Orders of the Day — Empire and Commonwealth Unity

– in the House of Commons on 21st April 1944.

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Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [20th April]: 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."—[Mr. Shinwell.]

Question again proposed.

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

Yesterday's Debate fully justified the persistent efforts of my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton), and those associated with him, to obtain it. It began, under good auspices, with a far-reaching speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), a speech which has been widely acclaimed. There followed speeches containing a number of helpful suggestions. While there was not unanimity of view, there was, at any rate, identity of purpose. The Debate derives its importance from the forthcoming Imperial Conference. It is enheartening that the Dominion Prime Ministers should be on their way here. They represent the only countries among the United Nations which came into the war of their own volition, the only countries which came in without waiting to be attacked. It is, therefore, not only enheartening, it is fitting, that they should be here on the eve of the departure of the greatest military expedition that has ever left these shores. They will give their valuable counsel in the conduct of the war. Apart from that, which must be the over-riding purpose, they will consider fully the relationship of the various countries of the Commonwealth to one another, and of the Empire as a whole to the world.

Why do these questions of relationship become relevant, and why were they pressed from all quarters of the House? Power has always been a governing consideration in international affairs. It is felt that we are moving into an era- indeed that we have moved into an era—when only the large and well-integrated units can make their authority felt, either to achieve their own purposes, or to achieve the purposes of mankind as a whole. Judged by standards of population and resources, it is obvious that neither Britain nor the Dominions, taken separately, can stand on the same level as Russia and the United States. Some means are sought, therefore, of consolidating the British Empire, of arriving at a position in which a number of separated communities can act with the spontaneity, the coherence and the efficiency of a single body. That is the problem.

The scope of any plan which is to be successful has been defined by my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Dominions. He has said: It is essential for the future of the Commonwealth that there should be a single foreign policy, a coherent scheme of defence and a close mutual understanding, not only between Governments but peoples. Those are the three desiderata to which he has given expression. How are those objects to be realised? Of course, the only way to realise them perfectly would be to federate the British Commonwealth and Empire. Then you would have a single Parliament responsible to an electorate. You would have a Government responsible to the Parliament, and deploying all the apparatus of diplomacy and armaments. That is the only logical scheme, and it has many persuasive advocates. It is based on a false analogy. The British Empire, unlike Russia and the United States, is not a compact geographical unit. In fact, it is not a natural geographical unit at all. Its main physical characteristic is its sea communications. That is the character of the British Empire, distinguishing it from the land masses of Russia and the United States. The scheme for federation is simple, understandable, but it suffers from the supreme demerit of being rejected by all the parties concerned.

General Smuts has made another proposal which is partially federal in character. He has invited us to consider —and his words are not often quoted with accuracy—whether we should not create out of closer union with Britain a great European State, great not only in its world wide ramifications, great not only as an Empire and as a Commonwealth, stretching all over the Continents, but great as a power on the European Continent, an equal partner with the other colossi in the leadership of the nations. There is a conception in the framework of what is called power politics. It is an invitation to create a single State, a federal State out of certain democracies in Europe and Britain. How satisfactory it would be to General Smuts, that great pacifier, who has reconciled the Dutch and British peoples in South Africa, to bring together their mother countries in Europe and even to widen the nexus by joining others to them, may well be understood. But it would be the end of our island status, and of our island vision, the end of This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall, Or as a moat defensive to a house. It would be a complete deflection from the whole of our history, both politically and psychologically.

Mr. Curtin takes a more contracted view. He confines himself to suggesting improvements of machinery. It must be surprising to an audience outside the British Empire to listen to the controversy which this proposal has elicited. It seems to be not very revolutionary to suggest that there should be an Empire Council in constant session, meeting rotationally in the various capitals of the Empire, and that this Council should be served by an Imperial Civil Service. It does not seem a very disturbing proposal to an equable mind. It has, nevertheless, been explosive in its effects. One must understand why. The fear is, and it is a fear entertained particularly in Canada, that the Imperial Conference shall develop into a policy-making body, and thus deprive the Governments in the various Dominions of their direct and indefeasible responsibility to their own Parliaments. That is the fear.

Canada could never belong to a policy-making body which might put her into conflict, even on minor matters, with the United States. It is necessary to appreciate her geographical situation. It is also necessary to appreciate that, in order to make her help to us more effective, she has interlocked her economy with that of the United States. She has become, in the course of this war, in co-operation with her great neighbour, by the aid and assistance largely of her great neighbour, the fourth industrial Power among the United Nations. She has built great shipyards, and she has developed a great metallurgical industry, intensified her agriculture, in order to help us, entirely in agreement with the United States. Moreover, She has a military agreement with the United States, she has a Joint Defence Board with the United States. It is obvious that she cannot belong to any institution which might put the purposes of her foreign policy into conflict with the United States. Should this be a cause of irritation in Britain? Should it not rather be recognised that, despite this close affiliation with the United States, she has trained and sent her Army to serve with ours, she has developed her Fleet, such as it is, to serve in the Atlantic. She has kept us supplied with food. She has given to the British Treasury a large sum of money, 2,000,000,000 dollars. There never has been such an exhibition of loyalty, such evidence of Imperial attachment existing in any part of our previous history. It is surely an advantage that Canada should be closely associated with the United States, because she can act as the bridge between the two great maritime democracies. That is an advantage to Britain.

All these proposals then fail. They have all been rejected—the proposal for federation, the proposal of General Smuts, has not met with acceptance even in Europe, and Mr. Curtin's proposals did not evoke an encouraging response from the Canadian Government. What is the defect, if it be a defect, common to all these proposals? It is that they are all political in character. Does that mean that we can never get that closer union within the Empire? Not at all. Sometimes it is profitable to look at the world and the institutions in it, not idealistically, but realistically: not to suggest what they should be, but to discover what, in fact, they are. The world has grown out of its nineteenth century political garments. It has found other means of expressing itself. If one inquires how the world is, in fact, ruled to-day, one will discover that it is ruled more, and directed more, as the war is, by functional institutions than by political ones. There is a whole series of bodies in existence which permit of international co-operation without any political readjustment, without any political revision or revolution. There are boards concerned with raw materials, with production, with the allocation of supplies; there are boards concerned with transport and shipping; there are bodies like the Middle East Supply Centre, which more effectively controls the economic life of the Middle East than any of the separate Governments concerned can possibly do. The advantage of this functional control of the world is that it is flexible, that you can associate particular nations for particular purposes and other nations for other purposes. On this basis, it is possible to achieve a closer union with the Empire, while, at the same time, retaining the co-operation that we have with other countries, and notably with America. It resolves many conflicts.

Several hon. Members yesterday were at pains to reconcile their devotion to the international idea, the world-system idea, with their loyalty to the Empire. They were afraid that these loyalties might come into conflict. But, under the functional process of Government, that is no longer necessary. We were pioneers of this method. In the Committee of Imperial Defence we established, many, years before the war, a functional institution uniting many parts of the Empire. It is indeed, a remarkable fact that the soldiers of every one of the Don-Unions are clothed in the same way, trained on the same manuals, armed in the same way and arranged in the same formations. That fits naturally into an Imperial scheme. The Committee of Imperial Defence, profiting by the experience of this war, can surely be improved after the war. There are other functional matters which the Empire managed without the daily interference or control of Parliaments. Its economic unity had been established. The principle of reciprocity within the Empire, had been agreed formally at Ottawa, and asserted in relation to other countries.

Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham, my hon. Friend the Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit), and, most emphatically, my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), who is such a close student of these matters and who has written a remarkable book on the whole subject of Imperial co-operation, were assailed by a fear. They referred to Article 7 of the Lend-Lease Agreement with the United States. This Article provides for non-discrimination in trade matters. They apprehended that the United States was, in some way, seeking to disrupt the principle of inter-Imperial reciprocity which had been established, and was asserting that each of the Dominion countries must deal separately with the United States, and that the benefits of any agreement given inter-Imperially must, under the most-favoured nation treatment, also be given to the United States. In reply, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade stated categorically—and it gave much satisfaction—that there was no proposal to reduce British preferences without the consent of the Dominions. That one can well understand. I take it, however, that we may be assured that there is no question of abandoning the principle of reciprocity. I hope that the fear that has been expressed has been misplaced, and that we remain, for all economic purposes, wherever we may desire to act as one, a single economic unit. This is very important in several particulars. The lifeblood of the Empire is its communications. There was, indeed, a functional board in existence before the war, known as the Imperial Shipping Committee. The duties of that Committee were to ensure that the maritime communications between all parts of the Empire were kept effective. Whether the Committee worked satisfactorily or not I do not know, but, at any rate, this principle was acknowledged that there was a common Imperial interest in communications.

I would like to be assured, if I may be given that encouragement—because I know that many hon. Members are interested—that the same principle applies to civil aviation, that we shall try, as far as Britain is concerned, to act imperially in any negotiations. I think it is very important that the principle of cabotage within the Empire should be accepted, and that we should have the right to take up and set down anywhere in the Empire, as if it were a single country. I know that these matters do not depend on the ipse dixit of His Majesty's Government in one country; they can only be matters for co-operation. It would, however, be a retrograde step if the Empire were to lose its unity in the most important of all communications, on which our future success and strength and usefulness in the world so much depend. Other matters which can be dealt with on a functional basis are migration and, as far as possible, a common system of education should prevail in the Empire.

It, therefore, seems to me that all the machinery is in being to bring about the further consolidation of the Empire, and that no radical transformation of its character is required. It does not need a written instrument to call the Empire into existence, as it does to bring a world organisation like the League of Nations into existence. The Empire already exists. It is a natural growth and can best be developed on natural lines. It has all the English characteristics. It is like a park, rather than a formal garden. It has proceeded by intuition in the elaboration of its institutions, and not by reason and logic, which it invariably mistrusts. Those nations which placed their faith in that mental process have generally ended in destruction, whereas we go on breeding horses, growing roses, and creating Empires. It gives a wonderful exhibition in the international world of the virtues of individualism, of mutual toleration, of self-restraint, of nationality without nationalism. It is capable of much improvement without any drastic change. It is not a sick body. It is Europe which is sick. There is the spawning-ground of war. There is the mass of earth that wants to be reconstituted, and I hope the Dominion Prime Ministers, in conjunction with my right hon. Friend, will give their minds to that.

Let us, by all means, create a federal Europe, a unified Europe. That is where your reorganisation is required, not here. The world may, therefore, watch with interest the proceedings of this Imperial Conference. It may be assured that the British Empire, which saved civilisation in war, will also provide the model by which the world may be guided in peace.

Mr. Wedderburn:

I am sure the House is grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) for the most thoughtful and profound contribution which he has made to the Debate, and I think our thanks are also due to the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) for moving this Motion yesterday. If he will allow me to say so, I think the speech of the hon. Member for Seaharn showed not only his patriotism but a good deal of courage, since he could never have felt perfectly certain that all the opinions which he expressed were quite so acceptable to his political supporters as they obviously were to his opponents on this side of the House, including the President of the Board of Trade, who proved, beyond the possibility of doubt, that he voted for Imperial Preference in 1925, but he did not, as far as I could see, say that he had never voted against it on any other occasion. I should have been even more gratified if my right hon. Friend had given some indication how he is going to vote on this subject for the rest of his life.

I think this is a subject on which we would all do well to revise many of the opinions we have expressed in the past. There is one speech on Imperial Preference of the Prime Minister's which I have most often had quoted against me. It was made a very long time ago, before 1925, but it is still quite often quoted by old-fashioned hecklers in my constituency.

Sentiment by the bucketful; patriotism by the Imperial pint; the open hand at the Exchequer; the open door at the public house.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

They might quote me right, anyway. [Interruption.]

Mr. Wedderburn:

It is the kind of quotation which delights the heart of the old-fashioned Scotch hecklers, but I am afraid they are dying out now. Closer economic co-operation with the Empire is a principle for which the Conservative Party has fought for a very long time. There is, however, one observation, which, possibly, all members of the party may not approve, but which I think it is right to make. If you want to have a full economic partnership with the other members of our Commonwealth, you cannot achieve that partnership under a system of unrestricted individualism, either in commerce or in finance. Neither Free Trade in goods nor Free Trade in money will do for us, or for our Empire, in the world of to-morrow.

I think it is generally recognised that our economic circumstances after the war may oblige us, for a very long time, to restrict the total volume of our imports and to give priority to those things which we most require, but which we cannot produce at home. That does not mean, necessarily, that we shall be poorer; it does mean that we shall have to take more trouble. We have to import a large quantity of consumption goods to maintain our standard of living, and, since most of our former foreign investments will have been dissipated, it will follow that a larger proportion of our foreign trade must consist in the exchange of goods against goods, rather than in the export of capital whose return is spread over the future. Developments at home, improvements in housing and agriculture and other things that the British public will demand, will require a large production of capital goods for our own domestic use, and the first claim on any capital which we are able to export must be that of our own Empire, which is so sadly under-developed, and for whose neglect all political parties are equally to blame.

Of course, we must trade with other countries of the world. Discrimination does not mean the exclusion of anybody. The President of the Board of Trade yesterday gave a fairly comprehensive list of the countries outside the Empire with whom we should seek to increase our trade. He particularly mentioned China, which he called a market of immense potential importance, with which we must hope to develop trade more than ever than in the past. That was of some special interest to me, since my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) and I, a year ago, had many opportunities of seeing the great possibilities of economic expansion in China, and enjoyed, as representatives of this House, the most warm and generous hospitality of all sections of the Chinese people, which naturally disposed our minds to see the desirability of cultivating stronger and closer relations with that great country. But I feel bound to mention the difficulty, of which I am sure the President of the Board of Trade is already aware, that what the Chinese will mostly want from us after the war will be capital goods, financed by a long-term guaranteed loan. They will not be able to pay immediately for what they will require. They will ask us for a political guaranteed loan, such as the Russians asked us for in 1924. I do not know how the President of the Board of Trade voted on that question, but I think it was this which led to the downfall of the first Labour Government.

I think it is an excellent thing to send capital exports to China, but we shall probably find there is some limit to what we can do in this regard. We simply shall not be able to afford to scatter British capital broadcast all over the world as we did in the 19th century. We must discriminate, we must select and we must "control," which is a word which a great many people do not like. It is going through rather a bad time at the present moment, but we ought to say what we mean. Parliament will have the responsibility of deciding the character of our imports, what kind of imports are to have priority and what countries are to have priority. Parliament will have the responsibility of deciding that, and it will also have the responsibility of deciding what is to happen to our foreign investments. We cannot allow a repetition of what happened in the 1920s, when the Empire was starved of capital, while hundreds of millions of pounds were lent to Germany. That means that Parliament must not be afraid of the word "control" in determining the course of our trade and in directing our foreign investments.

It is for this reason that I am a little disquieted by the American attitude about discrimination. We all want to have more trade with the United States but, in order to establish good relations with the Americans, they always wish us to state our point of view frankly and candidly. The British Government are very often criticised on the ground that their pronouncements on this subject are a little obscure. I do not join in that criticism. I do not think that this is the right time for the Government to make pronouncements on Imperial policy, and, even after the conference of Prime Ministers is concluded, I do not think they should be in too great a hurry about it. Therefore, I do not join in that criticism, but even the speech of the President of the Board of Trade yesterday was positively luminous in comparison with some of the pronouncements of Mr. Cordell Hull on world economic policy. The Americans appear to think they can raise their wall of tariffs to a prodigious height and that it is a perfectly innocent and immaculate proceeding, because the wall is exactly the same height against everyone, while the British, when they erect a very low tariff wall, are behaving in a vicious and reprehensible manner, because the British rampart is uneven, it is not the same height all the way round. The British actually make it a little easier for some countries to send them their goods, while the Americans make it impossible for anyone to send any at all. They consider that, if they reduce this tariff by 50 per cent., which will not make very much difference in the amount of goods we are able to send them, we ought to abolish our own altogether. I did not hear until yesterday of this interpretation, which, apparently, had been suspected of being placed on Article 7 of the Lend-Lease Agreement. Now that the suggestion has been made, we should all take the earliest opportunity of making it plain that this is not an interpretation which could ever be endorsed by the House of Commons, whatever party might be in power. I do not think that political parties in future will be divided about Imperial Preference as they were in the reign of King Edward VII, and I do not think that any British Parliament will ever wish to surrender its economic freedom to make what arrangements it likes with other parts of the Empire.

On this question of Imperial Preference, there is only one other thing I wish to say. I have not been following the pronouncements of Mr. Mackenzie King, but if it is the case that Canada contemplates abandoning Imperial Preference in order to secure a better commercial treaty between Canada and the United States, I would not, on that account, abolish British preferences on Canadian goods. Canada for many long years before Ottawa, without any return, gave preferences to British goods, and we should remember, of course, that as British policy changed in 1931, so the Canadian policy might change again. But that is a question that I would not have mentioned if it had not been raised yesterday; I think it is hypothetical and I hope it will not arise in fact.

I would like to conclude by a few words on the subject of Imperial Defence. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport spoke of the chief defence of this island as being the sea. He quoted the passage from Shakespeare: Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house. I am not sure if I remember rightly or not, but I think that this passage goes on: Against the envy of less happier lands. That is the point I want the House to bear in mind, because the envy of less happier lands is a sensation which is very frequently excited by the existence of the British Empire, and that state of affairs will not come to an end with the defeat of Germany and Japan in this war. Our aim is to establish an enduring peace for the benefit of the whole world. I always think that the difference between people who demand collective security and those who are inclined to disparage some of the efforts of collective security which have been made is not so much a difference of principle as a difference of emphasis. Of course, we must have foreign alliances. We must have commitments; we must have definite military commitments in Europe. We must obviously have an alliance with the Dutch in the Far East. We have an alliance with Russia, and we hope that we may have one with America. We must have military arrangements for collective security. But any system of collective security, whether it is in the Mediterranean, or in the Far East, or in Africa, must have, as one of its foundations, the protection of British Imperial possessions by British Imperial Forces.

