– in the House of Commons on 20th April 1944.
I beg to move,
That the United Kingdom should do its utmost by close co-operation and regard for the different points of view of the nations of the Commonwealth to preserve in time of peace the unity of purpose and sentiment which has held them together in time of war.
The Motion standing in my name and those of my right hon. Friends and other hon. Members is couched in temperate and conciliatory language. It will excite no violent controversy. It will, generally speaking, be acceptable in all quarters of the House. I learn on unimpeachable authority that it may even prove agreeable to the Government. It is desirable in this matter to speak with the utmost candour. I do not approach this subject in any spirit of mawkish sentiment, but, recognis-
ing the practical difficulties, seek to promote the utmost co-operation in all quarters of the Empire on a basis of reality and having regard to the interests of all concerned. But, Sir, to promote Empire co-operation is not our final aim. We have greater and finer aims in view. It is our purpose, through and by Empire co-operation, to make valuable and practical contributions to an enduring world peace, to create appropriate means of defence against possible aggression, to utilise adequately the vast resources of the Empire, and above all, for this is our primary purpose, to raise the standard of life for all elements within the Empire, whether they are black or white.
This Motion should not excite any undue hostility among other nations. It has become fashionable in certain quarters to indulge in sneers at the British Empire. I readily admit that in the past mistakes were made. Our treatment of native peoples was not without blemish. Perhaps here and there our administration was far from perfect. But it does not lie in the mouths of other nations and other peoples to speak in derogatory terms of our administration until they put their own houses in order. We have within the British Commonwealth of Nations a native problem. The United States of America, with the greatest respect, has a negro problem. And in the sphere of the acquisition of territory, a matter not unfamiliar to those who have studied this problem, even our friends of Soviet Russia, for sound and proper purposes, in order to safeguard themselves against possible aggression in the future, have sought to exercise, I shall not put it higher than this, a protectorate over other territories. I propose to speak bluntly, but I hope with courtesy, to the peoples of the United States of America and elsewhere. I occasionally have found myself in disagreement with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but I am in hearty accord with the view he expressed some time ago on the suggested liquidation of the Empire. Sir, we have no intention, any one of us, of throwing the British Commonwealth of Nations overboard in order to satisfy a section of the American Press, or indeed anyone else.
We must readily admit, much as we deplore the fact, that Empire ties were in process of weakening before the war. The Dominions regarded themselves, and quite properly within the Statute of Westminster, as self-contained units exercising complete independence. That is a fact that all of us recognise. Over and above that, in the sphere of trade and commerce, we had to consider the rise and expansion of secondary industries in the Dominion countries. But when the war emerged all those ambitions, those weaknesses, those resolutions of independence and sovereignty were set aside, and we discovered that those Dominion countries, indeed, all parts of the Empire, willingly, with enthusiasm, almost with intense passion, came to the rescue of the Motherland and themselves against the common aggressor. When the war emerged Canada—I use this merely as an illustration—did not plead inability to enter hostilities on the ground of her proximity to the United States of America—her geographical position, her economic associations. Canada did not wait until America entered the war, did not wait for the advent of Pearl Harbour. Canada set aside all those economic and geographical considerations and leapt with intensity into the conflict. The same can be said truly and freely of all the Dominions.
What do those facts and that attitude demonstrate? That independence and sovereignty were matters upon which too much reliance could not be placed, that sovereignty was an empty phrase, and that to regard it exclusively as the basis of national life might prove disastrous. And if the war was necessary in order to demonstrate interdependence and in part the renunciation of sovereignty, in my judgment, and it is implicit in the terms of this Motion, it is important to retain them for the purposes of peace.
We have been informed that shortly there is to be a conference of Dominion Prime Ministers in London, and we welcome such a conference, and so far as they can hon. Members seek to offer some guidance. Indeed, that is the purpose of this Debate. I understand that the Government will welcome such proposals as hon. Members can make. It is understood that the subject of war organisation will be under review, and on that matter I propose to say nothing beyond this: it is as important to vanquish the enemy in the Pacific as it is to destroy the enemy in Europe. This is total war. We cannot engage in hostilities on a piecemeal basis, and it would afford poor consolation to our friends in Australia and New Zealand if, having vanquished the enemy in Europe, they found themselves in a precarious plight because we had not taken adequate steps for their protection in that theatre of war. Beyond that it is not for me to offer any opinion. I am but an amateur strategist, quite unlike the professionals opposite, and therefore quite incompetent to make any suggestion in that sphere. But machinery has been created for the purpose of co-ordinating Empire war policy in all theatres of war. That is a simple fact, it is indisputable. All I say about it is this. So far as I am able to judge on the facts before me, if more or less the machinery created for the purpose of co-ordinating the Empire war effort is regarded as effective and satisfactory, it should be retained for the social, cultural, political and economic purposes we envisage for after the war. It would be, in my judgment, disastrous if we abandoned a tithe of that machinery, that organisation, when the war came to its conclusion.
I recognise that there are political difficulties that have been referred to repeatedly in the course of Debates on Dominion and Empire Affairs. They have been referred to by our friends Lord Halifax and various High Commissioners and Dominion Prime Ministers, and reference has been made to those difficulties by those who are not friends of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Let us appreciate the difficulties, the question, for example, of whether the Dominions are prepared to renounce any of their sovereignty. Let me make it clear beyond any possibility of doubt that here is nothing in my mind, and I gather nothing in the minds of my hon. and right ion. Friends, which suggests the possibility of any domination by this country ever the Dominions. Indeed, the call to loser Empire co-ordination did not come from us. In recent times it emanated from Australia, from the forthright and in my udgment realistic utterances of Mr. Curtin, endorsed—I have taken great gains to ensure authenticity in this natter—by all the Prime Ministers. Let he say that even Mr. Mackenzie King in he course of this week, in spite of certain last pronouncements and certain allegaions that have emerged from those proouncements, endorses the view expressed by Mr. John Bracken, the Leader of the progressive Conservative Party in Canada, which, in effect, follows the line that was taken by Mr. Curtin himself.
Therefore, there can be no question of domination by the Motherland in a free, independent and co-operative Commonwealth such as we envisage, which will emerge and will not be based on population alone. There is something more important than population, something more important than economic prestige, underlying the basis of the British Commonwealth. All parties must exercise rights, privileges, and influence in relation to the affairs of the Empire as a whole, of course reserving to themselves those autonomous privileges which, in fact, also belong to the States of the United States of America or the States of Soviet Russia. With that qualification, it appears to me that a renunciation of sovereignty, in part at least, does not, at any rate, indicate the desire of any member of the Dominion countries—ourselves or any other—to exercise anything in the nature of domination.
It was suggested by Mr. Curtin that there should be an Imperial Conference sitting regularly and alternately sitting in this country, Canada, Australia, as the case may be. That was suggested, of course, a long time ago, but rejected on geographical grounds. But those geographical grounds no longer apply. Air transport has dissipated that argument completely. As we know, Australia is within measurable air distance from this country and, therefore, the physical difficulties cannot be advanced to militate against the possibility of holding a regular Imperial Conference. Whether that Conference is to be advisory, consultative, deliberative, or executive is a matter for consideration and discussion, and it may well be found that no rigid, hidebound organisation is required to regiment every member of the British Commonwealth, but that a loose, free association, based upon the proper spirit and temper such as is appropriate to the circumstances we envisage for the future, can perform the functions we have in view. Be that as it may, it is a matter of controversy for the Dominion countries, in conference, to decide.
I now come to what I regard as the crux of the whole problem. Political problems, such as are envisaged in the forthcoming consultations and are associated with this Empire question, and, indeed, political problems of all kinds, can only be solved on the basis of an appreciation of economic realities. I want the House to consider, with me, these economic realities. I ventured to cross swords very humbly with General Smuts, who declared that after this war we should be a poor country. Of course we shall be a poor country, of course our plight will be precarious, of course we shall have to reduce the standard of life of our people, and, of course, we shall become a second-rate, or even a third-or fourth-rate Power unless we take appropriate steps to prevent it.
We have to consider what our position is. No wishful thinking, no relying on our traditions, great as they are—and our resources while not inexhaustible are, nevertheless, very considerable—and no relying on our prestige in the world, which diminishes as the prestige of all countries and Empires diminishes as their economic resources and populations dwindle, will help us. We have to face the facts and unless this House and, indeed, the members of the British Commonwealth, face the facts realistically and not on the basis of sentiment or cousinly ties—all very important indeed, but not realistic—unless they face the facts on the basis of enlightened self-interest, of what is best for ourselves, and, indeed, what is best for the world, not only will our plight be precarious, but the plight of the Dominion countries will be more precarious still. Not even Canada, and I say so with the greatest respect in spite of her vast resources and proximity to the United States, in spite of trade associations, can afford to ignore the facts, even if there are elements in Canada who look forward to the time, 20 or 30 years hence, when Canada will be the greatest country in the world.
Let us consider the fact that the Dominion countries can only survive by selling their primary products. That is a simple explanation of the facts. Australia must dispose of her wool, which is her largest export, and South Africa must dispose of her gold, which is her primary product. Whether anybody wants it or not, South Africa wants to dispose of it. It is a problem, but, nevertheless, there it is. But in order to dispose of their primary products, there must be markets to absorb them. Where are those markets? That is the problem. Markets do not emerge simply because you are anxious to export;
markets only emerge if you assist in creating them, and, having created them, maintain them. In addition, the Dominion countries have created in the past, as I have already observed, secondary industries. There are apprehensions in our own country that the creation of these secondary industries may conflict with our own economic ambitions. I do not believe that the creation of secondary industries in the Dominions can harm this country unless the creation and development of those industries are accompanied by stagnation as regards population and the failure to develop resources. Industries can be created anywhere, but unless there is a population ready to absorb their products, and unless there is a constant development of resources raising the standard of life, obviously there must be stagnation, which is not good for anybody.
Let us look at the asset side of the picture. There are vast resources within the British Commonwealth of Nations wholly undeveloped. This is said in such a trite fashion that I beg hon. Members to forgive me, but what is the good of embellishing it with rhetoric? It is a simple statement of fact, and I know that some hon. Members are more conversant with the subject than I am. There is something more. There is a British market still, perhaps—I hope people in other countries will forgive the expression—one of the most important bargaining factors in relation to trade and commerce. I speak quite frankly and without any prejudice on the subject of fiscal policy. I think there has been too much talk of fiscal policy in the past and too little recognition of what was best for the country as a whole. But I say that even with these vast resources, unless we develop them and unless we seek by their development and their expansion to minister to the needs of the people, obviously, we are likely to be in a worse position than before.
Let us look at our own position. Before the war there was a decline in our import and export position. After the war we shall have, for the purpose of the revival of our industrial life, to import almost twice as much as we did before the war, and, by the same reckoning, we shall have to export twice as much, and perhaps two and a half times as much. Where shall we look for this increased trade? Where are the markets? I do not object to the promotion of an Anglo-American trade agreement. Not at all. We had an Anglo-American trade agreement before the war. It is nothing new, and there is nothing unfamiliar in the process. It is perfectly true that the Anglo-American trade agreement did not prove very beneficial to this country, although we pretended it was. I do not object to agreements if they prove beneficial; that is the point. Does anyone suppose that after the war the American market will expand so liberally, so adequately, as to enable us to find a repository for our exports? Does anyone imagine that as a result of an Anglo-American trade agreement we shall be able to export more than £40,000,000 worth of goods annually, which is pretty much what we exported before the war to the United States, while we imported £100,000,000 worth from that country? By all means have a trade agreement with the United States, but let us look elsewhere if we are seeking for markets to absorb our products. And there is nothing exclusive in this or hostile to other nations.
There is, within the Empire, a vast market, a good-will market. Let us avail ourselves of the possibilities inherent in those facts. In addition, we have to recognise this possibility. America, during the war, has developed her resources with amazing efficiency. They have reached almost maximum production. But they will discover, after the war, that a problem will emerge of how to dispose of their surplus products. Where are they to find markets? In our markets and by entering into agreements, one by one, with the Dominion countries to their disadvantage and, subsequently, to the disadvantage of us all? That would be unwise. There are elements in the United States who would like to have individual agreements with each of the Empire countries. I regard that as disastrous for ourselves and disastrous for the Dominion countries. Moreover, in the American market, unless they can raise the standard of life in order to coincide with their increased production, we shall discover that there is no market for us in that country.
These are the facts that we must recognise. I approach this Empire problem in order to ascertain whether it is possible, by a process of expansion and co-opera- tion, to find markets for our goods, and at the same time discover markets throughout the Empire, including the Colonies, for the Dominion countries. That is the proposal I am putting before the House and which, I hope, will be discussed at the forthcoming Conference. Surely there is nothing objectionable in seeking to promote increased trade within the Empire. Is that objectionable to the United States, or Soviet Russia, or China or the United Nations as a whole? Surely it cannot be if it is to the advantage of our people.
Now I come to the question of Colonial development, and I am bound to speak plainly to the Government in this regard. The Colonies are not being developed in an economic sense as they ought to be. We are not spending enough money on Colonial development. The amount of money we have set aside for Colonial development is handed out in the most meagre and parsimonious fashion. It is suggested there are difficulties in the way, difficulties about labour and the like. When we know that there are thousands of West Indian labourers who have been transferred to the United States to engage in useful employment there, though they might very well have been employed in the West Indies if we had developed a satisfactory Colonial economic policy, we must look at the picture in another way. I hope that that matter will be considered by the Government, and not only by the Government but by the Conference that is shortly to meet.
In relation to Colonial development—and this is a matter which may lead to controversy—there is a strong case for Empire collaboration, particularly in the economic sphere, for bringing the whole of the Empire countries into the picture and allowing them to exercise something in the nature of supervision, certainly in the sphere of expansion and development for the whole of the Empire countries, including the Colonies. I have not in mind the regional organisation which has been referred to in relation to South Africa. Indeed, I deplore the possibility of such regional organisation and believe that it will lead to serious difficulty. But the whole of the Dominion countries should have some voice, say, in the economic development of India, which is so desirable, or of the West Indies, or elsewhere. That is a matter that ought to be seriously considered and it certainly accords with my own point of view.
I venture to put before the right hon. Gentleman and the Government certain positive proposals. To begin with, there ought to be established an economic council for the whole of the Empire. There is, of course, the Imperial Advisory Economic Council, but it is a less satisfactory form of organisation, and something much more practical is required. Such an economic council should consider, first of all, an inventory of Empire resources—what the Empire has got at its disposal, raw materials, machinery, land, fertility and all the rest of it. That task should be undertaken almost at once to ascertain really what we possess. It may be that it has already been undertaken and, if so, it would be very useful to have some information on that subject. Secondly, an inquiry conducted by such an economic council should begin not at the end of the war, but now. A beginning should be made now in preparation for the conclusion of hostilities.
There should be an inquiry into the possibilities of expansion in all the Dominion countries, in India particularly, and in our Colonial possessions. In that regard, we ought to take into account the financial implications. If the people of this country do not want a sham Empire, but a real Empire, and if they are heart and soul with those throughout the Empire who are anxious to promote a higher standard of life on the basis of economic expansion, they must be prepared for certain sacrifices, and I would suggest one. We ought to take accumulated national savings and invest a great proportion of them in those Empire countries who need them—some of them do not need them, having large sterling balances—and particularly in the Colonies. It is better to expend these national savings throughout the Empire than to invest them in South American countries, from which, in the long run, we gather very little return. In relation to India I would say--this is all very disconnected but I am trying to put positive proposals before the House—to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India, whose knowledge of this subject is far greater than mine, that the problem that confronts us in India, and which certainly confronts the people of India, is more of an economic than a political problem. What does it matter about Hindus and Moslems, if you can raise the standard of life of 400,000,000 people in that country? If we can raise the standard of life of 400,000,000 in that vast territory, we not only accomplish something worthy and desirable for those people, but we provide extensive markets for ourselves, and indeed, for the whole of the Empire countries.
I sum up by repeating that there is nothing exclusive in what I have suggested in this Motion nor anything hostile to the countries associated with our cause. Nor is there hostility to the United States of America, or Soviet Russia, or any other country. There are problems common to all Empire countries—problems of Defence. Let us make no mistake about it—the Defence problem will be as acute after the war as it is at the present time, and I would observe in passing that, if the Empire countries, 20 years before this war began, had collaborated for the purposes of Defence, it is very doubtful whether this war would have occurred at all. There is a common problem with regard to trade, a subject to which I have already referred, and there is certainly a common problem in relation to living standards. There is much we can do in our own country, and certainly a great deal to do in Dominion countries and a vast amount of work to be done in our Colonies. The question that has to be pondered is, Shall we deal with these common problems independently, that is to say, as far as the Dominions are concerned, or shall we undertake the task in co-operation? To that, the answer must come from the Dominion countries. If they prefer complete independence, they will have taken upon their shoulders a great risk and an immense responsibility. If the answer is in the affirmative, that they prefer co-operation and they recognise that, although there are virtues in independence, some renunciation of sovereignty is to the advantage of the whole Empire and subsequently the whole world, then it will be a step that will profoundly affect not only this country and the Empire, but the world at large.
Finally, in a consideration of the Commonwealth problem, you have to take account of the position in Western Europe. I cannot deal with the matter adequately to-day, but on the subject of migration and on the subject of economic arrangements, for example, we ought to consider the possibility—I recognise that there are practical difficulties in the way, but they are not insurmountable—of effecting some kind of arrangement with the Western European countries, the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, and certainly a free and independent France, which can be dovetailed into an economic Commonwealth policy. It is impossible at this stage to enter into details. Sir Walter Layton recently made a suggestion, against which I enter a strong caveat, that we should only assist in re-Building Europe and that, having done so, we should remain as sponsors. I regard that as disastrous. We are so closely linked up with the European States in trade and culture, in political thought and in our general outlook that we cannot afford to dissociate ourselves entirely from those countries, even to satisfy certain other elements abroad. Our desire, and the purpose of this Motion, is to see that this country, with the Dominion countries in; the closest collaboration possible in the long run, takes it proper place in the leadership of the world. We are not prepared to play second fiddle to any other nation or any other Empire.
I beg to second the Motion.
I hope that the House will permit a comparatively junior Member—indeed a very junior Member, if I adopt the yardstick of the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), for what are 14 years compared with 4o years—to congratulate the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) on the speech which we have just heard. The House knows that the hon. Member always sets himself an extremely high standard, and I am sure they will agree that to-day he has in no way fallen below that standard. Better still, he has made a speech, with nearly every word of which I, as seconder of the Motion, but representing a different party, could agree, and in that way he has done me personally a great service, for which I am much obliged. The experience of this Parliament has shown me on a number of occasions that there is an increasing number of fundamental questions upon which all sides of the House agree. I am rather reminded of the occasions when persons who know even less about American politics than I do, ask me to define the difference between Republicans and Democrats. I scratch my head, refer to some dispute between them on the question of tariffs, and conclude that it must be a matter of outlook. Even such differences do not separate the hon. Member and myself to-day, and consequently it is with some regret that I look forward to the time, in the not too far distant future—it may be this very year—when he and I will be obliged to get up on public platforms and call one another names. All that I can say is, that I would willingly forgo that doubtful pleasure.
