard of living than millions of people in countries which were allied to us and fought side by side with us, and who have suffered the ravages of the aggressors. Certainly this is the case in comparison with large tracts of territory in the Soviet Union, and with millions of people living in Yugoslavia today.
If countries like Finland were to get away with it completely, it would obviously be an encouragement to aggressors in future. As it is, this payment of reparations will make those concerned realise that the course of aggression does not pay. At the same time they will allow Finland to reconstruct her life upon a democratic basis which will enable her to live in peace with her neighbours, and I hope that this will be a link in the chain of peaceful relations which will conduce in the course of time to more peaceful conditions in the world at large.
§ 2.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Pargiter (Spelthorne)
I should like to touch briefly on the economic aspect, because I have seen Finland at first hand recently, and I feel that crying over spilt milk will not help very much We must recognise that Finland's part in the second world war was really dictated by the events of the Russo-Finnish war. Although it is obvious that Finland was very unwise, it is a fact that she was very badly advised, exactly as she had been in the case of that former conflict. In fact, I understand that she was badly advised by everyone except the British, and it is rather interesting to note that Britain was the one country which warned her that Russia was in a very strong position and that she would be unwise to enter into a war with her. Unfortunately, the other advice prevailed and as I have indicated, it may be said that the events of the second world war followed automatically on those of the Russo-Finnish conflict. I do not think it is true to say that Finland deliberately invited 1586 the Germans into her territory. They were there already, and there was not very much she could do about it.
§ Mr. Pargiter
How did the Germans get anywhere? They got pretty well into France, Belgium and elsewhere, and in any case the fact remains that the second chain of events did follow on the first. I think that is an important consideration with regard to where Finland stands in this particular question. The important thing is how far the Peace Treaty is equitable and just, and what our attitude is towards it. My experience among the Finnish people was that they breathed a sigh of relief at the terms which had been fixed. They had expected that the terms would be much more severe. We gained this impression from many sections of the Finnish people, and I think it might be described as the general point of view. The terms are hard over a limited period, and that is the beauty of reparations in this case. They are for a fixed length of time, at the end of which Finland will be free to pursue her own economic reconstruction. In the meantime, there are certain aspects of this at which we ought to look. For example, Finnish exports and imports have played an important part in British economy in the past, and I think that it is vital that they should do so in the future. Finnish economy is based very largely on timber, and it is, perhaps, unfortunate that the country's waterway system happens to lead to Karelia, a port which is no longer a part of Finland but comes within Russia.
Finland will thus have the choice of using Russian ports and facilities and paying for them, or, alternatively, of finding new channels of communication. Incidentally, these channels of communication are vital for timber. We can supply certain of the things Finland needs eventually. She has to pay reparations in ships, and she has no steel. She has to get steel from somewhere and perhaps we could let her have it in return for timber. It will, however, be some time before Finland can build a reasonable economy, although I think that if we can do anything at all to help we should do so. This is not a question of Finland's part in past history, but of how we can build the countries of Europe into a comity of 1587 nations which will live together happily and peacefully trading one with the other.
Contrary to what has been said, I should not agree that the standard of living in Finland is very good. In fact, I should have said that it is very poor. I believe that the sugar ration, for example, is only half a pound a month. I would mention here—in case it falls upon receptive ears—that if a person smokes in Finland he or she receives only half the sugar ration. That seems to be a possible means of controlling undesirable expenditure.
§ Mr. Pargiter
The State holds a monopoly, although I understand that there is a very flourishing black market. Each person is allowed one bottle of drink a day—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I do not think that the Treaties cover the question of drink.
§ Mr. Pargiter
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I was rather carried away and thought that my hon. Friend wanted to know something about alcohol. As I have been indicating, I think it is important that the Treaty should be ratified as soon as possible. The Finnish people are very anxious about this because they really want to get down to rebuilding. I hope that our own Overseas Trade Department will look very carefully at what can be done to help to rehabilitate Finland with a view to bringing us those very much needed supplies which Finland can provide for the benefit of this country.