I think this Empire is peculiarly distinguished by two qualities; one is love of freedom and the other is love of peace. I do not think there is any example of any other country, certainly not any European country, which has deliberately conferred sovereignty aid freedom on any of its dependent possessions as we have done in South Africa, in Ireland, in Egypt and in Mesopotamia. I do not think there is any example in the history of the world of so great a political unit as the British Empire being defended by so small an armed force. We have never tried to create native armies in any of the Colonies which we have administered. We have been proud of these things, but we did not always get much credit for them. The Empire has been continually abused, both abroad and by many people at home, on the ground that it is an instrument of oppression, but when all our possessions in the Pacific fell to the armed forces of Japan, owing to their almost entirely undefended condition, nobody pointed out that this was due to our own love of peace. All the people who had criticised us before on the ground that we were military oppressors turned round and said "Look at these soft and effete British people; they are too lazy to defend their Empire." If we are going to be abused anyhow, it is better to be abused for being strong than abused for being weak. These sentiments are now received with approval, but I only hope they will be received with as much approval in ten years' time, when the British people are forgetting about this war and when other people may be preparing for the next one.

I do not know whether Imperial Defence is on the agenda of the Imperial Conference. I would give it priority even over Imperial Preference, because in the matter of economic policy so long as you recognise the principle you can, as you go along, adapt your economic measures to suit it; but the defence of the British Empire needs very long-term planning. It means having air bases in the Middle East and in the Far East, and it would be a very good thing if we could also have war factories in each area, and oil refineries, so that each defence area could make its own aviation spirit and much of its own war materials in order to save transport. Aggression can now be engineered so quickly that those who wish to defend peace must be in a constant state of readiness. These things mean not only having trained armies and sailors and ships but call for other preparations. They mean the preparation of strategic dispositions and all sorts of preparatory activities which arouse the most uncomfortable sensations in the breasts of all kinds of people who feel that war is likely to be brought about by the mere act of preparing for it.

We must be prepared to face this in future and to combat it. It is easy to combat it now; it will not be so easy to do it in the next ten years, because the public memory is so short. We shall have, I am sure, the same kind of difficulties as we have had before. We have to disregard this kind of criticism, which I think we can afford to disregard. I do not know of any country in the world which is weak, any country which is likely to be the victim of aggression, which will not welcome some augmentation of British power as an additional assurance of its own safety. I think we are entitled to claim without any affectation to our own Empire, which is unsurpassed in its extent and is now unrivalled in its power, is united in its resolve to employ these resources for no other purpose than the preservation of peace.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

I do not think it is inappropriate that at a time when we are faced with probably the greatest test of the British Commonwealth that we should have a discussion on its present and future organisation. I am second to no one in my belief in the importance and the value of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is a fine example to the world of a free association of free peoples showing how they can co-operate for the common good, as my right hon. Friend so well said, without any definite ties and without the sacrifice of their essential sovereignty. The Dominions, which spread over the four quarters of the world, have shown how British Parliamentary institutions can be adapted to varying circumstances and conditions, with allegiance to the British Crown as the only definite tie that holds the Commonwealth together, a point which is always accentuated by Field Marshal Smuts when he has discussed the constitution of the British Commonwealth. There has been a good deal of misunderstanding of the British Dominions by friends and foes. Outside critics will still speak of them as one entity. In fact, they are separated by vast distances and have very different conditions, both political and economic. Even Australia is lour days' journey by sea from New Zealand; South Africa is far away, in the Indian Ocean; Canada on the other hand is geographically on the American Continent, adjacent to a powerful State, the United States of America. The conditions vary, their constitutions are different and their political and economic problems are very varied.

I have been somewhat surprised that there has been so little mention of India. My hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) in opening this Debate did make a slight reference to India, saying their problems were more economic than political. I wish very much that that was true. I am sure the Secretary of State for India wishes it was true. At no time in its history has the financial position of India been better. Large sterling balances have been accumulated. Just as political conditions react on economic conditions so economic conditions react on the political, and the appalling poverty of the mass of the people has a bearing on the political question. There is a feeling in India that her economic problems will not be solved until the Indian peoples are provided with a constitution under which they can govern themselves. I mention India because we have a definite promise that after the war India shall be a. Dominion and have Dominion status. That is a genuine promise and it represents the really sincere desire of the whole of the British people and of this House of Commons. After the war, and the earlier the better, I want to see India become the sixth Dominion. I should like to know that India will be represented in the discussions to take place shortly with the Dominion Prime Ministers. India has been represented at all previous conferences, and I understand she will be represented at the forthcoming one by at least one distinguished Indian statesman. I think it would be unfortunate if India were not represented in our councils, because the British Commonwealth will not be complete until we have a friendly India co-operating with us in our common problems.

I do not think we can too much emphasise in these Debates how greatly the Dominions value their independence. They attach great importance to the Statute of Westminster. When that Act was passing through the House of Commons many doubted the wisdom of it, but in the light of experience the gesture of passing that Act has been justified. Just as we learned from the last war so we can learn from this. Interesting experiments are being made in different parts of the Commonwealth. Reference has been made to the Canberra Conference, at which the suggestion was made by Mr. Curtin for a kind of floating Imperial Conference, not an impracticable proposition in the light of improved transport. What is particularly important is the very practical proposal, which Mr. Curtin and Mr. Fraser have already endorsed by a formal agreement, for regional conferences in which all powers bordering on the Pacific should be asked to co-operate in economic, political and, above all, defence problems. In other words, in the light of the experience of this war it is right that we should adjust our institutions to our present-day conditions.

I am very much interested in the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett). I agree with him that the Dominions Office is something of an anachronism. What is really required and what the Dominions are seeking is some form of Secretariat. It might be a practicable proposition for the Dominions Office to disappear—I am sorry that there should be one member of the Government the fewer—and that in place of the Dominions Office there should be a Dominions Secretariat, with a staff such as the I.L.O. had at Geneva, comprising civil servants, experts and trained officials from all parts of the Commonwealth. It cannot be too much emphasised how jealous each Dominion is of its own economic policy. In this discussion that sometimes has been forgotten. We have, I hope, learned the lesson of the Boston tea party, and never again shall we attempt to interfere or even advise the Dominions how to manage their economic effairs. I am not going to say anything to suggest that after the marvellous contribution that the Dominions have made we should go back on any agreement made with them. Twice in 25 years they have come to our aid without question and without criticism, and we certainly could not go back on any agreement made with the Dominions without mutual consent. I have never been repentant about my attitude to the Ottawa Agreement, but the Ottawa Agreement is there, and obviously, in 1944, after we have been comrades in arms, we should not throw over the principles of that Agreement without discussion or mutual consent. The world of 1944 is not the same as the world of 1932. We have to think in different terms. Problems are different. Professor Fisher is an economist who has probably more right to speak on Dominion problems than any other economist. He was born in New Zealand, he was educated in Australia and is now Price professor of economics at Chatham House. He says: In the best interests of harmonious Comweath relations themselves, the Commonwealth's place in the world economic structure demands a turning away from the exclusive tendencies of the last decade and a closer integration with world economic development as a whole. I believe that represents the sentiments of the Dominions. They want a larger industrial life. They do not want to go back. They are not ungrateful for the help the British Commonwealth has given, but they now feel that they have come of age, that they have developed industrially and economically, and they want to trade with and co-operate with other countries outside the British Commonwealth. The fact is we cannot leave out of the picture the United States. In this Debate the Lend-Lease Agreement has loomed rather large. On 23rd February, 1942, we signed an agreement with the United States arising out of a policy of Lend-Lease. Clause 7 of that Agreement has been mentioned on several occasions, and I think it is one which should be quoted in full, because there has been some misunderstanding about it. Clause 7 says: In the final determination of the benefits to be provided to the United States of America by the Government of the United Kingdom in return for aid furnished under Lease-Lend Act, the terms and conditions shall be such as not to burden commerce between the two countries but to promote mutually advantageous economic relations between them and the betterment of world-wide economic relations. To this end they shall include provisions for agreed action by the United States of America and the United Kingdom open to participation of all other countries of like mind directed to the expansion by appropriate international and domestic measures of production, employment and the exchange of goods which are the material foundation of the liberty and welfare of all peoples"— These are the important words— to the elimination of all forms of discriminatory treatment in international commerce and to the reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers; and in general to the attainment of all the economic objectives set forth in the Atlantic Charter. That Agreement was signed over two years ago at the time of our direst peril, when we were militarily weak, short of arms, and short of materials. Our only hope was generous treatment by the United States. As a result of the leadership of Mr. Roosevelt the remarkably generous policy of Lend-Lease was initiated. In this Agreement not very much was asked in return, and it would be most unfortunate at a time like this, when our armies, our airmen and our navies are fighting side by side, if it were thought on the other side of the Atlantic that we wished to find fault with or be critical of an agreement of that kind.

Photo of Major Sir Derrick Gunston Major Sir Derrick Gunston , Thornbury

Will the right hon. Gentleman say how he interprets Clause 7.? Does he contend that it' tends to abolish Imperial Preference?

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

No doubt the way in which America interprets those words is important. America has always insisted, rightly or wrongly, that the Dominions are separate economic units, and from that point of view undoubtedly they are when it comes to tariffs. The Agreement did provide for discussion in the light of governing economic con- ditions so that there might be agreed action between like-minded Governments. These discussions have been going on, particularly on the question of monetary policy, and I was glad to hear from the Chancellor that at last some form of agreement has been come to by the experts. It has taken a long time to negotiate. I would like to know whether there has been any progress in the trades discussions. I would emphasise that in these discussions the Dominions should be present and should be allowed and encouraged to put their own point of view.

It is quite true that the United States is against discrimination. It has always been insisted in the United States, and the Government now in authority in Washington equally insist, that we should retain the Most Favoured Nation Clause. I have never had great belief in the Most Favoured Nation Clause. I think countries should be encouraged to come together and negotiate agreements for the lowering of tariffs or the removal of trade barriers. We had some experience of that in Europe when the Oslo Powers attempted to come to an agreement. That agreement was never implemented because of insistence on the Most Favoured Nation Clause. It is vital for us to have the co-operation and good will of the United States, not only during the war, but after the war. It is essential to the peace of the world that the great English-speaking peoples—I include the whole of the British Commonwealth—should co-operate in peace as in war. In my view, after this war the important question is not going to be so much one of tariffs as of exchange and currency. That is why I welcome so much the possibility of an agreement on exchange problems.

In many countries the tariff problem is going to fade into the background. Russia has no tariffs. In that country there is one buyer and one seller. I think it is agreed that in the interests of civilisation no policy should be devised that would leave Russia out of account. The Dominions, I understand, favour bulk purchases. During the war purchases of raw material have been made by the State, and I understand that Australia, and particularly New Zealand, are going to put forward a proposition of that kind. On the other hand the United States, I understand, do not favour, and view with great suspicion, collective or bulk pur- chase. I suggest that that is a matter for negotiation. We should not take the line "This is our policy; we demand Imperial Preference, we insist on bulk purchase. We want this or that policy, and we are going to have it willy nilly." We should discuss round a table how we can adjust our economic policy to work in with that of the United States of America.

There are those in America who wish to co-operate and on the other hand there are Isolationists. There is a strong school of thought in America which insists on isolation of their economy and favour economic nationalism. Are we now at this time to co-operate with those who support the policy of collaboration personified by Mr. Cordell Hull and Vice-President Wallace or play into the hands of the Isolationists? We have constantly to keep in view the problem of full employment. We are pledged in principle to the country and to Servicemen that after the war we shall have a constructive policy that will employ the population and eliminate mass unemployment. That is a very difficult purpose to achieve. If we are to have full employment we must have full production, and if we are to have full production we must have full trade. It is not going to be easy. In the meantime, during the war, we have become a debtor nation instead of a creditor nation. The right hon. Gentleman who wound up the Debate yesterday pointed out very wisely that we must have imports to secure full employment. That will mean an increase of 50 per cent. in our exports. If we have to increase our exports by one half, a very large figure, the world must be our market. It would be fatal to suggest that our policy is to isolate ourselves economically from the rest of the world.

Believe me, other nations are listening to our discussions. When we signed the Ottawa Agreement, we thought it was a purely domestic matter not affecting the economic and political problems of other nations. It was interpreted very differently on the continent of Europe and in America. The year 1932, the year of Ottawa, was the year of the spread of the power of Hitler and of the Nazi doctrine and of the totalitarian theory throughout Germany. Many felt that if the great British Commonwealth was to be closed to their trade they must devise their own economic policy. It may be that Hitler would have achieved power anyhow, but it was a great stimulus to his rise, this gesture of ours at Ottawa which seemed to point to the closing of one of the greatest markets in the world for their goods.

In my view we have to tread warily and be wise in this most critical period of our history. The last thing we want to see again is power politics. We do not want the public to feel that we have learned no lessons by the happenings of the last 20 years. We do not want it to be suggested that the British Commonwealth is going to be a closed Empire, that the world is going to be divided into economic groups. That is the way to lead to a third great war. Devastated Europe is going to face economically far more difficult problems than we shall have to face, though ours will 'be difficult enough. The United Nations are working together now during the war; I insist they must collaborate in peace. What can be done has been shown in the U.N.R.R.A. organisation. The United States has given a lead there. Surely the policy that inspires U.N.R.R.A. is the right policy, rather than a narrow interpretation of our economic life. Many people in America are suspicious of our policy, they think it stands for Imperialism. We know better, but some of the speeches that have been made during the Debate would give colour to that charge. The very last thing that should happen at a time like this is that it should be thought that the policy of the Government stands for a closed economy. Do not let it be thought that we are cutting ourselves off from the rest of the 'world or, at any rate, give the great American people, who are now standing side by side with us in the most serious period of our history, the impression that we are devising a policy in any way unfriendly or hostile to them.

Photo of Sir Malcolm Robertson Sir Malcolm Robertson , Mitcham

This Debate has ranged over a very wide field. We have heard a number of speeches of great interest, and at least one most remarkable and encouraging one from the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), who opened the Debate. We have covered Imperial defence, preference, economics, and other things. I have a suggestion to put before the House and before His Majesty's Government. Stated briefly, it is that whatever agreements may be reached between Governments, whether political or economic, they can only be ephemeral, unless and until the peoples of the world can under- stand each other better, and know more about each other's lives.

The British Council, of which I am chairman, was formed in order to inform foreign peoples about the British attitude towards life, and we have encouraged reciprocity, because we want to hear more about the attitudes of foreign peoples. Now if that applies to foreign countries, as it most emphatically does, how much more so should it apply to the peoples of the Empire? My suggestion to the House is that, however much we may think we know about the Dominions and the Colonies, and however much they may think they know about us, the fundamental fact is that the ordinary man here does not understand how the ordinary man in the opposite part of the Empire lives, moves, and has his being. Until you can establish some kind of understanding of how your opposite number lives in the other part of the Empire, all agreements are bound to be more or less ephemeral. As I have said, the British Council deals mainly with foreign countries but we have begun to work in the Colonies. In the Dominions, at present, we are doing nothing, but I think that the time has come when the Prime Ministers might do well to consider whether councils could not be set up all over the Empire. For example, if people want to know about each other's art, literature or recreation, they must have some sort of central organisation to go to, and if we had Canadian, Australian, South African Councils, and so on, as well as the United Kingdom Council here, we should have a very easy machinery for finding out things about each other.

I would stress the importance of films and of books and also lectures. It may interest the House to know that in the North of England the British Council have been running holiday courses for young people between 15 and 18. They are voluntary courses, and yet we have never yet been able to find a room large enough to hold all these young people between 15 and 18 who come to listen. On Monday morning, let us say, there will be a Norwegian speaking about Norway. He will then answer questions for an hour about Norway and will show films and lanterns slides about the country. In the afternoon there will be somebody else dealing with some other country. Those lectures are well attended and if our chil- dren want to know about foreign countries, how much more do they want to know about the Empire, those things which they cannot learn really adequately in school. I could easily find an audience for a Canadian to come and talk for an hour about Canada and answer questions afterwards, and this applies to the-Dominions and the Colonies as well.

It seems to me that if we want to hold our Empire together permanently, not only on a basis of sentiment or even material economic attachment, but on a basis of real understanding, the time has come when we should have these councils all over the Empire. An eminent statesman of the United States said that this century was to be the century of the common man. Well, I want the common man in this country to understand the' common man in the Dominions, and vice versa. I want professional to understand professional, occupation to understand occupation I think a great future would lie before that activity if once it could be started and if these councils were formed.

Photo of Colonel Charles Ponsonby Colonel Charles Ponsonby , Sevenoaks

The Conference about to start will open a new era in Dominion relations. While I fully agree with what was so eloquently expressed yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) about the sentimental side of our relations with our Dominions and Colonies, yet sentiment is not everything. Trade facilities in various ways constitute the best thread to tie up the bundle of sentiment. These facilities may include the provision of capital, the provision of trade and engineering knowledge, the provision of new ideas and also, perhaps, a continued fusion of the pioneer spirit mentioned in the Debate yesterday. But there is also required the silken thread of mutual trade. Though the President of the Board of Trade yesterday gave an assurance on the subject of preferences, I think the present moment is convenient to take stock of the past a little and see what has happened as a result of Imperial Preference in the last 20 years.

I should say, personally, that I have been connected with the British Empire Producers' Organisation during most of the time. This institution was founded to promote the interests of Empire prefer, ence and the development of reciprocal trade within the Empire. If I had time, I would quote a number of figures to show the extraordinary advantage to the various countries in the Empire of the preference created in 1919. I could show how in West Africa it has affected cocoa, raisins in South Africa and Australia, rum in the West Indies and British Guiana, sugar in South Africa, Australia, Mauritius and the West Indies, wine in Australia and South Africa and so on.

However, I prefer to confine myself to one subject about which I am supposed to know something, that is tobacco. For several years I have been chairman of the Tobacco Federation of the British Empire, and the results of the preference on Empire tobacco are most interesting and instructive. I would like to give these in detail. There have been many variations in the preference. Originally it was one-sixth of the full duty. In 1925, as we heard yesterday, this was increased to one quarter of the full duty. The full duty then was 8s. 2d. and the preference was 2s. 0½d. In 1926 this was stabilised at 2s. 0½d. for 10 years, and when the Ottawa Conference took place in 1932 this 10 years dated from the Ottawa Conference and expired in 1942. In 1942, owing to the war, the duty rose to 29s. 6d., while the preference was still only 2s. 0½d. In 1943, as all smokers are aware, the duty then rose to 35s. 6d., while the preference was reduced to Is. 6½d. per 1b. In 1939 the advantage to the Empire producer, in duty, was 21 per cent. In 1943, entirely for the purpose of providing more money for the Exchequer, the preference was whittled down to 4½ per cent.

