British Note to Germany.
German Attack on Poland.
Sir Archibald Sinclair (Caithness and Sutherland)
The Prime Minister has spoken this afternoon almost the gravest words that a statesman can utter. He has spoken not only for himself and for his party, and not only for the Government of which he is the head, but for the nation as a whole; and my hon. Friends and I support him in the stand which he is now taking. The issue we are debating this afternoon is that of peace or war, the gravest that can come before Parliament; but we are not starting a war. In the height of our controversies last year, when many of us were strongly criticising the Prime Minister's policy and methods, I not only made it clear that I did not doubt, but I paid a positive tribute to, the Prime Minister's unsparing devotion to the cause of peace. During recent weeks the Government have left nothing undone to contribute towards a freely negotiated and peaceful settlement of Germany's claims on Poland. It was not Britain, it was not France, it was not Poland that refused to come to the table to negotiate; it was Herr Hitler.
It is now abundantly clear that the war started not this morning in Poland, but three years ago with the occupation of the Rhineland, the war to establish the domination of Nazi Germany in Europe and in the world, the war in which successive, and temporarily successful, moves have been played in Spain, Austria, Czecho-Slovakia and, last of all, in Russia. Every move has strengthened the forces of aggression and weakened those of law, reason, negotiation and peace. Now, if Poland were to be obliterated, not for the first time, from the map of Europe, Nazi denomination would be established, directly or indirectly, over every country in Europe East of the Rhine, its resources would be strengthened by theirs, and France and Britain would be left alone either to receive its onslaught or to submit to the extinction of liberty in Europe. I am not going to take up the time of the House in discussing what the Prime Minister himself refrained from discussing, the terms of the German broadcast last night. Suffice it to say that if a powerful nation is to be allowed to order a weaker nation to send to its capital city a plenipotentiary, empowered to discuss and conclude a settlement of a dispute on terms of which its own government is in ignorance, that is government by force and ultimatum; and when such things are happening—and, as the Prime Minister said this afternoon, so long as the Nazi government exists in Germany—there can be no freedom, order or peace in Europe.
Now, vigorous action must be taken by us, in conjunction with our Allies, to sustain the common cause of freedom. It is essential, therefore, that ample powers should be given to the Government, and therefore my hon. Friends and I will support the Bills which have been introduced into the House today. It is also essential that an instrument of government should be created, free enough from the routine work of administration to plan ahead and strong enough to act vigorously and swiftly. It is necessary that we should make the best use of those great resources of man-power and material which we have at our disposal. While it was in one respect gratifying that the Prime Minister was able to tell us that there were so many men volunteering that the fighting Services had as many as they could at the present time handle, it is very important that those fighting Services should be themselves in a position to handle increasing numbers as quickly as possible. Hence, the necessity for a War Cabinet.
Let us, too, in this solemn moment set the goal of our endeavour clearly before us: not the aggrandisement of our country and Empire, not merely the defeat of Nazi tyranny. Tyranny has been defeated before, aggression has been defeated before, dictatorship has been defeated before; and it has sprung up again. Let us keep before us the necessity for constructive effort, for the creation in Europe of that new order which, before the emergence of National Socialism in Germany, we were beginning slowly, with many setbacks, but on the whole not unsuccessfully, to build, an order based not on the sanctions of power politics but on the moral law, in which freedom, justice and equality of economic opportunity will be guaranteed to nations great and small alike.