At this point I should like to touch upon the question which has been raised with regard to the secret police. Frankly, I do not think the secret police are such an important body as might have been implied. There is a dual police system, and I would put it at that rather than call it a secret police, although it is true that it is controlled by the Minister of the Interior and that Parliament has not very much control over it. In any case, there is absolute freedom of speech so far as we are able to judge. Every person appeared to be able to speak freely and there was no evidence at all of Russian control in the city of Helsinki. We were perfectly free to go where we liked and we took the 1588 fullest advantage of the fact. It has been said that Russian control—so far as they are the senior members of the Control Commission—has been absolutely correct. That is the keynote of this treaty. It is a correct treaty which we shall ratify, I hope, without any misgivings at all as being reasonable and fair to all concerned.
§ 2.20 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
It is a great advantage to be a Member of this House because in the course of a Debate of this sort one is able to encounter those who have had every experience under the sun, and I think this Debate is no disappointment in that respect. I regret I cannot add to the descriptions of foreign countries which have been given in the course of the Debate because, unfortunately, I have not been able to leave my own country, but I will turn my attention to the Bill which I have had an opportunity of studying. I also would like to add that those who read the Treaty discussions after the last war will not be disappointed, because on that occasion the Chair, quite rightly, allowed a wide discussion to those who were speaking, and the Debate was extremely wide. If I may compliment this Debate, I can only say that it has gone wider still, due largely to the powerful help of my hon. Friend the Member for Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory).
Reverting to the Bill, I presume the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State will seek the leave of the House to reply. I use that expression because it is becoming more and more usual for the Government to rely upon one Minister to take charge of an important Bill, and it is strictly against the Rules and precedents of the House that a person should speak twice on the Second Reading of a Bill. There is no one we would rather hear than the right hon. Gentleman, so this remark has no personal significance whatever, but it indicates that the Government are not attaching sufficient importance to this Bill, in that they cannot fortify the right hon. Gentleman either with the Under-Secretary from his own Department, who may well be away—and if so, we would like to hear—or with some other and more powerful Minister who could help him in the transactions which he is facing today in this Parliament.
§ Mr. Butler
The hon. Member for Nelson and Come (Mr. S. Silverman) has not been in the House the whole time. If he had been he would have seen who had been present and who had taken part in this Debate. If the right hon. Gentleman obtains permission of the House to speak again in this Second Reading Debate, we would like him to reply to one or two points.
I want first to stress the constitutional points which are the most important in this Bill. We would like to hear whether the right hon. Gentleman has any answer to the point put by the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pick-thorn) as to whether, in the Committee stage, he would substitute for "His Majesty" in Clause 1 (1), "One of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State." I think there is a very important point here. It is not so much that the power of Parliament is removed, because although there is a negative procedure laid down for Orders in Council under this Bill, it will be possible for Parliament to adopt the same difficult, and, at times, otiose procedure of a Prayer at a late hour at night, if hon. Members wish to challenge any of these Orders. But under the Bill as it is drafted, there is no doubt that the House, as the guardians of the citizens of this country, has a right to say that unless one of His Majesty's Ministers is substituted for His Majesty himself, the ordinary citizen has no right in the courts if aggrieved or offended by Orders prescribed in this Bill.
There is an extension of the use of the Prerogative, which has precedent, as we know, in that it was used in the last war, but this is a matter on which no Government ought lightly to embark. I hope we shall have from the right hon. Gentleman an explanation and an undertaking that when we consider this Bill in Committee he will give attention to what we have put down on the Order Paper. Therefore, I would like to give notice that we shall raise points of this sort on the Committee stage, and that if we give this Bill a Second Reading it does not mean that we are satisfied with the constitutional position as it is stated here. This is very unusual for an Act of Parliament, and undesirable, and I do not believe it is absolutely necessary even in questions concerning foreign policy.