I would like to show hon. Members the effect of this preference on the imports of Empire tobacco into this country during three periods—1920, the first year of the preference; 1931, the time of the Ottawa Conference; and 1941, the end of the 10 year period. In, 1920, the total leaf retained for consumption in the United Kingdom was 137,698,000 lb.; the Empire leaf was 4,204,000 lb. and the proportion of Empire tobacco of the total leaf was 3.05 per cent. Eleven years later, the figures were 149,800,000 lb., of which the Empire proportion was 28,200,000 lb., and the Empire share was 18 per cent. of the whole. In 1941, the total leaf retained for consumption in the United Kingdom had risen to the enormous figure of 221,910,000 lb., of which the Empire proportion was 68,000,000, or 31 per cent. I would emphasise the extraordinary change in 21 years, the percentage of Empire leaf having risen from 3 per cent. to 31 per cent. All through the years there were, no doubt, variations in quantity and price, but the rise was steady and gradual, even although the last figure was a little larger than it might have been owing to the Battle of the Atlantic. In addition to the preference there was of course, the principle of stability, which was introduced by the present Prime Minister in 1926. It is interesting to see that in that year, my right hon. Friend said: It is only by stability and continuity that these trade preferences can be made to produce an effective and permanent deflection in inter Imperial trade. History has shown the wisdom of that statement. Let us look at the effect of preference and stability on the countries concerned. Hon. Members know that the chief tobacco-producing countries of the Empire are Canada, India, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. I will not weary the House with figures for Canada and India, but I will take two African countries with which I am familiar. Tobacco-growing requires expenditure of a great deal of capital in grading sheds, barns and packing sheds. In Rhodesia, five or six years ago, at least £2,000,000 capital was employed in the tobacco industry. About one-tenth of the European male population were engaged in it, and about 25,000 natives. In Nyasaland—a small and beautiful country, which I hope Members will visit if they want a really good holiday—a large amount of pipe tobacco is produced, mainly by the natives of that country. Hon. Members may not be aware that 80 per cent. of the pipe tobacco of this country is produced in the Empire, and that a very large proportion of it comes from Nyasaland. It seems a small matter, but, a short time ago, 60 per cent. of exports from Nyasaland were in tobacco and now, owing to tea having come along, this proportion it still 39 per cent. It has meant enormous changes in the last 20 years in the prosperity of the country, in the uplift of the natives and in the standard of living. Wherever you go in all these countries the value of preference is amply demonstrated. The foundations have been laid and stability is being established and there is required only industry and perseverance.

I was glad to note that the President of the Board of Trade was quite firm yesterday about the future of these preferences. I hope that that will continue to be the view of the Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) seemed a little doubtful about our attitude and I have noticed in the Press and elsewhere, especially abroad, suggestions that we were either ashamed or bashful about preference. I cannot see why. After all, Russia makes its trade arrangements for its own benefit, America does the same and Portugal has built up its empire during the last few years entirely by preferential arrangements. Before the war, in Morocco, the French tariff barriers were so high that no outsider could look over them. Why we should be in the least diffident about introducing and continuing the same system I cannot understand. There is no doubt that preference, or some similar kind of trade facility, is absolutely necessary to producers in the Dominions and Colonies to enable them to build up their economy and develop their undeveloped resources.

It is also essential, as was stated by the President of the Board of Trade yesterday, that we should have markets and special access to them for our own goods in the future. For that reason, I welcome the fact that an Imperial Conference is shortly to take place. I hope that the representatives of the Dominions and ourselves will have no difficulty in agreeing to speak with one voice in the trade discussion with other countries. While everyone can support the sentiments which have been expressed about a happy family, I would emphasise the point that the silken cord of trade is a very useful adjunct to a happy family and I hope the Conference will put that item very high on its agenda.

Photo of Sir Henry Studholme Sir Henry Studholme , Tavistock

I am very conscious of the responsibility which rests upon Members taking part in this Debate, on the eve of the Conference of Dominion Premiers, for ensuring that any remarks and suggestions they make should be of a helpful and constructive nature. It is important to make it clear that there is a real appreciation in this country of the problems of the Dominions, which we know are masters of their own destinies within the free association of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The task of an Imperial Conference was, I think, very well summed up by Mr. Mackenzie King when he spoke in the Canadian House of Commons in January. This is what he said: The task of an Imperial Conference has been well defined as that of considering whether the several Governments represented, while preserving their individual rights of decision and action, can co-ordinate their various policies in such a way as to assist one another to help forward the common cause of peace. Its function is not to formulate or declare policy. The value of an Imperial Conference lies mainly in the free exchange of information and opinion, and in furnishing the representatives of the several Governments with more adequate knowledge of the problems, difficulties and aspirations of the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations and in giving them the direct and immediate understanding of the national and personal factors of the situation, which cannot well be obtained by correspondence or indirect communication. With this further knowledge in their possession, the representatives of each Government; in consultation with their colleagues and their respective Parliaments, are in the best position to formulate policies where co-operation is required. Surely, that is an admirable statement of the objects and the value of a Conference such as that which is shortly to take place. I hope people will not expect any startling pronouncements of policy, because this Conference will be rather in the nature of a family gathering, at which the heads of the various branches can get together and freely exchange views. It will be essentially a complement to the excellent machinery which already exists, for day-to-day co-operation between the self-governing Dominions and this country in the shape of direct communication between the Secretary of State for the Dominions, and the External Affairs Departments of the Dominions themselves, between the Prime Minister and Dominion Premiers, and through the High Commissioners. It will be for the Conference to consider whether this machinery can be in any way improved and strengthened. Such a Conference brings to this country valuable experience and wise counsel, and it must enable members of the British Commonwealth better to understand each other's problems. Personal contacts are of much more value that all papers, reports and correspondence put together.

I was very glad to note the very wide agreement which has been shown so far in this Debate on the question of Imperial Preference and the great value of Empire markets. There is nothing immoral, or "dog-in-the-manger" about Imperial Preference. The United States, Russia and the French Empire have used it 100 per cent. Our moderate preference guarantees a stable market for the countries of the British Commonwealth, and it is of vital importance not only to this country, but even more so to the other members of the Commonwealth. My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) rightly asked why we should not use our own markets for the benefit of the family. My hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Wedderburn) made a first-rate speech dealing largely with the question of Imperial Defence, a speech with which I heartily agreed, and yesterday my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) spoke about the importance of filling the empty spaces of the Empire.

I should like to suggest that the question of emigration by communities should be very carefuly considered, something on the lines of the Canterbury settlement in New Zealand in the forties and fifties of the last century. That interests me particularly because my family had a good deal to do with it. That particular form of emigration has been one of the most successful experiments in the history of the British Empire. The question of social security is very much bound up with that of emigration. Obviously some sort of agreement will have to be made for the possibility of the transfer of the right of benefit to people who go to countries where the same sort of social security exists, or perhaps the return of contributions after a certain reasonable period to people who go to countries where such social security benefits do not exist.

My qualification, such as it is, to take part in this Debate lies in the fact that I was born in the most distant of our Dominions, New Zealand, and I have since been fortunate enough to revisit that country and to visit various parts of the Empire. I was brought up to believe that the British Empire, based not on the principle of ownership by the United Kingdom but on freedom and on training its people for self-government, is one of the greatest influences for good and for peace in the world. Everything that has happened since has gone to strengthen that conviction. Twice in my lifetime we have stood up united against the forces of aggression, and I have no doubt that history will show that, had the British Commonwealth of Nations not remained steadfast in 1941–2, the glorious Russian victories of to-day would not have been possible, nor would the mounting force of the United States have been of any value to stop the eventual world domination of Germany.

Why was it that the countries of the Empire jumped to it in 1939 and came straight away into the war? It was because they understood that the war was a challenge to their civilisation. That Australia and New Zealand, with practically 100 per cent. of their population of British stock, should have felt as they did is, perhaps, not surprising, but that South Africa, with something under 50 per cent. of its population of British origin, and Canada, with about 50 per cent. British, 30 per cent. French and the rest mostly of North European stock, should have acted as they did, is, surely, one of the best answers to our enemies and to those curious and misguided people who were always prophesying the break-up of the British Commonwealth. Of course, blood, sentiment and tradition are very strong bonds, but there is another and a far more logical reason why the Dominions and the Colonies felt, as they did, that it was their war, and it is the best and strongest reason of all because it is founded on conviction. Mr. George Ferguson, the Editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, stressed this reason in a very good broadcast to this country the other day and I should like to quote what he said: We are not in this war for sentimental reasons or for reasons of tradition and history. We are not in this war because we belong to the same blood and breed as you, although anyone who knows Canada knows perfectly well how strong those bonds are. How can we forget the marvellous gesture which Canada made when she gave this country in 1942–3, without any shouting or fuss, the enormous sum of nearly 2,000,000,000 dollars. To go back to the broadcast, Mr. Ferguson said: We are in the war because we feel that an Axis victory would spell the end of civilised life for Canada. The civilisation of the countries of the British Empire has been built up on the British way and purpose. The Empire knows this and its reaction has been immediate and magnificent. There is a good deal of misunderstanding and ignorance about the British Empire both as to how it was acquired and as to the manner and objects of its administration. This misunderstanding is often the result of deliberate misrepresentation on the part of the enemies of the Empire, especially Germany, but ignorance plays a large part elsewhere, and there is a good deal of ignorance in the United Kingdom, where there is absolutely no excuse for it. It is commonly supposed that the Empire was acquired in the main by smash-and-grab, and, abroad at any rate, there is a conviction that it is governed for the benefit, and exploited to the advantage, of the United Kingdom. These beliefs have little foundation in reality and, where they are not attributable to deliberate enmity, they are partly attributable to the fact that we, as a nation, do not like blowing our own trumpet.

I want to see much more done to teach people the impartial truth about the British Empire, for the truth will bear investigation. There is very little that we need to feel ashamed of in the history of the growth of the Empire and there is a very great deal about which we are justly entitled to be proud. Between the wars there were too many people who seemed to think that the British Empire, like the British Army, was something to apologise for. Most of these people, I hope, by now have realised the value of both these institutions. I think the Board of Education should give a much more definite lead in encouraging the teaching of the history of the Empire in our schools. I know that an excellent bibliography on the subject has been issued to teachers, but I do not think there is any really suitable textbook yet for general use in schools. I hope the Minister of Education, in consultation with other Imperial educationists, will give thought to the production of such a book, something on the lines of an excellent little book by Professor Ramsay Muir, entitled "The British Empire, how it grew and how it works," but in greater detail, would be of very great value.

The study of history will show that, far from having acquired by a deliberate policy of conquest, the greater part of the British Empire was acquired quite casually, often reluctantly, and sometimes at the request of the local inhabitants. How many people know that we paid £6,000,000 to the Dutch after the Napoleonic wars for South Africa and British Guiana, or that Parliament in 1833 voted £80,000,000 in order to purchase the freedom of every slave in the British Empire, or that the reason why women and children were put into concentration camps in the South African War was humanitarian—in order to house and feed them and save them, if possible, from enteric and other epidemics. Or that we found large sums to re-establish Boer farmers on their ruined farms after the war. Or that the Fijians asked for at least 15 years to be taken under our protection before we agreed to do so? These are some of the things that children ought to be taught. I remember being very surprised at the age of five, at the ignorance of English people about the Empire. A kind lady asked my brother and me to tea soon after we arrived in this country, and she remarked to some other children that "these two little boys had just arrived from Australia." The other children looked at us in astonishment. I suppose they thought we ought to be black. But we were very annoyed at our hostess, just as small Australians would have been annoyed at being told that they came from New Zealand. She said "It is all the same, is it not?" That is not quite so bad as the girl who went to the Zoo and saw an extraordinary-looking animal with the notice, "Kangaroo from Australia," and exclaimed in dismay, "My brother has gone out to many one of them." I was rather staggered to read the other day in an evening paper which ought to have known better that Oregon was in Canada.

The B.B.C. is doing very good work with its Empire talks and there are other ways in which knowledge and understanding could be acquired. I think there is great scope for really good films about the Empire. I should like to see more school Empire tours on the lines of those excellent tours organised by Dr. Montague Rendell and Margaret Best before the war, but on a much wider basis. I think still further encouragement ought to be given to the interchange of teachers between this country and the Dominions and colonies after the war. I should like to see it made easier for married school-masters to exchange with their opposite numbers in other parts of the Empire. I understand that, up to now, it has been almost all unmarried women teachers who have found it possible to do it. Now that so many new industries have grown up in the Empire, I should like to see Dominions craftsmen have a chance of exchanging in a similar way with other craftsmen in this country. Forty years ago Mr. Joseph Chamberlain said we ought to think Imperially. I suppose to-day we should say we ought to be Commonwealth-minded. He was right. I have suggested a few ways, and there are many others in which we could help to achieve this ideal.

The British Empire is not only a wonderful experiment, it is a successful one and a practical reality. It is a living thing, constantly evolving, and I believe it is founded on a rock. We, in our generation, must watch the family feeling and do all we can to see that the Commonwealth remains strong and grows in wisdom and understanding, co-operating with its own members and with the other freedom-loving countries of the world, so that it continues to be one of the greatest influences for peace and stability in the world.

Photo of Mr Simon Digby Mr Simon Digby , Dorset Western

I have listened with great interest to this Debate, and I have been pleased to see the unanimity which the House has shown as to the desirability of closer co-operation within the Empire. I am a little sorry to see that in the references which have been made to the subject, many of which have referred to Imperial Preference, there seems to have been an idea that closer co-operation in the Empire was not entirely consistent with close co-operation with the United States of America. In this war we have achieved a greater understanding with the United States, and we all wish to see that continued, but I do not see why there should be anything inconsistent between closer Empire unity and closer understanding with the United States. During the war the Empire has achieved a remarkable degree of unanimity. During those dark days in 1940 in was not the United Kingdom alone which was able to stand up to Nazis, but it was the whole of the British Empire. That is a thing which is much too lightly forgotten. The assault of Hitler on the British Empire failed completely, and it would be a sorry thing if the Empire, which could not be overthrown by Hitler, were gradually to fall apart owing to lack of co-operation between its members.

With regard to unity of sentiment in the British Empire with which the Motion deals, I have always been extremely struck in the Dominions at the great degree of loyalty to the Mother Country, or the old country as it is usually called. I have always been equally pained to find that in this country, as the hon. and gallant Member for Tavistock (Major Studholme) has reminded us, there is a certain amount of ignorance about the Dominions as to exactly where they are and the kind of people who live in them. This is one of the matters to which we have to address ourselves. I hope the Government will feel that it is a matter to which they can address themselves and not one that should be left to private individuals. The hon. and gallant Member for Tavistock also gave us some useful indications of the way in which this state of affairs can be dealt with from the educational point of view, and I would like to endorse his remarks. I would also like to stress, in addition to the value of educating the people of this country on the Empire, the value of personal contact, which does more than anything else to make for understanding. During the war we have been favoured with the presence of a large number of Canadian troops, and I am sure that those who got to know them will have got to like them all the better for it. Personal contact throughout the Commonwealth is difficult owing to geographical conditions but I feel that it can be overcome to a certain extent if interchanges between educational institutions, universities and schools are encouraged. I hope that there will be an opportunity for Service interchanges on an increased scale after the war. I hope, too, that it will be possible after the war to visit at any rate the nearer Dominions like Canada at much cheaper rates than prevailed before the war, when cruises and short trips to many countries in Europe were organised on a reduced scale.

Of the unity of sentiment in the Empire there can be no doubt, but it would be a mistake to think that unity of purpose followed from it. Unity of purpose must be built on more solid grounds than that. There are many who say that the Empire is one of those typically British institutions which was not founded on any written document but which has grown up, and that because Great Britain and the Empire have grown up naturally it would be a mistake to try and do anything to introduce closer co-operation by artificial means. I think that is rather an extreme view on the one hand. On the other hand, there is the extreme view that some form of federalisation is desirable and that we should impose on the Parliaments of the Commonwealth yet another Parliament. Surely there is a middle course by which it is possible for the executives of the Dominion Governments and the Government of the United Kingdom to come closer together so that they can put up a more united front to the outside problems which confront the Empire. In doing that surely there can be the most complete equality so that there is no question of the Dominions having to give up one jot or tittle of their independence. In considering contacts between the executives, we have to bear in mind that after the war and, indeed, at the present moment, the international world is very different from what it was before the war began. Great Britain, Russia and the United States are three world Powers of far greater dimensions than the world Powers which existed before the war, and it is important that when Great Britain speaks to America or Russia she should speak not only for the United Kingdom but for an agreed Commonwealth. I hope that before we go to one or other of the two great Powers we are sure that we have the Empire entirely behind us in advance. Many members have referred to the question of defence, and obviously it is one of those matters on which it is important that the Empire should come closer together. This has been brought home to us by the facts of this war.

I suggest that there is another question which is even more important when considering the question of closer co-operation. That is the question of foreign affairs. I admit that it presents the greatest difficulties, but it seems to me that it is the crux of the whole situation. There is an increasing tendency for the Dominions to appoint diplomatic representatives abroad, and they are naturally increasingly conscious of their own nationalities. The great problem, therefore, is to be certain that our foreign policy is concerted with that of the Dominions, many of whom have rather different problems in foreign policy than we have. This Empire of ours was a stumbling block to Hitler and the Nazis, and it would be a sorry thing, after that has happened, if, because we were not sufficiently interested in getting closer cooperation in the Empire, the Empire should gradually disintegrate.