It is very gratifying to me, as the Member who had the opportunity of arousing the Dominions Office from their Parliamentary slumber lasting for more than four years, to find that within four months of that time a much more important Debate is taking place on some of the items which I then raised. I hope that the contributions that will be made to-day and tomorrow will be brought to the notice of the Dominion Prime Ministers, when they reach this country, for this is probably one of the occasions when the studied views of Members of more experience than myself, will give a better indication of what the British Parliament and public are thinking on Imperial matters than the studied silence on the subject which we have come to expect from the Government.
Since the Debate in December, there have been three outstanding events in the Imperial sphere. The first was the speech of General Smuts—in many respects the most notable speech of 1943—the second, the Australia-New Zealand Agreement, and the third, the speech of Lord Halifax at Toronto. The first two represent a step forward, in thought and action respectively, along the path of closer Empire collaboration, more particularly in the direction of regionalisation, which has already received the blessing of the British Government. But the Canadian reaction to the third feature came as a grievous disappointment to some of us who had been encouraged by the first two. My purpose to-day is to analyse some of the characteristics which make closer Empire cohesion so difficult, whatever may be its unity in war time, and to see what encouragement can be given to the centripetal forces, to enable them to overcome the centrifugal forces which are inevitable within this unique association of free peoples.
The fundamental proposal of General Smuts's speech—which has tended to be obscured, in the minds of the public at least, by his not very happy references to France—was that the British Empire, let alone Great Britain, can never expect, owing to its political and geographical structure, to be the effective equivalent of the great land masses of Russia and America. Of course, this disparity has been increased by the decline in our naval preponderance which, more than anything else, kept the peace in the 29th century. He, therefore, made certain proposals, to which my hon. Friend opposite addressed himself in the closing passages of his speech, regarding a loose sort of federal union with some of the smaller European democracies. I have not time to-day to examine those proposals. Even if I were so minded, I think those suggestions had better be left on one side, until we have overcome any tendencies towards cleavage within the Empire itself. This appears to be the view of such of those smaller democracies as have made any pronouncements at all on the Smuts proposals. For instance, I think I am right in saying that the spokesman of the Dutch Government said his Government would not care to adopt these proposals without a closer knowledge of the position of the United States. In saying that, he was, of course, reflecting similar Canadian hesitation.
I hope the House will be patient with me for a minute because, to elaborate the argument I want to make, I am obliged to plunge for a moment into political philosophy, and borrow a term from that science which best illustrates what I want to say. The word which comes to my mind is Grossraumordnung, a heavy German expression which puts in one word what we mean when we talk of a political system dominated by a big space, which attracts into its orbit smaller neighbouring Powers. If I might venture to make a translation of that term, I would say "land mass magnetism." Whatever may be the best translation, the fact is that it is likely to become a very severe competitor of the loose-knit organisation known as the British Empire.
What have these land masses got that we have not? First, they are largely self-supporting within their own frontiers, and consequently but little dependent upon vulnerable sea transport. Second, they are compact, for they depend on internal lines of communication, and they ignore the national divisions of the different peoples within their confines. Above all they enjoy a greater feeling of security than their constituent units, for they have the potential, the man-power and the means to make war. The British Empire has few of these advantages, and then only in a very modified form. Not only is it scattered all over the world, but its population and industry are unevenly distributed to the extent that none of its individual units is capable of depending upon itself, with the possible exception of India. But India, politically speaking, is the weakest link in the chain. Indeed, I do not put it beyond the bounds of possibility that if this country were to walk out of India before she is ready for self-government, India would find herself absorbed into the Russian "living space." The result of all this has been a tendency on the part of Australia and New Zealand to look, for a time at least, to the United States in order not to be pushed into the Japanese Grossraum, while recent events in Canada have shown how sensitive that country is on her relations with the United States. I would like to say, in common with the hon. Gentleman opposite, that we must not overlook Canada's special geographical and financial position. Moreover, Canada does not even enjoy one of the principal assets in the hands of the rest of the Empire and much of Europe, the attraction of the sterling area, while the effect of Imperial preference upon her has been to establish American industries within her territory, thus further cementing the particular bonds between those two countries.
With these considerations in mind, I would like to look for a moment at the results of the Halifax speech in Toronto, or such as were reported in this country, because, it has been exceptionally difficult to find out the reactions of all sides. Few English newspapers in these days seem to have space for reporting such events, and at one time practically the only source of information was "The Times." "The Times" correspondent in Ottawa seems to be the most persistent apologist of the Canadian Government it is possible to find. However, it does appear certain—in spite of the later reference made by the hon. Member to Mr.
Mackenzie King—that the official view in Canada is that Lord Halifax's modest proposals would lead to a four-Power grouping of the world upon which, In their opinion, the future peace of the world could not possibly depend, and they would prefer an international system based upon the Moscow declaration of last October. Indeed, Mr. Mackenzie King went so far as to say:
Behind the conception expressed by Lord Halifax and Field Marshal Smuts there lurks the idea of inevitable rivalry between the great Powers. I maintain that such a conception runs counter to the establishment of effective world security.
Here he was referring to the Moscow system.
What are the relevant passages in the Moscow Declaration? Paragraph 4 says that the contracting parties recognise the necessity of establishing at the earliest practicable date a general international organisation based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving States and open to membership by all such States, large or small, for the maintenance of international peace and security. Paragraph 5 says that for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security, pending the re-establishment of law and order and the inauguration of a system of general security, they will consult with each other and—mark these words—as occasion requires, with other members of the United Nations, with a view to joint action on behalf of the Community of Nations. The Dominions were not signatories to this agreement, so they can presumably be brought in on a consultative basis under paragraph 5.
The question I would like to ask is this: Is it seriously suggested that the policy contained in this Declaration, which clearly implies the restoration of the League of Nations, is likely to lead to a more effective system of peace than a closer association of the British Commonwealth of Nations, together, if possible, with the other great Powers? When I reflect on the history of this unhappy institution—the League, not the Empire—I cannot persuade myself that it will do so, however much we may attempt to improve it.
There is, however, another explanation of this difficulty, apart from Canada's special relations with the United States. It was expressed like this in the "Observer" of 6th February.
Every responsible party leader is praying that no conspicuous member of his following will express too vigorous approval of the Halifax suggestions, because this would damage the prospects of acquiring part of the Quebec vote in the next elections.
As far as I can make out, that prayer was readily answered, though it is only true to say that Mr. Bracken, to whom the hon. Member referred, made a speech which was reported yesterday—the first speech I have seen from the other side—which was in approval of the Halifax proposals, but, of course, Mr. Bracken is not a member of the Federal Parliament. So we have to accept the position, it appears to me, that while Canada supports the whole Empire in time of war in a manner beyond praise and beyond value, she may not be prepared to co-operate to the same extent in peace-time unless the Empire can show advantages more attractive than the magnetism of neighbouring land masses.
Now, of course, an overriding condition, which I was glad to hear elaborated by the hon. Member and to which I referred in the last Debate, is a better Defence policy but, of course, that is not an attraction so much as a necessity. But I wish to address myself to six counter-attractions which I believe will contribute towards the unity of the Empire. First, the development and modernisation of Imperial preference. Second, emigration by Britons, and other Europeans who are likely to support the Commonwealth ideal. Third, the reduction of the distance factor. Fourth, the expansion of the sterling area in the economic sphere, if the negotiations taking place at the present time in Washington do not bring about the emergence of a world trading area—the sterling area is a world in itself. Fifth, regionalization in the political sphere. Sixth, the joint development of backward Colonial areas which could be achieved as a result of regionalisation, and as has been foreshadowed in the recent Australia-New Zealand agreement.
I have not the time to elaborate all these points, and I spoke on some of them on the last occasion. As far as emigration is concerned, I would only repeat my conviction that many of the British and Allied troops who have been trained in the different Dominions will desire to return there, and that they are quite probably potentially great supporters of the Com- monwealth ideal—more so than many of those Europeans whose ancestors settled in Canada and South Africa before the British. At the same time emigration is a two-way traffic, and we in this country will, I am perfectly certain, be only too glad to welcome those of our Allies who have served part of their war service in this country who wish to remain here after the war.
I want particularly to express my faith in Empire trade and in Imperial Preference, though I realise trends of improving world trade after the Ottawa Conference do call for a revision in method. I do not want to be drawn into a Free Trade-Tariff Reform argument. I am perfectly well acquainted with the weaknesses in Imperial Preference, though I shall never doubt that it was introduced at a critical time in the history of the Empire and that it contributed very largely to the recovery which ensued. It did that by freeing one large part of the world from the trade barriers which were strangling the rest. Even Professor Hancock, one of the most notable opponents of Imperial Preference, says:
The ship of world economic collaboration certainly seemed to be sinking when the Governments of the British Empire built their own lifeboat, the Ottawa.
When I introduced this subject, I referred to the need for the modernisation of this policy. I mean that it is much more likely that after the war trade will be controlled by quota or by bulk purchase, by or through Governments, than by tariff. That is liable to be much more effective and in all probability more socially desirable. Such methods fit in better with the growth of world trade than the tariff for one reason because they can be dropped more readily. The greatest expression of that growth of world trade immediately before the war was the Anglo-American Trade Agreement of 1939, to which the hon. Member referred, but I rather question the accuracy of his statement, because I think it would be more true to say that that Agreement has not run sufficiently long for it to be given a genuine opportunity of unhindered working.
The reason I mention it is because it was achieved without any obligation to abandon Imperial Preference on many articles on which duties were reduced, but the preference was maintained. In the case of wheat, the duty was abolished altogether, and, if I may be permitted an expression of the obvious, where there is no tariff there can be no preference. But British Empire interests were protected, first by the quota and later by the Wheat Agreement, and such methods as this, which have been very highly developed during the war, appear to me to be the best method of safeguarding Empire trade and will not, I hope, be allowed to die with the peace. I have put the development of Empire trade first on the list because I cannot see that closer collaboration for defence would last unless there was, at the same time, some mutual economic advantage to the various members of the Commonwealth, and, of course, the expansion of trade is absolutely essential if the Dominions are to get the additional populations which they require.
I would like to refer very briefly to the rumours which one hears as to the possibility of a currency and trade agreement being signed with the United States. Indeed, we have got beyond the rumour stage in this matter. The whole subject is noticed at some length in the leading article in this week's "Economist," which discusses Article 7 of the Lend-Lease Agreement, the Article which pleads for greater freedom of trade and for the abandonment of all so-called discriminatory practices. In that article the death of Imperial Preference is clearly forecast, and I regard the whole proposal with the utmost anxiety, because I cannot imagine any greater blow to the unity of the Empire. It is true—and I hope very much that we shall have a reassurance again to-day—that we have been promised on more than one occasion that no agreement of this sort will be ratified without having first been brought to this House. Of course, I do not know whether the Government will treat it as a matter of confidence if they do bring it forward, but I feel Obliged to say, here and now, that I will fight with all my strength against any proposal to sacrifice the substance of Empire trade and Imperial Preference to the shadow of universal cooperation, at least until and unless a state of full employment has been reached and has got beyond the realms of pious hopes. In my support for Imperial Preference I do not want to be thought to be merely supporting the old-fashioned ideas such as the fiddling arrangements we used to have whereby we gave one penny in the pound preference on meat to any Dominion which would give us, in return, TO per cent. preference on spare parts of bicycles. I am thinking on very much wider lines than that, lines which will include the use of such methods as quota and bulk purchases. These methods, it is proposed in Article 7 of the Lend-Lease Agreement, should be abandoned as being discriminatory.
It is quite clear that in times of genuinely prosperous trade there is no need for this or any other weapons. If we were able to buy not only the whole of Australia's wool clip but the whole of the wool of other countries we clearly would not require any special agreement with Australia, and in that regard we can accept the implications of Article 7, always provided that the circumstances are right. But have we, let alone the United States, mastered the slump? Can we really be assured that in future we will never again have to face any trade depressions? Unless we can say with a clear conscience that that is what we truly believe it would be suicide for us to abandon the only really powerful weapon in our armoury and to revert to those evil days—for I must call them evil—before 1932, when this country, which was no longer the world's dominant manufacturer but possessed the most sought after world market was obliged to receive all the world's dumped surpluses while we stood by helplessly because we had no control whatever over our imports. We have received our warning already. In fact, if I may use the characteristic language of the Forces, "We have had it." We must retain these powers and merely look forward to the prospect of not having to use them in times of prosperity.
Another suggestion, to which I attach some importance, is the reduction of the distance factor. However desirably spaced the Empire may be it suffers certain disadvantages, which it is not possible entirely to overcome, as compared with the great land-masses who can enjoy an interchange and movement of their population. If the Empire is to hold together and resist this magnetic attraction, it is essential that the different units should get to know and see something of one another and I therefore propose that ad hoc Committees should be set up, under the authority of the Imperial Conference, con- sisting of members from all the Dominions, to consider air transport, Empire broadcasting, telecommunications and any other means which may literally or scientifically reduce the distances between us. So far as aviation is concerned, a start has already been made.
I have put forward these few proposals because I feel that Imperial sentiment alone cannot prevent each Dominion from being drawn by its practical interests into association with some group larger than itself and that, therefore, some positive, violent stimulus will be required if the forces of union are to overcome the forces of disruption. I have no doubt whatever that they can be overcome if the Empire and the nations of the British Commonwealth will get to know one another as they have had some opportunity of doing during this war, and will trade with and trust one another just as they have defended one another. If they do all this then common sense and sentiment will do the rest.
My name does not appear on the Order Paper in support of this Motion, but that is due only to the fact that I was actually visiting a part of the Empire when the Motion was drafted. Had I been here I would most certainly have desired to associate myself with the framers of the Motion. On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends on these benches I wish to join most warmly in the action taken by the mover and supporters of the Motion and the speeches which have been made. A remarkable unity of purpose and aim exists between us in all parts of the House on this subject. We may be at variance upon many things, although probably fewer than we sometimes like to believe, but upon this question of the future of the Commonwealth and Empire—and I go so far as to say on the ways of achieving that future—we are united here, on major matters. That ought to be made known to the world, and if this Debate serves that purpose it will have been a very valuable Debate. I go further. I am quite satisfied that this unity of purpose extends far beyond this House, throughout the Commonweath and Empire itself. I have just returned, with some of my colleagues, from a tour of the British West Indies, in the course of which we visited America and had some contacts with Members of the Canadian Parliament. I do not propose to-day to dwell upon that tour, because I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain Peter Macdonald), who was leader of the deputation and who has great knowledge on this subject, will himself introduce a Debate upon it. I trust that the Government—and I am glad the Deputy Prime Minister is here—will give us an opportunity for such a discussion in due course, because here is a problem big enough, in all conscience, for the serious examination of the House.
The contacts we were able to make in the course of our long journeys and stays in different places convinced me, at any rate, that even in Canada, where there appears recently to have been some disagreement, the desire for a continuation into the peace of the unity forged by the war is as deep and as sincere as it is in this House. Therefore, I think the House would be unwise to take too tragic a view of the reported reaction in Canada to Lord Halifax's speech. I have every reason to believe that since that reaction was first made public, and since Mr. Mackenzie King spoke, there has been a wider and more sympathetic appreciation of what Lord Halifax intended to convey. People in Canada have begun to realise that that speech did not, in fact, contain the explosive material which some Canadian politicians thought it contained. So long as we here and in this country remember that in Canada and in America a looming election has a profound effect on the speeches of politicians, even upon these most vital and difficult problems, we shall not fall into the error of overrating temporary difficulties.
There is one in the offing, and it may be sooner than some of us imagine. As I have said, the desire for this continued Empire and Commonwealth unity is universal. And that is not surprising, because in considering this problem to-day the House is perhaps examining the most important issue upon which our post-war prosperity will rest. We have, during the last year, devoted an immense amount of time to considering the future welfare and social security of our own people. But all these things, desirable as they are, are utterly impossible of achievement unless this country creates wealth by its trade. That is surely apparent to all. In the new world into which we shall enter when the war ends it is obvious to the blindest people that the British Commonwealth of Nations and the Empire probably offers us as a family of nations the best market of all for our goods. Therefore, it is in the primary interests of our working people that we forge now, and maintain after the war, the closest possible ties with other parts of the Empire. I do not mind how "Left wing" any workman may be in a factory, this problem we are discussing to-day is his immediate problem.
When I first heard that this Debate had been arranged I felt a little uncertain as to its wisdom, in view of the forthcoming meeting of Prime Ministers, because it is clearly a delicate problem, with dangerous possibilities if we are incautious in, our language. But I have come to the conclusion now that it is a very good thing that this matter has been raised, and that the House should be able, individually and collectively, to offer advice to the Government before they enter into discussions on these problems.
The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) spoke of the need for development and investment within our own family estates rather than outside. As a Liberal, brought up in the faith of Free Trade, I should not like to be quite as exclusive as the hon. Member. I should never subscribe to the theory that our investments abroad should be confined to the Commonwealth. I think that would be exceedingly short sighted. But I am quite certain that great investments are required and would be most beneficial in our own Colonies. What we saw in the West Indies, on the tour from which I have just returned, convinced us again that there is an immense demand for constructive works, such works, if they could be carried out, would not only bring credit to us in that part of the world—and it is very important to maintain our prestige there, particularly since the Americans have entered into part possession of these Colonies in consequence of the great naval and air bases—but would give us opportunities of trade of high economic value. We met merchants and agents of British firms in all the Islands and were informed by all of them of the demand in these areas for British goods, and we found it in other countries as well. Therefore, in our own interest let us insist on a long-term plan for the development of the Empire. I hope the Government will consider the creation of an Economic Council, something of that character is essential.
I do not wish to say more on this occasion. I have intervened merely to demonstrate to the House and to the world if they care to listen, that in this matter, all parties in the House speak with a united voice, and, as far as I am able humbly to speak for the Liberals in Great Britain, I wish to make that abundantly plain. The co-operation that exists to-day between the nations of the Commonwealth and Empire is an amazing spectacle. The spirit of loyalty that one saw in those West Indian Colonies among white and black men and women, of all classes, was staggering everywhere we went. That great unity is something that must not be destroyed when the war ends. It is something too great and too noble to let pass. Therefore I am grateful to the framers of the Motion for the initiative they have shown and I look forward to an encouraging statement from the Government at the end of the Debate.
In common with others who have spoken I welcome every effort that can be made to bring about close co-operation between our country and the rest of the Commonwealth, particularly for the rehabilitation of the world at large in the post-war years. I was interested to see my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) occupying what seemed to me to be a somewhat new role. I, certainly, did not hear anything fall from his lips to which I strongly objected, but I thought it rather regrettable that, whilst he said a great deal about the prospective advantages of developing the resources of the Commonwealth, he omitted any word of warning as to the dangers that might lie ahead unless proper safeguards are taken. While I welcome wholeheartedly every effort, particularly in tle economic sphere, to utilise and consolidate the power residing in our peoples in all the Dominions for closer co-operation, I suggest the House should not close its eyes to certain obvious dangers. In the first place, we must avoid at all costs giving the impression to other countries that the British nations desire to establish some kind of economic bloc in the new world after the war. That would have deplor- able results. I should have liked a greater insistence upon the world outlook and the contribution which the Commonwealth of Nations can make to it, than has so far emerged from the Debate.