The other point I want to stress is that I think it is unreasonable that we should 1590 not have the affirmative method of procedure under Orders in Council. It ought to be possible for that to be substituted for this negative procedure which appears in the second page of the Bill, and when we enter the Committee stage we intend to put down an Amendment proposing that there shall be the affirmative procedure. These two points are of considerable importance, and they are rendered all the more important, because, so far, we have not been able to extract from the Government very much information about the powers that are being assumed by the Government under this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman did his best, but many points have been put from this side of the House and we should like him to give us a clearer definition, not so much about action which is necessary under Orders, of which he gave instances, and which I took down while he was speaking, but of the other phrases in the Bill, namely, the type of appointments that it is proposed His Majesty shall make, and such offices as His Majesty shall create. These words are to be found, as the Minister of State knows, in Clause 1 (1). I hope, therefore, before we give a Second Reading to the Bill, we may have some indication of its scope and of the result of its particular form of drafting. It would also be useful to know to what extent the right hon. Gentleman can give some indication of the charges under the Bill, because the Financial Memorandum is couched in extremely general terms, and if we had some indication of the expenses, we might have some knowledge of the extent to which appointments and offices would be created or made.
Coming to the Peace Treaties themselves, I think we will all agree that certain speeches that have been made in this Debate have been very valuable. I have already commented upon the excellent intervention of the senior Burgess for Cambridge University, and I would like to make special reference to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Windsor (Major Mott-Radclyffe) and, in particular, his references to the Italian Treaty, which seemed to me to be couched in most moderate language, and to give a very balanced answer to the genuine speech made by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith). I myself come down on the side of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Windsor, and I would like to ask a specific question about 1591 developments which nave arisen out of the Italian Treaty, and which are, to some extent, affected by this Bill, because powers taken under this Bill may be necessary to implement decisions taken. I refer to the recent visit of the Italian Financial Delegation and their efforts to secure terms which they can reasonably meet and honour. If the right hon. Gentleman could give me any indication of the success of these negotiations, and could further illustrate his point by describing any action which arises out of the conclusions reached, it would enable us not only to have useful information but also to tie up this Bill with the procedure arising out of the Italian Treaty which has recently been undertaken by the Financial Delegation.
Arising out of the Italian Treaty, I would also like to press for more information about action which will have to be taken under this Bill in regard to Trieste, and, in particular, in regard to the appointent of the International Commission, and progress generally in that area—for example, what types of appointments and what types of offices might come under this Bill in connection with the development of our policy for Trieste. I thought the question of Italian reparaations was given a rather one-sided interpretation by the hon. Member for Stoke, and I think it is valuable at this stage to stress the generosity of the attitude deliberately adopted in this connection by the United States of America and ourselves; and, although it was right for the hon. and gallant Member for Windsor to say that there was a certain other aspect of our policy in this regard, at the same time these facts should not be forgotten. I would like to reinforce what has been said also in the course of this Debate, that it is most important that though we may all rightly and with fervour condemn, like the hon. Member for Stoke, the early disgraceful action of Italy and of her late rulers, at the same time we should attempt to encourage the Italians to join with us in the general building up of peace in the Mediterranean area. That is why I attach so much importance to obtaining from the right hon. Gentleman some statement on the negotiations surrounding the visit of the members of the Italian Financial Delegation to this country.
I must say a word on one aspect of the Treaties to which I referred in my speech 1592 following the Foreign Secretary on 27th February. I then asked what progress was likely to be made with demilitarisation of the Graeco-Bulgarian frontier. I pointed out at that time how wrong it was that Greece had been given no concession in connection with the Thracian uplands. It was reported in my speech as the "Thracian Islands," which rendered it almost incomprehensible. Therefore, I take this opportunity of saying what I meant to say, and, I hope, did say. This matter has been raised in the course of this Debate, and I really must answer, with some determination from this side of the House, suggestions made from hon. Members opposite that either Greece or Finland are, themselves, menaces to international peace. The most preposterous picture has been painted of the Greek militarists prowling over the plains of Thrace with a view to descending upon them and conquering the whole of the North, and presumably the East, of Europe and Asia. Such a picture is, to our minds, perfectly ridiculous. It is similarly perfectly ridiculous, so to speak, as recent speakers did, about Finland, and to suggest that Finland, in herself, or the Finnish people, is necessarily of very aggressive character.