Photo of Mr Somerset De Chair Mr Somerset De Chair , Norfolk South Western

The hon. and gallant Member for Tavistock (Major Studholme) gave as his reason for speaking that he had been born in New Zealand. I can go almost one better by saying that my father was born in Canada, my mother was born in South Africa, I was born in England and I was educated in Australia, when I also took occasion to visit Tasmania and New Zealand. I think, therefore, that I can claim to be the compleat Empire animal. In fact, I remember a contemporary of mine at Oxford, in a rather ribald mood, entering this limerick in the suggestion book: That outpost of Empire, AustraliaProduces some curious mammalia;The kangaroo ratAnd the blood-sucking bat—And Mr. De Chair, inter alia. The Government are to be congratulated on having given facilities for this Debate so soon before the Imperial Conference, and it would be surprising if they did not draw some definite deductions from the unanimity of view which has been expressed on Empire relations. In particular, there seems to be what one might describe as unanimity on the idea of an Empire council with an Empire secretariat as a definite further step in the evolution of the Commonwealth, as the next step after the Statute of Westminster. Interest in Empire affairs was much stimulated by General Smuts' speech. He really started the trains of thought which since then have dominated the field in Empire affairs. When. I listened to the speech of General Smuts I saw that what the wise old bird—I mean that distinguished South African statesman—was really advising us was that the United Kingdom should lead a double life. We should live, on the one hand, in the felicitous domestic circle of the British Commonwealth, while at the same time having a latchkey to Europe through the Low Countries. I do not think that that conception of the British Commonwealth is inconsistent with an important role in European affairs being played by this country.

In many quarters there is a reluctance to believe that the British Commonwealth can develop very much further constitutionally than the Statute of Westminster in 1926. It is accepted everywhere that the Constitution of this island Kingdom, for example, has been a process of gradual and progressive transformation, like a stream beginning in the somewhat chilly altitudes of absolute monarchy and cascading down through a couple of civil wars until it has flowed over broader and broader levels of the franchise towards an uncharted destination. The development of the Constitution in the Dominions has been following parallel, if somewhat more rapid, courses. Everybody accepts this fact, but many people seem reluctant to believe that the Constitution of the British Commonwealth as a whole—if one can speak of the Constitution of the Commonwealth as a whole—is liable to change at all. There seems to be a reluctance to advance beyond 1926, as if the Statute of Westminster put a full stop to the progress of Empire relationship and as if no further development in any direction were possible. That is why this Debate has been so valuable in fortifying the Government, if they need fortifying, in the realisation that there is a great degree of unanimity on the desirability of further development.

The world has changed very violently since 1926, when the ten-year rule, under which no war was to be expected for another ten years, was in vogue. It was a period of somewhat sultry peace in world affairs. It was the period of the after-dinner nap when the British lion, having made its kill and been forced somewhat reluctantly to overburden its digestion, wanted to sleep it off. The world is changing rapidly now, and it is not usually until long after the events of the moment that the significance of the changes becomes apparent. With this Imperial Conference about to take place, the House of Commons has been right to take particular notice of the changes which are vitally affecting the Commonwealth as a whole.

As one who has had the pleasure and privilege of being in all the Dominions, I regard the Statute of Westminster as an essential development in the progress of the Commonwealth because, by recognising the right of the Dominions to complete independence, it removed any fear of domination by this country. After the lapse of 20 years, the Dominions need fear no longer any dictation or domination from Whitehall, and I think they are ripe for a further advance towards a more integrated Empire, such as was suggested in the brilliant speech of the right hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha). The children have come of age. We recognise that, and the question now is whether the family firm ought to be changed into a limited liability company, in which the children shall be equal partners on the board of directors. A much more definite and binding relationship by some form of Imperial charter is in the interests of the Dominions themselves. Recently, Colonel Deneys Reitz, the present High Commissioner in London for South Africa, has been at some pains to point out the fate that would have overwhelmed South Africa if she had tried to become an independent third-class Republic on her own. With her rich resources, her warm climate, and cheap native labour, she would have been a particularly tempting field for Axis domination, and would, no doubt, have suffered the fate of other small Powers, before the final reckoning with Hitler could have been made. In the Far East, the war with Japan has shown clearly that Australia must belong to a powerful defence unit, allied with the United States, if she is to have security in the modern world. Southern Ireland, after all, has not reaped any great benefit or glory from her precarious neutrality, and I cannot help thinking that if she were situated anywhere but where she is, on the Western side of the United Kingdom, she would have fallen a quick and easy prey to Axis ambitions.

I have said that we must try to understand the way in which the world has changed and how the change affects us. There is no doubt that we have moved a long way from the conception which was current in the 19th century, of a little England bestriding the world like a colossus. We got a long start of the world with our industrial revolution and were able to sell our manufactured goods cheaply in Europe and other parts of the world, before other countries had built up their industries and were able to compete successfully in those markets. To-day, that situation has changed and there stands in the place of the England of the last century, the other Britain of to-day, the Commonwealth, and I should like to call it "Britannia." We should try to coin some name for the British Empire. In a brilliant book recently published, the Secretary of State for India has drawn attention to the lack of a name for the Empire as a whole. He has pointed out that at one time "Oceana" was suggested as a name for the British Empire. We should try to coin a single word such as exists for Europe or America, but no name has so far been invented. I do not know whether "Britannia" will commend itself any more than "Oceana."

I do not know whether, including the Dominions, we can count on more than 70,000,000 or 80,000,000 of white population, in a world in which we get these new, rather frightening and compact large Powers, such as Russia and the United States. These great States, with their peaceful and yet powerful intentions, mean to count far more in the world, and they will do so, in a sense in which they did not do so before the war. Although America was a great Power, she did not interest herself in European affairs to the same extent as she probably will after the war. In the last war, she did not play anything like so significant a part as she is playing in this war. Russia was a great Power before the last war, but owing to her revolution in 1917 and the long and painful uphill climb of reconstruction, she was virtually withdrawn from world affairs for 20 years as an effective great Power. The other great Powers, such as Germany, France and Italy, will have gone, as General Smuts has pointed out, for a long period of time, as great Powers.

We are, therefore, left with the colossus of America on the one hand, and the colossus of Russia on the other, and with the small white population of the British Empire. Therefore, we must count more heads, if we are to hold our own—white, brown, black, they are all citizens of the British Empire who owe allegiance to the King Emperor. What part the 390,000,000 of India will play in the British Empire, when they attain a greater measure of self-government, it would be rash to prophesy, but we should never forget, amid the excited babblings of party politicians in India, the silent but fearful tread of all those millions of Indians who volunteered to fight, and who have fought so valiantly in two successive wars. I had the privilege of serving with some of them in the Middle East. In the dependent Colonial Empire, which has, up till now, been run by the United Kingdom alone from Whitehall, there is a formidable population in the native races. This great Empire also is studded with rich resources.

Now all this looks very impressive on paper, and the name of England still has a formidable ring in foreign ears; but in the face of the new titanic eruptions of world power around us we can no longer afford the luxury of a haphazard association between the self-governing members of the Empire and a second-rate administration of the Colonial parts of it. I say "second-rate" because, although we have had able Colonial Secretaries and have an able Colonial Secretary now, the administration of the Colonial Empire has, for some reason, by an incredible blindness of this country as a whole, remained a fourth or fifth priority in statesmanship. The most brilliant of the young men corning down from the universities do not seek to go into the Colonial service. We do not find the attention to the Colonial Empire which a country like this ought to show. This Empire of ours could go the way of Spain and Portugal, which once had great maritime empires, unless the organisation and development of the Empire are taken in hand as a matter of urgency and importance.

It is a prominent feature of discussions on the Empire to point also to the great resources which are still undeveloped in the Dominions and to the great spaces that are available for settlement and migration. Of course, under the arrangement made by the Statute of Westminster, it is improper for us in this country to discuss what the other parts of the self-governing Empire shall do with those open spaces and resources. One of the great advantages of the proposed Empire Council and Empire Secretariat will be that, sitting around a table, the partner members of the British Empire will be able to consult together on the available resources of the Empire as a whole. I remember reading the Green Report on the Northern Territory, the result of an inquiry which Australia set up. The Report gives the most amazing description of the potentialities of the Northern Territory of Australia and its capabilities for development. It points out what a tremendous field is there for development. Very little has been done. The white population in the Northern Territory was something like 2,000 people all told, before the war. No doubt the Australian Government will want to develop those territories after the war.

I know that it is fashionable in the House nowadays to reject the suggestion of federation of the Empire, but I think that the right hon. and gallant Member for Devonport is getting on to the right lines in this matter when he says that we must at this stage have an Empire Council and an Empire Secretariat. He is doing what is natural to the British, taking the first step, but I believe that an Empire federation, in the light of those other, compact world forces which have arisen, will come about, possibly not within 10 or 15 years. Nevertheless, I believe it will come about, because the trend of the age is towards larger and more compact units and the vapourings of us politicians are but bubbles upon the surface of that mighty current. There seems to be common agreement that the Colonial Empire should be administered jointly by this country and the Dominions. We have heard that suggestion adumbrated in some brilliant speeches lately, but really I made that the subject of my maiden speech in 1935, and I do not think other hon. Members such as my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) can claim the copyright of it. Perhaps I was a little ahead of my time; but I throw out the suggestion that an Empire Federation will be the eventual goal. In 1953, perhaps, it will be regarded as a commonplace of discussion in the House of Commons.

In conclusion, I would like to throw out a final suggestion, which is that we should not rely too much upon a written agreement or any binding, written form of constitution for the Empire. At this stage, an Empire Council and Secretariat arising out of the Empire Conference will be a desirable development, but the experience of the 1921 Treaty, under which the relations between Southern Ireland and the United Kingdom were to be based in every respect upon those of Canada, shows that written constitutions and agreements are very little value unless there is good will behind them. I believe that we have reached a significant stage in the development of the Empire. Even if no constitutional arrangement is possi- ble at this moment, I hope that it will be thought desirable by the Governments of the Empire represented in London to have some declaration of unity, to counterbalance to a certain extent the nebulous situation which has been left by the Statute of Westminster. I suggest a Declaration of Union on these lines: The heads of the Governments of the British Commonwealth, being freely assembled in London in time of war as loyal subjects of His Majesty King George VI, do declare their firm intention that the countries which they repre8ent shall continue to be united and purposeful in war and in peace.

Photo of Mr Hubert Beaumont Mr Hubert Beaumont , Batley and Morley

I cannot claim the same relationship to the Empire that the last speaker has claimed because of the birthplaces of his parents and the fact that he was born in one part of the Empire, educated in another and since then has travelled to many other parts of the Empire. I suggest that in future he might be called "The Member for the Home and Colonial." I can, however, claim that I was born in a city renowned for its Imperialism, an Empire Imperialism of the most blatant and jingoistic type. I happen to have been born in Birmingham and I came under the influence and the work of a very distinguished statesman, the Rt. Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, who, in his time, rendered great and conspicuous service to the City of Birmingham, making it one of the finest municipalities in the country, and made the development of the Empire his life's work. And woe betide anyone in the city who dissented from that view. Those years 1900 and onwards were a period of blatant jingoism, when to speak questioningly of the Empire was to be regarded as not only disrespectful but entirely unpatriotic. Those were the days of Kipling, and when, in speaking of the Empire, vain boasting was the order of the day.

It is interesting to note that this Debate is on an entirely different level. May that not be due to the fact that the Empire is growing up? In the early days of the Empire we had utterances, almost childish utterances, of statesmen who ought to have been more responsible in what they said. In those days there was a chance that the Empire might break up. In 1914 it was demonstrated in an unmistakable manner that the bonds that bound together the various parts of the Empire were bonds of such great strength and unity that the Empire in 1914 was stronger than it had ever been before. Again, in the years that intervened between the last war and this war there was thought to be a weakening of the Empire, yet when the call came, when the Old Country was in peril, when liberty was endangered and freedom was challenged, the response came from all parts of the Empire almost without any exception whatever

We are now to face a very important stage in the history of the Empire. We are to have an Imperial Conference, and it may be that that Imperial Conference will settle not only the future strength, character and power of the Empire but may also determine the future peace of the world. That being so, it is important that these statesmen who come to this Imperial Conference, this Empire Conference, should be conscious that they will have to assume great and severe responsibilities. A previous speaker has said that it is an unfortunate thing that we in this country know so little about the Empire. In fact, all over the world there is a good deal of misunderstanding and ignorance with regard to the Empire. That is very true, and it may be very desirable that in the future there should be written a factual history of the Empire, showing not only its successes, but its failures as well. We do not accept that everything is wholly well in the Empire. We believe there are many things that can be done to improve the standard and conditions of the people. An admission of that is not at all questioning the value of the Empire itself, neither is it being unpatriotic.

Reference has been made to the desirability of having an Imperial Council and an Imperial Secretariat. I hope that such organisation will be created. In the consideration of the great international problems which will come before the statesmen of the world from time to time, it will he extremely valuable that these problems shall be considered by representatives of all parts of the Empire on terms of equality, and that it should not be for this country to take a decision and then hope that the Empire will follow on the lines which we have decided. We took a great risk in 1914. We took an even greater risk in 1939 when we challenged the mighty power of the German Army. The Empire rallied round us, but one cannot hear to think what might have happened if the Empire had not been loyal to the Mother Country. It is true that before those days the Empire was not consulted in the way that it should have been. I hope that as a result of this Imperial Conference there will be set up such a body which can have before it the questions that affect the security and happiness of the world, and that that body shall be able to speak with the voice of the Empire as a whole. But we hope that the strength of the Empire will be determined in the future, not by its arms, and I agree—reluctantly, if you wish—that we have got to be strong after the war is over because we must have the power to implement authority when that authority is challenged, wherever it may be. That being so, we have to have a strong defence, but I hope that the power of the British Empire throughout the world will not be determined by its strength of arms but rather will be determined by its strength of character and the lead it gives to other countries of the world.

There is one point I should like to mention which I do not think has been mentioned previously in the Debate. One factor which in my view caused a good deal of trouble, and a great deal of resentment, intense annoyance and great harm was that emigration to the Empire was largely shut down in the years preceding the war. The free movement of peoples was prevented. I believe that had it been made possible that some of the people of European countries could have gone to the Empire and in particular the enemy countries, Hitlerism might not have secured the hold it did and the present tragedy might have been averted. Not only was an embargo placed upon people coming from European countries into the Empire, but the same hardship was inflicted on people going from this country into many parts of the Empire. One of the great changes which I hope will be made after the war will be to make possible the free movement of the peoples of the world to wherever they wish to go. I am confident that the more people know each other the less likelihood there will be of misunderstanding, the greater will be the interchange of views and the less danger of a repetition of war.

In this connection I would like to make a special plea. We have had come to this country for refuge during the last ten years many thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of refugees who have managed to escape from the torture and terrors of the countries of their birth. We have a large number of them in this country at the present time. It may be that the great majority of these refugees will have no desire to return to the country of their origin, and what they desire will be to continue to live under the same freedom as they have found in this country. From the economic point of view it may not be advantageous that they should remain in this country, but that they should go to the larger countries of the Empire where the free spaces are, where there is possibility of development and of finding employment. I trust that in the Conference early consideration will be given to the problem of discovering and settling ways and means whereby sanctuary and refuge can be given to these tortured people who have suffered so long and so much, so that they may be afforded an opportunity of starting their lives afresh and with new hopes in some part of the great British Empire. I believe if that is done they will add ultimately not only in numbers but in strength to the quality of the people of the Empire.

In the consideration of Empire let it be hoped that in the future this Empire of ours will lead, as in so many Cases it has done in the past, the peoples of the world along the paths of peace and security. We took on a great task in 1939. We shall possibly have to take on a task equal in immensity and equally pregnant with danger, when the war is over, in trying to restore peace and stability to the whole world. The unity of the Empire, representative of all the peoples of the Empire, can be a tremendous factor in bringing about that peace which we all so ardently desire.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

I think that everyone will declare that this Debate has been worth while for the purpose of showing that the problem of inter-Imperial relationships is no longer one dividing parties in this country. That, I think, is the most amazing advance. I am an ardent believer in party politics, but there are fields where unanimity is desirable. It looks as though to-day we have a measure of unanimity which would have been quite inconceivable a quarter of a century ago. I have just listened to the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Beaumont). With one or two things he said I did not agree. He described the forthcoming conference as an Imperial Conference, for instance. It is not, if my information is right. It is a Conference of Prime Ministers, in the main, behind closed doors, I imagine. The business on this occasion is not likely to be reported in the way Imperial Conferences normally are. Then the hon. Member quite properly urged the need for consultation. He explained how in 1914 the Empire rallied, as it did in 1939.

But let us take what happened on 2nd September, 1939, as an example of the problem we have to solve. I have not looked up HANSARD, but round about 10 o'clock on Saturday, 2nd September, 1939, the Debate was concluded by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). He made, I well remember, a very powerful speech which demanded an instant ultimatum to Germany of the most drastic character. The right hon. Gentleman had not had time 'o confer with his Empire colleagues, but the Government reacted to that demand because it expressed the mood of the House. An ultimatum was despatched, and I have always thought—I do not suppose it made any difference—that not enough time was given. You cannot present an ultimatum about four o'clock in the morning and ask for an answer by ten, and expect the other side to say anything other than "We will not play." At 10.15 a.m. Mr. Neville Chamberlain announced on the wireless that war had broken out. That is one of the real problems, that in this question of peace or war you do not have a long leisurely Whitsuntide Conference of the Labour Party before you reach a decision. You are suddenly up against it, and the incredibly difficult problem we have to solve, is to try and create some machinery to deal with that position. I do not think the hon. Member's history as to the attitude to the Empire in the years between 1900 and 1910 is quite as good as it ought to have been. As he is a native of Birmingham I am frankly a little disappointed.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

No, of my hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) made one very important contribution to the Debate. He pointed out that we are inclined to think of there being a United Kingdom point of view and a Dominions point of view, one on one side and one on the other. It is not in the least degree true. I am not quite certain how many Dominions there are at the moment; it is a rather ambiguous term. There are Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. May I remind hon. Members that the United Kingdom is a Dominion, which is a fact that few people realise, but not a Dominion so far as New South Wales is concerned. I mention that because the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) is associated with New South Wales because his father was a very distinguished Governor. To illustrate the kind of way we get into things in this country, when the people of Australia appoint a new Governor-General, the process is that the Prime Minister of Australia tenders advice to His Majesty, and His Majesty, generally speaking, accepts the advice. I think in these matters there are preliminary discussions—we may presume so as we are a sensible people—and a certain distinguished person is appointed Governor-General of Australia. In that case, quite clearly, it is the King of Australia who is making the appointment, not the King of the United Kingdom. But when, on the other hand, New South Wales want a Governor, there is a quite different process. It is the Prime Minister of this country who advises the King who should be Governor of New South Wales. So the Statute of Westminster has not been heard of in New South Wales. It is a strange thing.

