The Prime Minister gave us yesterday a review of the sweeping march of events which has taken place since the House rose more than seven weeks ago—a review which, I think, all hon. Members deeply appreciated. We know what a tremendous effort these reviews entail upon a man who has already a tremendous burden of work to carry, and the Prime Minister renders a great service to the House by giving so much pains and so much time to the preparation and delivery of these reviews. He speaks, of course, with an intimate knowledge of every phase of the operations which, certainly, very few can rival, but he also has a remarkable power of making events live, and presenting a picture which is not only balanced, but also vivid and arresting. I think everybody will agree that these features were marked in the statement he presented yesterday. I feel, as I am sure all hon. Members feel, that there is, in reality, very little to add to what the Prime Minister said about military operations, but, in spite of that, I think it right that, in all parts of this House, we should express our deep sense of obligation and gratitude to the leaders, commanders and all ranks who have been responsible for this tremendous change in our fortunes. We, after all, are only spectators; they have been doing this momentous service to all that we stand for, and I feel that everyone in this House would wish to join with the Prime Minister in expressing our deep sense of gratitude to them.
Looking back on these operations, it seems to me that we here have reason to be thankful for four things in particular which are due to very fine political and military leadership combined. The first, most certainly, is the unity of the United Nations in the field. The history of alliances in war is a painful history, and, certainly, there has never, in the whole history of the human race, been a war in which Allies worked so closely together, with so little friction, considering the immense difficulties and range of interests involved and the varying character of all the peoples engaged. No alliance in history has ever worked like this. Let us express, in particular, our debt to General Eisenhower for his success. He paid a great compliment to this House when he invited Mr. Speaker and some of the officers of the House to pay a special visit to Normandy. I am sure we greatly appreciated that, and would wish to express our recognition of it. So far as the team work of the United Nations is concerned, there has been no parallel to what has taken place in the last two years in the whole course of history.
The next thing, which I think is due to political as well as military leadership, is the extraordinary combination of the three Services. It was not so at the beginning of this war; it has seldom been so in previous wars. I suppose that the most famous case in our history when the Services really worked together were the joint operations conducted under Chatham's leadership in the Seven Years' War. Those were very remarkable. They began with a series of failures, and they ended in a series of brilliant successes. Chatham stands out as a statesman able to combine the Services, but he had only two to combine. Our Prime Minister has succeeded in combining three, which is even more difficult. I think the whole House will recognise that this is a thing which the Services are never able to do by themselves. It really depends in the end on direction from the highest political quarters, and I think the House should recognise how much it owes to the Prime Minister and to the President of the United States for the way in which the Services have worked together.
The third thing, deeply impressive to anybody who remembers our experiences in the last war, is the success of our training. This country, the Dominions and the United States all contain peoples who are not military, in any sense whatever, but have to be trained in preparation for war and seldom attempt it until the emergency is right upon them. When that terrible emergency comes, they have to depend upon the leadership and training capacity of a very small cadre of Regular officers in the Fighting Services, and it is absolutely astonishing to realise the results which have been achieved. It is a tribute both to the training capacity of our Regular officers and to the men who have come forward to be trained. I do not believe that there are any fighting men superior to the fighting men of the Commonwealth, the United States and the United Nations in the field at the present moment. Certainly, the Germans, with their tremendous years of training and long professional record as a military nation, have produced nothing superior to what we have improvised in the course of the last five years. It is a very wonderful achievement, and, most wonderful of all, is the fighting power which these men have shown, even when thrown for the first time into battle. Nearly all troops take a lot of seasoning, and it is very remarkable indeed how men who faced fire for the first time proved themselves equal to the ordeal.
Finally, on this aspect of the subject, I do not think we should overlook a point to which the Prime Minister himself drew attention, and that is the "Q" side of these operations We have, in past years, been pretty good at it ourselves; I think we have surpassed our previous performances in this war. But certainly our American Allies have shown a genius for mechanical improvisation and mechanical invention which has gone very far to make the immensely rapid movement of armies, the volume of supply, the bridging of rivers, the making of roads, even the making of harbours within a few hours, possible. If our leadership had failed in any of these things, the whole operation must have been a failure, but as it is, the whole House rejoices at the picture of France, Belgium, Luxemburg and a considerable part of Holland liberated, and our Armies planted on the German frontiers, along a line which is, at least, 300 miles long as the aeroplane flies—it is, of course, much longer for the Fighting Services—and in the fact that a million of our enemies have been eliminated. That is a wonderful result, all attained since the House adjourned a little more than seven weeks ago.
The Prime Minister, I am sure, wishes us all to realise that the war is not over. There will be no parade or march to Berlin, or Leipzig, or Munich or Vienna. There is stern fighting still ahead of us, and we owe it to our troops to realise that. But I think we can say now, without any question, that the final result is certain. There is only one small part of this vast operation which has failed of complete success—the landing of the First Airborne Division at Arnhem—and on that I should like to say a few words.. The Prime Minister gave the support of his great authority to what most of us have felt and that was, that the landing at Arnhem was by no means in vain, that without it the bridge at Nijmegen, and the bridgehead at Nijmegen could not have been secured. It is a great comfort to realise that; it must be a comfort to the families of the men who have given their lives at Arnhem to recognise it. It is fundamental. But apart from that, those men have given an example of splendid courage which will certainly go down for ever in the pages of our history.
Arnhem was the place to which Sir Philip Sidney was taken to die when he was wounded in Holland. Sir Philip Sidney was a model of splendid courage, of Elizabethan dash and daring and staying power, and when he died there, the Dutch States-General offered to give him a burial at Arnhem and to spend half a ton of gold on the memorial—on a monument to the deep impression he had made. I think we all feel that his spirit, the spirit of one of the greatest Englishmen of that time, was alive again in the men of the First Airborne Division. If it was felt when Sir Philip Sidney was buried in Arnhem, that it would be a part of British history for ever, it certainly now will be part of British history for ever. None of us can ever forget it.
There have been—I think with good reason—some feelings that our share in these great Western and Southern operations has not been appreciated in the United States of America. I would like to quote an exception to that, because it pays a tribute to our men at Arnhem which we should acknowledge. It is from a leading article in the American newspaper, the "New York Times." In a leading article published the day before yesterday—I quote from yesterday's "Evening Standard"—it says:
There will be no prouder men in years to come than those qualified to wear the Arnhem badge or ribbon. … They risked, and many of them endured, the hardest death a soldier has to die when the flags are flying and the bells ringing in liberated cities, and the hope of victory and home makes life seem sweet. This is their tragedy and their everlasting honour.
That tribute will, I hope, not only be appreciated in this House, but will go out to the families of the men who have given their lives in that magnificent venture.
There are two or three other points in the Prime Minister's review on which I would like to comment. I am sure that the whole House is especially glad that he emphasised the fact that there has been complete equality of effort on the Western and Southern fronts, as between our great American Allies and ourselves. That has not been properly appreciated. When I knew something about these problems and the preparations that were being made, I am bound to say that I felt profoundly anxious all the time about, in particular, the strength of the Armies. I always wondered whether it was possible for a nation undertaking as much as we were undertaking, to produce the divisions which would be necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion with honour and dignity on the part of this country.
It has been done. And how has it been done? It has been done by straining every English home—and let us realise that we all have our share in this great achievement. I think that the housewives, and the makers of homes in this country, will realise how much the success of this operation is due, not only to the splendid men who took part in it, but to the efforts by which they made it possible that these men should be taken from their normal activities, while this country was at the same time undertaking the direction of a vast range of other duties—taken from their homes and trained for service in the Army. I am glad too, that the Prime Minister paid a special tribute to General Alexander and to the troops in Italy. The Gothic Line position is, I believe, the strongest fortified position in Europe, perhaps in any part of the world apart from the Himalayas. It is a terrific position and it really took a commander of genius and troops of very fine quality to break it in the centre and turn it—a marvellous military achievement against such a line and in very difficult weather. General Alexander is also, like General Eisenhower, a genius for making Allies work well together. He has a team coming from all parts of the world, and it is due to him to say how much we appreciate the way in which he has made it possible for all to feel that they are honoured members of a single force fighting for common victory.
The same applies to our sometimes forgotten Fourteenth Army in Burma. How glad I was to hear the Prime Minister calling attention to the quality and the importance of its achievements! They have very often been forgotten even in this country and certainly little recognised in other parts of the world, apart from India. Therefore, in this House, we should say to the commanders and men of the Fourteenth Army that we congratulate them on the wonderful way in which they have carried out their duties despite a toll of sickness which is almost 100 per cent. in a short period—a terrible strain on them—on their great success and on the endurance and gallantry which they have shown. We are also glad that the Prime Minister has made it clear that we are going to do our full share in restoring the position in the Pacific. It is due to say that if nothing else had come from the Conference at Quebec, that, in itself, would be an outstanding achievement. I would also like to say that I welcome the Prime Minister's reference to the treatment of guerillas in Germany. You cannot go on for ever calling a thing war which has degenerated into little actions between isolated groups in woods and mountains. Quite clearly, we have to say at some period—I think fairly soon—that the major operations are over, that the war, as such, is finished, and that we will clear up what remains of resistance not with the cruelty but with the determination and firmness which the Germans themselves have shown to other nations in similar circumstances.
So much for the war itself. It is not finished but it is inevitable that all of us should be thinking deeply about the peace which is to follow, and about winning that peace, which is more essential than winning the war, even though winning the war is the foundation for it. I believe that all parts of the House will agree that the key to success in winning the peace, must be the key which has given us our success in war, and that is unity of the three great Powers. Everything in the war has been based on that, and there will be no peace in the world, in Europe or in any other part of the world, unless the unity of those three great Powers is maintained hereafter. The bridge to a better world will not rest upon paper constitutions; it must rest upon a great bridge of three arches—those three great Powers—and if any arch is detached from the others, then the whole structure, whatever the constitution may be, will collapse in ruin, and the whole temple will fall about us. It is essential to recognise that fact in any comments which are made upon our foreign policy and the international situation.
I think it will be wise in this case to go slow. Certainly we were in a great hurry in 1919, and in our hurry we made compromise decisions on which the main Allies were not agreed. It is better to go slower, to show patience, to get results, perhaps less satisfactory results, provided we get agreement, than to be content with compromises which are merely papering over cracks and which will afterwards prove ruinous to our hopes and ideals. I emphasise that because it has been clear that at Dumbarton Oaks there has been a good deal of controversy on the question of the constitution of an international association. There have been arguments as to the way in which decisions should be arrived at, as to voting power, as to the part to be played by the greater and the smaller nations in the constitution of this new association. I understand the American preoccupation with these kinds of questions. Americans are accustomed to live under a written Constitution, and they are very anxious to see a pattern of the world clearly set out, into which they can fit their own foreign policy and their own obligations. It is no use getting constitutions, however, unless the great Powers are fundamentally agreed upon them, and are prepared to live up to their agreements, not only now but 25 or 30 years hence. Upon that the whole thing will depend.
We must remember that the American Constitution itself, although it had, even then, a wonderful achievement behind it—the union of the original thirteen States and the steady growth which followed it—did not prevent civil war. That example shows that the true foundation of union in these matters is agreement between the main partners, and not the formal written clauses which express their desire to work together. This union, this association which we are founding must endure, and I think we must realise, therefore, that the first duty of this country—which is, after all, always in the position of mediator between different views and which, geograhically, occupies the middle position between the great nation of the West, the United States, and the great nation of the East, Russia—is to strive above all to build up confidence in both those Allies, and that the best way of doing that is not arguing about constitutions, but by trying to solve immediate problems by agreement.
The first, most pressing and most difficult problem is, unquestionably, Poland. A great deal turns upon Poland. I was deeply impressed by the speech made yesterday by the noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) upon the Polish question. It was a well-argued, well-compacted speech, which did him and the House, too, credit. That is the way in which to deal with foreign problems in this House, and I found myself in much sympathy with him in his arguments. This country can never relinquish its duty to see that, in the future, there is a strong and independent Poland. I think, however, it is also very important to realise, when it comes to frontiers, that you are dealing with one of the most debatable areas in the whole of Europe. The marches from the Baltic in the North to the Black Sea in the South which divide the great nations of Russia and Germany have been fought over, distributed, and redistributed over and over again in the course of centuries of history. You can prove almost anything about their ownership, and therefore I am not very deeply impressed by quotations from this agreement or that declaration. We have to face the realities of the present time and not exercise our historical memories.
From this point of view some speeches which have been made in this House have not been helpful, and I should like to say something about what seems to be the inevitable Russian approach to this issue. Russia has been strongly criticised for her advance into Poland in 1939. I always wonder why, and I wonder very much whether we, ourselves, would not have done the same thing in the same situation—much indeed, as Nelson dealt with the Danish Fleet at Copenhagen. These questions are always debatable, but when the life of a great nation is at stake, decisions have to be taken and debated afterwards. Now what was the position? When Russia advanced into Poland towards the end of 1939, the question was not the frontier between Poland and Russia—Poland had ceased to exist—but solely the frontier between Russia and Germany, and inasmuch as Russia had every reason to suppose that, sooner or later, German military strength would be launched against her, it made all the difference in the world where that frontier was placed, whether the German attack on Russia was launched 200 miles nearer Petrograd, and Moscow and Stalingrad, as it might have been, or 200 miles further to the west. I think we all have reason to be glad, and Poland has reason to be glad, that it was launched 200 miles further west than it might have been. Probably, the fate of Moscow, of Petrograd and of Stalingrad turned upon that action in 1939. Let us remember also that the mere fact that we are now debating the future frontiers of Poland, with all the historical difficulties behind them, is due to the sacrifices and the immense fighting capacity and spirit of the Russian people. This would have been German territory for ever, if it were not for the Russian people. Neither we nor the United States could have done anything comparable to alter that situation in Eastern Europe. We must recognise then that the Russians had some ground for saying that they have a special claim to consideration, and to making their future secure in this matter of frontiers in that area.