We take the view that these Treaties themselves relate, for the most part, to very small nations. It is a patent and open fact that some of these nations have backed the wrong horse in the late titanic struggle. They may have backed it through wrong leadership, or through a sort of perverted sense of policy, which I could associate with at least one of the countries concerned. Whatever be the truth of the matter, they are small countries. The Treaties have in them flimsy contents; that is to say, some of the frontiers created are highly artificial; the borderline, therefore, between peace and unrest on these borders and the difficulties of payment or repayment of reparations will be very great indeed; economies will be nearly balanced or nearly unbalanced, and in many cases, alas, the balance will come down on the wrong side. Therefore, in the face of these five Treaties, we cannot sit back and say that everything is right in the world. But we can say this. At one time it appeared that these Treaties would not be concluded, in face of great obstruction and great difficulty in international assemblies. These Treaties have been concluded; a first stage has been taken along the road towards a general 1593 international settlement. The major Treaties are now being debated in Moscow, and we trust that the Austrian Treaty, the Germany Treaty, and eventually the Japanese Treaty, not very far away, will follow upon the conclusion of these Treaties, We on this side of the House are satisfied that a Bill of some sort is necessary, and, subject to our right to criticise it in Committee, we will wish to give it a Second Reading.
§ 2.33 p.m.
I most humbly ask the permission of the House to speak again. I would not so presume if it were not that, as the House is aware, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is in Moscow, and, as I hope the House is also aware, the Under-Secretary of State is engaged, perhaps not in such dramatic business but in no less substantial business, with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in New York. I hope, therefore, the House will grant me the indulgence for which I ask.
However, even with that permission which the House so generously gives me, I do not mean to embark upon the exotic and extensive waters on which we have sailed today, mainly because much of that interest which the hon. Member for Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory) brought, with his erudition and his zeal, is somewhat academic. It is perfectly proper for it to be discussed, and it is essential, as so many hon. Members have advanced, that we should inquire upon the detailed action which may follow upon this Bill. But there are many subjects already defined in Treaties to which we have given our signature, and which could not, therefore, be upset at this stage. The questions divided themselves fairly reasonably into what I might call legal and constitutional questions, and some political issues, to which I will attempt to give answers.
As to the legal and constitutional questions referred to by the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), who opened the Debate, and by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), who closed the Debate, I confess that the slight time for research which I have had on the Front Bench has not sustained the thesis which I offered to the senior Burgess for Cambridge University. I do not mean that I am certain I am wrong—
It is not too much for a Scotsman, but a Scotsman takes as much care in admitting when he is wrong as asserting when he is right. Therefore, I should like time to look at that point. However, the maximum that can be safely said is, that we are not here setting any precedent, and that we follow very carefully the behaviour set forth in the 1919 Act. Therefore, I am reluctant to give some of the assurances for which I have been asked. We will not seek any additional powers. When I say "additional powers," I mean that we will not seek power under an Order, if there is any reason to believe that we already have that power. Those additional powers which we may have to seek will follow very closely upon the experience of the last Act. As far as I am aware, there was no unsatisfactory consequence as a result of those additional powers, following the last Act.
The second point about which I was asked was whether we would agree that there should be an affirmative check instead of a negative check. Naturally, I promise to consider that with the appropriate Departments, and, I think, particularly with the Leader of the House and the Whips of the House. While it is true, as the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden suggested, that the immediate Orders which may be needed are already in draft, it is proper that I should say they are very limited. The right hon. Gentleman asked me if I could give any indications of such appointments and offices as might be necessary. It may be true that such an appointment as the membership of the International Commission for the Free Port might fall under this. But my impression is, from conversations we had while the Bill was in draft, that our existing powers satisfy that, and, in fact, I do not anticipate we will have to make any appointments or offices under this Bill.
The only subjects about which I know are those to which I have already drawn the attention of the House: the rights relating to properties of British subjects, and of Allied nationalities; the rights of ex-enemy subjects to property in this country which, for one reason or another, have been in suspense; and the restitution of contractual and other rights, 1595 relating to such matters as patents. These are the only subjects which we contemplate at this time. Therefore, while I promise that I will, of course, consider what could be done, I am reluctant to agree that I should recommend that the Government should amend this Clause to bring in an affirmative check. But this much I think I ought to recommend to the Government, in view of the very serious argument offered by the senior Burgess for Cambridge University and the hon. Member for Northwich (Mr. J. Foster), who made the point about the nationality of former British women married to such ex-enemy aliens as Hungarians. We will consider that point, and I will be delighted to accept the proper Amendment about the comma brought to my notice by the hon. Member for Cambridge University and insert it in the first page of the Bill.