Photo of Mr Somerset De Chair Mr Somerset De Chair , Norfolk South Western

The hon. Member does not wish to give the impression that no kind of consultation took place in Australia on the subject. It would be entirely wrong to give the impression that the thing was arranged from this end.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

Yes. But we have to realise that the Statute of Westminster is only of limited application. When you come to Canada, you have the most extraordinary situation. Canada is not fully a party to the Statute of Westminster, and never will be, because the people of Quebec, French Canadians, almost entirely Roman Catholics, said that there must rye no amendment of the British North America Act except by the Parliament of Westminster, because these French Cana- dians have infinite faith in us, but not such infinite faith in the rest of the inhabitants of Canada.

Photo of Mr Bartle Bull Mr Bartle Bull , Enfield

The reason as that the French Canadians, so long as they remain in Canada, may speak their own language.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

I am fully aware of the reason. The point is that the people of the Province of Quebec regard this Parliament as being responsible for safeguarding their interests and rights, and that they will not permit the ultimate transfer of authority from London to Ottawa. That is the most extraordinary thing. These people, not British in origin, lay their ultimate faith in the Parliament at Westminster. I mention that because people casually mention the Statute of Westminster, without realising quite clearly what its implications are. I think that we owe a great debt of gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Sea-ham (Mr. Shinwell) and his associates in this matter, including the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), because they have been the protagonists for weeks past in pressing that this most important Debate should take place. ft is significant that my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham started yesterday without cheers, but that he finished with a pretty general cheer, which I think is the best tribute to his speech.

There has been some very frank speaking in this Debate about our relationships with the United States. I rejoice at it, because most of the difficulties between this country and the United States arise from the fact that we have always been too polite, and not frank enough. This Debate will do an immense amount of good. An earlier speaker pointed out that the United States and Russia were great land masses, and that the British Empire, on the other hand, was linked by sea. But the United States has all the characteristics of an Empire: it is inhabited by people of many religions, many races, and, even to-day, many languages. In Soviet Russia it is even more so. Land communications are less efficient than sea communications. The fact that the British Empire is spread out is not an argument for treating it differently in certain political matters from the two land Empires. The United States claim that the Ottawa Agreements were unfair to them. Why?

We do not say that it is unfair that the State of New York can give 100 per cent. preference to the State of California. We are nearer to Canada than New York is to Los Angeles, and the cost of transport from here to Canada is less than from New York to Los Angeles. It is impudent for anybody to say that we who belong to a political unity are not entitled to make our own arrangements. I think that we should, with perfect frankness, make it quite clear to the United States that we regard it as improper for them to comment on our family business.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) pointed out the difficulties of certain European arrangements, and the incredible political difficulties on the Continent of Europe. I remember some months ago having a chat with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wirral (Captain Graham)—there is no harm in saying this, because there was nothing secret about it—and I said to him, "Why is it that we have made a reasonably good success of representative institutions in this country, and that most of the countries of Europe have failed?" He said, "It is because of our climate and our intellectual idleness." I said, "I understand about our climate, but what do you mean when you talk about our intellectual idleness?" He said, "The British people do not get fussed up with ideas." I believe that that is true. It is a fact that people in foreign countries get fussed up with ideas. In those countries members of different political parties do not talk to each other. Compare that with the practice in this House. The fact is that we are tolerant. Indeed, the members of the Tory Reform Party sometimes talk even to me. The same situation exists in the Dominions.

One hon. Member to-day protested against the extraordinary mis-statements that are made about the relationships of this country to the Empire. A lot of people think that we draw money from Empire countries, that they pay us tribute. As hon. Members know, such traffic as there is is in the other direction. When a Colony is in a difficulty, there is a grant-in-aid or a loan on generous terms, or a loan free of interest. I remember when the Government of India Bill was before us saying to an American lady, "How many white civil servants do you think we have in India?" She was rather more intelligent than the bulk of her fellow-citizens. She said, "About 200,000." I said, "Would it surprise you if I said that there are about 2,000?" She was amazed. I said, "How many white soldiers do you think we have in India?" She said, "As I was so far out about the civil servants, I will be moderate and say 500,000." I said, "You will be even more surprised when I tell you that it is 60,000." At this moment there are almost fewer civil servants in India than district attorneys in the State of New York, or thereabouts. There are fewer than boo white civil servants in India to-day. The plain truth is that there are too few. What is the use of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) saying that we have promised to make India a Dominion? Of course we have not. How can you make a country a Dominion when it would be tyrannised over by the worst aristocracy in the world, the Brahmin class?

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

Have we not promised India Dominion status?

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

We have; but there is nobody to give it to.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

Are you going to hand it over to the Brahmins, for them to exploit the untouchables? Of course the Cripps Mission failed; it was bound to fail. I rejoice that it did fail, because it brought the truth home to a great many people who had not realised it. How can you bring democracy to people who are so prejudiced that if the shadow of a man falls over their food it cannot be eaten? Is that the democracy that comes from Bethnal Green?

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

This House agreed to Dominion status. Are we to understand that now it proposes to go back on Dominion status? Let us be clear and honest about it.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

Of course we are not going back on it; but when you say you are offering something to somebody, there must be somebody who can take delivery.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

It is all humbug, in other words.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

It is not humbug. I did not make the promise; I am merely interpreting what it means, as I am entitled to do. I do not want to get into controversy on what form the economic relationships between this country and the other Dominions should take. Personally, I believe that if you are going to have economic preferences, it is much better to do so by tariff duties than by any other way. I do not like the system of bulk purchases as between Governments and Governments, because they make every trading issue a diplomatic issue. On that basis, you can sow the seeds of future wars, whereas nothing of that sort arises out of the transactions of individuals. If, instead of doing that, you grant import licences, certain people get privileges which are denied to others. Therefore, I believe it is much better to do it by means of tariff preferences, which permit the continued freedom of trade so far as individuals are concerned. Ottawa was not the end; it was the beginning. The results of that conference were exceedingly satisfactory, and not only to Empire countries. If any Member will examine the statistics of trade throughout the world following the Ottawa Conference, he will find that Ottawa helped to re-establish the trade of other countries besides those of the Empire. It gave stability in an area which had been a sinking bog. It is very important to realise that.

Naturally, His Majesty's Government to-day, I imagine, cannot make any very definite declaration. They are going into consultation with the Dominion Prime Ministers, no doubt to discuss the war issues and post-war issues. It is foolish to make a statement too much in advance of what you want to discuss, because you need to explore the minds. We all know that the people of this country will play in respect of any arrangement which is acceptable to the Dominions. The resistance will not come from us. But any proposal for an Imperial Secretariat, any proposal for a working body, up to now, has been rejected by the Dominions, because they think it will limit their autonomy. Therefore, an effective proposal must come from them. It would be terribly unwise for us to propose anything which would make them believe that we were trying to bring them back under our control. But I hope that, in these discussions, it will be urged upon the Dominions that they ought now to play some part with regard to the rest of the Empire. I am not going to suggest how—it is too soon. Here we have this great problem of India, with 400,000,000 people, as the Prime Minister said, in interrupting somebody who said 300,000,000.

The great Colonial Empire, including the Sudan, has some 70,000,000. We are carrying the burden. I do not think we pay enough tribute to the splendid young men who go out from this country and govern 500,000 people, walking around with a walking stick, possibly with a black policeman to go with them, to represent us. They have a high standard of conduct, which earns the admiration of these people. They are cut off from their women folk for long periods, with all that that may mean. It is an amazing record. We ought to be under the deepest debt of gratitude for the high standard of the young men in the Colonial service. I think we ought to persuade Canada and Australia and the others that they must share part of what used to be called "The White Man's Burden." The hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) had the honour of being Governor of Kenya Colony and knows far more about this than I do. It is now 39 years since I was in Africa as the engineer of a ship travelling along the West Coast, but what I learned then gave me an affection for the African negro, at least of the West Coast. With his sense of humour and everything else, he is a delightful creature.

In 1919 Lord Milner asked me to go to see him, and he said that he believed that much of the future of this country depended on the proper development of the Colonial Empire. Lord Milner said "I want to persuade my colleagues in the Cabinet that that is the right policy," and he asked me to spend some time trying to trace the causes of Colonial development. It took me some months, but it was quite clear to me that, as you expend money on means of communication, on research, on health services and on all those factors which contribute to economic efficiency, so your prosperity advances. The thing just shouted at you. I did a tabloid report on our Colonies and gave it to Lord Milner. It was not published, but was circulated as an internal document. Every penny we invest in Colonial development will give immense benefits to the people of the Colonies in better health, better trade, and better employment, but it is foolish to deceive people by foolish promises. If we only develop their material resources and lead these people on to those institutions which they can run themselves, we shall make this world happier, more prosperous and freer from war. Just think of our triumph in Africa—50,000,000 black people, leaving out the Union of South Africa, governed with justice, and not one single battalion of white troops and only 750 white noncommissioned officers and men. That could not have been done unless there was something about the character of our people which created, on the part of those delightful black people, faith in us. Let us retain that faith.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

The House will be very much interested, perhaps stimulated and perhaps a little excited, by the rather bellicose speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams). I am going to suggest that we should not deal with the matter of the British Empire in these days in the same way as we might have done, and with the same sort of speech as we might have used, about 50 years ago, and such as has just been delivered by my hon. Friend. We have to recognise realities. I think the hon. Member for South Croydon seems to deprecate diplomacy and negotiations with our Dominions and other countries who have some sort of interest in our Dominions, as well as us. We must use the arts of diplomacy if we are going to get agreement, and not, as we might get with a continuation of speeches like this, something which has its counterpart in the Congress of America. We want, if we possibly can, to look at the matter from the objective point of view.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Edward Grigg Lieut-Colonel Sir Edward Grigg , Altrincham

As the hon. Member is emphasising the point about diplomacy, may I remind him that the Dominions are not our Dominions, but Dominions of the British Empire?

Mr. Bellengger:

Perhaps the hon. Member misunderstands me. When I talk of diplomacy, I mean diplomatic methods in negotiating with our Dominions. [Interruption.] Well, with the constituent elements of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I hope the hon. Member will not stick too much to the letter of my speech, but will rather interpret its spirit.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

I want to deal with this matter in an objective manner. So many speeches about the British Empire have been academic speeches, and I am all in favour of that. For very many years we have had an Empire Day in our schools. I think it was 24th May. I do not know whether it is still held, but it is quite useful that the children in the schools of this country should understand something about the British Commonwealth of Nations.

Mr. Gailacher:

But not too much.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

But what opportunity do the children have of getting that practical experience of the Commonwealth? One hon. Member, perhaps it was the right hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha), mentioned something about interchange of students and teachers, and even of members of the Defence Services, between this country and the Dominions. It is a very laudable idea, but what has been done about it? I venture to suggest that, in that respect, we may learn a lot from America, we may even learn a little from the enemy countries we are now fighting, but what is the bond which exists between us and the Dominions? The bond is, obviously, largely one of sentiment. Hon. Members have given expression to that idea, and I will not attempt to decry it, because a certain amount of sentiment is a very useful thing in families. Families are based on sentiment. I suggest that it is a gradually declining factor in our relations with the Dominions.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

I venture to disagree with the hon. Member for Altrincham. The sentiment arises from the fact that many of these Dominions have a large amount of British blood and British settlers in them. They are closely related to the present generation, with uncles and aunts residing in the Dominions. I believe I have a cousin in Canada, the daughter of my father's brother. I have never seen her. She writes to me and I write to her, but how long will that correspondence last when she goes and I go? Will my children and hers correspond in the same way? I think it is an important factor.

The real bond between our Dominions and ourselves is the language factor. I hope that remains, but, even in South Africa, I suppose, the Dutch language is very largely spoken in certain districts, and who knows whether the English language will be predominant in South Africa for another 50 or 100 years? The Dominion of South Africa is very much nationalistic in its own ideas, so much so that, at the beginning of this war, a very powerful portion of the South African Government did not want to enter the war. That is what I mean when I say we have to look at these factors from the objective point of view. There is another bond between us—the tradition bond. They have, to some extent, some of the same traditions that we have. There is no getting away from it, although the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) may deny it. So much are they steeped in these traditions that to-day we send Governors-General to represent the Crown. I do not mean to argue whether that is desirable or not, but merely state the fact.

The last bond—and I suggest it is there and we must take cognisance of it—is the Crown. I believe that, in certain cases of dispute, the Dominions have to refer the matter to the Privy Council for a final ruling. How long it will last I do not know. Whether it is desirable that it should last I do not know, but I like to think that, in spite of some of my hon. Friends behind me, as long as we maintain the monarchy in this country, it is desirable that it should be continued in the British Empire.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

Will the hon. Member agree that, under the Statute of Westminster, we can no longer abolish the monarchy in this country without the consent of Ireland?

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

That is a most witty interruption, but, I maintain, a most irrelevant one, because I am not attempting to say we ought to abolish the monarchy in this country or the Dominions, but it gave the hon. Member the opportunity of making an interruption which evidently aroused the amusement of the House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Merriment."] I think perhaps we are splitting hairs, but, if the hon. Member prefers it, well, merriment. I suppose it is a preferable expression to amusement. What are the two considerations that apply? I suggest they are defence and trade. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for West Fife seems to have a mind that travels in one particular groove. What I am trying to do, in making my case, is to make it a wide case. A case has been put from the other side of the House very forcibly. I think the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) made a very good speech except that he left out things to which I would call attention.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Is it not the case that the matters already mentioned are superficial, and that the great binding force is the labour force in the Dominions and in this country?

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

Undoubtedly they are, and I suppose that is a factor I can mention when I come to the question of trade agreements. In the matter of defence, I am not at all sure that the hon. Members who have spoken have really dealt with this matter in an objective manner. Did they have a look at the map before they spoke about our support for the Dominions in the matter of defence? Have they looked at the position of New Zealand or Australia in relation to the Mother Country? I seem to remember, not so long ago, that Australia was crying out for American help. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because we could not defend her. Can we give that assistance to these far-flung Dominions in the matter of defence which so many hon. Members have spoken about? We can, but hon. Members had better realise that there is not much chance of getting the Income Tax reduced if we are to take account of these factors, namely, large defence forces. I want to say, and here I come to my point about diplomacy, that, although we have got to try to reach agreement within the Commonwealth on these matters, we cannot consider these matters in isolation from world affairs.

I suppose it is a very unpopular thing to talk about the Covenant of the League of Nations nowadays, but, although I do not deny the solid support which battleships and bombing aeroplanes can give to diplomacy, I sincerely hope that the Government, and my colleagues in the Government, particularly, will not look upon the Covenant of the League of Nations as a dead letter. We have to get agreement—I think we can get it easily without recourse to these sanctions—and we have then to try to get the other nations of the world to join in, if they will. That is a far better form of defence for our Empire than any reliance we can possibly place on ships, guns and aeroplanes.

When we come to trade, I am afraid that hon. Members opposite have been doing a little wishful thinking. The hon. Member for South Croydon talked in terms of 19th century trade negotiations. I suggest to him and to the House that it is impossible for us to engage in trade with the Dominions on the basis of unrestricted private enterprise, as we did in the 19th century. I would say to hon. Members on the Liberal benches that it is impossible to hope that we are ever going to give them back Free Trade, which only made private enterprise possible in the 19th century. Free Trade as we knew it in the 19th century has gone, and with it many of the features of Free Trade—private enterprise. [An HON. MEMBER: "Except in America."] I rather imagine that America will have to learn what we have been learning for many years past before this world is much older. My hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) in his speech left out some of these considerations.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

What considerations?

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

Considerations of how we are going to operate trade between the Mother Country and the Dominions. My hon. Friend was all for trade in the Empire—so am I—and evidently he obtained the unanimous approval of the House. It is one thing to want such trade, but it is another thing to get it. I suggest to my hon. Friend and to the House, that such matters as dealing with imports by import boards have to be considered. This is part of the policy which my hon. Friend in his capacity as a member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party has adumbrated on numerous platforms and in numerous pamphlets. We cannot deal with imports—we must have imports, particularly of food—on the old private enterprise lines. Therefore, we must have some Government regulation of trade, and that means, as I understand it, that we shall have negotiations between the Governments of this country and the Dominions in order to settle the volume of imports to be brought into this country. The method of import boards which we have proposed in the Labour Party—and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Seabaan will agree with me—has to be considered.

I wonder what some of my hon. Friends opposite who are supposed to represent rural areas, and farmers and the farming interests, are going to say about private enterprise operating freely and unrestrictedly in importing foodstuffs. What are they going to say to their farmers on that issue? Can we, even from the Dominions, import just what food importers in this country like to import? If we are to look after and to encourage the agricultural industry in this country, we have to restrict some of the food imports coming from our own Dominions. What is to be the instrument to be adopted to deal with that matter?

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

I am sure that the hon. Member wants to be fair. He is aware that Mr. Bruce, the present High Commissioner for Australia, was advocating import boards as long ago as 1923, supported by a great body of opinion which had nothing to do with either private enterprise or Socialism.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

That only shows how great minds think alike.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Is my hon. Friend aware that he is pushing at an open door? In practice, we had trade agreements between this country and New Zealand and Australia before the war.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

I do not know whether my hon. Friend heard the speech of the hon. Member for South Croydon, who was advocating something far different from that, as I understood his speech.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

It does not make a great deal of difference.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

It makes a great deal of difference when a leading Member of the Conservative Party is trying to force his opinions on the Government, and I am entitled to put my views to the Government. I want to remind the Government that there is another point of view as well as that of the hon. Member for South Croydon. These factors, which I have tried to present in a responsible and serious manner, deserve the attention of this House and the Government. It may be that my hon. Friends opposite are a little impatient with them. They may think that I am advocating some Socialist or Labour nostrum. Whether I am or not, and whether they like it or not, they must face these things and not merely make speeches in this House, saying that the British Empire is a wonderful thing and that it has given much to the world—as it has—and ignore the other large factors which are outside the British Empire itself, Russia, America, and even the smaller nations in Europe, which some people want to federate within some sort of British system of Commonwealth of Nations.