I do not think, however, that a readjustment of frontiers need be in any way incompatible with the strength and independence of Poland, which we all wish to see, and I hope, therefore, that there will not he great debate on the past history of frontiers. Russia has some reason still for suspicion. After all, revolutionary countries are suspicious countries; they have usually gone through a long period of ostracism—Russia has—and they have usually suffered unfairly at the hands of other Powers. They have usually had their interests, which may be vital interests, ignored. That has happened to Russia. Let us remember that Russia was not invited to the Munich Conference, although her vital interests were certainly deeply affected. There are other features in pre-war and early war diplomacy which Russia has reason to remember. Russia, therefore, is bound to claim something in the nature of a sphere of influence, which does not menace the independence of other nations but, nevertheless, gives her something in the nature of a special role in that part of Europe.
Let us all recognise that there are good precedents for a claim of that kind. What else is the Monroe Doctrine? We backed that doctrine, which, for nearly 90 years, secured the peace of the whole American continent, North and South. Let us recognise, therefore, that there are good, historical precedents for action on that line by a great people, and that Russia may have special reasons for adopting it in the East of Europe.
I have not the knowledge which my hon. and gallant Friend possesses of Russian views in this matter, and I am not going to discuss future frontiers. I have been arguing that it would be a mistake for us, at the present time, to discuss this question of frontiers. The facts cannot be known adequately to any of us here at the moment. I say that our principle in regard to Poland should be to stand up firmly for a strong and independent Poland, but to recognise that Russia has a special sphere of interest in that part of the world, similar to that which we have claimed in other parts of the world. In this respect I would like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) on the speech which he delivered yesterday. It was a very remarkable contribution to our Debate, and I hope we shall often hear him again on questions of foreign policy. I was sitting in the House all the time, and I think my hon. Friend was heard with great acceptance in all parts of the House and that he certainly got down to the bedrock of the principle upon which British foreign policy at its soundest has been based.
The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have laboured, day in and day out, to prevent a break-down in Russian-Polish negotiations. I think there is no doubt whatever that Poland and this country owe a tremendous lot to their united efforts. We know what the strain upon them must be, the tremendous rapidity with which events are happening, and the fact that every day there seems more to be done than can be done in the longest working hours. I think the time and attention, skill and loyalty which they have given and shown in this Russo-Polish question should be acknowledged by all of us, and I would like to throw out the suggestion that, much as we should all miss him in this House, there is something to be said, if it is possible, for the Foreign Secretary going to Moscow in the near future. I believe that my right hon. Friend might help very greatly to produce a solution of what is the paramount and immediate problem in Europe to-day.
We are also debating, quite naturally, the future of Germany. Very different views have been expressed upon it. I do not propose to go into the various plans which have been debated here and elsewhere, and will go on being debated. I want only to insist that whatever you do to Germany, you must, in the first place, know the facts in Germany after the war, which none of us know now. We cannot tell what we are dealing with, or what may be the bent of such organised opinion as may still exist among the German people. But quite apart from that, whether you impose a Carthaginian peace upon Germany, or grant her a generous and clement peace, matters comparatively little provided the disarmament of Germany is fundamentally agreed between the three great Powers and lived up to by them. That is what will matter. Once again peace will depend upon agreement between the great Powers, not only now but 20 or 30 years hence. In another place, the Secretary of State for the Dominions has issued a warning that the German general staff is once more thinking of, and preparing for, the next war. I am sure it is; that is its business. They are never going to give up that business, and let us recognise that, whatever is done, they will still be at that business and that their main chance of resuming it will be the same chance that was foolishly given to them in 1919, namely, fundamental disagreement between the Allies.
The German general staff occupies a position in Germany which is occupied by the general staff in no other country. It has always been a major and most important part of the German Government. What Mirabeau said at the time of the French Revolution is still true of Prussia, that "it is not so much a country with an army, as an army with a country."
I entirely agree. If the three great Powers are not agreed, no paper constitution, no international police force will prevent a third world war. As a token that we mean to keep united on this matter, I trust it will be arranged that all the United Nations, France in particular, will be represented in the occupation of Germany.
I would add an earnest hope that our Government will not hesitate to recognise the French Provisional Government. There is no doubt about its status. It is a Provisional Government but it is most certainly accepted by all sections of the French people as the Provisional Government. There will, no doubt, be a National Assembly in the near future. I have spoken of spheres of influence which have existed in the past and which will certainly exist in the future, spheres in which certain great nations have special duties and responsibilities. I think Western Europe is such a sphere for us and that we are entitled to take our own line, whatever our great Allies may think. I hope we shall accept our special responsibility, and act upon our special interest, in the West of Europe, and not hesitate at once to recognise the French Provisional Government.
One last word. In this country no one knows the future of domestic policy. As far as most of us can judge, as indeed our constitutional principles necessitate, there must in the near future be a General Election, and that it will be a normal election fought between the main party antagonists. I do not see how, otherwise, there can be an election worth calling by that name, and I presume it will happen. What will follow afterwards, no man can tell. It will be in the hands of the electorate. But this I plead for in this House of Commons which, for 10 years has been carrying such an immense burden of responsibility. I hope that in this House of Commons we shall set a precedent for that which is to follow us and, in particular, the leaders of all parties assembled on that front Bench will set an example which is absolutely necessary for our security and welfare and for the peace of the world in future—that is that the main principles of foreign policy shall be lifted out of the arena of party controversy. Everyone knows it is extremely difficult. It is always tempting to make party capital out of foreign questions, but it is terribly dangerous to the honour of Britain and contrary to the duty of leadership which we owe to the Dominions.
However acute our domestic controversies may again become—and they may become very acute—let us remember that in the years between 1900 and 1914, when domestic controversy was certainly as bitter as it has ever been in our political history, in the period of the Lloyd George Budget, the Irish crisis, the stripping of power from the House of Lords and many other violently-contested domestic questions—throughout all that period, the parties managed to keep foreign policy out of the arena of party controversy. I believe we owed our survival in the first World War very largely to that fact, and it is not going to be any less necessary in the years ahead. If no one knows whether an undertaking given by one Government is going to be honoured by its successor, if the Opposition, which may be the Government of to-morrow, is deeply divided from the Government on questions in which the honour of Britain is concerned, Britain cannot keep her word or be a dependable Ally to anyone. She will lose the immense influence that she has gained by her steadfastness in this war. She will throw that away and throw with it not only her own interests but the interest of the whole world beside. How, moreover, are the Dominions to stand? They who depend so greatly on our foreign policy would never know what it really was or whether it would remain constant from year to year, or from decade to decade.
I did not catch the question. I say we shall forfeit our leadership and that on which our leadership depends if we do not succeed in keeping foreign policy out of the party arena, however violent domestic controversy may become.
We have had from the hon. Gentleman a very interesting and a very full, long review of the whole area of international affairs and, in his peroration, a reference to the next election. I do not intend to keep the House at such length, but I should like to associate myself with his tribute to our Armies in the field, and to their accomplishments during the last seven weeks. We have had great events. Who anticipated when we adjourned, that, in the intervening period, the Allies would be in occupation of Paris, Marseilles, Brussels and Antwerp? If this were Moscow, we should have had a great salute of guns. Whether it is that our temperaments are less emotional, or that five years have sobered us, we have taken these wonderful victories extraordinarily calmly. We have hardly displayed a flag or rung a church bell. But that does not say that the British public have not been moved and are not appreciative of these magnificent victories. It has been our custom in the past—I have often indulged in it myself—to depreciate our strategy and the generals in charge, but their work has been masterly on every side and almost beyond criticism.
The hon. Gentleman paid a special tribute to General Eisenhower's wisdom and tact, which are largely responsible for our successes in the field, and also to General Alexander, but for some reason or other no one seems to mention Field Marshal Montgomery. Is it because he is so popular with the people, or because he does get some publicity? I should like to pay my tribute to his genius and his personality, and to say how pleased the nation was that he was singled out by His Majesty for the exceptional honour of being made a Field Marshal. As for the men, both British and American, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. People who a year or two ago were possibly in offices, factories and workshops have shown magnificent courage and fighting qualities, standing up to the most seasoned, highly-trained troops in the world.
As for the R.A.F.—and the same applies to the American Air Force—we know about their deeds, which thrill us every morning. They have certainly established the supremacy of Anglo-American planes in the air. I would like to say a word about the Navy. The Prime Minister remembered almost everybody, but somehow or other did not mention the Navy. It has always been the silent Service; it does not advertise itself. All these operations would have been impossible, not only in Normandy but in the South of France, if it had not been for the organisation, skill, bravery and tenacity of the British Navy, which has swept the German Navy more or less off the sea and the submarines from underneath. I think it is important to emphasise to our Allies, particularly to Russia, the part played by the British Navy. We must not allow our people to cease to be naval-minded. The Navy indulges in little publicity, in accordance with the traditions of the Service, and when we are paying tribute to the Services, we should not forget the part it has played.
I am glad that the Prime Minister mentioned the respective parts played by the Americans and the British. I do not want to indulge in comparisons, either of the fighting qualities of the two countries or of the contributions that they are making. I am satisfied that there is no jealousy between the fighting men, and, from all I hear, they are working together like brothers for the common cause. There is, undoubtedly, in this country, however, a certain amount of resentment that there has been so little mention of the work done by British units. We read in the papers about the Americans, the Poles and the Canadians, but only too often, for some reason or other—and I believe some of the blame must be with the Ministry of Information—there is hardly a mention of the appearance of British troops. It may be that we take it for granted, but I have heard complaints all over the country that the fathers, mothers, brothers and friends of the men resent the fact that, although they know that our men are there playing a great part and bearing in many places the brunt of the fighting, they are hardly mentioned. I, therefore, say to the responsible authorities, the War Office and the Ministry of Information in particular, not that they should advertise, for that is a thing the British people do not want, but that they should see that proper publicity is given to the part played by our Forces and should not merely mention, by accident, that British units have taken part.
One thing which the Prime Minister did not mention was the part played by himself. He has had many critics. Some people have said—I have heard it said here and outside—that he regards this war as his private war. Whenever there has been a failure, people have said, "That is the Prime Minister; he has been butting in." As Minister of Defence, he is entitled to full credit. The next thing I want to say—for which I shall not get universal applause—is that credit is due to the Prime Minister for the timing of what has sometimes been called the second front. I know what odium he got into a year ago because he would not respond to pressure for a second front. We now know that, if we had attacked over a year ago, the result would have been very different. The Prime Minister has always been accused of being a hot-blooded man, and an impatient person, but he had the courage to bide his time and wait until the right moment arrived. I think that we owe a debt to him, too, for the way in which he has kept in constant contact with both President Roosevelt and Marshal Stalin. The journeys he has undertaken are trying for a man of three score years and ten, yet he has been prepared to go to Moscow, Rome and Quebec to make personal contacts with them. Those contacts have been responsible for the unity of our strategy, and, what is more important, the absence of friction. I am prepared to take off my hat to the Prime Minister.
No little credit for the success of our arms in France and their remarkably rapid progress, has been due to the wonderful rising up of the French. I have heard suggestions made by many people all over the country and in this House that the French are decadent, a spent force unable to play a big part in the affairs of Europe. The answer to that is to be found in the underground movement and the Maquis, which are evidence of the courage and fighting qualities of the French people. I have many personal contacts with men wbo have seen these forces at work, and there is ample evidence that the French will rise again and become a great power in the world. It is difficult for us to realise what it meant to be for four years under the Prussian jack-boot, and to be subject to the Gestapo, the concentration camp and the firing squad. I have had much evidence of the horrors which the French people have had to go through. We had a trying time in the blitz. It was bad enough to have our houses destroyed and burned, but, after all, we are a free people and able to govern ourselves. The French people have accepted the bombing by the R.A.F with extraordinary equanimity, but behind their doors, and round the corners have been the Gestapo, ready to destroy them if they expressed any opinions.
As far as I can see, these four years, far from crushing the spirit of the French, have brought out their finest qualities. They have been proved to have an immense power of recovery. In 1815 they were bled white, and it took them 25 years to get their strength back. But they did rise, and by 1850 they were a great nation again. The same thing happened in 1870, after their humiliation, when they were subject to terrible taxation. It was thought that they had a knock-down blow, but they were able by 1914 to give a good account of themselves. The last war put a greater strain on them than I think their friends realise. Those four years not only made a great tax on their man-power, but gave them a great economic blow. It is clear that in 1939 they had not completely recovered from the strain of the previous war. I am convinced that the French spirit is there, and will recover, and that the French are trying to help themselves and show the world what a big Power they can be before many years are out. If the process is to be speeded up, they will require help and understanding. The devastation in France is appalling. Railways, roads, bridges and harbours have been destroyed and French transport is paralysed—almost brought to a standstill. It is true that in many parts of France there is an abundance of food, and this made a wrong impression on our soldiers when they saw butter, milk, cheese and meat in plenty in the rural areas. For that to be of use there must be a restoration of the damaged transport so that French communications can work and the people of the towns and cities can be fed. Pictures have been painted of luxury, even in Paris. It may be so at the Grand Hotel, or in the smart restaurants, where the black market is operating, but in the faubourgs and the poorer quarters there is something very near to starvation and malnutrition. The best hope we can give them is assistance in restoring their economic life.
It is not only economic help they want, but understanding. I agree with the hon. Member who said that it would be a fine gesture for this country to recognise the Provisional Government. It is humiliating to the French that we should have recognised the Italian Government. The Prime Minister has visited it, quite rightly, for it is a properly constituted Government, although it has no democratic authority behind it. I know the technical difference; the Provisional Government of France is still without proper status. In Belgium the difficulty was overcome, because their Parliament was never dissolved. I was very much impressed with the speech of the hon. Member who described the meeting of the Parliament in Brussels. I hope to see some sort of assembly soon in the Palais Bourbon. It will be a great help to France if we give them formal recognition. The French are a proud nation with a great history and wonderful victories on the battlefield and the fields of science and culture. It is right that our criticism should be understanding and sympathetic. I should like to see—I put this out as a suggestion—an official visit by Members of this House to Paris.