I should be rather offhand if I did not listen to the arguments offered in support of the fact that we may bring about substantial changes to British law. I hope, even though my membership of this House is still very limited, I will never disregard the contributions made even when they come from the Opposition. Therefore, while I would not recommend to the Government that we should offer an affirmative check, I think I should recommend that if any order seems substantially to affect existing British law, or if it is suggested to us from the Opposition that such a substantial change may be effected, it should be up to the Government to afford full opportunity for Debate, and I have little doubt that the Government will adopt that view. Those I think are all the substantial legal points that were put to me.
Turning now—I have tried to group the subjects—to points relating to the operation of the Bill, may I say that the Danubian Conference about which I was asked, the Conciliation Commission, the appointment of a representative to the International Free Port Commission, and the exchange of Czech and Hungarian populations, are all subjects upon which no action is called for until the Treaties are ratified. There is therefore nothing I can say on them at this time, except that we have not yet selected a United Kingdom representative for the Free Port Commission about which I was asked by the hon. and gallant 1596 Member for Windsor (Major Mott-Radclyffe). That cannot take place until the governor has been appointed, and I think it not inappropriate to remind the House that the governor is appointed by the Security Council. We are getting near the time when we hope that the governor will have much work to do, and, I therefore trust that the Security Council and the appropriate offices of the United Nations will quickly find time to discuss the subject and make an appointment.
Then there were a number of questions relating to assets and currencies. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel Hutchison) drew our attention to difficulties in costing between Italy and Britain at present. The solution of course is the one to which he refers; once the Treaty is ratified, Italy can adhere to Bretton Woods and these matters will then he adjusted. There were questions about Italian assets in Britain from hon. Gentlemen opposite, including the hon. and gallant Member for Windsor, whose speech was, I thought, a most balanced and helpful one. I have a little difficulty in saying much about this; conversations which have been going on with the Italian financial delegation are not yet concluded—indeed, I hope to take part in a further meeting at 5 o'clock this afternoon—and I think it would not be inaccurate to say that progress has been made and that both sides have displayed a tolerant and fairly generous attitude. Political difficulties as well as economic ones are involved in this question, and the economic ones have meant that we could not be as generous as we might have been in other circumstances, but I have high hopes that a satisfactory arrangement will be made in the near future.
I was also asked about the Italian warships. It is true that these conversations are advancing and that they are not so very far from conclusion, but the House will I am sure understand that it would be highly inappropriate for me to give any specific details about those conversations in the meantime. Then I was asked by two speakers about allied property in Roumania, particularly by the hon. Gentleman who led for the other side. I think there is hardly time to go into details about Article 24, to which reference was made. It is true that that Article does not give us everything we wanted in relation to the protection and restitution of the property of British individuals and 1597 corporations in Roumania, but I think it can be contended that it gave us a substantial degree of satisfaction. The hon. Gentleman, when he questioned me on this subject, was very delicate and very appreciative of our difficulties and I am grateful, but I imagine that what he was really referring to was the difficulty about fixing prices in relation to British property which has been and is still being disposed of. I think the most I can say is that we pressed very hard for the conciliation machinery, which I think comes under Article 33, and it is not an unsatisfactory position. Perhaps the procedure there would take a good deal of time but it is a safeguard which goes a long way to meet our difficulty.
I made a note at the time the light hon. Gentleman was speaking, but I sometimes have difficulty with my own writing. It is the Article which provides for a reference to a commission, then to the Council of Ambassadors, and then, if satisfaction is not secured, to an arbiter to be appointed by the Secretary-General.