I have made the main point that I wanted to place before the House, namely, that we must not attempt to deal with this matter in the academic fashion, in which so many speeches have been made. This Motion is being accepted by the Government. I can well understand that. I do not think anybody would claim that it is anything more than a pious expression of what is in the minds of quite a number of people in this country, both inside and outside the House. All I am asking is that we should get away from pious Motions. We passed the Covenant of the League of Nations 25 years or more ago, and we had the Prime Minister, only two or three days ago, saying, in answer to one of his own supporters, who attempted to decry the League of Nations, that if it had been properly supported" it would have been a very good thing. What was the League of Nations for? It was merely an instrument to carry out the Covenant of the League of Nations. I am asking that, when we talk about Empire affairs, we should concern ourselves with the objective for which the British Empire should stand within a world-wide community. It may be that we shall have considerable difficulty in getting agreement from other nations on these matters. It is not going to be helpful when we have speeches like that of the hon. Member for South Croydon, who is crying in the wilderness for something which is as dead as the wilderness—private enterprise. It served its purpose. It brought a great deal of prosperity to this country.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

Yes, and to a large number of people, but it also brought in its train poverty and unemployment in this country, and hardship in some of the Dominions and Colonies. Are we to continue a system like that in the sacred name of the Empire? If we attempt to do that, we shall have a repetition of those conditions of unemployment in this country, perhaps even a struggle for more Lebensraum by some of the discontented nations. Let hon. Members face the facts more and talk a little less about these desirable things, which we all want, but which are to a large extent, in the realm of fantasy, when we have to deal with other nations like the Russian Empire and the United States, who have their own ideas.

Photo of Mr Charles Emmott Mr Charles Emmott , Surrey Eastern

The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) invited the House to consider the problems he mentioned, in an objective spirit. I shall certainly do my best to respond to his invitation, although I am not certain that some of the observations he made, or the manner in which he made them, entirely conform to his own advice. I shall certainly try to follow his advice and also to avoid, as he said, treating these great Imperial topics in an academic spirit. With that observation I heartily concur. The part of the whole Imperial subject on which I wish to offer a few observations to the House, is not the economic, on which a good deal has been said, and which is certainly important, but the constitutional, particularly the constitutional issue that was raised by Lord Halifax recently. It is very important at this critical juncture for His Majesty's Government to hold clear views upon this topic, and for the House of Commons to hold a view upon it, and, ultimately, the British electorate itself. I quite understand that, at this particular moment, His Majesty's Government are unable, speaking before the Conference meets, to make any definitive statement of policy on the subject but, I think they will not take it amiss if hon. Members, who hold certain views express them dearly, for I hope that those views will be regarded as strengthening the hands of the Government. There has developed in recent years a situation in which it has rather come to be accepted that constitutional issues relating to the British Empire, which are in their nature delicate and difficult, just because they are delicate and difficult—possibly even dangerous—should not form the subject of candid debate in this House and that, therefore, such debate should be avoided.

The attitude of His Majesty's Government to this Debate, it is obvious, is that they are extremely willing that it should take place. But there certainly has been in recent years a certain hesitation to handle this particular matter. I suggest quite frankly, using what my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) described yesterday in his admirable speech as the utmost candour, that it is a good thing that the particular issue raised by Lord Halifax should be discussed in this House at this moment of time. Indeed, it is not only a good thing but it is necessary. Nothing terrestrial can be kept at a stand, once wrote Dr. Johnson, and no one will accuse Dr. Johnson of not being a Tory. The British Empire will not stand where it is. It will certainly in the future either grow stronger or it will become weaker. Mr. Menzies—I quote him because he has given most characteristic expression to this view—recently said at Canberra at the summer school of the Australian Institute of Political Science: Either the nations of the Empire must stand together or the Empire in its present form must come to an end. The question which all the peoples and all the Governments of the Dominions must ask themselves is simply this: is it their wish that the British Empire shall continue? I cannot believe that any of them will wish to return to that question any other answer than an affirmative. But then, if they wish the end they must also wish the means. "Who desires the end desires the means".

This was precisely the issue raised by Lord Halifax in his very remarkable speech at Toronto. I wish I could quote particular passages from that speech, but when I went to the Library this morning to refresh my memory by re-reading the report of it, I found that it was a speech which did not lend itself to the quotation of particular passages because it was all so good; it was all true. It was a very remarkable, and I believe a really unanswerable, speech. What was the reaction to it in Canada? There is no reason why if one is interested in the future of this powerful Commonwealth, one should hesitate to discuss these things with perfect frankness and freedom. The reaction to that speech amongst those who disagreed with it was of a somewhat curious character. Mr. Mackenzie King was reported in an issue of "The Times" at the beginning of February as saying that he, "favoured collaboration with all nations seeking peace." In another issue of "the Times" he was recorded as having spoken of "an effective international system inside which the co-operation of all peace-loving countries is freely sought and given." He said, in terms, that in his view the general conception which underlay the argument of Lord Halifax runs counter to the establishment of effective world security. There was also an article written by the Ottawa correspondent of "The Times" from which I quote these words: Their attitude"— that is the attitude of those I have just referred to who disagree with Lord Halifax— is that there will emerge some international family of nations wider than the Commonwealth group and that it will be responsible for maintaining world peace. And again: It is clear that the Government"— that is the Canadian Governmentintend to obtain Parliamentary sanction for an international rather than a sectional system of world security. I do not agree with that statement of the case. It seems to me an evasion of the issue, a shying away from the great issue raised by Lord Halifax which confronts us. It is really taking refuge in vagueness. It is so easy and so plausible, to talk about an international system, a general system, and to seek to set it in opposition to a system of narrower scope. That kind of argument seems to appeal to a certain type of mind, but I think it is a very dangerous argument indeed. It is really, as I say, a shying away from the issue we must meet. Those who speak in those large and general terms, about an international system and an international family of nations, remind me of the characteristic and delightful lines of Browning: That low man goes on adding one to one, His hundred's soon hit:This high man, aiming at a million, Misses an unit. I hope the conference that is to meet shortly will be able formally to establish the principle to which reference was made earlier, that if the British Empire is to endure, it is necessary that its constituent parts shall pursue one foreign policy and one policy in the issues that concern peace and war. That is the crux of the whole matter, and this is the principle which Lord Halifax put in the forefront of his address.

Some reference has been made—I think the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) and the President of the Board of Trade are the only two Members who have mentioned Eire, except the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) in an interjection just now—to the position of Southern Ireland. It is all very well to refer to that position as a lamentable exception to the general rule. It is that, and I hesitate to use the language which I should think appropriate to describe the attitude of the Government of Southern Ireland to the war. What I want to insist upon is that the principle upon which Southern Ireland has acted in this war is a principle which, if further extended, must, ultimately, mean the end of the British Empire. Therefore I say that we in. the British Empire must adopt constitutional means to ensure the result that we desire, that is the preservation and unity of the Empire. When I use the word "must" there is no question of dictation. I am simply stating an undeniable political necessity. There is no question of any part of the Empire laying down the law to any other part. We must in this conference begin at least to establish the constitutional means that are essential to securing the future unity of the Empire.

It is very much the fashion in considering various things to-day to say that it is the spirit that matters and to deny the necessity of establishing the institutions that are necessary for the expression of that spirit. It is a great error to deprecate institutions. The spirit, of course, is vital, but alone it may be insufficient. While it may be true that institutions without the informing spirit are an empty shell, it is also true that a spirit of general political intention without the institutions that crystallise and express it will be ineffective Hon. Members will remember that it was Disraeli who said: It is institutions alone that can create a nation. It is institutions alone, I suggest, that are able to maintain a union of nations. There is no question of interfering with the freedom which was recognised by the Statute of Westminster. The real question is: How are we to use that freedom? I think I remember Field-Marshal Smuts, a few years ago, saying that we had made ample provision for the freedom of the constituent parts of the Empire but that we had neglected its unity. I believe that this is the great problem to which we have to address ourselves to-day: What are the measures that we must take to establish and consolidate the unity of the British Commonwealth and the Empire.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

May I just say that I regretted not the tone but the matter of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger)? I was sorry to hear the League of Nations Covenant being resurrected again so soon, and also to hear the hon. Member decry private enterprise. I think he might very well remember that private enterprise, though it must, like all things, undergo a change, gave us 100 years of magnificent developments and opportunities, such as we are not likely to see under the pink codfish rule of Socialism. The speech which we heard at the opening of the Debate yesterday, came from an hon. Member from this side of the House, and that is a matter of congratulation. I do not accept the sinister implication that it was a speech intended to reinforce his appeal to become leader of the Tory Party. That has been said, but I doubt it. I think it will be some time before we want a new leader for the Tory Party and, when it happens, we shall probably take him from our own ranks. If, however, it was a speech which strengthened his claim to become Dominions Secretary, I am all for it We should have the Dominions Secretary in this House. Another thing which I say more quietly, and with some apprehension, is that we should begin not to break, but to dilute, the hold of the old Etonians upon all external matters of this country. I say "dilute" without being ungrateful for what the old Etonians have done, but they are doing too much.

May I say that I welcome very heartily the belated interest of the Socialist Party in the Empire? If it is because Australia and New Zealand now have Socialist Governments, let us not question the cause of their enthusiasm, let us be glad that they have shaken off the shameful indifference of the last 25 years. There is no use trying to deny this. In the last 10 years Empire discussions in this House took place with empty benches on this side but, since we are being quite frank, not very full benches on the Tory side. [An HON. MEMBER: "Look at them now."] The neglect of the Empire in this House over the last 25 years is not one of the proudest memories of this great Assembly. It did not matter in those fateful days between the two wars what the particular subject of foreign affairs was, it drew this House like a strip-tease revue. But once the Dominions or the Empire were being discussed, the indifference was chilling to a degree. The hon. and gallant Member for West Bromwich (Mr. John Dugdale)—I use the word "gallant" in its Parliamentary sense, because I do not think even he would feel that the wearing of a uniform for a short time without fighting would call for the word "gallant."[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] I feel very strongly about that. I see that the hon. Member for West Bromwich has just come in—

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Be a man and withdraw that.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

I do not withdraw that.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

That is a mean and dirty thing to say. Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of Order. I have never heard in this House such a mean reference to an hon. Member. If the hon. Member had used dirty language, he would have been called upon to withdraw it I ask you to tell him to withdraw that mean, contemptible reference.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I hope that the Debate will be conducted without any personal reflections.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

Perhaps it was an unwise thing to say, Mr. Speaker, but yesterday the hon. and gallant Member for West Bromwich referred to profits from some mysterious investments he would tell us nothing about. But I will leave that point. Yesterday he spoke disparagingly of the Empire which he called the Empire of Joe Chamberlain and the Empire of Kipling and of Lord Beaverbrook. May I say, as an ordinary man, that whatever the faults of that Empire may be, it was good enough to bring my generation from the Dominions voluntarily to die for its preservation. Therefore it is not wise altogether to assume that what has gone on in the past is unworthy. The inclusion of Lord Beaverbrook in that brings me to these comments. I see that the "Daily Herald" this morning chides the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) for having delivered the speech that he did, and said that it might have been written by a Beaverbrook leader-writer. I wonder why in this House we are not more fair to Lord Beaverbrook. During a very barren time, when this House had thrown up not one Empire figure of consequence—and it has not done so yet—Lord Beaverbrook kept alive Empire politics and the Empire spirit in contemporary politics. He is not always the best adviser for himself; but he is not at all a bad friend or a bad adviser to others, and I think myself it is a mistake for us not to acknowledge that.

In the very few moments I have left, I want to make one or two points. One of the causes of this war was the fact that the Germans believed that the Empire would not stand together. Another cause of this war was that they believed that America would not come into it. If, in the crisis years preceding 1939, the Empire had declared its solidarity, the willingness of every component part to act together in the case of war, and if America had declared a defensive alliance with the British Empire, it may he that Hitler would have been restrained, and in time, the Nazi Party would have collapsed from internal rot. Those are grim words, but it is a possibility. When the Prime Ministers come here, I do hope they will realise that the Empire must speak with one voice on external affairs and defence affairs. We can never again afford an appearance of disunity. Finally, I suggest that the idea of an Empire Parliament is difficult, because the very word "Parliament" implies the power to take decisions. I think, perhaps, we should visualise an Imperial Senate, meeting, if you like, in a different Dominion every year for one month; and, since distances have been annihilated by the aeroplane, what an admirable thing it would be if His Majesty the King could open them. It would all tend to bring among all a greater knowledge of the Empire and it would be very helpful.

Now a slightly personal last word. I went last week-end to some bombing squadrons in Yorkshire. They were mostly Canadian, but there were Australians and New Zealanders and boys from this country as well. While I was there, they went out to bomb Germany, and some of the machines did not come back. Those boys, from every part of the Empire, died that night in a cause which they deemed worth while. Surely those of us who are older and who, in lesser or greater degree, have the power of legislating for the future, can keep alive that comradeship which to the young seems worth while. We must dedicate our thoughts and even our prayers to the objective when the Imperial Conference meets.

Photo of Sir Samuel Storey Sir Samuel Storey , Sunderland

In the autumn of last year I had the privilege of visiting both Australia and New Zealand, and seeing something of their mobilisation for war. I brought back a very high appreciation of the magnificence of their war effort and of the effective way in which they have mobilised their man-power; of the initiative, of the energy and the adaptability which they had shown in their munitions production; and of the manner in which they had maintained their agricultural production in spite of the shortage of man-power, of fertilisers, and of implements. But I brought back something which I think was of a much greater value; I brought back a realisation of the great strength of their desire for closer relations with this country. That desire was due to two things: first, a growing appreciation that the part which Great Britain has played in the war deserves their admiration and entitles her to their respect; secondly, the realisation that only within the British Commonwealth can a small nation, conscious of its individuality, maintain that individuality, yet find the strength in unity with other nations which will give it the power, both in defence and in the economic sphere, to be a factor in world affairs.

Between the wars, there was a tendency for the Dominions to concentrate upon maintaining their individuality in internal affairs while relying, to a great extent, upon Great Britain to preserve Commonwealth external relations and defence. When the crisis came, when Japan was sweeping south, the tragedy was not that Australia thought for a moment that in the future she would have to rely upon America for help, but that, in the past, a great Dominion had relied upon Great Britain to defend her, instead of Great Britain and the Dominions together having recognised their responsi- bilities for the joint defence of the Commonwealth.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India pointed out in a recent speech that the lives of the nations were becoming more and more complex, and that foreign policy, defence, and economic and social policy were becoming indissolubly interwoven. That is undoubtedly true, but it follows that no one nation of the Commonwealth can bear, as in the past, the greater part of the burden of responsibility for conducting the foreign affairs of the whole Commonwealth, where it might be in a position where it could plunge the whole into war, while others concentrate upon their own economic and social development. That complexity, that interweaving of external and domestic policy, calls for the widespread sharing of responsibility. How we are to secure that, without curtailing the sovereign rights of the nations of the Commonwealth, must be one of the main tasks of Commonwealth statesmen.

At a time when the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth are about to gather in London to discuss these problems, it is perhaps not opportune to discuss the machinery by which widespread responsibility can be achieved. Therefore I will only offer one or two observations thereon. The machinery of consultation which has been described to us from time to time, seems to me to suffer from one fault. It is based too much upon an interchange of views and information at the level of the High Commissioners and the Secretary of State for the Dominions. What is required is, I think, consultation at every level of the Civil Service, so that both sides may play their part in the formation of policy. In such a way are we most likely to develop a common policy or, failing a common policy, a common understanding for the avoidance of action which would be destructive to the general good of the whole.

The Curtin proposals for a permanent Secretariat and the Australian and New Zealand Affairs Secretariat, which has been set up under the Canberra Agreement, are steps in this direction which I think deserve our sympathetic consideration. There is another thing I would like to say about the machinery of consultation, and that is that while I welcome the proposals for regional co-operation between Great Britain and the Dominions, and any other countries interested in particular areas, we must beware that such regional co-operation is not regarded as the extent of any Dominion's responsibility for the affairs of the Commonwealth and Empire as a whole. If there is any tendency to regard the region as the limit beyond which a Dominion's interest in external affairs and defence shall not go, then regionalisation will do more harm than good.

There are other aspects of closer relations which I should like to mention. There is ample scope for the improvement of facilities for satisfying the desire for knowledge about Great Britain, and particularly about Great Britain in wartime, in the Dominions. In Australia and New Zealand I found that they were very keen to know what Great Britain was saying, thinking and doing both about the present and about the future. We may well learn from the United States of America, which maintains well stocked libraries in Sydney and Melbourne for the interchange of ideas between Australia and America, which provide programmes of a very high quality for the commercial broadcasting systems in Australia, and which make readily available to Australian newspapers pictures and background information about things American. In all this we lag behind. We are handicapped because of the fact that external air facilities are in the hands of the United States, but I believe that given adequate energy and determination much good could be done to serve what is a pressing demand.

There is another sphere about which I would like to say a few words. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devon-port (Mr. Hore-Belisha), in his magnificent speech earlier to-day, referred to functional co-operation. I believe that by co-operation we can develop the resources of the Commonwealth and Empire. Two days ago we had an interesting Debate on scientific and industrial research, a field in which there are many grounds for co-operation. Let me illustrate what I mean from wool. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are great wool producing countries; we are a great wool manufacturing country. Wool is threatened with severe competition, with substitute fibres which are supported by huge sums spent on research and publicity. It is no use being complacent and saying, "Wool is wool and people will always buy it." The only way to meet that competition is to raise still higher the quality of wool and improve the methods by which it is processed. That requires research, and also co-operation in publicity and sales promotion. Then, too, there is timber. We are on the eve of great developments in the use of timber, and we should join our forces in research for the development of the timber resources of the Empire. New Zealand, for instance, has great resources in quick-growing soft woods which, with water power available, can enabled her to play a prominent part in the development of these new uses. Australia has great timber resources which are of enormous value and which in Tasmania are in close proximity to large resources of water power. Australia has already, by research, produced newsprint out of hard woods. This is the first time that has been done, and that is another industry in which the great Dominion of Canada is vitally interested.