I am all against that. We ought to go as Members of Parliament. I believe it would be a helpful gesture if we went in our official capacity, and we might better understand some of the problems facing the French. I want to see France take her rightful place in the Councils of the nations. She should not be treated as a second-class Power, not only in her own interest, but because it will be well for civilisation if France is able to take part in the discussion of the future of Europe and the rehabilitation of the world. Her culture and way of life will have a part to play for many generations to come, and it is right that she should be given her proper status. I firmly believe that she should be allowed to take her place and become the fifth of the five great Powers. It is not merely a question of numbers or geography, or of her large interests overseas, but of her history and culture, which make her entitled to that position.
I shall not say anything about Poland, because I endorse the wise attitude of the Prime Minister. We have a special obligation for the Polish people. They were the first to be overrun and to suffer, but we are not going to be Poland's true friends, if we do not insist that she must come to an understanding with her great and powerful neighbour. If the Foreign Secretary can tear himself away from the Leadership of the House and visit Moscow and help to smooth out the difficulty I hope he will do so, with his charming personality and recognised tact. The Prime Minister asked us for caution in discussing the new world peace organisation and the proceedings at Dumbarton Oaks. I am all for caution and care in what we say, because we are not the only parties involved in creating this new machinery. The good will of the United States is involved, and secondly, the support which the organisation will get from Russia. We do not want the matter to be a one-sided affair backed merely by Great Britain and the Western European States. If it is to be the power we want it to be, it must be created with general consent. But I do not accept the suggestion that we must not discuss in this House the kind of machinery. On the contrary.
After the last war, these matters were left largely to the experts, and what a mess they made of it. Discussion is all to the good. If we are to set up machinery to secure the peace that we have worked for and desired so long, we must not be merely working on the official plane and the matter must not be left merely to Ministers. The nations concerned, whether America, Great Britain or Russia, should be thinking now of the kind of organisation that is required. It must be one that is likely to work and be acceptable to all concerned. Two conditions—and this is all I am going to say about the organisation—are essential to success. The first is that the nations must be prepared to sacrifice some of their sovereignty. That is a fundamental principle. The second is that there must be power to enforce decisions. I do hope that on an appropriate occasion, we shall have a full and frank discussion in this House of post-war international relations, and particularly of the machinery to bring about world peace.
As the first speaker to-day from this side of the House perhaps I may be permitted to say how deeply moved we have been in the last few weeks by the achievements of our troops in France. Especially have we been moved by the achievements of the airborne divisions, and it is very sad that the full fruits of victory have been denied them after the effort they made. We knew in the bad days of 1940 and 1941 that all our troops lacked was equipment and proper training and that when they had it they would acquit themselves honourably and bravely; and throughout Great Britain we are proud, if at the same time a little sad, at what has been happening recently. I would say in this connection that I think the House of Commons has been doing less than its duty in regard to considering the position of our troops in India and Burma—I say advisedly, less than its duty. Before the Recess some of my hon. Friends and myself raised the question of the welfare of our troops in India and Burma. There was a very small House and our action had very little effect, and it is a sad thing and a bad thing that the whole of the Recess had gone by before the India Office thought fit to send anyone out there to find out what has been happening in India. Judging by the letters which I am receiving—such as come, I am sure, to hon. Member in all parts of the House —I would warn the Government that a serious state of affairs may arise out there if the men get it into their heads that they are a forgotten Army.
I am not one of those who like to send Members of Parliament all over the world, but I suggest to the Secretary of State for India that it would be a good thing to send a deputation of back-bench Members to India to visit our troops and to assure themselves that proper provision is being made for their welfare. After all, we have been sending people on joy-rides all over the world. For reasons that I cannot understand Members of Parliament have gone to all parts of the world and to all parts of our Empire, and we could have sent a deputation to India. I do not suggest that we should send recalcitrant Members of the House; there are plenty of docile and worthy Members from whom the Government could select an appropriate deputation. I have here a letter from one of our troops. I will not say that he has put his ideas into the form of poetry, because I do not think he has achieved that level, but there is no doubt about his sentiments. He says:
These are the men who shed their blood, Amongst the filthy Burma mud, On the Arakan Front and Imphal Plain, In blistering heat and bloody rain. Later on, in years to come, When you speak of battles fought and won, Remember these men who fought so well, And lived and died in that green hell.
It is not great poetry, but he makes his meaning absolutely clear. I hope the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will take it not only from me—for I think that here I can speak on behalf of the whole House—that we are anxious to do something to convince our men in India and Burma that they are present in our thoughts all the time.
The Debate yesterday reached, I thought, a very high level. It was one of the best Debates on foreign affairs for a very long time, because Members are beginning to feel that they can speak more frankly than before, and I am going to be frank to-day. I believe that the outstanding fact at the present time is the tenacity with which the German nation is resisting invasion. It is an astonishing thing that that nation, bombarded as it has been from the air for nearly two years, assailed by such mighty combinations of forces, yet manages to resist in the way it does. It is a sombre, gloomy fact, and is, at present, the outstanding fact. And why is it? Some hon. Members and some people outside the House suggest that it is because the German people are an unique nation, that they are set apart from the rest by their attitude towards war and by their political and social philosophies, and that we shall have to deal with them in that sense when the war is over. That is one conclusion to be reached from the fact of this tenacious resistance. The second fact is that good though our military dispositions have been our political and psychological warfare is woefully bad.
What we do after the war must depend very largely upon which of those conclusions we take. If we take the view that the German nation is uniquely different from any other nation and must be so treated, a very grim and forbidding conclusion follows, because it means that the treatment to be accorded to Germany must accord with that conclusion, and if so I am afraid it will be many years, indeed some generations, before a European settlement can be achieved. I do not take that view. I think that if we take it we shall have lost the war in every sense except the military one. If we take the view that there are first- and second-class nations we take the Nazi point of view; we shall have succumbed to the main Nazi propaganda that there are nations that are radically inferior to others. I take the view that the reason why the war is still on is that the Government have not applied themselves intelligently to waging psychological warfare. I took that view about Italy. An hon. Member smiles, but it was only a year ago that the Prime Minister spoke about the Italian nation "stewing in its own juice," and yet we now have General Alexander paying tribute in almost every communiqué to the assistance that our troops are having from the workers in Northern Italy. The same thing happened in Yugoslavia, and in France and in Greece. We have not fought the war on the psychological front with any intelligence at all, and we are still not doing so.
It would be extremely unwise of me to express opinions about other Governments; we can deal only with our own in this House; once we start dealing with other Governments we are going very much beyond our province. I believe it was an extremely silly thing for our Government to continue to talk about unconditional surrender. I think unconditional surrender is not a policy but a slogan, and a slogan which gives rise to increased military resistance on the part of the German nation. And the astonishing thing is that while we are talking about unconditional surrender the whole world discusses certain schemes reached in Quebec for the future treatment of Germany. At the same time as we are declaring that our policy is one of unconditional surrender we are felling the Germans—and Goebbels has seen to it that every German has heard it—that when the war is over Germany is to be stripped of the industrial districts of the Ruhr and Silesia and reduced to a ruralised and pastoralised country. I ask hon. Members to be imaginative. If they were Germans, would they try to overthrow Hitler in order to have a peace of that sort? It really is nonsense for hon. Members to talk as they sometimes do. If I were a German, should I risk my life and the lives of my family in order that conquerors might be allowed to impose conditions of that sort upon my country? I should resist to the last breath.
Instead of regarding the Germans as uniquely different let us regard the mass of them as victims equally with ourselves of the Nazi régime and as likely to act, roughly, in the same way when the war is over. I believe that we are responsible for the loss of very many Allied lives by not having an intelligent political policy towards Germany. When we decided to use the services of Admiral Darlan in North Africa, and of Marshal Badoglio in Italy, what was the excuse? It was that, repellent as their past was to us, nevertheless it was necessary to use these men because by doing so we saved a good many Allied lives and helped to shorten the war. That was the argument used by the Government in justification of entering into an alliance with Fascist-minded people abroad. Are we not en- titled to say that if the Prime Minister had devoted the time at his disposal yesterday to a generous and imaginative statement to the German people, which we could have put across to them by every means in our power, it might have the effect of undermining the spiritual support which Hitler has among them and of shortening the war? It is deplorable that in a speech of two hours, most of which was entirely unnecessary, most of which told us what we already knew, the Prime Minister did not take advantage of the opportunity to speak words of wisdom and of leadership to the world.
It is entirely false reasoning to say the result was the next war because they had not been militarily defeated. That is a boy scout view. It is not a grown-up way of looking at the matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) said just now that between the two wars we made the mistake of allowing the Germans secretly to rearm. There was nothing secret about it—nothing secret at all.
Yes. When my hon. Friend reads his speech to-morrow he will see that he did. He spoke such a long time that probably he has forgotten what he said. The reason why the Germans were allowed to rearm was not that we did not know about it but that the Tories wanted them to rearm. I can produce Left-Wing Socialist papers from Germany containing speeches made by Socialists in the Reichstag pointing out that the German pre-Nazis were rearming. We had the evidence from German sources long before the Prime Minister was making his speeches about the danger of German rearmament. Socialists in Germany were pointing it out, but the Tories did nothing about it because they thought, at that time, that the rearming of Germany and the rise of the Nazi was a good answer to the Russian revolution. The kind of childish nonsense we have been having from that side of the House for the last five years that we must never allow the German nation to rearm secretly again—we have heard it all before. What they want to do at the present time is to hide their own guilty past, their own share of what has been happening in the world.
I do not want the Germans to rearm. I would disarm the Germans—of course I would, we would all disarm the Germans. We are not mad enough to imagine that we shall allow the Germans immediately to have an army again, but we are not foolish enough to suppose that the peace of the world is going to be accomplished merely by the disarming of Germany. But that is the implication behind everything which has been said—that war will come upon the world through a resurgent Germany. I think that the treatment that we accord to Germany after the war will, in the last analysis, have to be the same sort of treatment that we are prepared to mete out to every other country after the war, including ourselves. That is to say, unless we manage to achieve, when the war is over, some kind of world peace organisation we shall not be able to prevent war breaking out again, even if Germany is disarmed. I furthermore believe it would be a nonsensical thing to dismember Germany by taking away from her any part of her territory which she properly regards as Germany. I do not believe we shall settle the world by territorial national mutilations. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Poland?"]I believe the same thing about Poland, of course I do. I do not believe that Russia's security will be based on this or that frontier. In these days of fly bombs does anybody imagine that the peace of the world can depend on this chain of mountains, or that river line, or that line of fortifications? Those ideas belong to the last century and have nothing to do with the necessities of the modern world.
May I point out to some persons who slaver at the corners of the mouth every time they talk about Germany, that if we reduce Germany by any kind of Carthaginian peace to lower economic standards than the rest of Europe, not only will the rest of Europe suffer from it, but that we shall also? There is no way yet discovered of preventing microbes from crossing frontiers. It is recognised by civilised men that it is impossible to have any part of the world enjoying substantially lower standards than other parts of the world without the whole world suffering from the consequences. Therefore, I would suggest that at once we should begin to think out the principles upon which we are going to organise future world economy, and I do not agree with the Prime Minister that we ought to be awfully careful about the way in which we speak. The main difficulty, I find, when I meet my American friends, is that they deplore that we do not speak as freely as they would wish. The same thing is true about the Soviet Union. How are they to understand our psychology if all they know is the little they read in the newspapers? We must talk about these things perfectly frankly in the House of Commons, so that everybody may understand what we mean.
In thinking out the characteristics of future world organisation we should bear in mind that the danger to us came not in 1938 but in 1933, when we allowed the institutions of free Germany to be overthrown. In other words we have to recognise that national sovereignties must be limited by overriding considerations, and the overriding consideration which we must insist upon is that everywhere the institutions of free organisation, a free Press and free communication must be sustained in order that peoples may be able to talk freely to peoples. All our danger arose from the fact that in 1933 the friends of peace in Germany were silenced there. If the friends of peace in Germany had been able to speak then the war would never have come upon us, because war comes upon the world from those nations where freedom has died. If it should be that the institutions of democracy in Germany are too shallow-rooted to be sustained by the German people themselves, we must insist that the German people be sustained. If, on the other hand, democratic institutions are exposed to too great shocks and too bitter burdens, as in Spain and Portugal, again we must sustain them—
May I ask the hon. Member a question? I understand him to say that where democracy is too weak to function, we should in some way compel it to function in any country where it is overthrown. If not, what do those words mean? They either mean you are going to force democracy on Germany, Spain or whatever the country may be, or you are not. If you are not going to impose democracy, to what does the argument amount?
I suggest that when democracy is being attacked by its enemies inside a country we should come to the aid of the friends of democracy in that country. [An HON. MEMBER: "How?"]There was no difficulty on this side of the House in understanding our obligations towards Spain. We had no difficulty in understanding our obligations there at all, but hon. Members opposite had. As a matter of fact, ordinary English boys went across to Spain to fight on the side of democracy. My hon. Friend makes historical parallels. Did Garibaldi have no assistance in Great Britain? Did Byron do nothing for the resurgence of Greece? Cannot we realise to-day that there are certain principles for which we should stand in other countries? My hon. Friend asked, Should we intervene, should we take the risks of war against a country in order to impose libertarian institutions upon it? But we are taking not the risks but the reality of war because we failed to face up to the necessity of imposing libertarian institutions.
I am sorry, but I must bring my remarks to a conclusion. I am speaking too long. Therefore it seems to me we ought to have in our foreign policy certain guiding principles, but we have none. The Prime Minister shifts about in speech after speech. It is impossible to see any continuity in what he has said. On the one hand he praises, when he goes to Italy, institutions of democracy. A few weeks before he makes laudatory reference to General Franco. In the same speech, he says nice things about Umberto, the Lieutenant-General of Italy who is now establishing himself so securely in the affections of the Italian people. Really that kind of attitude towards foreign affiairs is not grownup, because there is no consistent and continuous line. It is impossible on the one hand to nourish and encourage the excesses of General Franco and the absurdities of Salazar, and at the same time expect people elsewhere to regard us as friends of democratic institutions. It would therefore seem to me that it is important to my hon. Friends on this side that one of the directives of the Foreign Office should be, and one of the mainsprings of our policy should be, that everywhere Great Britain's prestige and strength will be put against dictators and behind democratic institutions, and that should work right through our foreign policy. It should be an overriding consideration that we are not safe from war and disasters if we allow free institutions to be overthrown in any part of the world.