Thank you. Then there is the question of the withdrawal of Soviet troops. Articles 21 and 22 of the Treaty govern this matter, and provide that Soviet troops will be withdrawn within co days, except for line of communication troops. I think that some injustice was done here by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Windsor in his criticism of the Soviet Union. I dare say it is quite true that the shortest route between Vienna and the Soviet territory is through Czechoslovakia, but it is quite understandable that the Soviet Union, which would be moving much bulk traffic, would want to take advantage of the Danube. I do not think that is unfair at all. However, the Secretary of State has not at any time sought to hide his anxiety to get all troops, not only Soviet troops, out of those territories, and in Moscow at present His Majesty's Government are urging that the Austrian Treaty should be concluded as speedily as possible. That is the only governing clause; once the Treaty is ratified, it is provided that Soviet troops shall be withdrawn 1598 except for line of communication troops, and no one has any right to doubt that that provision will be followed as soon as the Treaty is ratified.
§ Major Mott-Radclyffe
Could the right hon. Gentleman give the House any information about how many Soviet troops are occupied in guarding the line of communication?
I regret that I cannot do so without notice, but I think I ought to add that when we made an examination some little time ago, following a slightly controversial affirmation from the benches opposite, we were not dissatisfied that there was any unreasonable amount of troops involved.
On the question of the demilitarisation of the Greek-Bulgarian frontier, this Clause does not become operative until after the ratification of the Treaty. I meant to say much earlier that I think that the hon. Member for Queen's University was quite just when he accused us of discourteous and unthoughtful conduct in not providing maps to go along with the Treaties and I will see what can be done to remedy that. Anyone who has looked at this problem even without having travelled there—and I have not been in that quarter—will recognise that the demilitarisation Clause is not a very great advance, and the more one reads it the less substance one can find in it. It only provides in time, that there shall be no military emplacement from which artillery can be directed into Greece. If incursions and trouble are to be prevented on this frontier, then international action of some kind will be needed, and His Majesty's Government hope fervently that the United Nations Commission will make some recommendation towards that end. I was asked how far that work had proceeded. I understand that the Commission are very near the point where they will begin drafting but when they will complete that drafting I cannot say.
The exchange of nationals between Italy and Yugoslavia is a subject which has concerned Members on all sides of the House. May I say very firmly that the Clause in the Treaty refers only to the surrender of persons against whom a prima facie case has been established. As signatories to the Treaty, at Paris, we made it quite plain that we would only yield to the most literal interpretation of that Clause. As for the rest of those who 1599 comprise the great bulk of these people, His Majesty's Government have been most conscious of their obligations and will not seek to escape from them. I was asked about the Commission headed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Lancaster (Brigadier Maclean). Progress there has not been unsubstantial, and we hope shortly to be able to place before the affected peoples and the affected Governments what I think are very reasonable proposals which will mean that these Yugoslavs are not in any danger at all. Perhaps the House will not press me too hard for details. I am not seeking to escape revealing the details, but I plead that as we are primarily concerned with those people, I should not be pressed too hard for them.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I would not for the world endeavour to embarrass the right hon. Gentleman who is being so very helpful. I think he is doing his best for us, and if he cannot answer this question I shall not be hurt. The question of which I am a little afraid is this: Is there a risk that the ratification of these Treaties will make it more difficult for Italy, e.g., to help all the persons who may be claimed by some other Government—for example, Yugoslavia—as their nationals? Are we going to make it more difficult for His Majesty's Government to hold up the hands of the Italian Government by letting these Treaties go? If so, perhaps we ought to do it, but I think we ought to be conscious of it. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that that question should not be put at such short notice, I shall quite understand, but if he can give us an answer I shall be grateful.
I think that that is a fair question and I think I can answer it. In our opinion, the ratification of the Treaty would not add to the legal embarrassment of the Italian Government. Our interpretation is that the Clause is so narrowly drawn that only the people who are actual criminals or collaborators can be cited under it. On the other hand, I agree that while the legal position may be very clear, the political position of this Italian Government might be difficult, and in our proposals we have not lost sight of the political difficulties of the Italian Government in such a situation and, much more important, the very real dangers that might be visited upon some of these Yugo- 1600 slays as a result of the political difficulties of the Italian Government. I hope that, with good will on the part of the other Government concerned, we may find a satisfactory way out of it. I repeat that we are not seeking any excuse. We have not lost sight of our obligation towards these people. nor will we seek to escape from it.