I wonder if we are bearing in mind the key-note that has been sounded, both by the Prime Minister and by all the Allied Governments, in connection with the situation presented to us by the war and the prospects of the world after the war. In considering the question of closer cooperation with the Commonwealth, we ought not to overlook our declared main objective in the new world, after the war. We are liable to forget that we and the Allied Governments have pledged ourselves over and over again in declarations, on what we regard as fundamental, if peace and prosperity are to be secured. We have said we shall further the employment by all States, great and small, victor and vanquished, on equal terms, of the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity. The danger I want to warn the House against, is the danger of overlooking that generally-accepted objective in the postwar world, that we are looking forward to. Therefore, while one welcomes every co-operation that can be brought about with our Dominion peoples, particularly in the economic sphere, the development and the pooling of resources and the development of markets, it is important to bear in mind that that must be, not an antagonistic alternative but a general contribution to the general prosperity of the world as a whole, to its peace, its security and its stability. If the war has brought one thing home to every one more than anything else it is that the world is one and indivisible and has to be treated as a whole and, in the common relation of countries, the one aim is that it must contribute not to an exclusive benefit but to the benefit of peoples as a whole.
The second danger I see is that of lapsing into the old policy of the Ottawa preferential trade agreements. There may be a tendency to adopt the same methods that we adopted in the early thirties, of preferences in one part of the world and exclusion for others. If that is the case, we shall be ignoring the lesson of the war, that the world is one and indivisible and that all have to make their contribution of access to resources, raw materials and opportunity. The third danger is that in some influential quarters it is visualised that, as part of this expanded and intensified Commonwealth co-operation, various parts of the Commonwealth will be divided and organised on regional lines, that we shall call in the Imperial authority through the Commonwealth organisation, and come to some agreement whereby we would establish regional control in which the Dominions themselves would take part. Take Africa as a case in point. There would be a region in Africa and the South African Government would be brought into a regional authority, sharing power with the Imperial authority in the shaping of Colonies outside the South African Union. That is the third danger we have to guard against.
I was interested to note that the hon. Member for Seaham steered clear of suggesting that there should be any new kind of political power. He certainly suggested that there might have to be a surrender of sovereignty in certain cases, but he stressed the economic side. His great plea was that the collaboration of the Commonwealth of Nations, organised as a combined group of peoples, would find its greatest results in the economic field. I am in entire agreement with that, but it is important to bear in mind that if the regional councils which are being suggested are set up in various parts of the Empire, and the Imperial Parliament shares its authority with the Dominion Governments, as, for example, South Africa, whose political line of policy has not been that of the Imperial Parliament, we shall be faced with serious problems.
In saying that, is the hon. Member opposing the proposal in the Australia-New Zealand Agreement for the establishment of a regional council for the South-West Pacific, on which this country would be represented?
No, Sir, I am not. What I am suggesting is that if we are going to set up regional authorities in which the Dominion Governments would share authority and power with the Imperial Parliament over Colonial territories which are not self-governing, we should proceed very warily and in the first place on a somewhat tentative and small scale. I should not object to New Zealand and Australia collaborating in a regional area which would include many of our pos- sessions in the Pacific. I should accept that. The danger in great continental territories like Africa, unless there were proper safeguards, would be a clash right away between the political outlook of the Union of South Africa and the accepted and settled policy of the Imperial Parliament with regard to our relations with the native populations. Whereas the Imperial Parliament does not recognise any discrimination in the treatment of our subjects, whether they be black or white, and, in theory at any rate, treats them alike, with no distinction, no colour bar and no disfranchisement, in South Africa the colour bar is applied politically by the Government and discriminations of all kinds are drawn between the coloured citizens and the white citizens of the South African Union. In consequence of that policy, millions of our subjects in Africa, in the Protectorates and in the non-self-governing Colonies like Northern Rhodesia, Uganda and West Africa, are entirely opposed to being included within any British Dominion authority unless they get a guarantee that they would stand as equal citizens and not be discriminated against.
These are serious dangers and have to be guarded against. If we are going in for Dominion collaboration, and if that collaboration is to include the right to make constitutional alterations in the political policy of this Parliament, we ought to know what our obligations are. Some British African subjects have refused repeatedly to be enticed into having their territories absorbed in the South African Union because of the colour discrimination in the Union. We are under an obligation in the Act which set up the South African Parliament in 1909 to the native populations not in the Union that they shall not be transferred without their consent. There is wide and almost universal opposition in East Africa and other parts of Africa to any idea that we should allow them to become subject to the policies which are dominating the South African Union.
Bearing in mind these dangers, we accept in all parts of the House that if peace is to be put on a stable basis it can only be done by giving an equal chance of prosperity to all peoples and not to some, and that whatever is done by way of Commonwealth co-operation must be looked at from the point of view of a common contribution to world peace and prosperity. It must not be regarded as a piece of machinery for the exclusive benefit of the British peoples inside the Commonwealth. If it is, it will fail to keep the peace. We know what a source of grievance the Ottawa preferences were to anybody outside the British Commonwealth of Nations. They were a rankling sore in the thirties of the last decade and were partly responsible for the atmosphere out of which the war grew. In pursuing this policy of the closest co-operation let us bear in mind the dangers with which we are faced.
I wish to occupy the time of the House for a few minutes only in reference to one aspect of our relations with the Dominions. I noticed that last June a speaker in the Canadian House of Commons referred to a speech delivered by the late Lord Tweedsmuir, when Governor General of Canada, at Montreal in 1937. Lord Tweedsmuir said:
A Canadian's first loyalty is not to the British Commonwealth of Nations but to Canada and to Canada's King, and those who deny this are doing to my mind a great disservice to the Commonwealth.
It is true that Lord Tweedsmuir went on to expand this statement by adding:
If the Commonwealth in a crisis is to speak, with one voice it will be only because the component parts have thought out for themselves their own special problems and made their contribution to the discussion so that a true common factor of policy can be reached.
His statement, however, stands as a whole. There may be many in the Empire who are not in agreement with this view. An eminent Canadian speaking in London two years ago quoted the extract which I have just given from the speech of Lord Tweedsmuir, and added, "I wholly disagree with that view." This is not a matter for jurists or for the legal advisers to' the Governments of the Empire. It goes far deeper than that. It is a matter on which the men and women of the British Empire will have a feeling which is instinctive and probably inherited; a feeling which is also dominated by the immense sacrifices and exertions which have been made in this war as also in the last by the British Empire as a whole, and is transcendent over national or unilateral interests. I believe that we in this country regard our loyalty as first to the Empire, and that we put first, and will always put first, the interests and
welfare of that Empire overseas. And it is that freedom from self-interest which will be the bed-rock on which the Empire, that association of free nations to whose future power and greatness there is no limit, will stand.
Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater): I am particularly glad that this Debate was opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell). If he were here I should like to pat him on the back, but as he is not here I would like to say—and I prefer to say good things about a person behind his back rather than in his presence—that in my opinion he made a very fine, statesmanlike speech to-day. I am glad that it came from this side of the House, because I think that one of the major errors made by hon. Members on this side in the past has been to underestimate the great importance and value to us, and to mankind as a whole, of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I will not go into the errors of the other side, because I want to make a short speech. [An HON. MEMBER: "It would take too long."] So far as possible, questions of the future relations between us and other parts of the Commonwealth should be kept outside and above party politics. After all, this Commonwealth has survived two world wars, and that could not have happened if the Commonwealth had been held together just by the ties of old-fashioned Imperialism. It is held together by a real, enlightened self-interest. This House of Commons, and the equivalent Houses in the other Dominions, should realise that we shall not be able to play the great part that all of us desire, whatever our political affiliations, in the world of the future unless we continue on those lines.
One cannot read the resolutions of Imperial Conferences without being impressed by the timidity with which delegates have approached the problems of closer co-operation among the different parts of the Commonwealth. The Dominions are still very worried, and even frightened, by the idea that we in Britain are trying to impose some limitation of independence and sovereignty upon the Dominions. Just a year ago I was fortunate in being able to go on a prolonged lecture tour in Canada. I soon discovered that the greatest service that I, as an Englishman, could do to my country was so to emphasise the independence of Canada that some Canadian would get up to protest, and to say: "Don't you realise that we are British?" But despite this fear of losing some degree of independence, the Dominions must make up their minds to closer co-operation, and for two reasons. Some hon. Members have already suggested reasons, but I would like to emphasise these two reasons in particular.
It seems to me that centralisation of foreign policy in Whitehall was acceptable so long as the United Kingdom was able to carry the main burden of Imperial defence, but it is clear to all of us that, at the end of this war, the United Kingdom will not be in a position to carry that main Eurden. It is also true, since the amazing development of some of the Dominions, for example in their production for war purposes, that those Dominions would not want us to carry the principal burden. They do not want the United Kingdom to have too predominant a voice in their affairs. There is the second reason. I am sure that it is obvious to all of us, now that aviation has progressed to such an extent that an aeroplane can leave a European airfield, be over London in a few minutes, drop its bombs and get back, that this country will inevitably become more and more a European Power. Therefore, it seems essential to have closer co-operation with the Dominions, unless they are to find themselves committed—not legally, of course, since they are independent States, but by sentiment and selfinterest—to policies in Europe dictated by the United Kingdom, policies of which they may not entirely approve.
Listening to some of the speeches in this Debate, I have felt rather that we in this House of Commons do not always realise to what extent each of the Dominions has similar problems. Each of those countries is different from the others and they are growing more and more different as each year goes by, and while we are glad to see them developing their own individuality on different lines, it seems essential that we should improve the method whereby we can explain and discuss our divergences. I would therefore suggest that changes in the Com, monwealth machinery of co-operation are both desirable and inevitable.
Such changes must take into account two forces which appear to be in con- flict. There is a centrifugal force, the natural desire of the present Dominions, and of the Colonies that are likely soon to become Dominions, to have their complete independence emphasised on every possible occasion. Against this force there is a centripetal force which comes from the knowledge that the great nations of the Commonwealth would be irreparably weakened by the absence of a common policy in foreign affairs and defence, and in other matters as well. Also, I think this centripetal force comes to some extent from the growing knowledge of us all in this country, in the Dominions and in the Colonies, that we are only part of a much wider world and that we shall assist the international organisation which is to be built up after the war if we can learn to work together in still closer harmony.
I sometimes wonder whether, in order to lessen the centrifugal force, the British Government should not propose to the other Dominions—the more we think of ourselves in the United Kingdom as a Dominion upon a footing of equality with the others, the better—two drastic steps. One step would be the abolition of the Dominions Office. I do not say that with any feeling of disrespect to Ministers, Under-Secretaries, or others who regulate the Dominions Office; far from it. We ought, nevertheless, to consider whether the time has not come to abolish the Dominions Office and, secondly, to replace the existing office of High Commissioner by that of Ambassador, as is the case with ordinary, independent States. This change of phraseology would help to emphasise, not only to the Dominions, but to the United States and to other countries which sometimes do not appreciate it, the extent to which the Dominions are independent. It is important, because unless the independence of the Dominions is emphasised we shall not achieve something which is very valuable indeed, a realisation on the part of each of us of our loneliness and weakness unless we work co-operatively with all the other Dominions and Colonies. We must bring home to all these units how very lonely and weak they are by themselves. By abolishing the Dominions Office and changing the title High Commissioner to Ambassador, we should help to do that.
It would then be easier to replace the present Dominions Office, whose officials are almost all recruited in this country, by some form of permanent secretariat, with officials recruited in this country, in the Dominions and in the Colonies. I was very pleased to hear from other hon. Members about the importance of increasing Dominion interest in the Colonial Empire. In many cases citizens of the overseas Dominions have a greater understanding of the susceptibilities of the people in the Colonies than we have in this country. All the Dominions are weakened if the Colonies are poor and backward, and we have had to admit several times, to our shame, during this war, how very backward and poor the Colonial Empire is. The more we can bring the Dominions into the task of governing the Colonies the better.
In this way, this group of independent States known as the Dominions would be co-operating closely in foreign policy, defence and other matters in which they have a common interest, and yet they would not be losing their independence. There would be a permanent Commonwealth Secretariat, not necessarily established in this country—or if it were established in this country it should have branches in all Dominion capitals—
Does the hon. Member suggest that these secretariats should have any Minister or body of Ministers to whom they would be responsible, in regard to their constitutional position?
My idea is that they would act very much in the same way as the League of Nations Secretariat worked in the better years of the League. One realised in the League of Nations how many topics for discussion there are which can best be dealt with by a permanent secretariat rather than by having to appoint an ad hoc secretariat every time. I hope that such a permanent Secretariat for the British Commonwealth of Nations would arrange conferences of all kinds among the Dominions and Colonies. If we are to get the complete political cooperation, which is essential if there is to be complete co-ordination in foreign policy and defence, we must encourage greater co-ordination on all sorts of other technical subjects. We learned at Geneva that although we could not make much political progress by direct political methods, we could increase co-operation and understanding among the peoples a great deal by common work on matters such as health, and economics. I think it is in that way that a permanent Secretariat for the Commonwealth would be useful. Also, pending the development of a new League of Nations, which we all realise will take place at the end of the war, the more we can do among the Dominions, and between the Dominions and Colonies, in Building up an international Secretariat the better.
I have one final point, on which I am really convinced. It is that the Commonwealth cannot and must not become a block of States in rivalry to the Soviet Union, the United States, or any other great Power which might arise. Reading, for example, the account of the Foreign Secretary's visit to Moscow and other documents that were produced after that visit, everyone must have said to himself: "Here is the Soviet Union with about 180,000,000 people and the United States with another 130,000,000 people. Here is the United Kingdom standing alone with only somewhere under 50,000,000 people. It is clear that, in a world in which power politics play so great a part. we cannot neglect the possibilities of that position." Yet it is vital, in anything we plan for the development of the Commonwealth, that we should not act upon any idea that we are to become the rivals of the United States, the Soviet Union or any other great Power. In this island we cannot afford to quarrel with Europe. We are very interested in all that happens in Europe, which is only 21 miles away. If that point is realised now in the Dominions, it is time that we realised in this House, more than we have done in the past, that the same arguments apply to the Dominions. For example, it is even more impossible for Canada to neglect the United States than it is for us to neglect the European Continent.
Just in parenthesis—and I apologise for taking up the time of the House, but I do not know that anyone else has referred to this—I hope that this mutual understanding of our difficulties between the different parts of the Commonwealth will be increased by the Commonwealth Air Training Scheme. The effect of that on the future of the Commonwealth I do not think can be exaggerated. All the way across Canada in the most remote townships I found young men from this country, New Zealand, Australia and the Union of South Africa, and it seems to me of the greatest promise and importance that we have got this co-operation.
I am convinced that we should not have come so relatively smoothly through the complications of Commonwealth politics after the last war unless the Dominions had had their independence underlined by the fact that they were separate members of the League of Nations. I end, if I may, by quoting words from an article I saw by Professor George W. Brown of Toronto University, which appears in the current issue of "Round Table." He says:
The Commonwealth cannot in the long run be maintained without an effective internationalism; an effective internationalism cannot be achieved unless the Commonwealth contributes fully to it.'
He goes on to say:
The members of the Commonwealth will not only co-operate with each other but will, according to circumstances, make bilateral and multilateral arrangements with other nations, looking always towards the central aim of creating and strengthening a world community by throwing a network of cooperative activities around the globe.
I think with such a conception of the British Commonwealth, but only with such a conception, the very great war sacrifices being made by the great. Dominions and the smallest Colonies alike will be amply justified; and I believe that only with such a conception shall we find the rest of the world looking towards this Commonwealth with gratitude, and not with jealousy or envy.
I was glad to hear the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) that when he was on his tour of Canada, he was informed by one or two people, when he was stressing the independence of the Dominion of Canada, "We are British." I entirely agree with that, because I have had the opportunity of visiting all the great Dominions, and I found there the same spirit, because when they came or were coming to this country they always referred to it as "Coming home." I think we all ought to be most grateful to my Noble Friend and his hon. Friends who have brought forward this Motion to-day. It is a Debate which we ought to have had a very long time ago. What we real want to do is exactly what the Motion suggests, maintain after the war that unity which exists at the present time between the various parts of the Dominion Empire and the Mother Country, instead of letting it go, as it did after the last war. We do not want the Dominions to go back into little watertight compartments. We want to avoid that, and this Motion aims at trying to keep that unity which is of such vital importance to the whole Commonwealth of Nations.
I had an opportunity, as Parliamentary Private Secretary to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), to go round the whole Dominion Empire. It was some years ago, but as a result of those visits 15 years ago, I have always been particularly interested in the development of the Dominion Empire. During this war I have refreshed my memory by asking the Dominion personnel who are over here to come and stay with me for week-ends in order to try to keep myself au fait with modem opinion in the Dominion Empire. Up to the present I have had nearly 300 boys from all over, the Empire to stay with me over the week-end. I have done it because I am very keen on the development of the British Empire, and I want to hear what their views are as to how the future of the Empire should be run. I have, as was suggested to me by one of my friends, an Imperial Conference almost every week-end, to discuss the future of the British Empire—almost the same as the Imperial Conference suggested by Mr. Curtin, the Prime Minister of Australia.
I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), who made a very good speech indeed, for which I am sure we are all grateful to him. One thing which I noted he said was that we would be a poorer nation after this war than we were before. That is an obvious truism; but he did not go on to explain it. I would like to say in a very few words why we shall be so very much poorer than we were before this war. We were able before the war to import into this country about £400,000,000 of goods per year without having to export anything for them. Our actual imports were about £900,000,000— I am speaking in very rough figures indeed—and of that total £500,000,000 worth were paid for by actual exports of coal, manufactured goods, and so on, and the other £400,000,000 worth were paid for by what are called invisible exports, which consisted of £250,000,000 interest on overseas investments, £130,000,000 shipping commission which our shipping companies earned for us over the year, and about £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 banking and insurance commissions in the City of London.
I regard the future position as very serious indeed, because we have lost a very considerable portion of those invisible exports in the form of interest. When I was in Canada not long ago, I was told by one of the Ministers there that 2,700,000,000 dollars worth of securities had been repatriated to Canada; about £600,000,000 worth of securities previously owned by our nationals in this country are now in the hands of Canadian nationals. Consequently the interest on this money which, taking interest as averaging five per cent., would be about £30,000,000 a year, will in future not go to our people as an invisible export or import. Instead it will go to the nationals of Canada. That is just one example of the position in the future. No doubt we have already sold to the United States of America well over £1,000,000,000 worth of securities—I think it is considerably more than that. That is £50,000,000 a year in interest which will go to the Americans instead of ourselves. What I am trying to tell the House is this: we have a very big population here, and we have kept up the standard of living of that population because we have for many years been a very rich country. We have been a rich country because we have had a vast amount of investments overseas, the interest on which has come to us as imports to keep up the standard of living of our people. We shall lose a large proportion of these imports because our invisible exports will not be available.