May I say this also before I sit down? I agree that the peace of the world to a great extent, the greatest extent may be, depends upon the fullest co-operation between Great Britain, Russia and America. But in fact do hon. Members anticipate that we shall be able to play an equal part in that triumvirate for long if envisaging a world in which peace is maintained by the co-operation of these three great Powers? Have we faced up to the consequences of it, the logistics of it—the necessity for Great Britain, with a population of 50,000,000, or with an Empire with a white population of 70,000,000, to have Armies, Navies and Air Forces of equal standing with those of America and Russia? Is it not perfectly true that if we envisage an alliance of that sort we are bound to occupy an increasingly inferior status? I would therefore suggest it is in Great Britain's primary interest to begin to associate the smaller Powers once more with these international conversations; that it is in our interest to see to it that at the earliest possible moment we base ourselves on taking the leadership of France, of Holland, of Belgium, of Norway, of Sweden and Italy, and I hope of Spain and Portugal when they have been emancipated; that we should place ourselves at their head and associate these Powers in the conferences that are taking place for the organisation of world peace. Only in that way will it be possible for us to have equal stature with the other partners in the world combination.
If we try, on the other hand, in a romantic way, by 19th century forms, to say that the British Empire is going to mobilise all its resources to play an equal part with the rest of the other great nations we shall soon find ourselves in great economic, as well as other, difficulties. I attach the greatest possible importance, as I think I have said previously in the House, to the resurgence of the nations of Southern Europe. I believe there are in those countries the elements for the solution of modem problems. France and Spain and the other countries that have been overrun have relearned in the last five or six years the value of individual liberty and of democratic institutions. They have also, at the same time, been deeply impressed by the possibilities of economic collectivism which we have seen so well in Russia. You may therefore have got through these nations the two great mainsprings for a stabilised modern society. That is an integrated economic organisation for society, based upon libertarian democratic institutions. I, therefore, think that the earliest possible opportunity ought to be sought to identify those countries with us in our plans for world reorganisation, and I am convinced that if we do so we ourselves will be the principal beneficiaries. In any circumstances, we ought to set our face entirely against the degrading views now being expressed by many of our national newspapers, and understand that our task is to try to reintegrate a liberated Germany, in a system of world co-operation.
In quite a number of the Debates which we have had upon the war and international affairs, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has intervened. I, like other hon. Members, always make a point of listening to what we know will be, at any rate, a fine debating performance. I have heard the hon. Member, in speech after speech, flay the Prime Minister's war policy. I think the whole House must have felt some sympathy today with the hon. Member, who must have realised that the policy that he has so consistently attacked, has proved so universally successful. From a number of defeats, we have moved to a great succession of victories. From being alone against the powerful German people, we have come to have a number of great Allies on our side. From being weak against great military forces and the Luftwaffe, we have come to a position in which a great and well equipped force is able to storm the German Reich. From those points of view, I think that the hon. Member was well advised to-day to turn from matters of grand strategy, to methods of psychological warfare.
The hon. Member always believes in the wisdom of his past remarks. But the hon. Member is the same hon. Member who thought that the military leadership of this country was so bankrupt that Poles, Czechs and French would have to be brought in to lead our Armies, instead of depending on General Montgomery and General Alexander. It was the same hon. Member who, in 1940, informed the House that Russia would end the war in a week.
I will not pursue the matter further. It is the same hon. Member who assured us that Germany's war production, with the resources of Europe, would more than equal that of America and Britain. It is the same hon. Member who condemned the bombing policy, which has had such a remarkable effect in bringing this war towards its successful conclusion. I remember the hon. Member sneering at the Prime Minister over the Italian campaign. Was this "the soft under-belly of the Axis"? he asked.
He is very proud of his past attacks on strategy, but I am bound to say that he has been proved clearly and utterly wrong. It is a matter for consideration whether on questions of psychological warfare, he is not likely to be proved just as much wrong as on these other matters. I know that in these great Debates the question is often raised whether we should declare our peace terms to Germany, and whether our failure to do so might not lengthen the war. I think there is only one way in which we can lengthen the war substantially, and that is by giving the impression to the German people that the Allies, on the threshhold of a great victory, are divided among themselves. It is against that background that the Debate has to be conducted. The important thing is not whether we declare our peace terms to Germany; it is whether we have plain in our minds what our war aims are. That is the matter to which the hon. Member very properly addressed himself.
It seems to me that our failure last time was due not to the peace terms we gave to the Germans, not to the harshness or otherwise of the Treaty of Versailles. It was due primarily to muddled thinking about the causes of war and the objects of war, and the way to secure peace. When I read some of the things that are written and listen to some of the speeches, including some of the speeches to-day, I doubt whether we are very much clearer at the present time. There are still people in this country—I think the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) is one of them—who think that, in some way or another, capitalism was responsible for the war. I am sure most of us wish that it was—it would be so much simpler—but, unfortunately, it is not so easy as that. There are other hon. Members—and I am afraid the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is one—who think that we are fighting this war in order to spread the democratic system. Surely we are not doing that. In Russia we have a great and gallant Ally, but I should have thought it would have been playing with words to describe that great experiment in Socialist dictatorship as being democracy. It would be playing with words to describe China or Portugal as democratic. And what about the neutrals? When we have won this war in Europe and in Asia, are we to go on spilling blood and expending energy, putting our hands into every hornets nest in the world, saying that Turkey and Spain must have the form of government that we want, inviting the United States to intervene in the Argentine?
There are people—and I thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood) was in this class—who think that the Beveridge Report has something to do with our war aims, who mix up war and social reconstruction. I mention this matter to emphasise the danger of trying to superimpose upon the real war aims, other aims which are party aims, quite apart from the real main issues.
I am sure that the speeches of my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary compare very favourably with any speech of mine. But let us be realistic, and do not let us think that this war has anything to do with the Beveridge Report, or the Government's Report on full employment. It seems to me that the real war aims are these. The first is self-preservation—and we need not be ashamed of that. It is a very worthy object. Thanks to our own energies we have gone some considerable way towards achieving it. The second is to prevent Germany and Japan from starting another war in our own lifetime, and, if we can manage it, from starting another war in the lifetime of our children. The third object is to set up some world organisation for managing these great problems of peace and war. I know that the idealists put that third object first, but I deliberately put it last. It is not a new experiment. We have had the Holy Alliance, the Concert of Europe, and the League of Nations, and all have failed in their ultimate object of preventing war. The fact that we have failed is no reason for not trying again. Let us use the knowledge we have gained in order to prevent our making mistakes again. But do not let us take all the prizes of war and stake them upon the success of a system of world government. Those who want to gamble that way should remember that they are gambling not only with our lives and with those of our children, but with civilisation itself. We must superimpose upon these grander schemes something very much more simple.
The hub of this problem is Germany. I am not going to enter into a discussion of the various schemes for dealing with Germany. I dismiss at once the wild schemes for massacre and mass sterilisation. They are politically impossible, and morally wrong. I also dismiss the scheme, probably inaccurately ascribed to Mr. Morgenthau, for turning Germany into an agricultural province. Such a scheme would be economically unwise, and probably unworkable. But what we must do is totally to disarm Germany. What a lot of people forget is that we did not totally disarm Germany after the last war. We left them with an army of 100,000, which formed the officer cadres for the next war. If you start with that total disarmament of Germany, some simple things follow. If you are going to create a military vacuum in Europe, you have to fill it, as long as you want to keep Germany disarmed. The only countries which can fill it are ourselves, Russia, and America in the first instance, with other countries cooperating thereafter.
I know that there is nothing original in these ideas, but I think it is necessary that they should be stated, and, if necessary, restated. There are still people who think that the Germans should be allowed to play with arms. I think that that is just as dangerous as putting a tommygun into the hands of a baboon. It is said that in this country we shall lose the necessary energy after about five years: that we shall get tired again, and not be able to keep it up. If we have not the energy to keep that country disarmed, we have not the energy to make the immense effort that will have to be made to ensure peace in our time. Surely it is a small premium to pay to ensure peace. In favour of it let it be said that it would ensure that the country which has started more wars than any other, would not start another in that period. People speak about a hard or a soft peace. I believe that those terms are meaningless. The more ruthless we are in military matters, the more generous we can be in re-establishing Germany at a reasonable date economically. I do not under-estimate the contribution this country must make to a world organisation, nor do I under-estimate the amount of wishful thinking that goes on about it. There is a form of international Socialism, which believes that all the countries of the world are going to hand over their individual sovereignty to some kind of world government. Let us face the facts. Is there any prospect of Russia or the United States or ourselves handing over our individual sovereignty? What about those countries in Europe: Poland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, and Holland? They have been fighting for four or five years. Suppose we go to them and say, "Your sole chance of survival is to give up your sovereignty, and hand it over to somebody else." They will say "What have we been fighting for? We are proud of our history and of our nation." Let us be realists. If we try to build some scheme of world authority, and sell it to the people of this country, on the basis that other countries will surrender their sovereignty, we are going into a very dangerous field. In the end, we will find that other countries will not surrender their sovereignty, and the whole edifice we build up will fall to the ground.
I would like to say how much I agree with the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas). My hon. Friend tried to draw attention to a great number of problems which countries have in common, particularly in the West of Europe. If we approach the matter on the basis of individual problems, such as the organisation of defence, organisation for selling coal or for transport, in the end, I think, we shall have a very much more workmanlike solution.
I would like to say one word further on the question of armed strength. This is the basis of it all, Everybody agrees that an international authority without armed strength behind it, is as about as much use as a motor car without an engine. I should think everybody would agree that the attitude of mind exhibited before the war and typified by the Peace Ballot, which spoke of disarmament and collective security in the same breath, has got to go. The Prime Minister has said that any international authority has to have teeth in it; the question is—whose teeth?
I am speaking about the people who thought that collective security and disarmament could both go on at the same time. I know the idea of an international police force. I know that will not happen, because we recognise that neither we, the Commonwealth, nor the Americans, nor Russia, will hand over our Armies and disarm ourselves. To hand over part of our forces and call it an international police force is really a dishonest subterfuge. All, therefore, depends upon co-operation between Russia, the United States and this country, and, on this subject, I cannot add much to what has been said by the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) and the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). But there are some things we can do. We can recognise that that co-operation is as essential in peace as it has been in war. We can refrain from taking decisions under the stress of war and elevating them into great international incidents. We can avoid mutual recriminations even under the attractive label of plain speaking. We can remember that, when we have to differ with a friend, it is sometimes better to differ privately, than to publish our differences to the whole world. You are more likely to reach agreement. We can demonstrate that it is the desire and intention of the whole country, and not of one party alone, to co-operate with Russia, and we can arrange that our foreign commitments are within the compass of our military power.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister, in a very moving passage, referred to the work of our First Airborne Division, dropped far behind the German lines. The right hon. Gentleman said that "Not in vain" would be the pride of the survivors and the epitaph of those who fell. Whether we like it or not, and whether they like it or not, the future destiny of these young men is being written in Dumbarton Oaks, in London and the Kremlin. Let none of us claim to speak for these men; there is not one of us worthy to do it. But we can strip these great problems of war and peace of the cant that normally surrounds them. We can refrain from talking of democracy when we mean dictatorship, of liberty when we mean
State control, of an international police force when we mean a conglomeration of national forces, and of a new world order when we mean an armed peace. The only sure path is the path of truth. It has been well said:
That same truth is an open and naked daylight, that doth not show the masks and mummeries and triumphs of the world half so stately or so daintily as candle lights.
Yet that is the path we must pursue if we are to make a contribution to this problem worthy of the courage which the people of this country have displayed.
I am very glad to have the opportunity of following the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Major Thorneycroft), but I want to take up a point by my hon. Friend for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) with regard to the possibility of a Parliamentary visit of hon. Members interested in Army welfare, to the Far East. I only want to draw the attention of the House to the statement of fact made yeserday by the Prime Minister that the 14th British Imperial Army consists of 250,000 to 300,000 men. The Prime Minister said a little later that, in the first six months of this present year, that Army had no fewer than 237,000 cases of sickness, which had to be evacuated to the rear over long and difficult communications. I want to emphasise to the House that that means that every man in that 14th Army is ill sufficiently badly to be evacuated to hospital more than once in every twelve months. In these circumstances, I think we ought to be ready to take special measures to improve the welfare conditions, which might help them, not only to alleviate their suffering, but to diminish that sickness. I think that the sending of a small deputation of Back Benchers or other hon. Members—some of the Front Benchers are not really too bad—would be a wise precaution and might have useful results.
I would like to address myself to some special points which I had in mind, and which, as a matter of fact, follow to a large extent the line which the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford was pursuing. We are not yet in a position to consider questions of peace organisation. We are in an armistice period, which is very different from a peace period. I hope, for my own part, that we shall not try to limit this armistice period unduly. I hope that we are not going to pass from this armistice period—and this is a point for the Foreign Secretary, because I have in mind specially the case of Italy—to what are, in fact, peace conditions and peace organisation, without this House having the fullest opportunity to consider these things. It seemed to me yesterday, listening with a certain amount of trepidation to what the Prime Minister was saying, that the right hon. Gentleman did not make the point clear, and I was rather afraid that we might be going on, by imperceptible gradations, to peace conditions without this House knowing what was actually going on.
The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken made a very good point in saying that not all the Allies fighting this war were fighting for democracy. Russia, in the ordinary sense of the word, is not a democracy, but I would point out that the development of Russian institutions has tended constantly and in greater and greater degree towards democracy as we understand it.
