Oral Answers to Questions — Enemy-Occupied Countries (Food Supplies)

– in the House of Commons on 10th February 1942.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

asked the Minister of Economic Warfare whether the Greek Government has expressed satisfaction with the action of His Majesty's Government respecting food supplies for the Greek people; what representations he has received from other Governments respecting the supply of foodstuffs and other human necessities; and whether he has any further information respecting the food situation in the German-occupied areas of Europe?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

The Greek Government naturally welcomed the action of His Majesty's Government in arranging for a shipment of wheat to Greece, though neither they nor we suppose that this action in itself can be a final remedy for the situation created in Greece by systematic pillage. Both I and the officers of my Ministry are in constant touch with the Governments of other countries respecting the supply of foodstuffs and other necessities in German-occupied Europe, but my hon. Friend will hardly expect me to reveal the nature of the communications that have passed between us. As regards the third part of the Question, the general aim of German policy in occupied Europe has been to reduce the population to a bare subsistence ration, substantially less than that available for the German people themselves. Exportable surpluses are removed to Germany, though in certain industrial areas which are naturally deficient in food production and contain factories which are harnessed to the German war machine, some foodstuffs have been imported. It is therefore broadly true to say that the urban population throughout the occupied territorities are living at a level which is below, and in some areas substantially below, peace-time standards. But much worse conditions prevail in Greece, in some parts of Poland, and in German-occupied Russia, where it becomes clearer every day that famine is an instrument of German policy.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

With respect to Greece, is the Minister in constant touch with the Greek Government, with a view to the people being fed?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

Yes, Sir, I am frequently in contact, through my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, with the Greek Government.

Miss Rathbone:

Is the Minister aware of the feeling among the public that, by reason of its excessive sufferings over those of other occupied countries, and for other reasons, Greece stands in a class by itself, and that the public are anxious to be assured that the very utmost possible, even to the taking of risks, should be done, to feed the Greek people?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

The hon. Lady knows that it is because His Majesty's Government regard Greece as, in some respects, exceptional, that we have made exceptional provision already, and that exceptional concessions have been made in opening the blockade in respect of shipping, as I announced recently.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Walkden Mr Evelyn Walkden , Doncaster

Is the Minister aware that almost every local newspaper is, at the moment, carrying letters from people who were former members of the Peace Pledge Union, and others who have been unfriendly to the national war effort, and is it not doing harm to the nation to keep on preaching such nonsense in local papers?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

I myself pay no heed at all to anything emanating from the Peace Pledge Union.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Walkden Mr Evelyn Walkden , Doncaster

asked the Minister of Economic Warfare whether he has any reliable information as to the manner in which the Germans and Italians have carried out their legal and moral responsibility to feed the Greeks?

Photo of Mr Dingle Foot Mr Dingle Foot , Dundee

I have some reason to believe that in the autumn of last year the Germans sent to Greece some sugar of Czecho-Slovak origin, and a small amount of cereals taken from Yugoslavia. Otherwise I have been unable to obtain the slightest confirmation of German statements that they have sent large supplies to the Greek people. The Italians have on at least three occasions sent consignments of foodstuffs, but my information is that two of these were seized by the Germans on arrival. By contrast the record of the enemy in Greece, and more particularly of the Germans, has been one of pillage and extortion. The German invading army supported itself wholly by requisitions, which continued certainly until November. In addition, the Germans brought with them printing-presses, with which they printed special notes which were issued freely to their soldiers; the rate of exchange against the drachma was fixed; shopkeepers were obliged to accept the notes and to keep their shops open; the soldiers bought everything in sight, and what they did not consume they sent home in parcels to Germany. The occupying authorities also organised on a large scale the export of foodstuffs to Germany, and the success of their efforts can be judged from the fact that olive oil, of which Greece has normally a large export surplus, virtually disappeared from the home market in the summer. I have also received reports showing that foodstuffs have been sent from Greece to the Axis armies in Libya, and that in some cases, Greek foodstuffs seized in excess of local military needs, were thrown into the sea rather than that they should fall into the hands of the Greek people.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Walkden Mr Evelyn Walkden , Doncaster

Will the hon. Gentleman arrange to have the statement he has made circulated to every one of the provincial newspapers for the purpose of answering some of the mischievous letters which are now appearing in the newspapers from inspired sources?

Photo of Mr Dingle Foot Mr Dingle Foot , Dundee

I hope this statement will receive the widest publicity to show where responsibility lies for the state of affairs in Greece.