As I said just now, we earned about £130,000,000 in shipping commissions, with which we were able to import £130,000,000 worth of goods into this country. We are having a difficult time with our shipping. I think that is another of our invisible exports which may be reduced as a result of the war. We have lost a large number of ships, and we hope to make it up by being able to carry people all round the world in our aero-planes in the future. That is why it is important we should be able to do so. I feel that this country has a great excess of population, considering its agricultural productive capacity, and I would like to take up the point which was made by the hon. Member for Seaham when he said that the Dominions must have markets after this war. I agree. The markets he particularly mentioned were for the primary products, but he mentioned two primary products which I should have thought were not quite the most important ones. He mentioned gold and wool. Wool is a commodity which is used all over the world, and so is gold, but the really important point—no doubt it was in the hon. Member's mind—is the question of food, because the Dominion Empire produces far more food than it can possibly consume, and that food has to be imported into this country in order to be able to help to feed what I think is the very excessive population in this small Island.
Then he went on to say that the development of the secondary industries in the Dominion Empire could not harm this country. I would be rather critical of that statement, because it really depends on whether population is to be exported in order to be able to deal with those secondary industries. I feel that what we want to do is to try to encourage the migration of people from this country to the Dominion Empire, in the second industries particularly. That is frightfully important. Already there is a surplus of food exported from the Dominion Empire. How is the Dominion Empire, if it is to export food into this country, to be paid unless it receives in exchange for that food payment in the form of manufactured goods? I would like to see our manufacturers developing the industries in the Dominions. I would like to see a big organised scheme of Empire settlement. One of the most vital matters we shall have to deal with after the war is the difficulty of keeping up the standard of living of the big population we have in this country. We should try to distribute that population, not from the point of view of the population in Australia, in New Zealand, in Canada or in South Africa, but from the point of view of the whole future of the British race. Then we should see how we could redistribute our population in such a way that it could be fed and have its secondary industries, and live in comfort and happiness, in various parts of the world. I would advocate a special Department of Overseas Settlement, with a special Minister in this House.
I have been to Australia and South Africa and the other Dominions, and I have seen the difficulties which arose after the last war. I have seen the group settlements in Australia and the settlements in South Africa, and I have seen the difficulties and the mistakes which have been made in the past. I do not want those mistakes to be made again. We should look, therefore, at the question from the big, wide angle of the future of the British race. We should et the Prime Ministers of all the Dominions together and have an Imperial Conference every year, as Mr. Curtin has suggested, and try to work out some big scheme whereby we could gradually migrate a certain proportion of the, as I think, excessive population of this country to the Dominion Empire. I believe that those people could be easily settled in the Dominion Empire.
There are two difficulties. One is that of the social services. When I was in Canada recently, I had an opportunity of talking to some of the Ministers, and I said to one of them, "We have a far greater development of social services in our country than you have here." He agreed with me. Unemployment insurance, health insurance, and all the social services upon which we pride ourselves, practically do not exist in the Dominions, except in New Zealand, which is slightly ahead of us in those services. If you say to a family in this country, "We want you to go and settle in the Dominion Empire; we would like you to go to Australia, which is 32 times as big as our country, and which has a population less than that of London," they will say, "Sir William Beveridge is going to give us social services if we stay here; what is to be our position if we go there?" We have to face that question. The Dominions, I think, are facing it, at any rate the Minister in Canada to whom I spoke foresaw that difficulty. I would like to see this Department of Overseas Settlement which I have suggested, with a proper Minister at the head, who has plenty of imagination and a desire to get the thing developed. The financing of the scheme would have to be done not only by the Dominions, but by this country as well. Then, I think, the Dominion Empire, which is longing for increased population, would gradually get secondary industries developed. One of the great difficulties is that of the development of the factories that have been built in the Dominion Empire since the war. I have talked to a lot of these lads from the Dominion Empire, and they tell me that the industries in Canada and Australia, and even in New Zealand, which has a population of only 1,500,000 people, are all being developed. If we do not send out things to the Dominion Empire in exchange for the food which they are going to send us, how are we to pay for that food?
If they are going to develop their secondary industries, we have to think of some other scheme whereby they can send us the food. There is one way of doing it, I think; and I have discussed this with a lot of those lads who have been staying with me. This way has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Seaham. We should have a common defence of the whole of the Commonwealth of Nations. That is vitally important. If the Dominion Empire decided, as I hope it will, to share the defence of the whole Commonwealth with the Mother Country, it should be done on the basis of contributing pro rata to the white populations of the different Dominions. In Canada there are 11,500,000 people, in Australia 7,500,000, in South Africa 2,000,000 whites, and in New Zealand 1,500,000. I should like to see them contributing pro rata to our population of 46,000,000. Their contribution could be made chiefly in the form of food coming over to this country. We should then be able to get the food to maintain our excessive population in this country, without having to export in exchange for it. We would build the bigger ships and the bigger aeroplanes for them, although a certain number could be built in Australia, and some in Canada, and so forth. The other thing I want is the unity after the war which is suggested in the Motion. I believe that if we had this scheme of common defence of the British Empire, lads from the Dominions should be brought here and trained in the same way as they are being trained to-day.
If the Empire is going to have its own scheme of common defence after the war, is that not likely to lead to more wars? Would it not be better to have an international police force for common defehce?
The hon. Member is talking about another matter. I am thinking about a common defence scheme for the Empire, contributed to by all the Dominions. I agree with him in hoping that, in the end, not only the British Empire, but the whole world, will come together to form an international police force, to maintain justice and to hold down aggressors. Nothing I am saying now is contrary to the spirit of an international police force after the war: I was merely trying to explain how it would be possible, without transplanting the population, for the Dominions to send us food without receiving anything back in the form of secondary industries. I would like to see the unity which exists to-day continued after the war, and training schemes continued on the lines of the Commonwealth Air Training Scheme, which is one of the greatest contributions that Canada is making to the war effort, and schemes similar to those now being carried on in South Africa and in Australia. Let us try to get our people distributed around the whole Empire. A lot of the people in the Dominions would come over here for their final training, and they would see what this country is like; and we should send our lads to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and so on, so that they would realise what the British Empire stands for.
I put these suggestions forward, because I feel very strongly that we should develop a proper emigration scheme. I have held these views for many years, and I have talked them over at my little imperial conferences every week-end. Every lad who has been staying with me during this war has agreed on one point, that the population of all the Dominions must be increased. I have had lads from every one of the Dominions, and they all say that. If we can get the Government to realise the importance of the matter, and to set up a Department of Overseas Settlement, I feel that we shall go a long way towards solving the very great difficulties which will result from, I almost said, our weak economic position after the war. I hope that the Government will realise that it is in absolute sincerity, after my visits to the Dominions, and after meeting a lot of these boys, that I put these suggestions forward.
In rising to support this Motion, I would like to express the hope that this conference is going to be very successful, not only inter se, among the Dominions themselves, but as an example to the whole world, because the relations between the British Dominions are just those which we like to see existing between all nations—never thinking of taking any hostile action against each other and arranging to settle all our difficulties by peaceful means. We have worked out a technique which might well be followed by the whole world, and I hope the result of the conference will be to bring vividly before the other nations of the world the practical manner in which we have solved these problems.
Reference has been made to the fact that there should be some pooling of sovereignty by us and the Dominions. That is perfectly true, but there will have to be some surrender of sovereignty by all nations if any nations are to survive. That is one of the conditions we all realise to be necessary for the continuity of existence, particularly for the small nations. I think it is most important to remember that the Dominions were never more united and never happier than when they were members of a larger organisation, when they were separate members of the League of Nations. They attached great importance to that position. It emphasised their independence, and I think it is of vital importance in the future that we should see that they are placed in a similar position in the new world organisation which it is agreed is to be set up after this war.
It is interesting to remember, and rather pathetic to remember now, that even Eire, at the time when the League of Nations was apparently going to do what it was set up to do, to prevent aggression, at the time of the sanctions against Italy, was with us and the other 50 nations or so, prepared to take action. Mr. de Valera, himself, made a speech in the Assembly of the League which was wholeheartedly in line with the policy which the British Government were then pursuing. I think it is interesting to reflect on that and sad to think what opportunities were missed. My hon. Friend the Member for South East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit) made some not altogether too laudatory reference to the League of Nations, but I do not wish to enter into that. I would prefer to leave that matter where it was placed by the Prime Minister yesterday, when, in reply to a question he said, "If the League of Nations had been properly backed up things might have been different." We realise that lessons have to be learned and new and better arrangements will have to be made for the future, and the British Empire has a great contribution to make there.
There are some hon. Members—it has not appeared in Debate to-day, but one hears them talking—who seem to think you have only to blow the trumpet loud enough and all the Dominions will rally into line behind the Mother Country and do what is wanted. [An HON. MEMBER: "No one said anything of the sort."] I said nobody had said anything of the kind here to-day, but that people do say such things. I have heard them saying such things. That, we all realise, is a fantastic description of the position. The Dominions have as much right to blow a trumpet and expect us to fall into line with them as the other way round. I would like to say something to-day about the position of Canada, particularly as I am happy to be half a Canadian myself. [An HON. MEMBER: "Which half?"] Never mind, my maternal grandfather was a Conservative Member in the Canadian House of Commons. There was a very interesting article in "The Times" recently, from their Ottawa correspondent, dealing with the Canadian situation, dealing with a speech which Lord Halifax made at Toronto. I cannot help thinking it was a little unfortunate that the British Ambassador should have gone to Toronto and made a speech which was of a controversial nature—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—controversial in so far as Canadian internal politics are concerned. At any rate, it was interpreted in that way, although it was not so intended. I quite agree it was given with the best intention in the world, but it did give rise to a certain amount of controversy over there, which, I think, we must all think is regrettable.
We realise that the position of Canada is a very special one. Geographically and industrially she must always be closely linked with the great United States beside her. She cannot possibly afford, nor does she desire to overlook that. Nor should we expect anything else, and I say that any agreement among the Dominions on a common policy must depend on the success of the setting up of a world organisation. Canada feels that there is some danger in attempting, or appearing—and it is only the appearance—to set up the Empire, the British Commonwealth, against the world. We all realise that that would be a most foolish thing to do. No one really intends that, but we must avoid all appearance of it, and Canada, I think, feels that if the four Great Powers on whose strength the world will depend in the future pursued such a policy then the position of Canada would be very difficult indeed. But it would not be difficult for Canada alone. It would be difficult for the whole world. Unless those Powers work together there will be very little hope of peace for anyone. Canada feels that any attempt to try to make all Dominions speak alike would, instead of leading to unity, be likely to lead to disunity. I think she is right in stressing the international aspect of this problem and that there is really no conflict between Canada's aspirations and what we in this House desire by way of closer unity and co-operation among all members of the Dominions.
I would like to make just a reference to the very remarkable agreement between the Australian and New Zealand Governments. They have, I venture to think, set an example which might well be copied by other Dominions, and I hope that this agreement will be studied at the Dominions Conference, and some of its proposals, at any rate, adopted. For instance, they make it quite clear on page 3, section 14, that:
The two Governments regard it as a matter of cardinal importance that they should be associated not only in membership, but also in the planning and establishment of the general international organisation referred to in the Moscow Declaration of October, 1943, which organisation is based on the sovereign equality of all peace-loving States and open to membership of all such States, large or small, for the international peace and security.
They stress there the international aspect of this problem and the part the Empire can play. They also have expressed some interesting views on the future of civil aviation, to which I shall not make any reference to-day, but the paragraph dealing with the welfare and advancement of the native peoples of the Pacific seems to me so admirable that I will venture to quote it. It is No. 28, and says:
The two Governments declare that in applying the principles of the Atlantic Charter to the Pacific the doctrine of trusteeship, already admitted in the case of mandated territories of which the two Governments are mandatory Powers, is applicable to all Colonial territories in the Pacific and elsewhere and that the main purpose of the trust is the welfare of the native peoples and their social, economic and political development.
I wish we could bring home to some of our American friends that this is the spirit behind the British administration of their Colonies and mandated territories. It has never been better expressed than in the terms of this agreement. Then they go on to suggest, in paragraph 30:
The setting up of the Overseas Regional Commission in which there shall be, not only Australia and New Zealand, but other countries having interests in that area, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the French Committee of National Liberation.
That, under another form, is really the mandate system of the League, which, I think it is agreed, was very satisfactory.
The last reference I would like to make to this most interesting, document is to article 35, which deals with the permanent machinery of collaboration and co-operation. They agreed that
(a) their co-operation for defence should be developed by—
That is between two of the Dominions. I would like to see that developed among all the Dominions and carried farther as a Dominion contribution to the international police force which my hon. Friend agreed in his remarks just now must form part of the world organisation for the future if it is to be really effective.
My hon. Friend the Member for South-East St. Pancras made a reference to Article 7 of the Lend-Lease Agreement. He said that he did not think that we ought to sacrifice the substance for the shadow. I entirely agree. I think we are all at one there, and, although I am not going to develop this subject, because I do not think there is any object in it at the moment, I do hope he will agree, that we should all agree, on this, too, that if it were not a question of the substance for the shadow, but of a proposition of sub- stance for substance or something better than we now have, that we ought to look at it objectively and impartially to see whether the proposition was not one which, in the wider interests of the Commonwealth and the world we ought to accept. I do not think it will be possible for any hon. Member to object to the matter being put in terms of that kind.
I should like to make a reference to the proposal that was made by Field-Marshal Smuts in his famous speech when he suggested that, in order to strengthen the position of the British Commonwealth, it might be possible, after the war, to arrange for the association, in appropriate and mutually acceptable form, of certain of our Allies who have very close emotional or territorial ties with this country. I think it is an admirable idea, and I hope it will be pursued. I hope that such countries as Greece, Holland. Belgium and Norway, may, in some manner, be permanently linked with us and that this will be on the agenda of the Dominions Conference because the Dominions will obviously have as much right to express their opinion on that as anybody else.
Finally, I would just say that I do hope we shall develop at this Conference our unity and co-operation, not in any narrow spirit, but by way of making a contribution towards the partnership of every nation in the world. Let us pool our political and economic strength, whatever it is, for the advantage of all and so maintain at its highest and best that wonderful international instrument, the British Commonwealth of Nations thus making the best contribution we can to the peace of the world as a whole.
I find myself in complete agreement with the objects expressed by the mover and seconder of the Motion, but I have some doubt whether I would entirely agree with the method by which they seek to achieve the utmost possible unity of the British Empire. I realise very fully what an enormous asset the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) is to the cause of Empire unity and I rather hesitate to enter upon any sort of criticism of what he said because it might appear as if I was looking a gift horse in the mouth—and a horse which can kick effectively as I may learn to my cost, may be dangerous to approach.
I want to make four points. First of all, I want to advocate that, for the sake of the Empire just as much as for ourselves, we ought to do everything we can to co-operate with the United States in a multilateral currency plan. Secondly, that we should make it clear to the United States what are the only conditions under which this is possible. My third point is that, if these conditions are not available, we may have to fall back on bilateral agreements, but I should like to say that these are most undesirable. My fourth point on which, I am afraid, I come in conflict with the hon. Member for St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit), is that we should not let a rigid adherence to Imperial Preference stand in the way of world prosperity. I advocate our doing everything possible to co-operate with the United States, first of all, because we have promised to do so in Article 7 of the agreements for Lease-Lend and Mutual Aid. I believe we have to give the United States every possible opportunity for cooperation with us, and if that co-operation fails, I hope the responsibility will be on the United States and not upon us. I think anything less than this would make a very bad impression throughout the Dominions, and would strengthen the isolationists in America, who would claim that we have proved the correctness of what they had been saying for years. I believe that only by co-operation with the United States can we get the greatest prosperity for ourselves and the Empire. Some nations, like some people, are apt to squeeze those who are weak. The United States certainly do not come in that category. They have shown themselves to be most generous when we needed their help most. Further, I think the last two wars have shown that we, for the military defence of this country, are dependent on the unity of the Empire and co-operation with America.
I should like to say something about the only conditions under which a multilateral plan will be possible. I believe it is only practicable if the United States in conjunction with us, according to the agreement between us, pursue an expansionist policy for full employment and reduces their tariff barriers. If America, after this war, pursues the same policy as before, the wale of acquiring a huge volume of dollar receipts against a small volume of dollar payments, then I do not think a multilateral plan is possible. I think that this is realised in many quarters in the United States.
I should like to quote Mr. Taylor, the American Under-Secretary for Commerce, who, in a recent article published by the United States Government printing office, said this:
A world economic structure organized on the basis of equal treatment and with large scope for free enterprise cannot be maintained in the face of such reductions in the supply of dollars as have occurred in our international transactions in the past. Unless the supply of dollars is more adequate to meet foreign requirements, other countries will assuredly insist on their rights to exercise a close selective control over the use of the amounts available and to promote more intensive relations with third countries under preferential trading arrangements. Unless dollars are made available with greater regularity than in the past, it would be both unjust and unwise to demand the removal of restraints and controls largely designed to protect the internal economies of other countries against external shock and pressure.
"The Times" yesterday in an interesting article by their Washington correspondent quoted the late Economic Adviser to the State Department, Mr. Feis, as saying that, if American production lags, and many of its people are unemployed, America would be a disappointing and exacting partner. If those conditions occurred, and we were tied to a rigid plan, I think we should have to give up all hope of a full employment policy here, for a cheap money policy and a wage policy would be at the mercy of factors outside our control. If the United States are unable to fulfil these conditions, I hope we shall keep complete liberty of action, but I do trust we shall give them every opportunity of co-operating on these lines.
I would like to say something about bilateral agreements. First of all, I do think we must recognise, however much we may wish to the contrary, that the British Empire is not an economic unit. For one thing, we do not produce all we need, and we do produce a great many things we cannot consume. For example, the world production of oil in 1939 was 285,000,000 tons, of which Russia produced 30,000,000 tons, the United States 170,000,000 tons and the British Empire 1,000,000 tons. In regard to wool, in some years it makes up half Australia's exports. We only took something like half of that amount. I have no doubt that if the rest of the world were submerged, the British Empire would get on somehow, but only with vast changes in production, and this would mean unemployment and a lower standard of living. But we have no reason to suppose that the rest of the world will be submerged, and if bilateral agreements come about other countries will not remain passive and I suggest that the country with the longest purse is likely to win; America will certainly view with great hostility schemes of this sort. We must remember that a penny in the pound of U.S.A. income tax would enable that country to subsidise exports to tour times the extent that one penny in the pound on our tax would. Bilateral agreements are a policy of restriction, so, I would be surprised if the hon. Member for Seaham associated himself with them. It would seem to me that, to make bilateral agreements for a period of years, would be to tie up industries and crystallise production in certain lines just when they ought to be the most elastic.