There is a matter on which I hope the hon. and gallant Member will agree with me. I hope he will agree that our political policy with regard to that nation ought to be in the armistice period and in peace-time, as consistently anti-Fascist and anti-Nazi as it is now in wartime. I would like to ask what is actually being done in Italy at the present time to weaken the foundations of Fascism. What is being done to secure the large accumulations of money which I understand were made by various Fascist manipulations and looting, and placed in the hands of private individuals? What is being done with that money? With regard to the Fascist organisation of industry, are we able to change it and to prevent the economic organisation of Fascism which is the foundation of its political power? One has only to read the history of the rise of Hitlerism in Germany, to realise that it could not have risen had he not been backed by powerful capitalist interests, organised for purposes of their own.
What is the present state of affairs in Italy regarding the reorganisation of the free trade unions, free Socialist and cooperative movements, the abolition of Fascist legislation regarding labour conditions, and what is the present labour legislation in Italy to be? These are matters which must be very largely left to the detailed working of the present Italian Government set up under our protection. I suppose that is the correct way of describing its position. I think it is most important to know what is going on in regard to freedom of meeting, freedom of movement and freedom of speech. It is true that the Prime Minister said very clearly indeed, that no final settlement could be made with the Italian people or Government, until the North of Italy and its great cities had been liberated. That is true, but, if we are pursuing a persistently anti-Fascist course, we shall, I am sure, be in line with the best aspirations of democracy in the industrial North of Italy.
I want to be brief, because other hon. Members have taken an inordinate length of time, especially the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg). I would like to know what the Government are proposing to do with regard to the position of the B.B.C. and its foreign broadcasts to Italy and other countries. The B.B.C. has become for Europe the voice of freedom, and it is most important that that should be maintained. I hope that, in the whole of the armistice period, we may be sure that this voice of freedom will continue to speak with the voice of Great Britain and the British Commonwealth of Nations to Europe, and may help to guide the people of Europe on their path, and, I hope, lead them consistently and continually, in the direction of an anti-Fascist organisation of society.
One reason why I intervene in this Debate is that I desire to say something of the part which our smaller Allies are playing in the war, and to make an appeal to this House not to overlook the claims of these people when questions affecting the post-war set-up of Europe are discussed. Yesterday, we heard from the Prime Minister an account of military events during the time that Parliament was in Recess, and what a thrilling story of success it was. I was particularly interested in what he had to say about the contributions of the smaller nations. Other speakers, yesterday and to-day, have dealt with many aspects of the situation in which the United Nations now find themselves. Perhaps I may be allowed to say something from personal observation of what the Poles, the Belgians and the Dutch have done during this present month. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister recall the reason for our entering the war. For some time there was a danger of that reason being clouded by more recent developments. We cannot over-emphasise the fact that we declared war on Germany as the result of her unprovoked aggression on Poland. I know that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not spared himself in his efforts to bring about a better feeling between Russia and Poland, and there is, as the Prime Minister said, some improvement. All of us know how assiduous the Foreign Secretary is and we are grateful to him for his part in bringing about that improvement, and we may be sure that he will not relax his efforts before the goal has been reached. I certainly am not going to say anything which will stand in the way of achieving the unity towards which the British Government have been working.
Just before the fall of France in 1940 I made my first contact with the Polish Forces in France. They were then being re-formed by General Sikorski, at whose suggestion a little later I was appointed a Liaison Officer with the Polish troops and I have since been associated with them. I was present at the Polish Army's first muster in June, 1940, in Scotland immediately after the fall of France and I have been in close touch since that time with them. I have also had the opportunity of visiting Polish units in various parts of the Middle East. Soon after this House rose for the Summer Recess, at the request of General Kukiel, the Polish Minister of National Defence here in London, I spent some time with the Polish troops in the Low Countries. For obvious reasons I cannot tell the House exactly where they are now, or describe exactly what they are doing, but I can say that they have been in some of the hardest fighting and have acquitted themselves with great courage and remarkable heroism. It has been no easy task, for they have been up against some of the toughest soldiers the enemy has left, men fighting desperately for their lives, and I entirely agree with what the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) said about the strength of the German resistance. Only by supreme skill and valour have these victories over the enemy been secured, and not always without loss.
I joined the Poles at Ypres when they were just beginning the stage in their advance which was to take them right through Belgium into Holland. I accompanied them on this advance and I saw how they surmounted all the obstacles in their path, and they were many in those countries of rivers and canals. I also learned a great deal about what they had done from the Normandy beach-head onwards. One morning after a successful operation I met General Maczek, the Polish Commander. An attack took place outside the village with Polish tanks which had caught a retreating German column and completely destroyed it—an unforgettable scene of destruction. The General, delighted at the outcome of the Polish Forces engagement of a few hours before, remarked "This is my revenge for Poland." He commanded the famous Polish Black Brigade which fought so well in 1939 against the Germans until forced over the frontier into Hungary. Many of these troops made their way back to France and he had seen what the enemy had done to his own country. All the troops shared this spirit. They are out to avenge the wrong perpetrated by Hitler and the Nazis against their country and they are glad of the opportunity of fighting side by side with us and with some of the finest units from the British Commonwealth. And I would like to pay a tribute to the excellent cooperation which exists between the Poles and the Canadians, with whom they are serving. These Poles are far too busy fighting to have time for political controversy. They have only one aim, the defeat of Hitler, for by that means they know that they will be able to liberate their country from the tyrant's yoke.
The morale of the Polish troops is very good indeed. I was deeply moved at one point. I saw a soldier sitting on top of his tank, writing. For a moment I hesitated about interrupting him. He looked up and smiled. When I spoke to him he replied in English and his answers were remarkable for their knowledge of news from Britain which he had learned from the radio. When I asked him where he was writing to he said "To Scotland." I found that he had maintained a steady correspondence with several families who had befriended him when he had been in that part of the United Kingdom. And here I make an appeal to the Government, All of us know that there are good reasons for withholding information that might be useful to the enemy, but is there any valid reason for not giving something more full than anything so far released about the exploits of the Poles since they first landed in Normandy? This course would bring considerable cheer to their countrymen everywhere. It would encourage not only those fighting in Italy but those of their race in exile and those who are still in their own country resisting the Germans so fiercely. It is a story of amazing heroism comparable with anything in their splendid history. I would ask the Ministers concerned whether they cannot do something in this direction. It would be a fine gesture to a gallant Ally.
I cannot speak of what is happening in any other sector than that in which the Polish troops are operating. But in those areas of Belgium and Holland which I have recently visited I found the Poles and the people of the liberated towns and villages getting on extremely well together. It was an amazing experience to enter places in both countries and see what joy the Poles brought by their victory. I saw people standing in the doorways of their homes, damaged only perhaps an hour before in the fighting, throwing flowers and handing fruit to the troops and cheering themselves hoarse. In one Flanders village I remember going into a shop to make a small purchase. The proprietor behind the counter said to me "We have had to billet our enemies, the Germans, again and again. We are very glad they have been driven out now. Perhaps you will send us a Polish soldier and we will be only too glad to give him a free billet." Just one other incident. There had been a fierce struggle for a small town in Flanders all day with bitter hand-to-hand street fighting. Finally, in the late afternoon, the Poles broke down the German resistance and gained possession of the town. Just after they entered the town I got into conversation with the owner of a small inn on the Market Place. He said to me: "I have waited four years for to-day. When my windows were smashed this morning by machine gun fire I wept for joy because I knew that liberation was near. "Pole and Belgian and Pole and Dutchman soon become friends. They appreciate that they are comrades in the same struggle.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), in his speech, paid a tribute to the work done by the French Maquis. I can give many examples of the similar way in which the Belgians and the Dutch were working against the Germans before our Forces arrived in their countries; there is no need to weary the House with what I have heard, but I will give one simple illustration. The Germans put stakes and posts in a field in one part of Holland in which they feared an air-borne landing. One farmer, who watched these traps being laid by day, pulled them up by night and then sold them back to the Germans, who solemnly replaced them. He did this three times and then the Germans abandoned the attempt.
Men, women and children in both of these countries performed similar small acts, which in the aggregate meant so much to us. Again and again these people have risked their lives to help the Allied Forces. The point I want to make is this. These people are acting with us as one in the effort to destroy Hitler. They have all suffered. They appreciate what we are doing for them now. When the fighting has ceased they will still look to us for support. They are small nations, smaller than others engaged in the struggle. They want nothing but an assurance of the right to live peaceably with their neighbours but they know that they cannot secure that right alone. They look to all the great Powers to keep their point of view in mind when the time for a settlement comes.
At this stage of the war in which our efforts have been crowned with success, I do not wish during this Debate to record a note of discord or to open up any old sores, but, nevertheless, I feel that it is necessary for us to look back well before 1939. This war is a war of atonement—atonement for the mistakes of democracies in the years before 1939. We have all in this country made mistakes. We on this side of the House have perhaps made far fewer mistakes than our hon. Friends opposite. Even the Prime Minister has, in the course of this war, been compelled to change his ideas, say, about Russia, and the recognition of these mistakes which have been made in the past should enable us now to recognise that this war did not start in 1939 but as far back as 1931 with the first invasion by Japan of Manchukuo.
It has been stated that this war is becoming less of an ideological war. I cannot accept that statement. This war is a war of ideals and a war for ideals, and our failure to exploit that very fact has, I feel, robbed our war effort of much of its momentum. If this war is not an ideological war, then it is either an imperialist war of conquest or it is a negative defensive war against an evil with nothing constructive to put in its place. The ideal for which the democracies have entered this war is, to put it in its broadest sense, and the sense in which we can obtain the greatest common measure of agreement in this House, the ideal of democracy itself and of democratic government—democracy not as a system of government, but in its broadest sense as a way of life.
I said that the first act of aggression against democracy came in 1931. We are now at war with Japan and are determined that Japan shall pay for that act of aggression. In 1935 came the next act of aggression, by Italy against Abyssinia, which has now been freed. Italy is paying the price for her contravention of the laws of humanity, but I feel the greatest concern that among the Italian people one of the worst war criminals of the Abyssinian war is now being treated with such respect by our present Government, I refer, of course, to Marshal Badoglio, of whom the Prime Minister spoke in such glowing terms yesterday. We should not forget that he was the man who used poison gas against the Abyssinians in 1935. A tribute was paid by the Prime Minister yesterday, when speaking of some of the Italians whom we are now recognising, to the sincerity and ardour which they are showing in the Allied cause. I do not think for one moment that we can accept that as any reasonable cause why we should now treat them as equals and as Allies. I can very well imagine notable criminals in Germany, when their own necks are threatened, turning round and showing very great ardour for the Allied cause. If we do accept that, it makes me wonder what we are going to accept when Germany eventually capitulates. I can imagine certain German leaders whom we now regard as criminals being painted in very rosy tints if we accept these statements about Badoglio and the Lieutenant of the Realm of Italy.
A question was asked yesterday as to the time limit we should impose upon our enemies for changing sides. I think that has long since passed and they should be told that if any of these people wished to prove themselves our friends, then they had ample time for doing so long before the present, and that the changing of sides now can only be regarded as an act of expediency. Tribute was paid again to Marshal Badoglio, in the Prime Minister's speech yesterday, when he said that the Marshal has very faithfully observed the conditions imposed by the armistice a year ago. Hon. Members of this House cannot judge on that point, for the simple reason that we are not yet aware of the armistice terms which have been imposed upon Italy, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will have something to tell us on that point when he winds up the Debate. What are the armistice terms which have been imposed on the Italian people? I feel that hon. Members of this House have a right to know what they were.
I pass from that to the further aggression of the Fascists against democracy about which I feel very keenly, and which took place in Spain in 1936. I had the honour of being present in that country during the agony of its fight with the forces against which the whole of the democratic cause is fighting this war. At that time this House of Commons failed to recognise the Spanish war as another step in the march of Fascism towards the destruction of democracy; in fact, those of us who went over to Spain in 1936 were treated by this present House of Commons as the war criminals of the Spanish war. I could cite many instances of men, good, sincere men, who followed their conscience in fighting that war, who have been persecuted and victimised by the Government of the day. I dislike intensely mentioning something which affects me personally. I was a war criminal of that war. I was stripped of my commission in the Reserve of Air Force Officers for fighting in that war. I am not ashamed of that. That was the attitude of the Government of the day, who no doubt believe in these things sincerely.
Some of them do yet, and the mere fact that, having come back at the beginning of this war, I was persistently refused a commission, presumably because of this intervention in 1936, proves that even the present Government still have those views. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) said yesterday that he did not know any good Germans, that he had yet to find any good Germans. I can tell him where he could have found quite a number.
He could have found quite a large number of good Germans fighting in Spain against their fellow countrymen who were fighting in the Fascist cause, many great Germans who laid down their lives for democracy on the soil of Spain. Those men I regard as good Germans. There are still many of those mén in the concentration camps in that country to-day; there are many good Germans, men who have fought against Hitler ever since he came to power, within the concentration camps of Germany itself. I think there is very good ground for believing that even recently many thousands of these good Germans have been put to death at the hands of the Nazis in Germany, and that many more will meet the same fate. I will grant the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton this, that it is doubtful whether there will be many good Germans left at the end of this war when the Gestapo and the German Nazis have had their way with them.
We have to look at the general resettlement of Europe as we wish to see it after this war. We are fighting against Fascism in all its forms and for a democratic settlement of Europe, and this Europe which we foresee does not admit of the presence of Fascist sores in any part of it. So long as Fascism exists either in Spain or in Portugal, then there can be no satisfactory settlement of Europe. The hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Major Thorneycroft) said that it was not our business to interfere in the affairs of foreign countries—that was the line which was taken in 1936. In a matter in which the life of democracy itself is threatened, it is most certainly our job to interfere. The mistakes we made in Spain in 1936 demand to-day that we shall be interested in the composition of the Spain which will follow this war. I saw something of the agony suffered by the Spanish people, against whom their own army, air force and navy, supported by their colonial armies and by the armies and air forces of the Fascist and the Nazi Powers, were concentrated. I heard some of the broadcasts of that notorious general Queipo de Llano from Seville in which he boasted of what would happen when his Moors got into Madrid and how they would murder his fellow countrymen and rape his fellow countrywomen. Those are things which the Spanish people will never forget and for which they will never forgive that dictator who now reigns over them. I foresee the time when, those people will rise against that dictator. What will be the attitude of the British Government at that time? Are we going to say that we must support the Government of General Franco, or are we going to say that our duty is to redeem the name which we lost in Spain in 1936 by giving to the Spanish people every support possible and allowing them to try to punish their own war criminals?
