Oral Answers to Questions — Greece (Wheat Shipment).

– in the House of Commons on 27th January 1942.

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Photo of Sir Arnold Gridley Sir Arnold Gridley , Stockport

asked the Minister of Economic Warfare whether he can make any statement regarding the possibility of facilitating the supply of foodstuffs to the starving people of our Ally, Greece; and whether, in view of the urgency of this matter, immediate steps to relieve the prevalent starvation can be taken?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

As the House is aware, His Majesty's Government have always refused to allow foodstuffs to be shipped through the blockade and thus to relieve the enemy of his legal and moral responsibility for feeding the peoples whom he has enslaved. This general policy, which is also the policy of the United States Government, remains unchanged. Nevertheless, His Majesty's Government and the United States Government have viewed with increasing dismay the appalling conditions in Greece. Despite their undoubted ability to do so, the German Government have done practically nothing to meet the situation created by the pillage and extortion of their armies in the spring of 1941. They have shown themselves quite indifferent to the fate of the Greek population, no doubt because the industrial resources of Greece are too small to be of any value to the German war machine.

His Majesty's Government and the United States Government are accordingly prepared to authorise a single shipment of 8,000 tons of wheat to Greece, to be applied, under the auspices of the International Red Cross, in relief of the present emergency. While we shall do our utmost to expedite this shipment, I should warn the House that besides arranging for the supply of wheat it may take some little time to arrange shipping and the necessary safe conduct from the enemy. This is in addition to the permitted shipment from Turkey of foodstuffs of a type which Turkey does not import. His Majesty's Government and the United States Government nevertheless continue to maintain in the most categorical manner that it is incumbent upon the enemy to feed the countries occupied by him, and their general policy in this respect remains unaffected by the exception which it has been found necessary to make in the special circumstances now prevailing in Greece.

Photo of Miss Eleanor Rathbone Miss Eleanor Rathbone , Combined English Universities

Can my right hon. Friend say whether it has been estimated for how many, and for how long, the shipment promised will provide?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

That, of course, depends upon what other resources are available, the facilities for distribution and so forth, but it is a contribution which we have thought it right to make in the exceptional circumstances of the moment.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

Can my right hon. Friend say what guarantee there is that this wheat will not be pillaged by the Germans?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

There is no guarantee, nor would we pay any attention to any guarantee given by the Germans. In this case we are running a risk—deliberately running a risk—in view of the appalling conditions created by the Germans in Greece.

Photo of Mr Thomas Harvey Mr Thomas Harvey , Combined English Universities

Cannot this wheat be distributed under the control of the International Red Cross?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

My hon. Friend will see that it is to be distributed under the auspices of the International Red Cross, but that is not, in my view, a complete guarantee that the food will not be stolen by the Germans.