For example, after the last war, we concentrated on getting back our export trade by trying to re-establish the textile industry; and I think it may very well prove that we would have been very much wiser if we had gone ahead with other industries; instead of that bilateral agreements or Imperial preference would tend to keep us engaged in particular industries and perhaps support those which are inefficient. I would like to remind the House that the inventor of modern bilateral agreements was I suppose Dr. Schacht. I do not think the German model is at all a happy one. After all, Germany was quite unscrupulous and ruthless in the terms she imposed upon her trade partners. When arrangements are made for some years ahead one side or other is likely to gain or lose, and we quite certainly neither want to lose ourselves, nor to find that out partners in the Dominions suffer.
I want to say a few words about Ottawa. I believe it would pay us and the British Dominions—and I suggest that this is the opinion of many Dominion statesmen—to cast on the waters some crumbs of Imperial Preference in the faith that on a great flood of world trade we would one day have returned to us a substantial loaf. Before 1932, there were many people who thought that Imperial preference would solve all our difficulties. I
think the results have shown that that hope was not justified, and I should like to quote briefly what some Dominion statesmen have said on this subject. Mr. Coates, who was then, I think, Prime Minister of New Zealand, wrote to the New Zealand farmers:
Imperial tariff reform, if only England could be induced to grant it, was looked to with boundless hope; now we have it, it doesn't seem to work too well.
In 1937 Mr. Menzies, who had by then been Prime Minister of Australia, said this:
A rigid insistence upon the fullest measure of Empire preference might prevent the British Commonwealth from taking her proper part in a trade revival. Australia will be ready to exchange some of her immediate preferential advantages for the wider agreements which would follow on really constructive trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States.
Finally, we have Mr. Bruce saying:
The Ottawa Agreements were not designed as foundations on which to build a great structure of Imperial trade, but as a safeguard against the economic insanity raging in the world at that time.
It may be that the world is still so insane and that we shall have to fall back again on those emergency measures. We should remember, if we do so, that it will mean a comparatively poor world, an insecure world, and it will put the very greatest strain on the unity of the British Empire.
I am bound to say that I have not listened with any great measure of sympathy to the speech which has just been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman). I did not think that it would be possible for any Member of this House, to whatever party he belonged, to compare the relations of this country with the Dominions or with any other country in the world with the relations pursued by Dr. Schacht, and that would appear to be what he said.
May I correct that impression? What I said was that the model for modern bilateral agreements was invented by Dr. Schacht. I, in no way, referred to arrangements made in the British Empire, and I ask my hon. Friend to correct that impression.
I shall not refer to my hon. Friend again except to say that I am glad to have given him the oppor- tunity to correct an impression which, I think, everybody derived from his speech. That is the last reference I shall make to what he said. My hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), who began this Debate, made a speech which was marked by its sincerity, its cogency and its wide grasp of the subject, and I would like, from this side of the House, to congratulate him very heartily upon it. He called attention to the fact that this Motion is drawn in very wide terms, so wide that hardly anybody could dissent from it.
There is one feature in the Motion, however, which I would like to underline, and that is the fact that it refers solely to the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government and the United Kingdom Parliament. It does not suggest in the least that we are in a position to ask or to compel any of the other Governments of the Empire to take any course that we consider desirable. This is very important at the present time. We are slow to realise in this country that the Statute of Westminster established in the world a political system which had never been heard of before: a system under which a constitutional Sovereign reigning over the whole is advised by six co-equal Cabinets, Governments and Parliaments. Each of the advisers of the Government who advise him is responsible to a different Parliament. Nothing of that kind had been attempted in the world before, and it imposes a very great responsibility on this Parliament which has to realise that it is only co-equal now with five other Parliaments and that it may, if it were unwisely guided and its councils were at all foolish, create the situation in which the constitutional Sovereign of the Empire might receive absolutely incompatible advice from two sets of advisers, both of whom he was bound to follow as a constitutional Sovereign. That is the situation which must be borne in mind and I refer to it particularly in relation to the only point in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham with which I disagreed, and that was his reference to Africa. I beg of him to remember that there is a situation latent in that Continent which may present the greatest constitutional difficulties to this Parliament and the United Kingdom Government.
Having said that much about the situation, and having underlined the fact that the responsibility we have to consider here is the responsibility of this Parliament and not the giving of advice to other Parliaments or to other Governments, I would like to say a word about the relationship in which we stand not only to the other Governments—because there is too much talk of the executive—and not only to Parliaments—because there is often too much talk of Members of Parliament—but to the simple ordinary people of those Continents. It is difficult to say exactly what that relation is, but I will venture to say something about it. I do not believe that you can get the feeling of the countrymen, the simple people, if you go there as a Minister or a Governor or even as a member of a Parliamentary delegation: you have to go in a very much more insignificant way than that if you are to get down to the question. My only justification for saying anything on the subject to the House is that, in my early years, I wandered about the Dominions as a young, receptive and very insignificant individual, just talking to anybody I came across. That, I believe, is the only way in which you can learn what people really feel and think. They take you on your merits, whatever they may be, and they tell you their plain thoughts. I am still receptive, I hope, I am certainly still insignificant, I am, unhappily, no longer young, but I will try to give the House the benefit of that earlier experience.
I remember, more than 40 years ago, spending a week in a fishing camp in Australia, on the Snowy River, with Chris Watson, who afterwards became the first Labour Prime Minister of the Australian Commonwealth. He was not of that rank at the time. We came together for a week and we lived on the fish we caught, and as a result of that I know more about how Australians feel, and particularly how the Australian Labour movement feels, than I could possibly have done otherwise. It is also the fact that I went from end to end of Canada, talking to the ordinary voter during the period of the great election on American reciprocity and Imperial Preference in 1911. I just wandered about and saw the average voter of every kind, and, therefore, I have that experience which I can quote.
What is the feeling that has created this miracle of the British Commonwealth? The whole world is agreed that it is a miracle and that no foreigner can understand the way it has held together. What is it? Looking back on it, here is the illustration that best expresses the truth to me. The force that unites all the peoples of the British Commonwealth is very much like the force which unites the members of a great trade union. That is the closest parallel I can get. I will explain what I mean and hon. Members opposite will tell me if I misinterpret. What is it that binds the members of a trade union? I would say, in the first place, that they have between them a sense of affinity, of brotherhood, the family feeling of being all in the same boat. Fundamentally, it is a question of sentiment. All the members of the trade union have a feeling that they belong to each other more than they belong to anybody else. The second point is that they share a great common interest—the welfare of the working men in their industry. If they hold together and work as a team, and if the strong do not try to get more than the weak, if they are prepared to suffer, as they have done, starvation and other great miseries for the sake of the organisation and its purposes, that collective strength will ultimately be to their benefit. The third thing which I believe to be true about the trade unions is that, quite apart from sentiment and from the common interest which binds the members of a trade union together, they have also a sense that, in pursuing their collective bargains and their united endeavour to raise the wages and the standard of living of those for whom they are responsible, they are doing something more than merely benefiting themselves. They are doing something for the progressive movement throughout the world: in fact, they are contributing something to the liberal progress of the human race.
I believe that these are the three great characteristics of the trade unions in this country. It is a combination of sentiment, ideals and interest. The thing that holds the British Empire together is very much like that. All great British institutions, and I think all great institutions, are founded on sentiment; that is the foundation upon which most of them rest. Take this House of Commons. We all know that, fundamentally, what holds us together is a curious traditional sentiment. We may have all sorts of differences between us. One of us may be genial and another angular, another may be talkative and another silent, one may be a moderate and another an extremist, but no Parliament exists a very long time, in my experience, without a curious sense of brotherhood growing up between all Members of it. We are all trying to do the same job from our different points of view. That sort of sympathy which exists in trade unions and in every great British institution is fundamental in the British Commonwealth.
Now there are two things which we, with all our immense responsibility in this Parliament, must watch. We must watch the family feeling, the sentiment on which the Commonwealth is based. Sentiment greatly affects the ordinary little man or woman doing his or her job every day, and they may be deeply hurt by our words and still more by our acts, by the kind of headlines they read in the newspapers of the kind of things that any Member may say in this House, which may be reported in their Press. We must remember, in fact, that the Commonwealth is a great trade union, and that its unity depends upon common sentiments, common interests, and common ideals—a family compound to which we must never be false.
It is from that standpoint that I approach what we are all so deeply interested in, and that is the coining meeting of Prime Ministers. The unity of this Commonwealth has been established and proved and tried in two great world wars. The great question is, can it be maintained in peace? It very nearly disappeared in the last peace. Can it be maintained in the coming peace? I am convinced that if it is not maintained in the coming peace, there will be no world peace. If the Commonwealth breaks down everything breaks down. We are the test case and everything depends on our making this wonderful, this mysterious, this curiously inarticulate system work. That is the paramount responsibility of this Parliament and this Government. Although all the Governments of the Commonwealth are now equal, although they are entitled to offer advice on absolutely equal terms, the fact remains that our responsibility is greater because we are still the predominant partner. We have a population which is greater than the population of all the Dominions combined and the welfare of that population is an enormously important factor in the welfare of the whole. We have to remember that, and also the fact that in this country there has accumulated an extraordinary store of knowledge and experience greater than exists in the younger countries, and that, also, we have to use for the common benefit.
The greatest asset we possess, however, is that which was underlined, to my great delight, by my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham, the fact that we still possess one of the greatest instruments in the world, which is our home market for the world's products. That is what is going to give us in the world of to-morrow our greatest strength. I want to say a word about that home market, because I think that upon its use a great deal is going to turn, and certain dangers are already apparent. I do not suggest for a moment that we can dictate economic policy to the Dominions. They are all absolutely free to pursue any policy they please. But we are immensely responsible for the way in which we use our own economic policy, and our own economic policy depends upon this vast home market. We have sacrificed many assets during the war for the common cause, more than other people. We have sacrificed, I believe, a great part of our savings and our foreign investments. We have sacrificed our services. We shall have sacrificed markets also. All these sacrifices we have made, and we have to face the fact that our two main Allies, Russia and the United States, are going to be much more powerful than us except in one respect. That is the fact that our market is still much more important than the Russian market to the world and even more important than the market of the United States. That is our great asset and everything turns on the way in which we put it to use.
I say dictation is unthinkable, but I also say that it rests with the Government to make our position on this matter absolutely clear when the Prime Ministers meet, and to leave no room whatever for doubt about where we stand on this question of using our own market for the benefit of the British family first. Fortunately, this is not a subject which can be regarded, in any way, as a party controversial subject. It is a curious fact that the first concessions to the Dominions were introduced in 1919 by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who had originally opposed them, and in 1925 by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who had also originally opposed them; and that in 1931 and 1932, when the final change was made, it was made by a National Government. I assume, therefore, that all the Members of my own party who are Members of the Government can march together on this subject which, after all, is one of the principal articles of faith of the party—that they can march together on it without feeling that they are in any way challenging the unity of the Coalition, because there is no party difference on the point. I also think that we may say with satisfaction to ourselves, that the shades of great men of the past may be looking with approval at what we are doing here to-day. Rosebery and Chamberlain would certainly approve, both great Liberals, both great Imperialists. I think also of the Conservative leader for whom I have the deepest regard—Mr. Bonar Law. He would certainly approve. I think of another, whom I have often missed in this House and I am sure other hon. Members have missed, that is the man we all knew as Jimmy Thomas, who contributed a great deal in his time to the cause for which I am speaking to-day. We all regret the reasons which led him to leave political life, but I think it is fair to say that he rendered a great service to the working classes, and to the Empire, and to this country, and that he would rejoice in the course which we are taking to-day in this House.
Certainly, this course is above all party dissension of any kind. I emphasise that, because in the world outside suggestions are being made at the moment which I think ought to be olearly met, and which I am very glad to see have already been clearly met in this Debate. I wish to speak particularly about two of them. The first is the suggestion that if we insist on our freedom to control our own home market, to use it as we think fit for the welfare of our own population and the welfare of the Commonwealth, of India and of the Colonial Empire, that if we reserve that freedom for ourselves, we shall, somehow, be acting in restriction of world trade, that we shall be opposing a liberal movement which would otherwise progress.
I really cannot understand that argument. Russia controls a home market of 180,000,000. There is no question of her not having the most complete control over the whole of that vast market, and no one has suggested that by keeping control of that vast market, far larger than ours, she is acting in restriction of world trade. Similarly, with the United States, which has a population of 130,000,000 with every kind and variety of employment. The United States has absolute control over her domestic market, a control which no other people in the world have thought of exercising. The Hawley-Smoot tariff is the eighth wonder of the world and it was enacted at the height of the depression. Who is to say to us that we are acting in restriction of world trade with our small population when 130,000,000 are protected behind a wall of that sort? The argument will not hold water. The reciprocal agreements are very limited—at the present moment to 50 per cent. of the existing tariff—and very cautiously adopted even at that. They are also governed by an interpretation of the Most Favoured Nation Clause which largely deprives it of effect because of the meticulous sub-division of the American tariff. I say that if all these things are really to be modified, let us by all means meet them half-way. But do not let us sacrifice our liberty which is vitally important to us, to the Commonwealth, to India, and to the Colonial Empire, for nothing better than words in a charter which are of no practical effect. That, I believe, is fundamental at the present time. The method does not matter. There may be sections in this House which suggest bulk purchase, State action of various kinds; there may be others which prefer the system of duties. Personally, I do not care so long as the principle is there and we build on that principle, and so long as we realise that that principle of "British family first" is absolutely vital to the unity of the Commonwealth. So much for the argument that we are doing something in restriction of world trade which Russia and the United States are not doing, if we say that we are going to think of our own family first. I wave that aside, I dismiss it, I repudiate it, and I am sure it will be completely repudiated by the Government.
But another argument has been brought forward. I have heard it said that the Dominions are indifferent on this question of whether they have any special consideration in the British market or not. I do not know, I am not in the councils of the Government. But trade union secretaries change, Governments in the Empire change, and everybody knows that every now and then great unions get emharrassed by new officials who do not know much about the job and have not had much experience. I really do not attach much importance to what this or that Dominion Minister may say until I am quite sure that he knows what he is talking about and very often when it comes to world politics—I speak with great respect—that is not the case. Let us be quite clear that the responsibility for what happens really depends on us because we control this great market at home. Are we really to be governed by the fact that someone here or someone there, important or not important, has said that this is really not a matter of much consideration at this moment for this Parliament? Have we no convictions of our own at all in this Government and in this House? Do we not realise that a great responsibility rests on us? Do we remember, furthermore, that this principle of first consideration for the family was introduced by a great French Canadian in 1897, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and that for 22 years there was no response in this country? Are we going to say now that because someone in some Government says they are not much interested, we are going to weaken or flag in this great course? I do not believe we can ever take such a course.
I am convinced also of this. I do not think that anybody can have moved about the Commonwealth in the ordinary human way without realising how deep this question goes. I will give the House an example. Does anybody really think that after this war you will be able to say to the ordinary New Zealander, a fellow growing sheep or anything else, "We do not owe you any more consideration than we owe the Argentine"? That is the issue. Think what it means. Was there an Argentine Division at Cassino? Was there an Argentine Division in North Africa? Was there an Argentine Brigade in Crete? Let us remember these things and let us remember how fundamental they are to the feeling which counts when you are in peril of your life. We know there is a safeguard in the Atlantic Charter; we know that because it is quite obvious that that document was not intended to give one original signatory a great trade advantage over the other. But the question has come up in a new form in Article 7 of the Lend-Lease Agreement, and I think we had better be perfectly clear that we reserve our freedom and do not intend to sign or interpret it away on any account. I regard that as the Ark of the Covenant. If it is departed from, I will spend my last breath in fighting it There is another greater danger with which we are faced. In 1929, the late Prime Minister of Canada, Sir Robert Borden, came to this country and delivered a series of speeches at Oxford under the auspices of the Rhodes Trust and pointed out with great wisdom and foresight—
Does the hon. Gentleman recognise Article 7 of the Lend-Lease Agreement as binding upon the Government, this House, or even himself?
I certainly do not consider it binding in the sense I gave. I understand that the Government gave a pledge to this House that no such commitment would be entered into until the House had been consulted, and so far as I am concerned, I do not accept that as a pledge binding this House.
Weil, my right hon. Friend belongs to the Victorian age in this matter.
We want to be honest with ourselves. This Agreement was signed by our Government over two years ago. Now, for the first time, the hon. Member and others are repudiating it. That is why I said, "after two years." That has nothing to do with the Victorian age or anything else.
Is that really the point at issue? It is not a question of lend-lease as it at present exists, but the interpretation of lend-lease as it will apply to the future position.
That is what I was about to say. It is the new interpretation which is the vital matter and I say that we are not bound by that interpretation. I apologise to my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) for making that remark about the Victorian age; I did not intend it to be derogatory, and I am sure he did not regard it as such.
I was discussing when I was interrupted the point about the liability of this country in the organisation of world peace, about which the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) had a few words to say just now. I accept the importance of world organisation for peace. But what matters first is the organisation of European peace. Let us consider what that means. The moral of Pearl Harbour has probably not quite gone home in this country yet. If any Power were to acquire domination of the European continent and this country were friendless and unarmed, nothing in the world would prevent this island from being "Pearl Harboured" in a night. This is a new age towards which we are moving and we have to face up to it and not consider a vague organisation which will get together for discussions and say, "If certain things prove to be so we will take action in due course." We have to consider some organisation which will act promptly enough to prevent us from being "Pearl Harboured" in a night. That is the issue and do not let us get away from it.
Would the hon. Gentleman explain whether, in order to prevent us being "Pearl Harboured" in a night, he would concentrate on forces of the Empire or on the forces of the Continent of Europe?
I was just coming to that point, if the hon. Member will give me a chance. It is quite clear that in this matter distant countries cannot help very much. What matters are the countries which are here on the spot. We must face up to that. The first thing is an alliance with Russia. I hope hon. Members in this House will realise that it is not what the alliance with Russia is today, but what it is 20 years hence that will matter. That is the critical moment that will come. That is the fundamental issue. The second thing I think everybody will agree about, and which will be very much in the mind of Russia, is what we can do in the West to constitute a guard against Germany which is equal to the Russian guard in the East. They will say, "How secure is it, how promptly can it act, what force does it command, is it something on which we can rely?" If there is to be a reliable guard in the West we have to make definite and precise military commitments. Next, in regard to Europe, is this: We have to provide for a concert of Europe in which the smaller States are adequately represented so that they may be independent and keep their self-respect. I am sure everybody will agree with that.
That brings me back to what Sir Robert Borden said in 1929:
Commitments purporting to involve Great Britain alone, such as those imposed by the Anglo-American Guarantee Treaty of Paris, and by the Locarno Treaty, are frequently concerned with the ultimate issue of war, in which the Dominions would be involved, and however essential it is to preserve the peace in Europe they can hardly adduce to the unity of the Commonwealth. Great Britain has become part of the European mainland. The Dominions will never have a European outlook. But we beyond the seas must remember that each nation stands at the threshold of every other, that all frontiers touch one another throughout the world, that there can be no hermit nation and no hermit continent.