There is one further point. A certain number of bouquets have been thrown to all concerned in the operations on the Continent. The Prime Minister has very rightly praised the American Forces for their successful operations on the Continent. I would like to endorse what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) regarding the position of our own troops. I honestly believe that the Americans in this matter have had most of the plums, that they have been given most of the spectacular tasks to perform, and that our own boys have had the tough jobs, the unspectacular ones. I would like to feel that something more than lip service is paid to our own troops. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) referred to the plight of the troops in South-East Asia. I would like to reinforce what he stated on that point, and to back up his suggestion that a delegation of hon. Members of this House should be sent to that part of the world to maintain contact with them and to watch over questions of welfare.
In closing I must dwell upon this point, the length of service of those troops in the Far East and in South-East Asia. I have seen letters from them, letters from those whose homes have been broken up, who have lost everything that was dear to them simply because of the length of time they had been required to spend outside this country. It is more than human nature can stand. When this question was raised with the War Office, some time ago, a suggestion was made that the time spent by British troops overseas was considerably longer than that spent by Americans, and on that point the War Office had no information. I suggest that that was true, and that strong representations should be made to the American Government to see what steps can be taken to equalise the periods of service of the members of the two Armies in the oversea commands. I do not want to speak of the discrepancies between the troops in those two Armies, except to say that the British troops do not begrudge the Americans anything they have. But I think the lip service which has been paid might be reinforced by granting to our own people conditions far more in keeping with those of the American Forces, so that they can go forward together as real brothers in arms and Allies.
The hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. Loverseed) seemed to be uncertain about when exactly this war began. He attributed the beginning of it to the Spanish Civil War and thought we were largely to blame because we did not interfere on what he considers to have been the right side. He went even further back than that, to Japanese aggression in Manchuria. I go still further back. This war began in 1914. The Germans will tell you that. I have heard German views on the subject, and they have always said quite frankly that this was their second Thirty Years' War, and that it began in 1914. That being so, it is due to end this year. Let us hope that that may be the case.
This has been an interesting Debate, and those of us who were privileged to hear the Prime Minister's statement yesterday must have appreciated the fact that he is the man in whom we should have supreme confidence at the present time. He may make his mistakes like the rest of us—and some have been pointed out, as usual, to-day by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan)—but the Prime Minister is only human after all. He assumed office at a moment of great crisis, he has had the wear and tear of this war from the beginning and he may well be proud of the results which have so far been obtained. I, for one, am quite prepared to allow him to continue to conduct our war policy and to run the show, so to speak, until the end. There are two questions to which I wish to refer briefly to-day. One is the treatment of Germany and the policy that is being adopted at the present time with regard to letting the Germans know what is in store for them when we win, for we have not won yet, and I think it is just as well for Members of the House to realise that the war is not yet over. The Germans are likely to make a vigorous defence. They may not be fighting for what hon. Members on the other side of the House describe as democracy, but they are fighting for the one cause alone which is the real motive force of every nation—they are fighting for their country. Even if the Government of that country does not suit all Germans, none the less, they will fight for their country. One hon. Member—I cannot remember who it was—talked about good and bad Germans. I do not recognise that phrase at all. I look upon all Germans as Germans, just as I look upon all Englishmen as Englishmen. They may differ among themselves, but primarily they stand for what their country demands, or what they think their country demands.
I have been considering carefully lately whether it would he a good thing to publish now what the Allied peace terms for Germany are to be, and I have come to the conclusion that, on the whole, the policy that has been adopted, of stating that we are going to insist on unconditional surrender, is the best policy. I say that because there is no doubt that the great majority of Germans did not believe that they had been beaten in the last war, from a military point of view. They thought that they had been stabbed in the back by political manoeuvres and propaganda, and also that their people had been starved into surrender by the blockade. The majority of Germans did not admit that they had been beaten in the field; certainly we made a great mistake by not marching into Berlin and not occupying Germany for a far longer time. Therefore, I believe that in the long run it is best that we should make it absolutely clear to the whole German population that in this war their armed forces have been beaten in the field. Thus I think there is more chance of them realising that war is not a pastime that pays. In this war, too, there is a great difference from the last, which also influences my view, in that we have already done an infinite amount of damage in Germany, regrettable, but perfectly justifiable. It has made the Germans realise what they have made other countries suffer, and they are now about to experience something which they have not experienced since the days of Napoleon—the invasion of their homeland. Henceforth, it will be very difficult for any German to say that his country has not suffered a crushing defeat.
I do not anticipate that Germany, or any other great country in the world which has had experience of this war, will be in a hurry to embark upon a new one. I am not, therefore, one of those who think that it is urgently necessary, here and now, to settle what the future of the world is to be. I think we ought to take time and care to think about these matters when the war is over so that we can then gradually build up an international organisation, with power behind it, which will in future play a more important part in maintaining peace than any other international organisation has done in the past. I am anxious that the Allies should not be in a hurry about these matters, and I am certain that we should be making a very grave mistake if we tried to force the pace and tried to direct foreign countries in the manner in which they shall resume their normal life. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale spoke about the kind of policy we should adopt and said that in his opinion, if I understood him aright, we should insist upon democratic government in all these various countries—indeed, impose it upon them. It is quite likely that the countries which have been under the German heel may not be anxious to adopt the particular form of democratic government that we think desirable. Does the hon. Member, or any other exponent of that policy, suggest that we should interfere in what other countries may want in the way of government? It has always been a great mistake of ours to take up an attitude about the internal policies of foreign countries and judge them entirely by our own conceptions of politics in this country. This has been a habit of ours in the past which I hope may be less evident in the future.
We ought to bear in mind that the first principle of our political beliefs is that every nation should be able to run its own internal government in the way which it believes to be right. It is true that in some cases, as in Germany recently, that government may not be according to our ideals, but, it it is supported by the people of that country, we must recognise it and try to get on with it for the time being. We must do our best in the new Europe to help other countries in the re-establishment of their civil life, and to leave them to manage their own affairs. Has it ever occurred to our people that had the Germans, under Hitler, adopted a different policy with the countries which they conquered and over-ran, had they not employed the policy of the jack-boot but had allowed those countries to maintain their own systems of government, granting them home rule, under the military protection of Germany, the situation in Europe might be very different to-day? I believe that the smaller nations of Europe desire one thing above all others. They desired it before the war and they desire it probably still more now. They desire security. If they can be guaranteed security, they will be content. We have to see that in future those countries can look to us for that protection and help which is essential if they are to maintain their freedom and be able to live their own lives.
After this war we must change our usual policy. After other wars in which we have taken a prominent part we have disarmed and retired within our shell, and adopted a policy of splendid isolation. We must get rid of that habit; we cannot, even if we would, isolate ourselves from Europe and the opportunity is now before us to adopt the position to which we are entitled, and which most of the smaller nations in Europe desire we should adopt, namely, to give a lead and to be in a position to support our point of view, should the occasion arise, within some international framework constituted on a firmer basis than the League of Nations. Such is the policy, I feel, that lies before us, and I believe that that will be approved by the majority of our people when they come to think of things quietly and do not get hold of "high falutin'" notions about what our duties are in regard to political ideologies.
I would like to say a word or two about the present position in Poland with regard to Soviet Russia. I am in the peculiar position of agreeing with the admirable speeches made yesterday both by my Noble Friend the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) who presented the Polish point of view and my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) who pointed out our position vis-à-vis Russia. My noble Friend took the line that the claims of the Poles were of deep concern to us, and that we were more or less pledged to them to see that their independence was maintained, while my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford took the line that the less the Polish situation was discussed in public at present the better. There was much wisdom in the hon. Member's advice. But we cannot forget that we went to war to help the Poles to maintain their independence. It may well be, as the Prime Minister said, that the Soviet Union must be certain that their frontiers are protected amply to their satisfaction against any form of aggression. But I think in this connection the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale rather hit the nail on the head when he pointed out, I think rightly, that the frontiers of the old type no longer count so much as they used to count in the past, and in wars to come are still less likely to be of much avail against new forms of mechanical warfare.
But, putting aside altogether this aspect of the case and agreeing with the Prime Minister's point of view that Russia must be certain of its frontiers, and admitting, too, that certain parts of Eastern Poland are largely inhabited by Russians, it is difficult for some of us to see why Poland should be deprived of territory. Still less is it easy for us to see why a new Government should be brought into existence in Poland by the help of a foreign Power which is opposed to the Polish Government which we recognise here. It is, so it seems to me, an interference by one country in the internal government of another, and I am certain that the Foreign Secretary must be much exercised in his mind by the present situation. All we can do is to point out clearly to our Russian Ally what our point of view is in the matter—Poland is our Ally just as much as Russia—and we should put the views of the Polish Government before the Russian Government as clearly as we possibly can.
When I say the Polish Government, I mean the Polish Government that we recognise here. We cannot, of course, do anything in any way calculated to break down or to make difficult the relationships between us and the Russians; we must do nothing which will in any way weaken the war effort, but I am hopeful that, if we put our case clearly and strongly, and show the Russians that there is a strong public feeling on the matter in this country—and there is strong feeling both here and in the United States of America—that our point of view will have its effect in Moscow. We are always being told that Russia is a democracy and that public opinion counts. Surely we can utilise with Russia the same methods that we adopt with other democracies? One word in conclusion—this is the most crucial moment in the war. It demands unity and energy. We should carry on the fight to the utmost of our vigour, if we are to bring the war to an end as speedily as possible, and then when the fighting is over endeavour to build up a new Europe, in which Germany, no longer in a position to wage another war, will have to play her part in a fellowship of friendly nations.
I do not want to follow the hon. Baronet into his maze of contradictions and tawdry sophistries. It is clear that he does not want interference in Spain which would adversely affect the Fascists but he wants interference against the Soviet Union in regard to Poland.
I am not giving way any more. The hon. Baronet's contradictions are obvious. He said this war started in 1914, but he did not stop to tell us why he and so many of his party were on the German side in Spain in 1936, if it started in 1914. Frederick Engels, the great collaborator of Marx, writing of the struggles of the British people in the 19th century, said:
The peculiar courage of the English people"—
that should be British—
the unconquerable courage of men who surrender only when all resistance would be aimless and unmeaning.
I was reminded of these words yesterday when the Prime Minister spoke of the unconquerable courage of the men of Arnhem. In this case there was not even a question of surrender. With courage unsurpassed and unsurpassable, they braved the scorching fires of hell and kept open the Western gate to victory. It is not enough to offer such men the tribute of "Not in vain." They deserve something much mightier and more positive than that.
Maybe one of our greatest poets will write in letters of fire the true pride and fitting epitaph for these men. The thoughts of this House should go out to the sorrowing homes even while we speak of those who have gone and in praise of those who are left. I would say to the Prime Minister and to Members of the House that, if the sacrifices of our troops are not to be in vain, we have to get rid of a whole lot of ideas on the other side of the House. Harry Pollitt has just produced a book which contains a policy and a programme and, unless they are accepted, the sacrifices of these men will be in vain. I listened to the Prime Minister yesterday talking about his visit to Rome. It reminded me of the classic lines from the Biglow Papers:
I du believe in Freedom's cause Ez fur away ez Paris is.
The Prime Minister tells us that while in Rome he spoke to the leaders of all the parties from the extreme Right to the extreme Communist. I ask the Prime Minister, Will he speak to one of the best political leaders in this country, Harry Pollitt? Yes, there has to be a lot of change on the other side. Take the question of Poland. Unfortunately, because of certain exigencies I could not
hear some of the speeches yesterday, but there were three old Tories who spoke—not old in years, but old in musty, fossilised ideas, the Noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass), the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) and another. One young Tory spoke yesterday and one to-day. I wish we had some lads here always ready to get up after these young Tories. They are very clever lads. They might be dangerous unless they get away from the old Tories. There is a wider gulf between these three old Tories and these two young Tories, than there is between the Benches of this House. No one can suggest for a moment that there is any affinity of spirit between those who speak as young Tories and those old Tories. Thirty-five or 40 years ago, before some of these Members opposite had ever heard of such a place as Poland, I was speaking at mass demonstrations in different parts of the country fighting for freedom and independence for Poland. I have always been a friend of the Polish people. I am certain that the Noble Lord is no more a friend of the Polish people than he is of the people of this country. He is interested in land and landed gentry.
Will the hon. Member explain what he means by the freedom and independence of Poland? Does he mean freedom and independence from foreign domination, or freedom and independence from certain people with whom he may happen to disagree politically inside?
The hon. Member does not know anything about Poland. For a long time that country was split into three. No people has such a bitter history of struggle; much of it has been against the Polish gentry. I could tell stories about Poland and the misery, poverty, illiteracy and disease under the Polish gentry, worse than in any other European country. No one can say that the partition of the Ukraine and the partition of White Russia are essential to Polish independence, We have seen what partition means in Ireland. We have a situation there, as a result of partition, in which this Government gives Ireland de jure recognition and not de facto recognition. We remember the Treaty that was made in connection with the ports; I drew attention to it at the time. That Treaty is between this country and Eire—not the Irish Free State which represented the 26 counties. It was with Eire, which means Ireland, one and indivisible. Although that Treaty is between this country and a United Ireland, de facto recognition cannot be given because of the partition. Can we get friendship between Poland and Russia if there is partition of the Ukraine and of White Russia? Does anybody suggest that the partition of these countries is essential for Polish independence? It is not.
But it is essential to Polish independence that the country should not be closed in and that it should have a clear opening to the sea. That is the important thing, and that is the thing that has been taken into account by the Soviet Union. It is the thing in which every Member of this House who is interested in Poland should be concerned. Does any Member who claims to be interested in Poland suggest for a moment that we should reintroduce the Polish Corridor? Is it possible again to have the situation in Europe in which there is that 10-mile strip through Germany? That was an utterly impossible situation, and we cannot have it again. But Poland must have an opening to the sea. How is it to be obtained except on the lines that have been suggested in some circles round about the Soviet Union? This is a question of the deepest interest for Poland. Polish independence depends, not on a bit of territory in the East, but on a real opening-up of the country so that it has a clear passage to the sea, an open connection with all other peoples, and is not hemmed in between a group of neighbouring States.