The Debate opened with quite a fierce but very reasonable discussion as to how real were the entities affected by the Treaty. I think this is an important political question, and I think that I ought to say I was a little puzzled by one hon. Member referring to four Powers. I agree with every speaker who has referred to the great nobility, dignity and sense of justice which the Finnish Government have brought to the discharge of their obligations. It is well known that His Majesty's Government are anxious to help them in their difficulties and perhaps at this stage I could say to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack) that it is equally known that His Majesty's Government are anxious to extend their trading relations, on conditions of equity, to all nations in Europe and we are not discriminating in any way. There may not be any doubt about the valid titles of the Finnish, Italian or Hungarian Governments, but it is true that we have never been satisfied with the title of the Roumanian or Bulgarian Governments and His Majesty's Government have made that plain, but as the hon. and gallant Member for Windsor asks, what is suggested? Are we not to have any relations, or are we to withdraw our representatives? That is not the way, but we must use the best instruments which lie to our hands in the hope that conditions and titles in these Governments will improve, and in the hope that the conditions relating to human rights, as clearly laid down inside the Treaties, will be increasingly observed.
We were asked upon which principle, it there was a principle, we had approached reparations. We did take a principle to the process. We tried to assess claims, and we tried to secure that where harm had been done reparations should be made, but I would be thoroughly dishonest if I pretended that we managed to sustain that principle during all the meetings. We did not. Horse trading went on throughout the whole business. I hope 1601 an examination of the Treaties will persuade the House that we did not lose sight of our principles in this business, and that is one of the reasons why the difference in our treatment of reparations can be distinguished. At all stages, we we made it plain that we thought reparations were being pitched too high, but certainly reparations were fixed at the time of the Armistice. Though we might have delayed the conclusion of the Treaties by a continuing process, we would not have been assisting the process by which machinery and materials of war were already being taken away as part of reparations. Therefore, while we sought at every stage to modify the reparations, we felt that despite these very clear improvements, we had better proceed as quickly as possible towards the most satisfactory treaty that we could get.
Perhaps the most direct, and certainly the most sincere, speech in the Debate was that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith). He had one substantial misconception. He seemed to think that such reparations as had been agreed upon inside the Italian Treaty were being met at the cost of the British taxpayer and, I thought he said, the American taxpayer. That is not so. These two countries said from the beginning that reparations would be very limited if we were to depend upon the resources of the Italian nation. We put forward a principle, which has been substantially observed, that reparations will only accrue by the increased value given by Italian labour to raw materials supplied by the claimant countries. I am trying to condense my remarks and I hope it is clear what that means. It means that the Soviet put in materials, Italy does work upon them, and reparations are taken from current production in that fashion. The hon. Gentleman went further and recalled, quite properly, the substantial injury that we had suffered at Italy's hands. He asked, why should we not exact reparations from Italy? The answer is a nasty one. It is because reparations are not there.
When we opened this Debate the hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Cambridge University, quite kindly, referred to my assumption that he had read the Parliamentary Debates. I am fairly certain that he has. It is a safeguard which most of us take. They were very 1602 interesting Debates. He will find there a savage speech—not nearly such a good and sincere one as was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke—upon the subject of reparations at the end of the last war. This country then made great mistakes on this subject. I hope that we have escaped from making similar mistakes this time. I suspect that some of the other belligerents have not escaped. I hope I am wrong in my anticipation, but I think that many of the reparation Clauses will prove pretty empty satisfaction to the countries concerned. At any rate, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke will agree—in fact he has said so in this House—that if vengeance means that we are to visit a low standard upon someone else, no country has any right to expect that they will escape the consequences, for their own people, of imposing that standard. That is true in Italy. None of us will seek to excuse the faults of Italy but none of us can pretend that the economic condition of Italy is something which does not have its consequence for us. Therefore, we thought that we brought a sense of realism to that Treaty in our attitude towards Italian reparations. We were not, in our generosity, unmindful of our own needs, both politically and economically. As long as we can in consonance with security reasons secure the restoration of sound economies, we will seek to do these things, as we did seek to do these things in the Treaties from which the necessity for this will arise.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Michael Stewart.]