It must be stated very clearly at the forthcoming meeting of Prime Ministers that in this matter of commitments in Europe it is a question for this country not of choice but of necessity. If we are to play our part outside Europe, which is very important, we shall be greatly helped by the moral support and approval of the Dominion Governments. That is fundamental at the present time, and I hope it will be stated quite clearly. The only criticism I would make of Lord Halifax's speech is that he under-rated our strength. Apart from that, he seemed to me to raise a number of questions in a very cogent way which concern all members of the British Commonwealth. That is well enough, but I think he suggested in some way that this country would b- e weak if the Dominions did not come to its help. That is not the standpoint from which I regard the issue at all. This country is much the strongest of the members of the Commonwealth. It will be strong anyhow. It is the Dominions which will be weak and, if we are to play our part in safeguarding them, it is very
important that we should have at least their moral support in the undertakings which we have to contract in Europe.
My hon. Friend said a little time ago that we must have more specific commitments in the field of defence. He has now said twice that we must rely on the moral support of the Dominions. There is a great deal of difference between the two.
I am glad my hon. Friend has raised that point. We are not entitled to say that the Dominions shall make specific military commitments. We can only make them ourselves. I am very much in favour of making them and I believe it is indispensable. We have to make them anyhow, whether the Dominions approve or not, because they are vital to our security and nothing can alter that fact. [Interruption.] I do not care whether the other parts of the Commonwealth want it or not. This country has to live and it has to make these commitments, which are essential to its life. That point should be rammed home. When I talked about the moral support of the Dominions, they might go further and share in the commitments, hut, after all, they are a long way off and what I look for is their moral approval and the fact that we can help them very greatly in their own regions if we have their backing for our policy in the region which governs our own insular life. I say all this without wishing to create any Chinese Wall round the British Commonwealth of Nations or detracting in any way from the world brotherhood in which we are all interested.
This country, after all, has in the last 150 years contributed more to freedom than any other political system on the earth. I believe that the freedom of all peoples, not only in the Commonwealth but outside it, especially the weaker ones, depends on the strength and influence and example of this Commonwealth, and I am sure that the greatest test that it has to face is the test of peace. It has held together in war because the dangers are so obvious. In peace the dangers are not so obvious. Everyone relaxes. Everyone begins to think of his own garden and his own little bit of interest, and the great common resolution which carried the Commonwealth through a great crisis fades away. We have to try to keep that spirit alive in time of peace and if we succeed, as I believe we shall, by plain speaking and plain dealing between our brother nations in the Commonwealth and the other nations outside, I believe we shall have rendered the greatest service in all recorded history to the human race.
.I cannot claim to have been round Canada 40 years ago like the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, but I happened to be there 40 days ago, and I want to say a word or two about the new Empire as I conceive it to be. The only advantage that I have over the hon. Gentleman will be that perhaps I am a little more up to date. The hon. Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit) said there was no difference between parties. I hope sincerely that that is so, but it is only so on condition that his party, like this party, realises that we have rather a different Empire to-day from the one that we had in the days of Joe Chamberlain. There are many people opposite, I fear, who still think of the Empire of Joe Chamberlain and the Empire of Kipling and of Lord Beaverbrook as the Empire for which we are all standing. I submit that that Empire is dead and that we have quite a different Empire. Half of this new Empire is already a Socialist Empire and another part of it is rapidly becoming so. As far back as 1870 New Zealand introduced social legislation far ahead of anything that we had then. It was not until 1906 that a Liberal Government followed New Zealand and introduced similar social legislation. The hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) spoke very movingly about there being no Argentinos at Cassino and gave us to understand that for that reason we ought to help the Dominions. I would ask him what his friends in the City did to help the people of New Zealand when they asked for loans.
The hon. Member must not identify me with the City of London. I was trying to give the realities of the case. I am prepared to admit that they were overlooked in the City of London, just as they were on the benches opposite.
I withdraw at once the libel, if it is a libel, that the hon. Gentleman has any connection with the City of London. What I want to make clear is that we do not claim on this side any monopoly of affection or knowledge of the Empire, but hon. Members on that side do. I am saying that both sides possess it.
May I put a question to the hon. Member which I am sure the House would like to hear him answer? Is he or is he not in agreement with the policy put forward by the Prime Minister of Australia, which policy has been endorsed by a member of his own party to-day?
Most certainly I am, and I intend to say a few words about that presently. In recent years New Zealand has been ahead of us in all its social legislation. It has introduced old age pensions of 30s. a week, its soldiers are paid 7s. 6d. a day, which is far beyond anything that our soldiers have ever dreamed of receiving, its farmers have guaranteed prices, it has very successful public enterprise, and that public enterprise resulted before the war in its having a very low per capita degree of unemployment. Australia has been following along the same lines. I turn now to a part of the Empire which among some Members opposite is still considered to be the last stronghold of their party—that is, Canada. [Interruption.] I am perfectly aware that Mr. Mackenzie King is a Liberal, but until his arrival there has been a very long continuation of Conservative rule, and that Mr. Mackenzie King himself is at any rate not among the most advanced of Liberals. When I was in Canada I saw something of a new movement which is growing up and which will play an important part there. It is the Canadian Commonwealth Federation. Hon. Members on the other side laugh. The hon. Member for Altrincham was plainly laughing.
I was not laughing at a reputable party in the Dominions. I was laughing at an entirely different point. As far as the Dominion's parties are concerned, I have no choice between any of them.
During the last two or three years this party has grown out of all recognition. There was a Provincial election in Ontario. Previous to it the Canadian Commonwealth Federation had no members in a total membership in that Parliament of 90. At one fell swoop it rose from 0 to 34. The party now forms one-third of that Parliament, and it is likely that it may gain control at the next election. There was an even more sensational election. The leader of the Conservative Party in Canada met with a misfortune. He lost his seat. It happens even to leaders of Conservative Parties from time to time.
Certainly. There was a nice, kind, thoughtful back bencher in the Conservative Party of Canada who resigned his seat in order that the Conservative leader might be elected. The election took place, and to everyone's astonishment, instead of his getting elected, an entirely unknown Socialist with the not very inspiring name of Noseworthy was elected. The only support he had against the millions which the Conservative leader had at his disposal was his own schoolchildren, who stood at street corners and said to people, "Have you voted for Mr. Noseworthy? If not, go and do so."
I am sure that no Tory schoolchildren have ever done anything of that kind. I want to call attention to the programme of this party, which has risen to great strength, which at the next election may be the leading Opposition Party in place of the Conservative Party, and which may before long even form a Government. In its programme it states:
The Canadian Commonwealth Federation is a federation of organisations whose purpose is the establishment in Canada of a cooperative commonwealth in which the principal regulating production, distribution and exchange will be the supplying of human needs and not the making of profits.
Since that manifesto was issued the municipal elections have taken place in Canada, and I think that the Federation was practically wiped out.
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's great interest in profits in Canada—
On a point of Order. I would like to know whether it is proper for this House to discuss the internal politics of Canada.
The hon. Member must make his speech in his own way, and the House must draw its own inferences from it.
I do not propose to go any further into the internal politics of Canada. I only want to show that this Dominion, like two other Dominions, is not of the same way of thinking as the hon. Member for Altrincham and the hon. Gentlemen whom he represents. What do these Dominions want? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Altrincham said that we had not the right here in this House of Commons to dictate what should be done. I support most strongly his humility in this respect. It would seem to me to be necessary therefore, to discover what the Dominions want in order that we may perhaps want the same thing and put forward the same proposals to the world. I submit that they do not want a system of tariffs, a system of quotas or a system of Empire. Free Trade. I suggest, on the other hand, that what they do want is a system of international co-operation in trade and defence. In that connection I would refer again to the Canadian Commonwealth Federation, which stated as late as July, 1942:
National sovereignty must be subordinated to the authority of the collective system, which shall be administered by democratic machinery in which all the member nations shall participate.
Turning from the C.C.F. to New Zealand, and taking the authority of no less a person than a member of the New Zealand War Council, I will quote from Mr. Lowry, who said:
The production side will be all right; it is the question of distribution we are concerned with; and if the people who produce these goods are given the purchasing power to consume them, then, as far as I can see, we have no further worries
What the people of New Zealand, Australia and a growing section of the people of Canada want is Imperial co-operation as a basis for world co-operation, and not as something to stand up and fight on its own against the world. I think, therefore, that we might put forward an all-party programme, and I would humbly adumbrate a programme which might be put forward at the Imperial Conference. I suggest that we might ask for the formation, first, of an international police force. We cannot, I know, as an Empire create an international police
force, but we can at least say that as an Empire we are in favour of it. Reference has been made to Lord Halifax's speech. I happened to be in Canada when it was made. I did not hear it, but I heard the reactions to it. The reactions were not because he was asking Canada to come into a British system, but because that system appeared to many Canadians to exclude other countries. What they are afraid of is an Empire isolation policy. They want a wider system, and they were afraid that Lord Halifax did not. I would suggest that before getting an international force we should at least, as it may be some time before we can get one, pool our own Empire forces. I think we might well start along that road. Reference has been made to the great value of the Empire Air Training School in getting soldiers from this country to learn something about Canada. The pooling of our troops and all our forces, so that a British soldier might serve in Canada or an Australian soldier might serve in Britain, might be of extreme value in opening the way towards an international force.
I turn to international defence and make my second point, the internationalisation of what I would describe as defence bases. I am thinking particularly of the islands in the Pacific. I know that both Australians and New Zealanders and large sections of Canadians feel strongly that these bases should be internationalised and should not be any nation's private property.
I am looking forward to the part of my hon. Friend's speech in which he will deal with Mr. Curtin. Surely what he says is in conflict with what Mr. Curtin said. The basis of the Australia and New Zealand Agreement is that no bases possessed by us before the war should be given up without the consent of New Zealand and Australia.
I have here the Agreement between Australia and New Zealand. Paragraph 30 says:
The two Governments agree to promote the establishment at the earliest possible date of a regional organisation with advisory powers which could be called the South Seas Regional Commission, and on which in addition to representatives of Australia and New Zealand there might be accredited representatives of the Governments of the United King-
dom and the United States of America and of the French Committee of National Liberation.
I must say that it ought to be. Those islands are essential for defence purposes.
I pass now to the question of a Commonwealth air service. I suggest that we should propose at the Conference the creation of a Commonwealth air service as a preliminary to an international air service. Australia and New Zealand have agreed in a very important document which I have here, to establish such a service. Perhaps I may quote one or two of the paragraphs which it contains:
The two Governments declare that the air services using the international air trunk routes should be operated by an International Air Transport Authority.
In the event of failure to obtain a satisfactory international agreement to establish and govern the use of international air trunk routes, the two Governments will support a system of air trunk routes controlled and operated by Governments of the British Commonwealth of Nations under Government ownership.
That is a very important point which should be put forward at the Imperial Conference. I think it would be supported by Members of all parties. Fourthly, we should consider whether it is possible to establish a Commonwealth Reserve Bank, whose duty it would be to finance all the economic developments throughout the Empire about which hon. Members have talked.
Now I come to a point which hon. Members may say is almost trivial, but to me is not so at all. There should be a Commonwealth Students' Bureau, which would be responsible not for half a dozen students here or there, but for hundreds at a time, going from one Dominion to another, so that there is a perpetual interchange and we do not have to wait for war to get the young people from each Dominion meeting one another, as they are doing to-day. I was very interested in a curious aspect of this matter when, in Montreal, I discovered the office of the Royal College of Music. I found that this organisation gives diplomas which are valid throughout the Empire and it has people travelling about all over the place, even in wartime, arranging examinations for the scholarships. This point may seem very small, compared with the vast matters that we have been discussing, but it suggests what might be done in other fields.
I support to the very fullest extent the suggestions made by Mr. Curtin, which I have in front of me and which I would not dream of quoting, because hon. Members have seen them all. I refer to the suggestions for establishing an Imperial Council and an Imperial Secretariat. In my opinion, the suggestion for a secretariat is more important than the suggestion for a council, because it would have a continuous existence. Such proposals coming from His Majesty's Government would meet with an immediate response from the Dominions, and would show that we, like them, look upon the Empire as a stepping stone to international co operation.
The course of the Debate has shown that there is a great body of agreement in this House, even when the views are expressed, as they were by the last speaker, in a somewhat challenging fashion. It is very necessary for us to remember that what is coming is a conference of Prime Ministers of the Empire and not an Assembly to plan the future of the whole world. It may be somewhat dangerous for us to pitch our aims too high lest we fall short of achieving any definite object at all. I agree with hon. Members who have said that it is most desirable that the organisation of the Commonwealth and of the Empire should not be exclusive but that it should co-operate freely with other great organisations throughout the world. We must surely all agree that to attempt to plan for those other great organisations in their absence is likely to lead to more misunderstanding than agreement. After all, we have a quarter of the world's surface and a great portion of its population for which the Empire is responsible. We shall have sufficient of a task in trying to bring some order into our own affairs without probing too deeply into the aims and objects of the rest of the world, especially since, after the war, the other parts of the world may have aims and objects very different from those which we are able to consider at this moment.
For instance, whatever is said by whatever Government in any part of the Empire, the home market here is considered by them to be of very great interest to their primary producers. I speak as one who, for four years, experienced a certain amount of difficulty in negotiating agreements, bilateral or multilateral, on great questions of agricultural production. I never found any Dominion Premier, whatever his school of political thought might be, ready to cast away any preference in these markets for any world organisation what-so ever. If the Minister of Agriculture could be assured that, in the forthcoming Empire Conference, there would be no mention of any desire for access to this market on somewhat better terms than the rest of the world for the primary producers of South Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, his task when facing the electors and indeed when facing this House, would be much easier than it probably will be.
The fact was most clearly brought out by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) that not only the political but the economic aspect of affairs to-day is one of the very greatest importance. Unless we can make some movement towards a solution of its problems, mere sentiment will not take the matter very much further. I fully agree that, although inter-Imperial relations are founded upon sentiment, they are carried forward upon what has been called enlightened self-interest. The necessity for co-operation for the raising of the standard of living of the peoples of the various communities who will be represented at the Conference is bound to be a primary object in the mind of everyone who goes to such a Conference. That is why I was glad to hear the emphasis which was laid by the hon. Member upon the importance of economic survey and measures for economic cooperation among the nations of the Commonwealth.
The point which I would more particularly like to make is that there is a great section of the Empire which it would be a mistake for us to leave out, even though the Motion specifically refers only to self-governing Dominions. That section is the Colonial Empire, and we ought also to remember that decisions come to at the Conference will have a great bearing upon the Indian Empire and upon its economic future. The Colonial Empire has not, of course, developed to anything like the same stage as that of the self-governing Dominions, but there are great self-conscious communities in it who will be likely to be affected by the decisions come to at the forthcoming Conference. It is very necessary to us to remember that fact. For years these people have been keenly interested and actively observant of what is going on around them and they are as anxious as any other members of the human race that matters vitally affecting them should not be decided over their heads. I have recently had the opportunity, in company with others, particularly the hon. Member for the Shipley Division (Mr. Creech Jones) of travelling for some time in the West African Colonies. That part of the world, like other parts, is greatly affected by the enormous winds which are blowing over the world at the present time, by the desire for improvement of their standard of living, and by the desire to have something to say in the great economic movements which affect their living so vitally. I firmly believe that some form of economic organisation, other than a mere haggle for markets and uncontrolled international Free Trade, will be necessary, if those communities are to be made co-operating partners in the Empire community.
We have had an experience of that. The cocoa trade for instance, one of the great developments of Colonial tropical agriculture, developed almost entirely by African effort, on the Gold Coast, fell upon evil days. The great world slump had a terrible effect on market for oils and fats, and amongst those affected were the small primary producers who grew the cocoa in that far away part of the world. It was no use telling them that the whole matter should be left to the uncontrolled operation of the world market, which for them was represented by the African cocoa trading firms. They believe, as primary producers so frequently believe—I know it to my cost—that there was a conspiracy of the middlemen, working for the consumers of the world, to grind them and their standard of living down to an absolute rock bottom basis. There was a great economic disturbance, in conse- quence, the effects of which have not entirely passed away yet.
I believe it will be necessary in the world which we are entering to say you will buy from A. That must inevitably mean that to that extent you do not buy from B. Some kind of organisation is indispensable in such matters. To say that any agreement in the world can be come to by which we sign away that primary right is to say what will not happen. I hope that no such delusions will overtake—and I am sure they will not—those who are responsible for making agreements on behalf of this country, because the whole course of the future will be one in which organisation, in the years immediately after the war, is bound to play a much larger part than it did in the years of that uncontrolled scramble which we dignified by the name of Free Trade. It did not lead either at home or abroad to such beautiful results that we should erect it into one of the Beatitudes of the Scriptures. The party opposite departed from that principle altogether in home affairs, and we are bound to find that that principle is more and more impinged upon, at any rate in the scarcity years. We must remember that a certain element of choice will inevitably enter into economic relations in the future and any agreements which attempt to ignore that are bound to become altogether unreal.
Our Debates and arguments in which we here talk freely among ourselves are overheard by a great audience which is vitally affected by what we say, but which cannot intervene in our Debates. We must now, and in these future arguments, have a much greater sense of responsibility than if we were here only to exchange arguments, interruptions, small interpolated speeches. Remember that these things are sent by radio all over the world, and that a Debate here, or even an interjection, may go across the oceans and continents and have effects outside this country very different from those in this House. To those who were far away from this country the suggestion for instance that a Government crisis had taken place which might lead to a dissolution of Parliament was the sort of thing which led that audience to feel that reality was lacking in the arguments which brought that position about. I am sure that now and in other Debates we should keep very strongly in mind the attention, the tense attention, which is given to Debates and discussions in this House by people, who as I say, are vitally affected by these Debates and discussions and who have no way of making their views heard here.
Therefore, in the Cabinet discussions which take place before the agenda is drawn up for the meeting of Prime Ministers, I hope it will be borne in mind that two other great Empires, the Indian Empire and the Colonial Empire, will be greatly affected by the decisions come to, and that other great Powers, such as the United States, will remember that the element of choice is bound to enter into our affairs just as it enters into their affairs. It is certainly not true that we should do away with co-operation with them. As the Prime Minister said a year or two ago, our affairs are getting increasingly mixed up. Nowhere is this more true than in West Africa, where aerodromes are laid out by us or by the United States, and where planes take off for Chungking on the one hand and for Brazil on the other. No one could fail to realise there that the affairs of the new world and the old world are getting very closely mixed up at that point. But an unorganised contact of the affairs of the two hemispheres will not be better than an organised contact between them. I hope that anything we do to organise our affairs will not be taken as an attack upon others but as a contribution to the better organisation of world affairs, which is what we all desire.