In all these things there is great scope for Empire co-operation in research and development of our industries. Such co-operation and development would be more likely to encourage those industries which are characteristic of a country and, therefore, are logical to establish. By separate action there is the danger that excessive nationalism and excessive individualism may encourage industries which national pride desires but for which there is no real future and which are not necessitated by questions of defence. We have all much to learn from New Zealand in this matter. Her prosperity and comparative wealth are due, in the main, to her concentration upon industries which are characteristic of her. With great foresight, skill and energy she has capitalised the amazing climate conditions which exist there in the production of wool, meat and dairy products and in developing their processing. That is the type of thing we ought to do; we ought to combine our whole resources of the Empire in developing the industries which are characteristic of its various parts.

There is much I would like to have said on the question of emigration had time allowed. I think we ought to have a concerted Empire policy for emigration. The supply of British emigrants is not unlimited, on account of our aging population and of the need to maintain our numbers if we are to remain the corner stone of the Empire in Europe. Those who are available should be encouraged to go where their industrial skill can be best used to advantage or where British stock is most needed to maintain the British tradition. Many parts of the British Commonwealth can easily assimilate good European stock; others, subject to the full blast of publicity from other countries, require British stock if the British tradition is to be maintained. I therefore think that we ought to co-operate with other units of the Empire in drawing up an emigration policy which will put the limited number of British emigrants where their industrial skill can best be used or where they can best maintain the tradition of the British Empire. But, as I have just said, the number of British emigrants will be limited. If we believe in the mission of the British race we must persuade the British race that it must increase itself, and we can only do that if people feel that peace and employment are secure, that education, housing and health are well served, and that behind it all is a system of social insurance that will tide them over periods of lack of earning power.

Common Empire action in defence can do much to secure peace; common Empire action in the economic sphere can provide employment and the prosperity which can provide for education, health and housing. Common Empire action can find the means, if not of assimilating our systems of social insurance, at any rate of arranging for an interchange of benefits such as Australia and New Zealand have already arranged. One of the criticisms of social insurance is that it tends to immobilise skilled workers. If we can arrange an inter-change of benefits such as New Zealand has done then we can provide for that movement, about the Commonwealth, of Commonwealth citizens on all levels, which could do so much to promote a better understanding. The President of the Board of Trade yesterday quoted some words of Mr. Savage in which he gave expression to his faith in this country, a faith which is very generally shared throughout the Dominions, a faith which should fill us all with humility and a deep sense of our responsibilities. But Mr. Savage went further. He went on to say: We are only a small, young nation but we are one and all a band of brothers, and we go forward with a union of hearts and wills towards a common destiny. It is such a union of hearts and wills which will keep the British Empire together much better than any federal constitution or written agreement. If, during the coming weeks of conference, if ever in the future, we remember that we, the nations of the British Commonwealth, are a band of brothers and we maintain that unity of hearts and wills, we need have no fears about the greatness of our common destiny.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham and Worthing

I rise to sum up the Debate for those who promoted it, and I ask the indulgence of the House in speaking for some time, as so many questions have been dealt with. It is characteristic of the spirit which has throughout characterised this Debate that in the very eloquent speech to which we have just listened there was an echo of agreement with something that was said by the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. John Dugdale), though he approached the matter from an entirely different angle. He also spoke of the interchangeability of social services throughout the Empire. I will refer to that later. My first task is to say a word or two about the genesis of this Debate which I think is worth bringing to the attention of the House. This is the first Debate we have had since the Coalition Government was formed which has been asked for by Members normally, in ordinary times, divided by party politics, of their own volition and not through the ordinary channels, and we very much appreciate the circumstances which have enabled it to be held. We are grateful to the Chair, and also to the Government, for having given facilities. It is a precedent which might wall be followed, for this reason. This is a non-party Government in every sense of the word—a Coalition Government—and it is desirable that the point of view of those who are outside the Government, though supporters of the Government, should be presented, not through the ordinary party channels but through a consensus of opinion. I find myself, not for the first time, in almost complete agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). I see a slight smile on the face of the Parliamentary Secretary, but I am sure he will not resent my saying that it is not a hindrance but should be rather a help to him if, on occasions of consensus of opinion from the Opposition Front Bench and from the back benches in support of the Government, such a Debate should be arranged.

We have really had a very high level of Debate in these two days. It was most admirably commenced by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) and equally admirably continued by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) to-day. Speaking generally, there has been, with some inconspicuous exceptions, an almost complete absence of party rancour. In a question of this kind there is no need for us to put a drag-net into the dirty, stagnant water of past political times and bring up such phrases as "Tory Imperialist," "Free Fooder" or things of that kind. Many of these things are completely dead. I associate myself with my hon. Friends behind me in this respect that, in the realm of economics, many of the phrases used to-day are dead and out of date. We are living in the new world which was created by the outbreak of the war. That applies as much to extreme Leftists as to extreme Tories and Members of the Liberal Party. We have had a very remarkable and transcendant consensus of opinion—almost unanimity—on a number of very important points. The first of those points, on which I do not think there is any difference of opinion in any section of the House, is that concerning the position of the Commonwealth now and after the war.

The Debate has shown that among the Members of this Legislative Chamber of the Empire—I say that with deliberation, because we are not merely a deliberative Chamber—in the minds of Members of this sovereign Parliament of one of the sovereign countries of the Empire, it is felt that it is an inescapable fact that in social reconstruction the hopes and aspirations of millions of British people, here and overseas, depend in the long run upon stable external relationships. I do not think anyone dissents from that view. Without the cement of the British Commonwealth there is little hope, and even less security, for the peoples of Britain and the Dominions for this reason, which has been referred to, though perhaps not sufficiently, in the Debate. In the last 20 years we have seen allies come and allies go. The friends of yesterday are the foes of to-day. I hope it is not cynical to call attention to the fact that between 1914 and 1918 we were constantly talking of the gallant little Japs. But one thing which has remained constant is the permanent and steadfast alliance which we have in time of peril, that is, the alliance with the sister nations of the British Commonwealth. That alliance is not a thing of yesterday. It started at the time when we in this House were very much divided, when all the world was jeering and sneering at us during the Boer War. Who then stood by us as our friends? Who alone in Europe, Asia or Africa came forward to our side? The peoples of the then British Colonies which are now the British Dominions. At a time when even the people in this country were very much divided on this subject, when people were hardly on speaking terms, men in the most distant Colonies of the Empire, as they were then, flocked to join the Colours. I had a distinguished friend who unfortunately died of a disease which he got on active service, a man who was a close ally and friend of Lawrence, who had an almost unexampled experience of desert warfare. He told me an interesting story. He was at that time a boy of 15, the son of a well-known stock-owning family in Australia. He had never seen a town and lived 40 miles away from the nearest. He ran away at the age of 15 to join the Mounted Rifles to fight on our side in the Boer War. These facts stand out. They cannot be escaped. We have these permanent allies and we have had them only for the last 40 years.

There is another thing that should be remembered. The majority of the Southern Irish, a portion of the South African Dutch and the French Canadians may deny this, but denials do not alter facts or fashion history. The days when small racial groups of two, three or four million people could isolate themselves from world events and tendencies have vanished with the all-enveloping power of the aeroplane. That is not to say we should in this Debate or at any time say a word that is wounding to any of the small countries of the world outside or inside the Empire, but they cannot stand alone. In the case even of those elements who used to be against what they regard as an overweening Imperialism, they must realise that they can only stand by us if they wish to be secure.

The second point that should be remembered in connection with this alliance is this. I speak with the greatest discretion, as all speakers in this Debate have spoken, when I say that that alliance is and never can be anything but a voluntary alliance of sovereign Parliaments and Governments under a common flag and Throne. It should not go out from this House, and, indeed, it has not gone out in the course of this two days' Debate, that the powers of the sovereign Parliaments of the Dominions should be abated by one jot or tittle. Nobody has suggested that, and nobody who was not mad or bad or both would suggest it. This must be in every sense a voluntary alliance, and the whole basis of the eloquent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham, which set the pace for the Debate, was that this must be a purely voluntary matter on their part. The other point in connection with this which it is equally important to make is that this alliance, as I have called it and shall continue to call it, between the sovereign Parliaments of the Empire is neither exclusive nor autarchic. There is no exclusion or autarchy in the old-fashioned sense of the term. It does not prevent us entering into arrangements with other nations; indeed, it facilitates our making arrangements with our Allies and the rest of the world.

I must again state the case which my hon. Friends and I who are associated with this Motion wish to put before the House. We are most sincerely of the opinion, in spite of our differing views on home affairs, that this alliance of British Commonwealth countries will not weaken but strengthen our alliance with the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics and the United States of America. I would like, Tory as I am, to stand at this Box and say that I regard that alliance as absolutely essential to us and to all humanity. But I regard our alliance with the United States as no more and no less important than our alliance with the U.S.S.R. All of us, both Tories and Socialists, have no differences of opinion about that. It is an acknowledged and accomplished fact. It must be stated, however, that the alliance will be weakened if it is an alliance merely of peoples who are two enormous confederations, because that is what they are in the usual sense of the word. The United States is a confederation. One has only to read the history of the United States to see that it is a confederation of countries and that there is a certain dissimilarity between the opinion of the people, say, of California and the people of Massachusetts. There is a growing dissimilarity, too, of racial origin.

I am sorry that some of my Friends in the Liberal Party—and it was apparent in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris)——should have suggested that in building up our alliance within the Commonwealth we were doing something hostile or antipathetic to the United States or the U.S.S.R. We are paying them the compliment of following their example. I cannot believe that any impartial person would think otherwise. In this connection I can say something which no Member of the Government could say. It would be resented if they did. I have had the advantage of going to America several times, including one visit during the war on a British Government Mission, and I would beg those hon. Members who have not been there not to pay too much heed to criticism by commentators who are opponents at one and the same time of the existing Administration and of this country. Naturally, they find arguments against everything the British Government do because they hope by so doing to injure the American Government. Those of us who have had the advantage of talking in private to American statesmen have had that fact impressed upon our minds. We certainly should not attempt to answer them. That would be fatal and would damage our relations. There are, however, some people in this country who get all hot and bothered when there is any criticism about the British Empire by any American, and press the Government to take action and answer it. Nothing could be more fatal to Anglo-American relations. If there cannot be free talk and even criticism at times without a demand that we should explain ourselves, our alliance is not worth very much.

I pass from that to deal with the third point which has been established in this Debate. It is that the constitutional and economic and internal relationships of the Commonwealth can no more be a matter of concern, on either legalistic or moral grounds, to our Allies than is the relationship of the Soviet Republics inter se or Massachusetts or North Carolina to them. They may take exception to this and may say that it is prejudicial to their interests. They may make representations as they have a perfect right to do, as friends and Allies, but on no legalistic or moral grounds can they object to internal trade arrangements any more than we have a right to object to any internal trade arrangements between various Soviet Republics or various States of the Union. I cannot think that this affirmation of mine can be unpalatable to important opinion in both those countries.

In the time which is left to me I would like to come to what I have been thinking are the conclusions to be reached on these agreements, as I suggest they are, which we have come to in this Debate on the three points which I have stated. First of all, as regards the Colonial Empire, I agree with all the speakers, including my hon. Friend who opened the Debate, that not only in the remote past but rather more recently, there has been a very serious failure on our part properly to develop the resources of the Colonial Empire. Possibly my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham went a shade further than I should have gone on the subject. The Colonial Development Act is having a very valuable effect and the Colonial Office, under its present very energetic Secretary of State, is trying to do its best to make amends for the mistakes of the past.

I want to make an affirmation here, which I do only on behalf of myself, but I hope it represents the views of my colleagues of the Tory Party, and it is that I can see no difference of opinion of a party political nature which is likely to arise between Tories and Socialists, at any rate the reasonable ones on both sides, and I hope they are the majority, in the matter of the economic policy for the Colonial Empire. The reason is that, in my opinion, everyone must seek, as his main object, the raising of the economic standard and status of the individuals in those Colonies, whether they are white or of European descent, or whether they are of different descent. We must do it with all our might and power.

There is another question, which is a delicate one to refer to, for reasons which I shall mention in a moment, and that is that we must do all that we can, by our influence in this House, and the Government and the Colonial Office must do all that they can, to lower the colour bar in the Colonies as much as possible. Certain difficulties exist, and I think they should be freely stated. I can assure my hon. Friends on this side of the House that if some of us sometimes do not seem to be as sympathetic as we might be, it is not because we are not sympathetic to the object but because we realise the difficulties which exist. I do not refer so much to the state of public opinion in this country, because I cannot believe that in the minds and hearts of the British at home there is any colour sense. Rather the contrary is the case. There was a remarkable union the other day between my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) and a number of other Tories, Liberals and Socialists, in objecting to a colour bar which had been imposed upon a British Indian in a London hotel.

The real trouble does not arise there. It arises more among the white European population which lives in the Colonies. I have to be rather careful in what I say on this point, because I happen to have some interests in Northern Rhodesia, and also because I sometimes address public meetings. If I may be egoistic for a moment I will put the matter in a different way. I may go to a meeting of the Mineworkers' Federation or to a meeting of the farmers' association and the question I may be asked is something like this: "When you spoke in the House of Commons, you, Lord Winterton, said you wanted to lower the colour bar. What do you mean by that? Do you want to put the economic status of white workers in this country on the same level as that of natives?" I should have to answer that question. I should answer it in the best way I could, but that is the sort of question.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham and Worthing

I will tell the hon. Member why I prefer not to answer it now; because, in my long experience of this House, I have never known a Colonial Secretary who knew exactly how to answer it.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham and Worthing

The colour bar in the Colonies must be referred to in a Debate of this kind. I would like to say a further thing. Hon. Members have called attention to the fact that a great interest is taken in the United States in our attitude towards and treatment of those whom one might call, using a less offensive term, the indigenous races of the Empire. I should like to make another affirmation and to say, as one who admires the United States very greatly and is most anxious to see our friendship maintained on the highest level, that I do not resent their speaking in that way as friends. But if it were ever put forward on behalf of the Government of that country that they had the right to interest themselves in this question of our attitude towards the indigenous races per se, it would be only right and proper to say that we claimed the same right in regard to the position of the coloured people in their Southern States. There can be no answer to that point. It ought to be stated in this House and from this Box.

There is a type of person in this country who, when anybody gets up in the United States—I do not mean a responsible member of the United States Government or any other person in a responsible position, and I do not mean Mr. Wendell Willkie, whose comments were perfectly legitimate—and alleges ill-treatment of people in India or in Africa, will ask us: "What are you going to do about it?" The answer to people who do that is to ask them: "Do you agree that the Americans have any right to make those allegations? If so, are you prepared to get up and claim to be interested in the negroes in the Southern States or in the indigenous people in American colonies?" We get nowhere on those lines. The right attitude between ourselves and the United States is to discuss these questions in friendship behind closed doors, and not by public comment. To attempt to answer those comments here is to make the position worse.

I come to my final point, which is about the position of the Commonwealth, and the points which I think the House should urge upon the Conference which is about to take place. I am not quite sure whether this is an Imperial Conference in the technical sense of the term or whether it is a Conference between—

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

No, it is not an Imperial Conference but a meeting between Prime Ministers.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham and Worthing

Yes, my question was rather ignorant. I ought really to have known that. I venture, with great respect and complete friendliness, to press the point upon my right hon. Friend that in this matter there has been an even greater consensus of opinion, almost unanimity. It seems to me that the following suggestions have come out in this Debate: First of all, to paraphrase what was said by the right hon. Member for Wakefield, who made an excellent speech with which I was personally in agreement, and which was on non-party political lines, there is the suggestion that there should be a structure of common action, through more appropriate machinery than at present; that is to say, common action between the Dominions and ourselves. That common action would obviously include foreign policy. I would like to say a word about that. Some speakers have suggested that it is almost impossible to arrive at a common foreign policy because of the existence of five or six—or whatever the number is—separate sovereign Parliaments of the Empire. I do not think so.

I know that I am venturing on rather quaking and boggy ground, dangerous ground, but I suggest that it is easier to arrive at a common foreign policy between the different sovereign Parliaments of the Empire than it is to arrive at a common foreign policy between the United States and ourselves, for this reason. We have a system which is most unquestionably better suited to express permanent opinion than is the Constitution of the United States. If a Parliament and a Government in any part of the Empire are in agreement, whether it is this country, New Zealand, Australia, Canada or anywhere else, a treaty can be implemented and is binding not only on particular Governments and Parliaments but upon their successors. No one who has studied the history of the United States in the last 25 years can say that such a process can be easily carried out in the United States. Hon. Members who are interested should read a book, published about 10 years ago by Mr. Brogan, on the Constitution of the United States, in which he says that, largely as a result of certain views the great American statesman Jefferson had, there is such a careful system of checks, one against the other, between the President, the House of Representatives and the Senate and the Supreme Court, that it is very difficult at any given moment to say "This is the policy of the United States." It will be increasingly difficult in the future. As I say, I con- sider it is easier to arrive at a common foreign policy within the Empire, even through ordinary existing channels, because of the greater integration of the British Parliamentary system and the Dominion Parliamentary system compared with that of the Americans.

In addition there should be the greatest common action in matters of defence. There, I think, the Australia-New Zealand Agreement is of very great value. For the first time the great islands of New Zealand and the great island continent of Australia have come to, at any rate, the nucleus of an agreement upon Pacific defence. I think that what was done there can be extended. There should obviously be the utmost possible correlation of economic policy. Here I entirely agree with my hon. Friend on the Bench beside me that a common economic policy does not mean entirely one concerned wholly with Empire preferences, or things of that kind. It goes very much wider and deeper than that. It means an attempt by the trade Ministers in the different countries to do whatever they can to arrive at an agreement on an economic policy within the Empire which will be of mutual benefit to all.