Therefore, the advice of the Prime Minister should be accepted. Do not let us have any of these nasty slanders about the Soviet Union. Let us work for an understanding between the Polish people and the people of the Soviet Union. I am certain that these matters can be ironed out in such a way as to bring about a real chance of lasting peace in Europe so that there is a free, independent Poland with its own Government living in the closest harmony and friendship with its mighty neighbour, the Soviet Union, with Great Britain and with its other neighbours.
I am sure that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) will forgive me if I do not follow him into wider ideologies chiefly referring to the past. In order to avoid mistakes in the future, we must consider what we should be doing at the present time. I should like to pick up some of the points that were mentioned by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), in his excellent speech last night, and by the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Major Thorneycroft), who spoke so tellingly this morning. The first point I want to pick up is the future of Germany. The hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) stated that, in his view, it is too early to make a decision or suggestions as to what we propose to do to post-war Germany. I do not subscribe to that view because I do not think it is too early to prepare the public and ourselves for what we believe to be right for the very difficult future that lies before Germany.
From all that has been said, both in this House and the Press, and from the opinions of people one meets in ordinary life, two extreme views seem to have come to the forefront in the past year. On the one hand, that everything that comes out of Germany is evil and must be exterminated, and on the other that the Nazi point of view is purely temporary and can be exorcised like an evil spirit. I do not myself subscribe to the first view, and I think that the second is a very dangerous because plausible theory and must be guarded against by all means in our power. To my mind there are two main essentials in dealing with post-war Germany. The first is that the German people must see for themselves this time the German Army defeated in Germany; and the second is that some means must be found for dealing with Nazi youth. I believe it was about a year ago when Professor Woodward of Oxford University wrote a telling article pointing out that
our greatest post-war difficulty would not be the reconstruction of our own shattered economic life, but the decontamination of Nazi youth from the death-laden atmosphere with which it has been surrounded in the last few years.
The other day I was terribly depressed hearing from an American nurse who is working in a hospital near my home who told me that the German prisoners she was looking after included a 14-year-old Nazi soldier in full uniform, and that her
greatest difficulty was with this boy who demanded to be sent to the German-occupied part of Britain, for he would not believe that there was no German-occupied part of Britain. I was recently talking to an officer, whose duty it has been to interrogate German prisoners in France, who told me that far from having lost confidence in Hitler, the German soldier to-day is merely blaming his officers and his generals for a temporary defeat. It is these ingrained views which, to my mind, are so terribly dangerous and make post-war dealing with Germany on any standards known to this country so very difficult.
Certain solutions, which I will not detail because they are too well-known, have been put forward. For instance, military occupation can only be a short-term solution of the difficulties, because it will give rise to so many drawbacks such as mixed marriages which, after the last war, caused many a difficulty at home. Then crushing reparations, as a solution, hurts the victors as well as the vanquished. I am certain that I am speaking for my hon. Friends on this side when I say that we do not want to see German ships, German aeroplanes, German steel or German coal come to this country as post-war reparations. Re-education also is a very longterm policy and almost impracticable in view of what I have already described.
I would like to put forward a new and I hope useful contribution to a solution of the problems of dealing with post-war Germany, that some part of the military armistice will be control of German scientific development after the war, and I believe that that can be done by closing German technical and scientific colleges and schools, leaving to the Germans only the study of the higher humanities such as architecture and other peaceful pursuits. I am not suggesting the entire elimination of German science. The debt of the whole modern world to German physics, German medicine, German technique of all kinds is too great for that, nor do I think that German scientific leaders should be liquidated. On the contrary, I should like to see German scientists put on an international panel, taken out of Germany and distributed throughout the universities of the United Nations. In this way their genius would be put at the disposal of the peace-loving nations. What is essential is that the German scientists should be prevented working as a team in their own country. It is axiomatic that modern scientific development is the result, not of some brilliant individual working by himself, but of teams working in expensive, elaborate laboratories, research stations, wind tunnels, and so forth.
What I would like to see is German scientific development controlled, not eliminated, and thus without scientific colleges of destruction and schools of mass extermination, and relegated to the study of peaceful pursuits, better Germans may learn in due course to lead a better Germany. At least the points emerge from what has been said to-day that the German general staff have kept alive the desire and ability to wage scientific war. Without scientific developments there could have been no chance of a successful war and, therefore, knowing the German character, no war. The final point emerges that to control Germany adequately after the war we must eliminate her power of mass destruction and banish for ever that leadership in the scientific world inside a bad Germany for which we have suffered for the last 20 years. And. in conclusion, I would like to remind my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary of some words he used 20 years ago; it is as well to remind ourselves of them. They were that our foreign diplomacy is as strong as our Armed Forces.
I would very much like to have followed the line taken by the Noble Lady in her very interesting suggestion that we should control Germany after the war by controlling her scientific development. But I am more anxious to say a word about the long and academic speech that we heard from the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg). I am sorry that he is not in his place. In answer to an interjection of mine he said that it was not wise to talk about frontiers in this House at this stage of the war. To my mind that was a most extraordinary answer. if it is not right to talk about frontiers now, when will it be right? Surely right now our leaders and delegations of the United Nations are coming to decisions on those very matters, and it is no good our discussing later on the frontiers in this House because the leaders of the United Nations would already have made up their minds on the matter. If ever there was a time to discuss such matters it is now.
I also want to make a reference to a magnificent platitude of the hon. Gentleman, when he said that in order that Germany shall not rise again to create more wars, the great Powers must keep united. Of course that is desirable, but he did not attempt to tell us how the United Nations were to keep united He knows as well as I know that there is a very good possibility that in years to come we shall have a weak Government in this country who will say in effect: "Let bygones be bygones," and memories being short, they will call back the British armies of occupation from Germany. It is even more likely that something very much like what happened after the last war will again occur in America; the isolationists will be stronger than ever. The Americans will have their share of occupying Germany, and the isolationists will find it a very good election cry "Get our boys back from Europe," and back they may come, leaving Russia there alone. In those circumstances, what price the unity of the United Nations?
I only want to make this last reference to my hon. Friend's speech. He ended up with a wonderful peroration in which he asked the House to keep foreign policy out of the arena of party politics. What happens if we do not agree with the party politics of others? Is it only the Government that are to be allowed to say what foreign policy shall be? I never heard such an extraordinary exhortation.
It is very good of my hon. Friend to champion the Prime Minister and explain what he means, but I was not referring to the Prime Minister at all but to the hon. Member for Altrincham. If the hon. Member were here I should have liked to point out to him that it was because of the past complacency of this House about foreign politics that foreign politics were kept out of the arena of party politics and it was that very reason why we got into this war. Practically nobody then took any interest in foreign politics and the rearming of Germany. Now the hon. Member, who has been in the Government in important positions, is telling us that we should keep foreign politics out of the arena so far as the various parties in this House are concerned. All I can say for that speech is that it was full of well deserved praise of a number of people and that the whole speech was beautifully phrased but that the rest of it was a long collection of useless generalities which took up 50 minutes of the time of this House.
That may be. No doubt the Noble Lady is speaking from experience.
I want now to get into my main theme. It may or may not be of interest to the House to know that some days ago I asked a Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force representative in London for permission to go to Paris to investigate the allegation that American business men had been allowed by S.H.A.E.F. to go to Paris, wearing, while in transit, American uniform. The Noble Lady finds that very amusing.
Impetuosity has always been the Noble Lady's charm. If she had only had the patience to listen a little longer she would not have made that interjection. I told S.H.A.E.F. that if I found that the allegations were correct, I intended to come down to this House at the end of this week and to say so, and alternatively if I found that the newspaper which had originally made the allegation had done so without sufficient evidence, I was also going to say so, and to add a few words about the impropriety of a newspaper doing such an irresponsible thing.
The day following this application I was rung up and flattered by the information that it had been decided that my application was a matter of high policy and therefore had to be referred to higher powers in France, and that in all probability I should get an answer on the following day. A week has gone by and apparently no decision has been arrived at so far, because I have not heard anything as yet. If S.H.A.E.F. have nothing to hide they will undoubtedly in the near future provide me with facilities for this journey. If, on the other hand, it is true that American business men had been given priority to go to Paris—bankers, car-salesmen and others—the House wll agree that serious repercussions may ensue. Leaving out of the question altogether the unfairness of such procedure, I think the way that ordinary folk will look at it is that if Americans are going to conduct their business affairs in competition with their Allies in this manner while the war is still on, what, in Heaven's name, is going to happen after the war?
On a point of Order. Is the hon. and gallant Member in order in discussing what the American Government might do? Surely it has nothing to do with the British Government whether American business men go to Paris or not. I think the hon. and gallant Member's speech is entirely mischievous in this respect and I hope that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will not allow it to proceed.
I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that he has made an interjection for the second time which is quite incorrect. I am not talking about the American Government but about S.H.A.E.F. He has suggested that it is out of Order that such a subject should not be raised but I would point out to him that it is very much in order for if the allegations are true it means that every American business man who goes to Paris helped by S.H.A.E.F. by these unfair means can result in less employment for our workers over here in the future. I think that it a vital matter that should concern Members of Parliament including the hon. Gentleman who interjected.
If this kind of thing is going on in wartime, what hope is there for a real peace, which can only go hand in hand with trust and unity between the victorious nations, as we have heard so often during these two days' Debate? If this allegation should turn out to be true, what an indictment it is going to be against private enterprise which more and more is being accused, sometimes quite unjustifiably, I think, of creating this very kind of international friction, which those who deride private enterprise say leads to war.
I have some information about this matter in addition to that which appears in the newspaper which originally made these allegations, and I am very willing to put this information at the disposal of S.H.A.E.F. if it will be of any use to them in the investigation which I understand General Eisenhower has promised. In view of the fact that there will be an investigation, I do not intend to say any more on this particular subject now except that it is S.H.A.E.F. which is accused, and it is S.H.A.E.F. which is making the investigation; in other words, it is the accused who is making inquiries about himself, is then to make a report on himself and subsequently, if necessary, to pass judgment on himself. I merely mention that in additional reply to an interjection that was made just now and to make it clear that S.H.A.E.F. must not be surprised or offended if an ordinary Member of this House representing British business men and, over and above that, concerned with the future employment of British citizens, desires to make independent inquiries. I trust that, in the circumstances, the necessary facilities will be afforded me.
Of course, I might quite probably have an answer—I feel sure that S.H.A.E.F. will not be so discourteous as not to send an answer—on the line that if they allow one M.P. across the Channel they will have to allow the lot. My answer will be: "Why not?" It would be very correct and proper for all the elected representatives of the British people to be allowed to visit the liberated countries. At this stage in the war, that should be our duty —and anyhow, practically everybody else has been to France, except us. Trade union leaders go out there, and of course various members of the Government spend their time, as far as I can see, going backwards and forwards, and very interesting too it must be. Then we are practically certain, at least I am, that American business men are allowed to go out there, and we see in the papers that a whole flock of women reporters have been allowed to go out and see what the fashions are like in Paris. Even the learned Clerks at the Table have been out there, and various members of the House of Commons staff, and last, but certainly not least, Mr. Speaker himself. Practically everybody has been out there, as far as I can see, except the P.B.M.P. He seems to be the Cinderella of the show who apparently counts for nothing and can be ignored. We certainly shall be ignored so long as we all meekly sit around smiling and submitting to this kind of treatment.
Surely it is time Members of Parliament made it quite clear that it is definitely part of a war-time M.P.'s political duties to visit the liberated countries. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"]The hon. Gentleman asks me "Why?" In the first place, very soon we shall be asked to make decisions on various very important policies concerning Europe. For example, there will be the feeding of Europe, and to assist us in our decisions we should have some first-hand idea of the actual conditions in Europe. Then again, as I have just been reminded, there are political considerations such as the recognition of the French Government, and I think it would be beneficial if Members could make contact with French political opinion, as well as political opinion in other countries. It could well happen that by being denied access to European countries, we might in the near future, through pure ignorance, have to make decisions which we might subsequently find out were not in the best interests of the countries concerned. I listened to the magnificent war report of the Prime Minister yesterday, and there was only one passage in it of which I did not quite like the sound. I was disquieted to hear the Prime Minister go out his way to pay such a glowing tribute to Prince Umberto and to Marshal Badoglio, both of whom were in Mussolini's service. It is our duty to watch these things, to go out now and see for ourselves what the people really want, and what conditions are on the spot. It is no good saying there is time enough to do all this after the European war. We shall not be able to do that for obvious reasons which I am about to give. But before doing so I wish to give one more reason why Members of Parliament should be given free access to liberated countries. It is that in the very near future we shall be asked, I expect as soon as the war proper with Germany is over, to confirm what the powers-that-be have decided shall be the future of Germany. Before doing that would it not be wise, might it not be better for posterity, if some of us in this House were to have the opportunity of visiting the scenes of German atrocities and were to see for ourselves what fiends we have to safeguard ourselves against in the future, to see for ourselves places such as Oradour-sur-Glane, to go out there and look at that heap of rubble that was a church and in which any number of defenceless women and children were first blown up and then burned by the Germans, and where to-day only innumerable white crosses all round bear testimony to the horrors they went through? Let us go and have a look at these places, not just say "I wonder if these reports were exaggerated." Let us have an opportunity of seeing the torture chambers of Paris and some of those sinister concentration camps that have now come into our possession. Greater miracles than what I am about to suggest have happened but it may well be that such sights might affect the views of our most ardent "Forgive and forget" idealists.
Of course if I were lucky enough to get an answer to what I am pleading for to-day, that answer might be, "Yes, we think Members should have the opportunity of going out to liberated countries to get knowledge of what they are going to vote about in the future, but not now; they can go out as soon as the German war is over." Such an argument as that is completely fallacious, because as soon as the war with Germany is over Members will be tied to this country, they will be putting in overtime in their constituencies in anticipation of the General Election which we are always being told will take place as soon as the German war is over. There will be no opportunity then, and up to that time we shall be voting in Parliament on these vital matters without having had an opportunity of seeing things for ourselves.