I am sure that the whole House will have been delighted to see the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) fit and well and back in his place and that the House will have listened with the greatest interest to his contribution to this Debate on the coming Imperial Conference. It seems to me that there are three points of view on this Commonwealth machinery for consultation. First is that view which has been put forward in the past by Mr. Mackenzie King, the Prime Minister of Canada, who is satisfied with the full status of nationhood and the established channels of consultations and with an occasional Imperial Conference. He may be afraid that machinery for centralisation means a boomerang imperialism. Then there is the second point of view on machinery of consultation which was the point of view put forward by Field Marshal Smuts on his last visit to this country, in which he advocated decentralisation and a regional co-operation between the Dominions and the Colonies upon an economic and geographical basis. The third point of view, which has been publicly expressed in the Commonwealth of British nations and has been referred to in this Debate is that put forward by Mr. Curtin, the Australian Prime Minister, and Mr. Fraser, the New Zealand Prime Minister, which is, in a sense, General Smuts' regional co-operation but which requires an Empire Council to be set up for consultation on foreign and Empire affairs with a permanent secretariat attached.
Those are the three points of view that have been put forward in recent years on the reform of the machinery of consultation. But what is not known is the point of view, or rather attitude or policy, of His Majesty's Government or the Secretary of State for the Dominions on this. I am not an Imperialist, but I believe in the democratic future of the British Commonwealth; and, as I see it, the. Statute of Westminster and the Balfour Declaration were an agreement to end Imperialism. But what those two declarations did not provide was the necessary machinery for future democratic consultation. When the Prime Minister, in his speech at the Mansion House, said that he did not become His Majesty's first Minister to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire, that was, in a sense, irrelevant to these Commonwealth issues, but the Prime Minister did not go on to say what kind of machinery was to be set up and how we were to preserve unity of expression for the future, with the result that we are now faced with problems, on foreign policy and peace aims, on civil aviation and on economics, trade and currency, as to whether the British Empire shall negotiate with the United States and with Russia as a democratic entity, or whether each member State of the Commonwealth shall negotiate separately.
As I see it, for many years the problem of security is going to tax Empire cooperation. We know, as a result of the war, that material security means, in effect, industrial war potential. That is the story of our present land, sea and air superiority, and I submit that it is the story of Empire defence. An aggressor can attack the Commonwealth at its weakest point in a world war, and it takes in the nature of things many years of organisation and production, and the deployment of the war strength and power of the Commonwealth, to recover lost territory. The lesson for the British Empire at Singapore, where we were forced to convey fighter aircraft on the decks of ordinary tramp steamers, when it was impossible to get air reinforcement, must be, that in any future scheme of Empire defence there must be full previous planning for the decentralisation of our ordinary industrial war potential.
However we approach this question of the future economic set-up of the British Empire, those responsible for planning must take into consideration, first of all, the security aspect, from the point of view of our widely spread industrial resources. Australia, Canada, India, Africa and the Middle East have now, in some form or another, all begun the process of building up modern industrial plants. Australia has done it at such places as at Broken Hill, where she is able to group together considerable industries for the production of munitions of all kinds and aircraft. It has been done, to a larger extent, in the Dominion of Canada, and, in my submission, what is becoming abundantly clear is that the Committee of Imperial Defence will have to give a great deal of its time and consideration in future not only to ordinary strategy, but to the dispositions of industrial strategy, throughout the whole Empire.
On the question of trade and future economic co-operation, which has been referred to in so many of the admirable speeches in this Debate, it can be seen that in the Dominions the secondary industries, or the manufacturing industries, are growing considerably and that industrial production, or what is known as the primary industries, is correspondingly declining. Canada has become a great industrial nation, and not only a potential but a tremendous actual aviation centre during the war. From 1940 to 1942, Canadian industrial production went up by 16 per cent., her steel production increased by 61 per cent., and her general manufacturing capacity by 20 per cent. But, from 1928 to 1941 her agri- cultural production went down by 16 per cent., and from 1939 to 1941 her forestry production went down by 4 per cent. In Australia, the number of factory workers increased between 1939 and 1942 from 540,000 to 700,000. India, in 1940, was the fourth largest cotton-producing country in the world, and is even now still increasing her productivity. In May, 1942, the output of finished steel in India was 50 per cent. higher than the amount before the war. Even in South Africa there was, in 1941, an increase of nine per cent. in industrial employment.
Someone has suggested that America is waiting for Canada to fall into her lap. I think it is much more likely that America will fall into Canada's lap. When Mr. Mackenzie King comes here as Canadian Prime Minister, he comes as a great industrial leader. Take the figures of coal resources of the British Empire, in tons per head of population. It is estimated that in this country we have 3,700 tons per head of population. But in Canada and Newfoundland there are 21,000 tons per head of population. In Australia they have 2,300 tons per head, in New Zealand 1,000 tons per head, and in South Africa 20,000 tons per head. Let us not forget that 1940 taught us that the country with coal and bauxite has absolute industrial power, and that is one of the major reasons why Canada, in my view, is going to assume industrial leadership in future on a scale which is perhaps not anticipated by those who are not aware of what is taking place on that vast continent.
I have heard it said that this Island, in a world of power politics, is going to become an economic vassal State, but I for one certainly do not accept that argument. I believe that if the Commonwealth will plan together as a democratic whole, if the Dominions can have routine consultations from time to time, if we can really have the Dominion mind expressed in Whitehall and Downing Street, particularly in the day-to-day planning of the future, this country is going to have just as great a part to play in the industrial world as it had before the war.
I am sorry that the Secretary of State for the Dominions is not a Member of the House of Commons. Without any reflection upon my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who, I know, has undertaken an extremely difficult task during war- time, this subject is so important, particularly this question of consultative machinery, that the Secretary of State ought to be in the House of Commons. What we need as Secretary of State for the Dominions in this country, which Lord Cranborne has referred to as a sister country rather than the Mother country, is a man of the stamp of Lord Milner or Rhodes as the Minister representing His Majesty's Government. I hope that, in this coming meeting of the Dominion Prime Ministers, they are going to consider the suggestion put forward by many of us in the House of Commons for the setting up of a Commonwealth development air board in order to plan the Empire routes for civil aviation in the future. For my part, I would have been very much happier about the visit of one of the American Under-Secretaries of State, Dr. Berle, for negotiations or discussions with the Lord Privy Seal if he had been negotiating with the Empire as a whole and not only with this Government.
I hope this Conference will consider now the whole question of Empire broadcasting. I am not suggesting that the B.B.C. should give way and that we should create a new British Empire Broadcasting Corporation, but anyone who regards this new great means of talking from one side of the world to the other must realise the tremendous opportunities and the need for a correlated Empire broadcasting policy, particularly in regard to education, literature and like matters. I would like to see set up in London, with branches in the Commonwealth capitals, an academy of science and economics, in order that we might study questions of economic development more fully than in the past, and also a universal system of Rhodes scholarships for the benefit of men from all over the Empire now serving in the Fighting Forces. I hope that, as a result of all these discussions, with the various points of view which will be put forward by the Dominion Prime Ministers when they come here, that, as an interim measure at least, they will agree to turn the High Commissioners' meeting, which, I understand, takes place week' by week, into an Empire Council in order that, as Mr. Curtin has suggested in his scheme, the Dominions might have an opportunity of discussing these problems concerning Empire policy as a whole before they are given final form.
The Prime Minister is to reply to the Debate to-morrow, and I would like to ask him if he can tell us whether the Dominion Prime Ministers, on their visit to this country, will, according to precedent, be invited to sit as members of the War Cabinet while they are here, or whether, in fact, the Dominion Conference of Prime Ministers itself, when sitting, will constitute a supreme Empire War Cabinet. I hope that, if the right hon. Gentleman who will reply to-day cannot deal with the point, the Prime Minister will be able to make this clear tomorrow.
In conclusion, I think we are all extremely indebted to the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) for his broad and helpful speech in opening the Debate to-day, and for the constructive suggestions which he gave to the Government on how this coming Conference should be approached. The general sense of the House of Commons is that now is the time for a bold forward march, and I hope the Prime Minister is going to give a lead, because, as so many hon. Members have said in the Debate, we may be a "sister" nation but this country has still a great responsibility to give its mind on these matters. We have had every point of view put forward, but what we do not know is the attitude of the Government, and I submit that, if the Government do not take this opportunity for showing initiative and imagination, they will have missed the inner vision of our finest hour.
I think His Majesty's Government will, on the whole, welcome the Debate to-day, and its continuation to-morrow. So far as I have been able to hear it, the House has been very anxious to give good advice to the Government, and also, if I may say so, to fortify the Government in the discussions which are shortly to take place. I would like to do a most unusual thing—to compliment my hon. Friend on the speech he made to-day in moving this Motion. It was a speech which astonished Members of the Conservative Party. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the Labour Party."] Indeed, no; not to my knowledge, and I recall with pride that 5o per cent, of the Dominions are now governed by Labour Governments or Labour majorities, and therefore, we have, even from the narrow party point of view, a very special pride in the Dominions. These discussions, of course, are bound to be important. Speeches have been made, in advance of these discussions, which are regarded as being unfortunate. Field-Marshal Smuts, who is a man of great, ripe wisdom and a man whom we all honour, made a speech which might well have been delivered at a meeting of Dominion Prime -Ministers. The Ambassador to Washington, Lord Halifax, made a speech which, I gather, caused a little consternation in the Canadian camp, as I can perfectly well appreciate. We cannot, of course, stifle Prime Ministers or Ambassadors in their statements; only the British Prime Minister can come down and stifle the House of Commons. Whether he can do that with his fellow Prime Ministers or his own Ambassador in Washington is more doubtful.
I will say something which, I am quite sure, will not be appreciated by Conservative Members of this House. I read, during the last week-end, a speech which is part of a book by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India and Burma. The right hon. Gentleman has a great knowledge of the history of the Empire and has given great thought to it, but I do not share his views. I think the party opposite have idealised the growth of the British Empire. They thought of it as a sort of development of truth and beauty, when we all know that it was loot and booty. I am not saying we were first in the field, but I have said much in the past about the development of the British Empire, which I cannot recant and I must, in most moderate terms, repeat it now. This was freebooting on the largest scale. I know there was a spirit of noble adventure in it, but I would not say that those who founded these new territories overseas which they stole from other European Powers were moved by the highest principles. They were no party to a great human crusade. Let this be said. The Portuguese, Spaniards, Dutch and French had done it, and we were the last and greatest of the freebooters, and got most out of it.
Having said that, which I think is a rather rough story, but broadly true, I would add that having been the last of the great Empire builders—and I believe we were the best of them—we have, in my view, tried to do a very good job of work. I look back to the Boer War, and remember that Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman had the great courage to say to South Africa, "Come in and be a member of the family." I look round the Colonial Empire. We have shamefully exploited it. We have been a race of absentee landlords. But in recent years, let it be said we have tried, honestly, I believe, and in all sincerity, to develop the resources of the Colonial Empire with a view to developing the sense of independence of the Colonial peoples. That is all to the good. My testimony now to the Empire may be accepted in a way it might not have been if I had not been rude about its past history. I think we are trying now with a new sense of responsibility to develop something which is of enormous importance to the world, something that one might call—I do not like to use these words—the British spirit and British culture. I think the war has proved the developing qualities and the developing possibilities of the Empire and the Colonies.
We have to think in terms of our political future. Speaking for myself, I do not believe in the idea of an Empire Cabinet. I do not think Prime Ministers ought to spend a substantial part of their time away from their own responsibilities. But I would welcome the most frequent consultations by the Prime Ministers of the Dominions on matters of major policy, and I would hope to see—expressing a purely personal view—the opposite numbers in the Dominions of Ministers here coming together for frequent consultations on defence or trade or whatever the problems might be. Indeed I hope that we may be able to develop permanent councils representative of the Dominions. But I really do not believe that you can expect Prime Ministers of the Dominions to be over in this country semi-permanently. What I do think we can build up is a structure of common action and co-operation, which would be desirable.
It has been suggested in speeches following that of Lord Halifax, that if the Dominions come in to talk with us, and to take joint decisions with us, on questions affecting foreign policy and defence, there would be some derogation of national sovereignty. It happened to be a member of my party who put that point in Canada. Let me say that I do not share that view. National sovereignty is a very precious thing, but it can la, overdone. You have the four Dominions all grown up—I do not call it a sisterhood, I call it a brotherhood—with their own latchkeys, and if one wishes to give up his latchkey and go out nobody can stop him. I cannot think they are not big enough in their view of our future to be prepared to come in and, after consultation and after difficult times of controversy, take their part in defining responsibilities for the Commonwealth and the Empire. My hon. Friend earlier spoke about defence. It is perfectly true that the Dominions have stood like one man at the call of war. They cannot, I suggest, after this war leave the major responsibility for defence to the Mother Country. They must share in our policy with regard to defence and they must share its responsibilities.
My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) devoted a good part of his speech to the question of economic development. We have in the Dominions and Colonies untapped resources—up to now of undefined value—which may be of enormous importance not merely to the development of the standard of life of our people in the Dominions and Colonies and the standard of life of people here, but the standard of life of the peoples of the world. To that we ought to give a good deal of attention. We have heard talk in the past about protection and tariffs, preferences and so on. I do not believe that these terms, protection, tariff reform, Ottawa and preferences, have any meaning whatever in the middle of the 20th century. I think that as a great economic unit, with enormous possibilities, the British Empire must invent a new terminology. Some reference has been made to Lend-Lease. I have some very close personal recollections of Article 7 of Lend-Lease because I was then in office and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India and I did not agree—not for the first time. But facing this new situation my right hon. Friend has talked about the possibility of bulk purchase. At least he is getting out of the old terminology.
I do not believe the real development of the Empire can come to us if we think in terms of the old tariff reform formulae. We would gladly aid, as far as I am concerned, in every kind of way, the development of all our potential economic resources in the Empire. There have been suggestions, which I deplore. There may be a view spread outside this House because of speeches made to-day, that in developing this unity across the seven seas, which is a unity of great possibilities, we regard it as a sort of bastion against some of the great Powers as, for example, the United States. In my view, that is not so. It would be absurd of us, when we have resources potentially more valuable than those of any other great Power in the world. We are thinking in terms of a new spiritual unity developed over the century, with a certain magnanimity from this country, and the sacrifices of the war. We are not thinking of building up something against anybody. We think of building up a new Commonwealth of Nations for everybody as part of a general world economy.
I should not like to say any word which might be used in the United States against our honest and sincere intentions, but Britain and her brotherhood of Allies in the Commonwealth can never become the hewers of wood and drawers of water for the United States. We cannot become the vassals of the United States, and I think we are entitled to say so. But let us say that we are now trying to build up what, I believe, will be an indispensable contribution to the future civilisation of mankind, the British Empire. Let it not be thought that we are doing that because we have ulterior motives against the great Powers. My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham talked about sentiment and so on, but it is not a question of raw sentiment. We have built up in the Empire a new tradition. We stand by the same faith and we are hoping—and I think hon. Members opposite will agree with me in this—to train the Colonies in the same spirit, and to lead them to see that the right of the British Commonwealth of Nations is the right of self-government and self-determination. If the great Powers think that we are staking out a claim to which we are not entitled, let this ever be remembered, that, long before they were driven into the war and long before they were attacked, Britain and the countries of the Empire stood firm, and on that ground, quite apart from material reasons, we are entitled to consideration in the world of to-morrow.
When the Leader of the House announced this Debate the other day he said, in a sort of pleasant humility, that the Cabinet proposed to sit back, do very little, say less and listen to what the backbenchers and the rest of the House of Commons had to contribute, so as to prepare and fortify themselves for the Imperial Conference. I propose to deal only with one definite problem. By what means can we integrate the Empire, and how can we make it into one interwoven unit? The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) is to be congratulated on putting down this Motion accompanied by his somewhat unexpected friends. I have always felt, 'in the 19 years that I have been in this House, that, too long, have we taken the stability, permanence and unity of the Empire for granted, and too frequently has this House shown its indifference to this great heritage, which the Prime Minister described the other day as having been built up by conquest, consent or desire. I would add, without any reference to anybody on the Front Bench, that too often in the past have we put the least capable and least worthy of our Ministers in charge of her great destinies.
We are now having this Debate. How can we make the best of it? I must make some reference to the hare that I have followed on many occasions but in the pursuit of which the Prime Minister has invariably baulked me, and that is, the creation of some form of Imperial Cabinet or Government. There is the great constitutional fact that His Majesty the King is King of all the Dominions, as well as of England, and it is necessary to have some form of Imperial body here in London. The King cannot reside in the Dominions. He must be here and, therefore, he must have someone to advise and guide him on the progress and prosperity of his Dominions. I cannot agree with the thesis advanced in a notable book by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg). He wrote in favour of regional councils, but I think regional councils are too far off, and are not intimate and, therefore, one comes to the conclusion that the only real means of integrating the government of Empire, and bringing it to the centre of the Empire, is to have some form of Empire Cabinet or Government. Undoubtedly, the realisation of such an instrument is very difficult to-day and raises a great number of constitutional difficulties. It would require independent government for Scotland, England and Wales, although Ulster has given us a guide on that, but I see the constitutional difficulties and realise that we shall have to wait for a far wider and a more far-sighted community than we are to do that. I think however it will come. If we cannot get that ideal, what is the next best thing? Obviously—and it has not occurred to me alone but to Mr. Curtin and Mr. Fraser as well—it is an Empire Council. What are the subjects on which such a council might give advice and guidance to the Government? They should be Empire currency—a very complicated subject—Empire communications, Empire defence, Empire trade and Empire foreign policy and, to stress the most important thing, as mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass), Empire emigration. Ties between the Dominions are flimsy materially, although strong spiritually. Mr. Curtin says that they should be strengthened into bonds, and the best and quickest may to strengthen these ties is by the infiltration into the Dominions of British flesh and blood.
One of the happiest results of the war so far, a war, otherwise, of unrelieved tragedy, is the fact that some 16,000 young girls have married Canadian soldiers and have gone out there, or propose to go there to form a great nucleus of British stock and ideas in Canada. I will not go into the composition of such a council, or even into its duties, because there will be many and complex problems with which to deal. There are, however, a few factors which present themselves to me and which, I think, will be worthy of submission by our Government to the Imperial Conference when it meets. First of all there is the treatment of what was our oldest Dominion, Newfoundland—as I hope it will very soon be a Dominion again—and how to restore its financial and trade security. Then the question of Canada. How are we to limit the infiltration into Canada of United States finance, trade, economy and social conception? Then we have the colour problem in South Africa, which is equally an Imperial problem. All these matters should be referred by our Government to the Conference when it meets.
There is another grave issue which will have to be faced. It is bound to be raised at the conference and I think we should know where we stand before it comes up. That is the question of the South African States, Bechuanaland, Zululand and Nyassaland. We have had many declarations and implications from our great friend Field-Marshal Smuts that these native States should be integrated into the South African Union. As one small voice speaking in the wilderness, I would like to lodge my protest at such a suggestion being carried out until a very thorough and most meticulous investigation has been made to show whether these natives would be better under our rule or under the rule of the Union.