There is one indisputable fact which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Seaham which some subsequent speakers, including some of his own colleagues, seemed to question, and which the right hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green seemed to think was out of date. If I understood the hon. Member's speech aright, it is really an indisputable fact and I do not see why it should not be mentioned. As he said, the inescapable facts are that the finest market the Dominions can possibly find is the market of this country. Some hon. Members seem to be under the impression that Canada will find a better market in the United States than here. I can see no evidence of that, entirely the opposite. I can see no evidence that Australia and New Zealand will find better markets than they will find here. It goes much further than that. We are the only great market open to these countries, and we are going to be so after the war. I do not know how the Liberal Party and others who live in a world of remote idealism will get over that fact. It may be that the Americans will forget their economic teaching of the last 30 years; it may be that the South American Republics will do the same, and that the Soviet Republics will do likewise; but there is no evidence of it. What stands out is that the mutual markets for the Dominions and this country are their respective countries. The thing is complementary in every sense of the word.

May I say, before we leave the question of markets, that of course I agree with the President of the Board of Trade? No one has ever suggested that every trade arrangement, made whether at Ottawa or subsequently, with the Dominions should stop the Dominions and ourselves from entering into trade arrangements with other countries. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Spearman) meant. He seemed to think that in some way what we were doing would be regarded as hostile by the United States. I understood his comment upon my hon. Friend to be that we must be careful, in making these trade arrangements, not to do anything which would be resented by the United States. I do not think they have any right to resent them. They only have the right to do so if they are exclusive, which they certainly are not.

There should be the utmost interchangeability—I am glad the hon. Member for West Bromwich mentioned it—of social services, of students, of civil servants and members of the Services, and we should, wherever possible, on such difficult subjects as migration, civil aviation and shipping, come to agreements with the Dominions. These problems will present great difficulties. There is the question of cabotage which will be very important. I have no doubt that the Empire Prime Ministers—[Interruption]. Cabotage is a question of internal air passengers, of whether you can take a person from one part of a particular country to another. It is the jargon of the civil aviator. It is a very old term.

I think it would be appropriate if, on behalf of the whole House, I expressed the gratification, I think it is not going too far to say the gratitude, which all of us feel at the close attention which the Prime Minister has given to this matter in this Debate. I have sometimes been a critic of my right hon. Friend, but it has never in any way abated the immense admiration I have for his services, and I think it is true to say that the right hon. Gentleman is rather more than the King's first Minister in this country. He is the freely selected—by no constitutional process, but in the people's hearts—and acclaimed Captain-General of the whole British Commonwealth. He shares one great quality of that Commonwealth, a quality which is exclusive to the Commonwealth among our Allies. Amid all the triumphs and disasters of the last four years the flame of his courage, and of the courage of the countries for which he speaks, has never flickered or faltered.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

When we planned this Debate together through the usual channels, it was well understood that its main purpose was to enable the House to express its opinion, and that the Government would have no far-reaching declaration of policy to make. Indeed, it has been everywhere recognised that for us to commit ourselves to hard-and-fast lines of policy, or even to the advocacy of particular suggestions or proposals, would not be appropriate on the eve of the first meeting we have been able to arrange—after, I can assure the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville), many attempts—of all the Dominion Prime Ministers since the war began. Thus viewed, I think it will be almost universally admitted that the Debate has been a great success, and has been of far-reaching usefulness; that the Motion on which the Debate is founded is acceptable to all; that there is, as the Noble Lord has said, an all-party agreement on most fundamentals; and that the level of the discussion has been worthy of the breadth of the subject, and has been distinguished by speeches of a statesmanlike character, for I can use no other word for speeches such as I heard yesterday from my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), and to-day from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. HoreBelisha) and the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton)—although, after the very kind compliment the Noble Lord has just paid me, I was not quite sure whether I had not better leave him out. I must regret that I could not hear all the speeches which have been made, but I sat up till half past two this morning reading the full report of every speech, and I crave the indulgence of the House for not having been constantly on the Bench during this Debate, on account of some other things which, hon. Members may know, it is my duty to look after.

What has struck me most about the speeches to which I have listened or have read or upon which I have been kept well-informed, has been the great number of enormous topics, some of which have formerly been matters of heated controversy, and may be again, which Members have found it necessary, indeed have found it inevitable, to take for an airing. A great number of these questions concern our future, and they have been raised directly or indirectly. What changes are to be made in the political, economic, and defence structure of the British Commonwealth and Empire? In what way will an ever more closely knitted British Commonwealth and Empire become also, at the same time, more closely associated with the United States? How will this vast bloc of States and Nations, which will walk along together, speaking, to a large extent, the same language, reposing on the same body of common law, be merged in the supreme council for the maintenance of world peace? Should we draw closer to Europe—there is another question—and aim at creating, under the Supreme World Council, a living union, an entity in Europe, a United States of Europe? Or, again, should we concentrate upon our own Imperial and Commonwealth organisation, or upon our fraternal association with the United States, and put our trust in the English Channel, in air power, and in sea power?

Other more familiar topics than these —because it is easy to see, from the recurrence of these topics in so many speeches, the way in which the modern mind of the House is moving—have been raised, like Free Trade versus Protection, Imperial Preference versus greater development of international trade, and international currency in relation to the policy of the United States and the existence of a vast sterling area. One even sees the gold standard peering around the corner, and, of course, British agriculture close at hand. My hon. Friend the Member for Eye said yesterday that the sole, or the main, lesson of the war was that the world was one and indivisible. I should myself have thought that the main obvious fact before our eyes is that the world is very seriously divided, and is conducting its controversies in a highly acrimonious manner. Certainly it seems sufficiently divided to give the peacemakers quite a considerable task to weld it into one common mutually-loving whole at the peace table. I cannot pretend to have provided myself with the answers to all these questions, with answers which would give satisfaction to all parties here at home, and cause no complications in our relations with foreign States, but I bid the House to take comfort from the fact that, great as our responsibilities are, no reasonable person could expect us to solve all the problems of the world while we are fighting for our lives. We must be generous, we must be fair to the future, we must leave something to be done by our descendants, if any.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Wedderburn), whose laudable desire to probe into the distant past is not always accompanied by historical precision, quoted—and I make no complaint of it—a speech which I made 40 years ago against Mr. Joseph Chamberlain's policy of Protection and Imperial Preference—

Mr. MaeLaren:

An excellent speech.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

—which certainly does not, whatever else may be thought about it, reveal me as a very ardent supporter of those policies, and certainly makes it very odd that I should have, for the time being, the honour of leading the Conservative Party. I have no intention of passing my remaining years in explaining or withdrawing anything I have said in the past, still less in apologising for it; but what I am concerned to do is to show to the House, and also to Members of my own Party, how strictly I have, during my stewardship, safeguarded the structure of Imperial Preference, which has arisen out of the controversies and achievements of the last 40 years, against any danger of being swept away in the tumult of this war. At my first meeting with the President of the United States, at Argenta in Newfoundland, at the time of the so-called Atlantic Charter and before the United States had entered the war—a meeting of very anxious and critical importance—I asked for the insertion of the following words which can be read in that document: With due respect for their existing obligations. Those are the limiting words, and they were inserted for the express purpose of retaining in the House of Commons, and the Dominion Parliaments, the fullest possible rights and liberties over the question of Imperial Preference. Again, in February, 1942, when the United States was our closest Ally, I did not agree to Article 7 of the Mutual Aid Agreement, without having previously obtained from the President a definite assurance that we were no more committed to the abolition of Imperial Preference, than the American Government were committed to the abolition of their high protective tariffs. The discussions as to how a greater volume of trade and a more harmonious flow of trade can be created in the immediate post-war years in agreement, leaves us, in every respect, so far as action is concerned, perfectly free. How could it otherwise be, when Parliament itself would not only have to debate the matters, but would have to legislate upon them, when they were brought before it? I am convinced myself that there should be a careful, searching, far-ranging discussion on the economics of the post-war world, and a sincere attempt made to reconcile conflicting interests wherever possible. There must be a whole-hearted endeavour, begun in good time, to promote the greatest interchange of goods and services between the various communities of the world, and to strive for that process of betterment of standards of life in every country without which, as the hon. Member for Seaham pointed out, expanding markets are impossible, and without which world prosperity is a dream which might easily turn into a nightmare.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport made a remark which I particularly liked, when he said that the Empire is not a sick body. I cordially agree. But even I can look back to the days when it was considered to be moribund. There were, when I was young, some statesmen whose names are honoured, who spoke of the Colonies as burdens, and of the Dominions as fruit which would fall from the tree when ripe. I did not live myself in the days when those speeches were made, but I remember well times of great anxiety about the Empire, at the end of the last century. I remember the South African war, and how shocked the War Office was, when Australia and New Zealand actually wanted to send contingents to fight, and how they eventually overcame their reluctance by adopting the immortal compromise "unmounted men preferred." My right hon. Friend, who is not here, has made great improvements since then. I have never thought myself that the Empire needed tying together with bits of string. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport that natural development, natural forces, mysterious natural forces, will carry everything before them, especially when those forces are fanned forward, as they will be, by the wings of victory in a righteous cause.

Then came another phase. Looking at the British Empire, say, 30 years ago, in 1914, on the eve of the first Great War, all foreign opinion, especially German opinion, was convinced that this vast structure of Empire, created and coming into full life in Victorian times, had reached a condition of ricketiness and looseness when a single violent shock would bring it clattering down and lay it low for ever. Then came upon the world a most frightful war, incomparably greater than anything we had ever known, with slaughter far greater than any, thank God, we have suffered in this struggle. I remember coming out of the Cabinet meeting on an August afternoon in 1914, when war was certain, and the Fleet was already mobilised, with this feeling: "How are we to explain it all to Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand; nay, how are we to explain it all to our own people in the short time left?" But, when we left the fierce controversy of the Cabinet room, and came out into the open air, the whole of the peoples of the British Empire, of every race and every clime, had already sprung to arms. Our old enemies, recent enemies, Generals Botha and Smuts, were already saddling their horses to rally their commandos to the attack on Germany, and Irishmen, whose names I always bear in my memory with regard, John Redmond and his brother, and others of the old Irish Parliamentary Party, which fought us for so many years in this House in pleading the cause of Ireland with great eloquence and Parliamentary renown; there they were, making these speeches of absolute support and unity with this country until everybody said everywhere "The brightest spot in the world is Ireland." It may be that a grand opportunity was lost then. We must keep our eyes open. I always keep mine open on the Irish question.

We had a pretty dreary time between these two wars. But we have great responsibilities for the part we played—so we have, all of us—and so have the Americans in not making the League of Nations a reality and in not backing its principles with effective armed forces, and letting this deadly and vengeful foe arm at his leisure. But, underneath, the whole Empire and ourselves in these islands grew stronger and our resources multiplied. Little was said about our growth. Little was visible of our closer union, while the forces which had sent the Anzac Corps to the Dardanelles, and afterwards to the Hindenburg Line, and carried the Canadians to Vimy Ridge, were all growing, unseen, unnoticed, immeasurable, far below the surface of public life and political conflict. These are the natural processes to which my right hon. Friend so aptly referred. Then, this Warbroke out. The Mother Country—I must still ask leave to use this name; anyhow, I think it is rather dangerous to plunge into new nomenclature, and I am not sure that anything like "The Elder Sister Country" would be a very great success. There was that old song, which I remember in my youth, "A Boy's Best Friend is his Mother," and which seems to me to be sometimes worth humming again. The Mother Country, I say, was geographically involved, once again, in the struggles of Europe, and found it right and necessary to declare war upon Germany because Germany had violated Poland and we had guaranteed to defend Poland. Instantly, from all parts of the British Empire, with one lamentable exception, about which we must all search our hearts, came the same response. None of the disillusionments that had followed "the war to end wars," "the homes for heroes" and so forth—all good slogans in their day—none of the disillusionments which we had gone through, with the ups and downs of unemployment and great privations, none of these had affected, in any way, the living, growing, intensifying inner life of the British Commonwealth and Empire. When the signal came, from the poorest Colony to the most powerful Dominion, the great maxim held: "When the King declares war, the Empire is at war." The darkest moment came. Did anyone flinch? Was there one cry of pain or doubt or terror? No, Sir, darkness was turned into light and into a light which will never fade away.

What is this miracle? I think the word was used by some hon. Gentlemen yesterday. What is this miracle, for it is nothing less, that called men from the uttermost ends of the earth, some riding 20 days before they could reach their recruiting centres, some armies having to be sent 14,000 miles across the seas before they reached the battlefield? What is this force, this miracle which makes Governments, as proud and sovereign as any that have ever existed, immediately cast aside all their fears, and immediately set themselves to aid a good cause and beat the common foe? You must look very deep into the heart of man, and then you will not find the answer unless you look with the eye of the spirit. Then it is that you learn that human beings are not dominated by material things but by ideas for which they are willing to give their lives or their life's work. Among the various forces that hold the British Empire together is, and I certainly do not object to the expression which my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham used, "enlightened self-interest"—that has a valued and important part to play—but I am sure he would make no mistake in placing that in front of those deeper and more mysterious influences which cause human beings to do most incalculable, improvident, and, from the narrow point of view, profitless things. It is our union in freedom and for the sake of our way of living which is the great fact, reinforced by tradition and sentiment, and it does not depend upon anything that could ever be written down in any account kept in some large volume.

We have had the Statute of Westminster, which some thought would involve the breaking of ties. There was a lot to be said about that on either side. It has not impeded in the slightest degree the onward march of the Commonwealth and Empire. It has not prevented the centripetal forces of our vast organisation from exerting their full strength. Here, after our failures—we are not the only nation which had failures between the two wars—here, after the Statute of Westminster, here after getting into this war, and dragging in the Empire so unprepared—and they themselves no better prepared either in arms or opinion—here amid the wreck of empires, states, nations, and institutions of every kind, we find the British Commonwealth and Empire more strongly united than ever before. In a world of confusion and ruin, the old flag flies. We have not got to consider how to bind ourselves more closely. It would pass the wit of man to do so. It is extraordinary what a poor business it has become to sneer at the British Empire. Those who have tried it in the United States have been discredited. Those who have tried it in the Dominions have found no public backing, although there is free speech for all opinions. Those who decry our Commonwealth of Nations and deride the Mother Country have very little support.

The question before us is, How can we make things better? How can we gain greater results from our already close ties? I do not think we should embark upon that task with a sort of feeling that, if we do not do something, everything is going to crash. I do not understand that. I do not feel like that. The forces underlying our unity are superior to any temporary shortcomings for which any of us may become responsible. We have to consider practical steps and to consider these coolly and sagely. The world is in crisis. The British Commonwealth and Empire within itself was never more united. Rudyard Kipling, that refreshing fountain of British Imperial ideas, wrote of the Dominions: Daughter am I in my mother's house, But Mistress in my own. We have to take a step beyond that now. There is a family council. Methods must be devised, without haste and without rest, to bring the nations of the British Empire into intimate and secret counsel upon the march of world events not only during this war—because that is done with great labour and efficiency—but after the war, so that they know fully our position and we theirs in regard to the march of events and the action which may have to come from them. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport spoke wisely and suggestively of "functional unity" within the Empire and also of another applicable to the world at large. The question had been raised: Should we have a permanent machinery like the Committee of Imperial Defence, only on a larger scale, a kind of lively extension of the principle which is embodied in the name of the Chief of the Imperial Genera] Staff, which Lord Haldane created by a far-seeing decision, a sort of continuance, in an Imperial form, of the machinery which I, at present, direct as Minister of National Defence, should we set up something like this to be a standing and perpetual committee of the British Empire? This is no more than an expansion on a much greater scale and in much more precise detail of the work hitherto done by the Committee of Imperial Defence, which my right hon. Friend mentioned. But should it extend into the sphere of maritime affairs, of economic affairs and of financial affairs, and how far?

These are obviously matters which we must begin to explore together when we meet informally our colleagues from the great Dominions. There are some who would clothe the machinery of union with Ministerial authority, there are others who would have it extended to both economic and military affairs. I must say, speaking for myself, I see very little difficulty about the first, about international bodies being developed with more vigour. We have, of course, representatives of the Dominions on the bodies which function under the Minister of Defence now. I see very little difficulty about the first; I see very great advantage about the second, namely, Ministerial contact. There must be frequent meetings of the Prime Ministers, and they must be attended by those they choose to bring with them, to discuss all aspects of Imperial policy and Imperial safety. Here as in so many cases time marches forward with a friendly step. The vast developments of air transport make a new bond of union—I think attention was drawn to it by my right hon. Friend opposite—and there are new facilities for meeting, which will make the councils of the British Commonwealth of Nations a unity much greater than ever was possible before, when the war is over and when the genius of the air is turned from the most horrible forms of destruction to the glories of peace.

It will be quite easy to have meetings of Prime Ministers or Imperial Conferences, whatever you like to call them, every year or more often, on every serious occasion when we get to the times of peace, and we shall encourage them at any time in the period of war. It is not necessary that these meetings should always take place in London. They may take place in other great centres of our united Empire. Although I am still old-fashioned enough to consider Cockney London as the heart of the Empire, I am quite ready that we should take wing in the future. In this war we have already held, quite apart from the conferences with the President of the United States, a conference in Quebec where I sat for several days with the Dominion Cabinet, and we were all the guests of Canada, which I may say is a very agreeable thing to be. It is very likely, as the sombre marches of the war succeed one another, when Hitler and Hitlerism are finished and blasted from the face of the earth, we shall have conferences of the British Empire and the United States in Australia about all these matters—and there are certainly some in which we find cause of complaint against the Japanese. When peace returns—and we should pray to God it soon may—the Conferences of the Prime Ministers of the Dominions, among whom we trust India will be reckoned and with whom the Colonies will be associated, will, we hope, become frequent and regular facts and festivities of our annual life.

One last word before I sit down. Some assume that there must be an inherent antagonism between a world order to keep peace and vast national or federal organisations which will evidently be in existence. I do not believe this is true. Both the world order and these great organisations may he so fashioned as to be two parts of one tremendous whole. I have never conceived that a fraternal association with the United States would militate in any way against the unity of the British Commonwealth and Empire, or breed ill-feeling with our great Russian Ally, to whom we are bound by the 20 years treaty. I do not think we need choose this or that. With wisdom, and patience, and vigour, and courage, we may get the best of both. We have often said of our own British Empire: In my Father's house are many mansions. So in this far greater world structure, which we shall surely raise out of the ruins of desolating war, there will be room for all generous, free associations of a special character, so long as they are not disloyal to the world cause nor seek to bar the forward march of mankind.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That the United Kingdom should do its utmost by close co-operation and regard for the different point 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.