There is one other problem which afflicts many of us, and that is Eire. It will need all the wisdom in all our heads to solve it. I think, however, we should bear in mind that thousands of the sons of Eire have been fighting with us and have died for us, thousands more are working for us, and their daughters too. Yet their Government at home present this quaint anomaly of neutrality, giving house-room to the agents of our enemies who seek to do evil against us. Are we going to allow the glory of the service of these young men, and their achievements, to he tarnished by the stubborn and intransigent attitude of their Ftihrer? My suggestion is that we should go over the heads of this fanatical man and his stupid Government by means of the radio. I would appeal to the people of Eire and would tell them, because they do not know, the story of Eire's sons. I would recount to them their deeds of gallantry, I would tell of the decorations they have won, I would make Eire, and the people of Eire, Empire-conscious and war-conscious, for I believe that is the only way we will ever get that misguided little nation to see where materially its bread and butter lie and where sentimentally its future lies.
In conclusion I would like to come back to some other methods by which these ties can be strengthened. We have one which has already been referred to, and which the R.A.F. have taught us, the exchange of personnel. To-day we have our boys in the R.A.F. being trained in every part of the Dominions except Eire. We have Empire crews winning this war in the air for us. Why not carry that further? Why not exchange of officers and men of the Army and exchange of officers and men of the Navy? It was done before the last war to a very limited extent, but it never really achieved the strength in numbers that could make it really worth while.
Then let us exchange our teachers, have here a most interesting document on the interchange of teachers under the auspices of the League of Empire. I find from this Report that in the last 20 years 2,156, mostly primary teachers and mostly women teachers, have been exchanged between the Dominions and ourselves. Surely that is an infinitesimal number as representing the vast thousands of teachers who are engaged in teaching throughout the Dominions. I therefore suggest that this be carried further. The way has been shown us, we need only follow. To me it is essential' that the children of the Empire should learn of this heritage of theirs, should learn of its greatness, and should be made aware of its capacity for further greatness They will never learn by reading dull history books, they can only learn from those who know it themselves and who cart teach them from first-hand knowledge. Then there was a proposition I pat once before in this House many years ago which was started and then, I am sorry to say, dropped. That was to establish a system of pen friends among the primary and secondary school children in our schools and in the schools of the Dominions. It would cost practically nothing. One letter a week could be easily arranged by the High Commissioner's Office, and there you would be establishing a future of understanding and friendship that would prove of incalculable value to this integration of our great Empire.
I know that difficulties are likely to be experienced in carrying out many of the suggestions I have made, but the world of the future is going to be full of difficulties and we have to face them boldly and with courage. We have to prepare our minds for change, and great change, and throw off old shibboleths and traditions and dead slogans and face the world with new eyes, clean eyes and clear eyes. We are now on the verge of great opportunities. The Imperial Conference is on us. The chance of shaping the future of our race has been given to us now and, if we miss it now, we may miss it for ever.
I must apologise to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and to the House for the state of my vocal cords, but I hope none the less that I may make myself heard. I am able at once to say that the Government accept the Motion moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Sea-ham (Mr. Shinwell) in his very interesting, powerful, well-arranged and well-argued speech, if he will allow me to say that. The Labour Party, for many years, have taken a keen, positive and constructive interest in Empire questions. My hon. Friend made a very able speech, but it is no new thing for speeches to be made by Labour Members in this House in support of a constructive Imperial policy.
So far as my contribution to-day is concerned, I would recall the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), who asked a question when this Debate was arranged. My right hon. Friend said that the Government desired to give Members the widest opportunity to express their own views, but that the Government themselves would not have any far-reaching statement to make, for the obvious reason that they were about to enter into consultations with the Dominion Prime Ministers who are shortly coming to this country. It would, therefore, clearly be very wrong, and discourteous to the representatives of the Dominion Governments who are coming here, if any spokesman of the Government were now to proceed to prejudge the number of very interesting questions which have been raised, very helpfully, in the Debate to-day.
These will be among the issues to be considered at the coming family council, for that is what it is. It will be an intimate family council, called at a most decisive moment in the history of this war, and indeed in the history of the world and of the British Commonwealth and Empire itself. It could not have been better timed than now. To have held it later might have been too late to decide matters now pressing for solution. To have held it earlier might have been `o hold it before the shape of the problems to be discussed had been clearly delineated. Now there are coming to this family council the Prime Ministers of four Dominions. Three of them have been here before. They are old friends. Mr. Mackenzie King from Canada has often been here before. Mr. Peter Fraser from New Zealand has been here several times, and Field-Marshal Smuts, the veteran of three wars, in the first of which he fought against us and in the second and third of which he has been one of our most stalwart counsellors and supports and guides, is also an old friend. All these three will be warmly welcomed by all sections of our people. Mr. John Curtin is coming here for the first time, and for that reason he will be given a specially warm welcome. [Interruption.] Does anyone contradict the statement that he has not been here before?
I should be obliged if my hon. Friend would tell me in what year he was here.
I am very much interested to hear that. Anyhow he has not been here before as Prime Minister of Australia, and he will be specially welcomed on his first appearance. I had the privilege of meeting him in 1938, when I was in Australia. He showed me great friendship and personal kindness in many ways, and I was exceedingly interested in a number of his observations on Empire affairs and on the future. I remember, in particular, that he was convinced of the great importance of building up the air defence of Australia, and, indeed, of the whole Empire, and how right he was! These Dominion Prime Ministers will be our guests for these exceedingly important discussions. I can give—indeed to some extent I shall be only repeating—certain undertakings which have already been given. We are not going to make any final decision on any of these matters which have been discussed to-day, until we have had the opportunity of discussing them with the Dominion Governments' representatives. We have no commitments upon them to which we are firmly bound. We shall discuss them frankly, and we shall seek to achieve a united Empire policy in peace, as we have achieved it in war. That will be the Government's aim. Another undertaking has been given, and I have been asked to repeat it by my hon. Friend the Member for South East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit). I will read the terms of a Question, to the Prime Minister and the answer
given on 14th March. He was asked for
an assurance that no final or binding commitment in regard to post-war trade or Empire economic policy will be entered upon by the Government until such a matter has been freely debated in the House.
The Prime Minister replied:
Yes, Sir."—[OFFICIAL REPORT,14th March, 1944; col. 29, Vol. 398.]
I hope that that is abundantly clear. For these reasons I shall deliberately not pursue a number of important matters which have been raised to-day. So far as our economic purposes are concerned, I like, in most general terms, to indicate the aims which, I think, we would all agree we should hold before us. First of all—and this has been emphasised by several of the Dominion Governments in their own countries—we must aim at achieving, in the post-war world, full employment in each part of the Empire, and we must take whatever steps are necessary to bring that about. We must aim too at a full standard of life and at raising the standards, throughout the various Colonial and other territories for which we are responsible. We must seek the largest possible volume of beneficial exchange of goods and services throughout the world, coupled with a reasonable stability in price movements. I will say a word about Imperial Preference in a moment. We must consult with our Dominion visitors as to how these purposes, among others which they may place before us, shall be achieved.
I think it is common ground, as has been said to-day, that there are great undeveloped resources urgently needing development, not only in the Dominions but in the Colonial Empire. We are, perhaps, all of us, of all parties, somewhat to blame in respect of the Colonial Empire for having been rather slow, unimaginative and unsystematic in planning the development of those resources, and the raising of the standards of life of the peoples of those territories. I observed just now that the Labour Party has been deeply interested for a long time in these Empire problems. It has been rendered more easy by what my hon. Friend the Member for South-East St. Pancras referred to as reducing the distance factor, which I thought was a good phrase and an important idea. It is only now becoming possible for us, whether member of the Government, or Members of Parliament, or persons connected with industry, or the trade union movement, or educational bodies, or children going from one part of the Empire to another, to do these things on the scale which is necessary if the Empire is to become a real family and not a loose association of distant communities seldom meeting one another. I am sure that one of the most important things we must develop in the coming years is rapid travel and increased facilities of travel in all forms, notably by air. We have great opportunities as Members of Parliament for developing our contacts with other parts of the Empire. I think that the value of the work of the Empire Parliamentary Association will increase, as the years go on, in this connection. A large proportion of Members of ail Parliaments in the Empire should be able to pay at least one visit to Parliaments in other parts of the Empire.
Perhaps I might add a personal word. I had the privilege of going to Australia and New Zealand in 1938, and the memories I brought away will never be obliterated from my mind. They were very important in giving me a much clearer and closer picture of those two great democratic communities in the South Pacific than I had before. This experience will, I hope, become more and more common, so far as we are all concerned. Since it was to Australia and New Zealand that I was enabled to pay that brief visit, and since I have not, so far, to my regret, been able to visit Canada or South Africa, if I am to speak in the light of my experiences, it must be chiefly of those two Dominions in the Pacific. In the Dominions there is a strong pulse of life. There are an eagerness, a courage and an enterprise, both in pioneering these largely undeveloped countries, and in many forms of social innovation. A discussion arose, during to-day's Debate, between my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. J. Dugdale) and my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg). Their exchange of views ended in a sort of love feast and in complete agreement, following their earlier disagreement.
What struck me particularly in Australia and New Zealand was those Dominions' spirit of social innovation, basing itself upon a very real social equality and a genuine democracy. I must say I found it most admirable. I very greatly enjoyed it and was stimulated by my observations and experience. I must say, and I hope it will cause no offence to any of my hon. Friends, that in many ways things have been done there in the field of legislation which would scare and shock many traditional Conservatives in this country. We can learn much from those countries. One of the best contributions that we can make to the development of Empire understanding and unity is to learn from a number of those bold experiments, and to consider whether many of them might not also be applied here. We often speak and think of the Dominions as distant and far-away nations, yet, when we are there, we discover how close a kinship there is between us, and how many are the ties which unite us, one to the other.
Perhaps I might be permitted again to give an illustration, in the shape of a curious yet significant story. When I was in Queensland, I was driven, with some companions, from Brisbane in a car. In the evening, when we were returning to Brisbane, I asked the driver whether he was Australian born, to which he replied: "No." He had come out as a boy from England. He said he came from a little place. "I am sure you would never have heard of it," he said; "it was a little place called Close House." Although he thought I would never have heard of it, I was able to tell him that it was, in fact, in my own constituency of Bishop Auckland. It is a little mining township. This man did not know—why should he know?—that I represented that little township. Quite suddenly, and by chance, this relationship was established between us. One is very conscious out there that one is moving among one's own relatives and within one's own family circle—even more conscious of it sometimes than in some parts of this country.
With regard to Imperial Preference, perhaps I might be permitted to recall that one of the first votes I ever gave in this House, as long ago as June, 1925, was in favour of increasing the margin of Imperial Preference. Debate was taking place on a proposal of the Government of that time—the present Prime Minister was then Chancellor of the Exchequer—to reduce the duties upon Empire imports of sugar, dried fruits, wines, spirits and tobacco, and on that in the Labour Party there were differing views. I think my hon. Friend was not in the House. It was one of the periods when he was not with us.
I daresay. Considerable debate developed between Mr. Thomas and Mr. Snowden, as he then was, the former holding that to reduce these duties would be, incidentally, to reduce the cost of living. Mr. Snowden held that it would not be to promote Free Trade as he thought he understood it. Following a discussion at a Labour Party meeting it was decided—this will interest my hon. Friend—to allow a free vote in the House. The Whips were not put on, and a minority of us went into the Lobby with the Government of that day. I looked last night to see who they were. Some of them are no longer in the House. But my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) was one of them and my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson), my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland who represents Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood), my right hon. Friend the Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Ben Smith), who is now in Washington, my hon. Friend the Member for South Leeds (Mr. Charleton) and my hon. Friends the Members for North Islington (Dr. Guest), South Tottenham (Mr. Messer), and West Islington (Mr. Montague), and others I might mention. We all voted in favour of extending the margin of Preference, and with the aid of a few Conservatives we managed it.
If my right hon. Friend will give us the names of those who voted on the other side, it will fill in the time until the rising of the House.
My hon. Friend obviously knows that I have a compact with my right hon. Friend opposite, who does not want to begin to-day the memorable speech he is to make to-morow. However that may be, I make this little historical excursion in order that it may not be thought that the Labour Party in the past has taken an unreasonable or pedantically uniform view, in opposition to Imperial Preference. As time has gone on, even those who were opposed to Imperial Preference have been converted to its great practical value.
All this is most interesting. Will my right hon. Friend allow me to ask a question? At the beginning of his speech he was apparently speaking from a Departmental brief. Is he going to tell us what the Government's attitude is to be on this point?
Yes, Sir. I was just saying how I think it is generally agreed in all parts of the House that Imperial Preference has been of quite definite value both to us and the Dominions, particularly in the latter part of the period between the two wars, when there was a continual piling up of obstructions to trade of every kind, including a number of most pernicious import quotas against our exports to the Continent of Europe. These did far more damage to our export trade than any straightforward protective duties, because they limited what might be sent from this country to various European countries, in the most rigid and unyielding fashion. There is no doubt, I think, that during this period the preferences which we had in Imperial 'markets were of substantial value to our export trade.
Since my right hon. Friend thinks fit to rake up our deeds, or our misdeeds, in 1925—whichever they may be thought to be—he should say that those who voted with him did so strictly believing in the principles of Free Trade. In other words, we were hoping for the reduction of taxation, and not for the increase of it.
Yes, Sir; Mr. Thomas made a most powerful speech in that sense. It is very interesting and instructive to read those speeches now. But there is no doubt that in the Dominions these preferences, at a time when British goods were being more and more shut out by tariff and other obstructions from Europe, greatly assisted our export trade. The Government will not alter any preferential arrangements as they now exist, which concern the Dominions as much as they concern us—except after discussion and agreement with the Dominion Governments. On the other hand, since some have thought that undue emphasis was being placed on Empire, trade, I would repeat that Empire trade is exceedingly important. During the latter part of the period between the wars, it shrank much less than our trade with the rest of the world. But none of the Dominions, I am sure, would suggest that we should confine our trade within the Empire.
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the Government consider themselves limited to maintaining the existing preferences, such as they may be, and that they are debarred from extending them in any way by the agreements into which they have entered?
It was not my intention to express such a view. I thought I had made myself clear. I said that there are now certain preferential arrangements in existence, and that the Government will not alter any of these arrangements, which concern the Dominions as much as they concern us, except after discussion and agreement with the Dominion Governments. With regard to trade with the rest of the world, this also must be greatly expanded, if we are to get the exports and imports which are necessary. It has previously been stated—I think the late Chancellor of the Exchequer first gave this figure to the House, and it is now commonplace, having been quoted a good deal in the Press—that if we are to obtain the imports of food and raw materials necessary for full employment in this country, we must increase our exports by at least 50 per cent. over pre-war. That is not at all an extravagant estimate; the figure may be more. We must, therefore, expand our trade with the Empire as much as we can. But also we must expand our trade with other important areas of the world.
Regarding the Treaty with the United States, I think it is only right to say—and my right hon. and gallant Friend who is now Secretary of State for the Colonies was President of the Board of Trade at that time and negotiated the Treaty—that the Treaty came into effect only a short time before the war, and the war so completely changed the conditions of trade, and led to the introduction of a planned import programme that it is really not possible to say what the effects of that Treaty would have been under anything like normal conditions, so that it is impossible to say how much or how little it would have affected our trade with the United States. Quite clearly, the United States market is an enormous one, and it is much to our interest to have access to it, particularly if this can be negotiated on rather 'better terms than we used to have before the war.
On the other hand, Latin America as a whole is also a very important market, and I have been careful in previous statements I have made in this House to say that nobody has asked it, and we have no intention of disinteresting ourselves in the South American market, to which a large flow of our exports should go. There are, again, very great possibilities in Russia. Trade with Russia is now proceeding entirely in accordance with war requirements, but when the war is oyez., we and the Russians, I hope, will find ways of increasing the volume of trade in both directions. Then there is China, a market of immense potential importance, with which we must also hope to develop trade on a greater scale than ever in the past. Last, but not least, there is the Continent of Europe, and, when the devastation and depredations of the common enemy have been repaired by various emergency measures, of relief and rehabilitation, it will then be very necessary that we should have a better outlet for our goods into Europe than we had in the inter-war period when every European nation—or most of them—was erecting every kind of barrier against British exports. I run briefly over these other markets in order that we should see the picture as a whole, and so that it should not be thought that it is sufficient merely to concentrate attention on developing and expanding our export trade with the Empire or our imports from it.
There have been a number of expressions to-day of our recognition as, indeed, was recognised by the Statute of Westminster and even before, that these discussions with the Dominions are discussions entirely on a basis of equality of rights and interests. The fact that, for the moment, the population of this country is larger than that of any of the Dominions must be considered in relation to the future possibilities of the growth of population and productive power in the Dominions which, particularly in Canada and Australia, are very much greater than anything in this little Island. Therefore, we should think of these dis- cussions as being in every sense of the word conducted between equals at the family council table.
Before the war, there were warm feelings of sentiment which helped the development of economic relationships between different parts of the Empire. But nothing can ever be quite the same again since the events of these last years, and it cannot be forgotten that, with one small and ignominious exception, named by one speaker today, though it is kinder not to name them again, the self-governing Empire rallied to the defence of this country and of the cause for which we are fighting, and, when we were in our hour of the greatest danger there were troops here— Canadian, New Zealand and Australian—in this Island prepared to defend us against the worst that the German barbarians of the West could do.
Later, when it was the Japanese barbarians of the East who were threatening them, and when I sensed, as we all did, the danger of these barbarians gaining a foothold in that beautiful State of Queensland or in other parts of Australia, it gave me as much pain at the heart as the thought that those other barbarians might overrun this Island of ours. After these hours of great peril and common danger nothing can ever be the same again. They came from the Dominions to defend this old land, as some of them called it, and they defended the skies over this old land in the Battle of Britain, and that is going to make its mark on all our relations in the future.
In New Zealand when war broke out Michael Joseph Savage was Prime Minister. I had the honour of meeting him. He died before his time after having worn himself out working for New Zealand. He said when we went into the war, "Where Britain goes we go, and where Britain stands we stand." In the case of New Zealand that has been absolutely true, small though her population is, from that day to this. I believe that we shall take, at this conference of the Prime Ministers, a great step forward. It is not to be thought that the Dominion Prime Ministers will wish to go into masses of close detail—they will not have time for that—but they will no doubt bring with them able officials, and let me say that they have among their officials exceedingly able men, with whom our officials here have already had some most interesting discussions. All these important matters will be discussed with the Dominions Prime Ministers in the most frank and friendly way, and no doubt certain broad conclusions will be reached. Thereafter, the working out of these decisions in more detail will become one of the duties of His Majesty's Government in association with the Dominion Governments. Just as we have stood together, we of the British Commonwealth and Empire, in the grim shadows of this war, so, I believe, we shall stand together in the sunshine of victorious peace. This Debate has been, on this first day, extremely helpful. On behalf of His Majesty's Government I express our gratitude to those who initiated it, and I am sure that as it proceeds to-morrow it will be of still further advantage.