I only want to say this, in emphasis of the support I am trying to get from the House for these views. It seems to me that it would be as well if we knew what we were talking about when we come to debate the Dumbarton Oaks and Bretton Woods recommendations. They are attempting, and very rightly, between the two of them, to arrange what I think could well be likened to a glorified international Beveridge plan for distressed Europe. We over here are able to endorse the spending of millions of this country's money on the Beveridge proposals for our own country, because we are familiar with the conditions that exist here.
But before we have an opportunity of discussing and voting on our own Beveridge Plan, it looks as if we are to be asked to vote millions for what I choose to call the international Beveridge plan, and we are to be expected to do that without being given an opportunity of making ourselves familiar with the conditions that exist abroad. We are all well aware that the secondhand information we are getting about food conditions abroad is most confusing. We hear, for example, that Paris is not so badly off as is sometimes supposed, and on other occasions we are told that the people of Paris are starving. That applies to other places too. Only by going out there ourselves can we find out the truth. We are going to use a lot of British money for all this; we are going to be asked to vote millions. I suggest that before doing that we should be allowed to see that British money is going to be used for feeding really deserving foreigners. Otherwise we M.Ps. are going to be guilty of signing the equivalent of a blank cheque on the wretched taxpayers account.
It simply remains for me to draw attention to this last objection which may be put forward to this suggestion of mine that Members should now be allowed to visit the liberated countries. It will very likely be said that one cannot have a collection of Members of Parliament wandering about combat zones, poking their critical noses into everything, and generally making a damned nuisance of themselves. I do not say that that is the language that would be used if an answer was given, but it would amount to the same thing and what a silly answer it would be. Of course we should not expect to be allowed to move around combat zones on our own; but we have a right to expect that we should be taken around in conducted groups, in much the same way as Mr. Speaker and his group were taken around; further we should definitely be given facilities to travel freely behind the combat zones, if we desired to do so, to go to Paris, to Oradour-sur-Glane, to Caen, to Cassino or Rome, to see conditions for ourselves, so that we can properly discharge our duties as Members of Parliament when it comes to deciding in this House what is the best solution to the many vital European problems with which we are faced. On our decisions may depend the peace of the world; and not only that, but the future welfare and safety of those whom we have the responsibility of representing in Parliament. Therefore, I say, it is essential that we should not make blind decisions.
I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for St. Marylebone (Captain Cunningham-Reid) will forgive me if I do not follow the line of argument of his speech, but I think that most Members of this House are sufficiently engaged in their duties, whether high or low, in one way or another not to be desirous of making things difficult by asking S.H.A.E.F. for a kind of wandering commission to go all over the Continent. I intend to come back to what has been referred to in several speeches. I propose to follow the advice of the Prime Minister, and to weigh my words very carefully for I wish to say a word or two about the thorny subject of Anglo-Polish relations.
The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) made a notable contribution yesterday to this Debate by reminding the House that our forefathers accepted only those foreign obligations which they knew they could effectively carry out. I agree that, as far as Eastern Europe is concerned, we cannot accept obligations without close collaboration with our great Russian Ally. Russia is the only Power in that region that can enable us to implement those obligations. The principles of our foreign policy enunciated by the hon. Member for Oxford were, after all, the policy of Pitt, of Castlereagh and of Canning, and I think it is the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary.
It is well in this respect to remember that when the wicked partition of Poland took place, at the end of the eighteenth century, which outraged public opinion in this country, both Whig and Tory, our statesmen nevertheless, without condoning this act of the Holy Alliance, knew that they could not by direct action do anything to help the Poles, and they merely registered their displeasure.
That does not mean that we must renounce all influence in that area. The Moscow Conference did not set up spheres of influence and leave Russia to be the sole controller of Eastern Europe, and we and the United States of Western Europe. It did not set up zones of influence of that kind. On the contrary, as I take it, the whole object of the Conference and its results were to recreate a kind of Concert of the great Powers, out of which a Concert of Europe could later be formed. In that Concert we should have a say in the East, and Russia should have a say in the West. Russia has had a say in the West, in Italian affairs, and we, I think, have also a right to a say in the East. Our duty, therefore, to refuse to bind ourselves to military obligations in the East does not run counter to our rights to use our moral influence in the settlement of disputes, and particularly of Russo-Polish disputes. We can be the honest broker. But we can only play that rôle if we have the confidence of both sides.
Some speeches I have listened to in this House have not been of the kind to create that confidence—or, if the Government acted on their advice, they would not obtain that confidence. But others have been of the kind that would create that confidence, and I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary is doing his utmost to create it. I was glad that the Noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) sounded a note of realism yesterday. I understood him to warn the Poles that they cannot expect us to champion the idea of their Eastern frontier, on which they have for so long set their hearts. Actually, I think the Poles are becoming more reasonable and realistic on this frontier question now, and I believe also that Russia is prepared to give and take, provided there is one thing, namely, that she is assured of the existence in Poland of a Government friendly to her.
I have the pleasure of the acquaintance of several Poles in prominent positions here, and I am satisfied that many of them are very genuine in their desire for friendly co-operation with Russia. They realise the tragic futility of this age-long quarrel between what are, after all, two sister-Slav nations, which quarrel, originally, of course, was based upon religion but has since become largely traditional and quite out of keeping with the modern world. After all, this Russo-Polish frontier dispute, as has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), and the frontier question are of far less importance than other questions, in view of the development of military science. It is the creation of a friendly atmosphere between these two countries that is far more important than the actual drawing of the frontier.
For my part, I have confidence that the present Polish Prime Minister, who is himself a peasant and a democrat, is really sincere in his desire for a friendly solution of this question. Unfortunately, and here is the difficult point, there are other prominent Poles who are in high positions here who have made no secret of their strong antipathy to Russia. As long as they hold influential positions here, it is understandable that the attitude of Russia on these matters is bound to be difficult. Russians, of course, have replied by the setting up of this Union of Polish Patriots, and, since then, a new Polish Committee of National Liberation, since Russia has gone beyond the Curzon Line. While those two bodies undoubtedly represent a body of opinion in Poland which is Russophile, I am not satisfied myself that it is fully representative of all shades of public opinion in Poland. I can believe Marshal Stalin when he says he wants to see an independent Poland, because he knows that, otherwise, Poland will be a source of continual trouble and disturbance on Russia's Western frontier, but I think it is equally true that no Government based solely upon these two bodies, or whichever is the most important now, in Eastern Europe, will ever be a stable Government unless it contains also the democratic elements of Poland beyond the seas. That, to my mind, is the great task, to try to do all we can to bring about a coalition between these Russophile elements in the occupied part of Poland and the democratic elements of Poland abroad.
Here, of course, we are up against a very delicate situation, because a proud people like the Poles naturally do not want it to appear that their Government is being reconstructed under pressure from any foreign Power. It is a psychological difficulty we are up against. We, in this House, can do no more than wish the Foreign Secretary well in any steps he may take to try to solve this difficult psychological question.
There is the further difficulty that Russian diplomatic methods are indirect, and not always easy to understand. I suppose that is due to the old inheritance from former times. It has gone down in Russian history that their diplomacy is often of that kind, and one of the Tsar's Imperial Chancellors, Prince Gorchakoff, once said: "La Russie ne bond pas, elle se recueille"—"Russia does not sulk; she retires and waits." That was said after Russia's defeat in the Crimean war. No doubt, that was a sound method in those days, but I think that Russia to-day, after her resounding feats of arms and the tremendous prestige she carries now throughout the world, can well afford to be more direct in her diplomatic methods and a little less secretive. As an inveterate Russophile myself, I can say that I hope Russian statesmen will put beyond doubt whatever that they have no intention of imposing upon Poland, either directly or indirectly, a form of government which is not of the Poles' own choosing. That is all I have to say on that matter.
If I may pass briefly to one other point, hon. Members have had something to say in this Debate on what to do with Germany after the war. I am one of those who believe that there are in Germany a certain number of decent civilised people who are ashamed of the terrible disgrace which has fallen on their country. How many there are it is impossible for us to say. There were quite a number after the last war; weak, it is true, but they were there. What is happening now we do not know; it all depends on how far the Gestapo has been rooting them out. I am not going to suggest that they are without blame, but there are degrees of blameworthiness, and theirs are sins of omission rather than commission. I do not believe that we can treat Germany like any other country. The historical and traditional fact is that Germany has never been a democracy in our Parliamentary sense of the word. There are old historical factors which come in, and, in my opinion, the Thirty Years' War had a colossal effect on the building up of modern Germany and had its effect in somewhat bestialising public morals. The fact remains that there are German Liberals, who were strong in 1848, but who failed in the revolution to upset Bismarck and the King of Prussia, and most of them fled abroad. They did admirable work assisting Abraham Lincoln in the civil war, but they were lost to Germany, and should have gone back to help their own country. That is what I am afraid of now; they should be going back, not staying in America.
The trouble has really been that the civilised and decent Germans have never had, on their side, sufficient guts to fight against reaction. In other words, all the toughs and thugs have been on the other side. I have had occasion to note that because I was in Germany in the days of the so-called Weimar Republic, and I saw as many cruelties committed by Germans on Germans as have since been committed by Germans on non-Germans. They are quite capable of committing the most terrible atrocities among themselves. The real trouble is that these decent Germans will not be able to defend themselves. They did not defend themselves in the Weimar Republic. Units of the old Imperial Army went about forming themselves into murder gangs. They murdered first one prominent republican and then another and not one of the murderers was ever brought to justice. If we, after the war is over, act like we did after the last war and leave the Germans alone to arrange their own affairs entirely themselves, exactly the same sort of thing Will happen again. Of that I am absolutely convinced, because I saw it then, and it is even worse now because the Liberal elements are weaker.
The hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Major Thorneycroft) referred to the fact that some hon. Members on these Benches believed in fighting this war in order to spread the democratic system about Europe. I do not know if there are such Members but certainly I do not believe in that. But I do believe that we must intervene to insist upon certain standards of morality and decency and civilised conditions of the kind to which the Prime Minister referred in his very fine speech to the Italian people the other day. These are the bases not of democracy but of human rights based upon Roman law and Christian morality which were built up throughout the centuries and went right down through the Middle Ages and which we thought were pretty secure but which this war and the development of Fascism have shown is not so.
I hope that I may carry with me the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford when I say that if we do not go about crusading for our particular form of political democracy, which is naturally of slow growth and can only come by gradual development, we can, at least, insist in Germany that these standards of human law and morality are observed. The only way we can do this is by direct intervention. I justify direct intervention of that kind in the affairs of Germany, and that is what I mean when I say that the military occupation of Germany is necessary in some form or another. Unless we stand beside those decent Germans who, after all, alone can re-educate Germany—we cannot do it ourselves—we have to find some Germans to try to teach these ideas and we must protect them from murder and assassination, which will inevitably happen as it happened the last time unless we try to protect them. The Prime Minister, in his speech, forecast a drive against guerrilla bands when the war against the German State is over. I think he is right, but it must be regarded as part of a policy of ridding German public life of that political gangsterdom which made Hitler possible. The internal state of Germany is an international problem and of deep concern to all the nations of the world. It will require a concentrated effort of firmness and patience, and I believe it will ultimately be successful.
The speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) displayed not only that moderation counselled by the Prime Minister, but was in conformity with the general trend of this Debate. I have seldom listened to any Debate in this House in which such a spirit of modera- tion and reasonableness was present. We have, I think and hope, done something at this vital moment to relate what we call the sense of the House to what is really the sense of the people of this country. I trust that the general tone and feeling of the Debate expressed by approbation or otherwise on every bench, will be in some way conveyed to countries abroad, so that they will understand that this moderation and resolution are common to every party in this House at this stage of the war. I should say that it is absolutely certain now that 98 per cent. of the Members of this House have full confidence in the Government's prosecution of the war, and desire in every way to assist the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary and not to impede him in the gigantic task which is before him.
In reading the Prime Minister's speech over again to-day I found there was much with which I agreed, and a few things which I did not understand. I was glad to note that the House applauded his reference to Bulgaria. It is very important that we should be alert to the fact that the Bulgarians, in their simple way, are masters of propaganda, and that after every unsuccessful war—and they are gaining experience—they throw away the bandolier of the comitadji and appear arrayed in peasant garb saying: "It was not us; it was that wicked Boris led us astray." We must not allow that to happen this time. This House must insist that Bulgaria is not rewarded by the acquisition of lands which formerly belonged to Yugoslavia or Greece or by any extension of territory either in Macedonia or in Thrace.
I agree with the Prime Minister in his reference to Italy, but I hope we shall realise and remember that when Italy entered the war it was not Mussolini's war alone: the Italian people, while it seemed to be successful, were entirely on his side. We must not forget, however fond we may feel of the Italians, however sorry we may be for them, and however rightly anxious we are to feed them, liberate them, restore them and to give them every possible prospect of prosperity and repose—we must not forget that Italy is something much more than a geographical expression: Italy is a possibly discontented country, occupying an absolutely vital geographical area. We must therefore be very firm, while being as kind to Italy as we may all wish to be, in seeing that she does not again become a menace to the peace of Europe.
The whole House will welcome with pleasure and delight the moving and deeply human reference which the Prime Minister made to France. He, of all men, has the right to proclaim himself a constant and hereditary friend of France. I only hope, if the Foreign Office will allow him, that he will proceed on a vist to Paris, because there is no man in Europe, or in the whole world, who would receive so spontaneous and heartfelt a welcome from the French people.
I hope indeed that my right hon. Friend will allow himself to go to Paris, because there is certainly no man in Europe, or indeed in the whole world, who has so well justified in the eyes of the French people the right to pass under their Arch of Triumph.
There was, however, one passage in the Prime Minister's speech on France which I did not understand. He implied that we would recognise the Provisional Government of France once a "Legislative" Assembly had been created. I think it is possible—perhaps my right hon. Friend will confirm this when he answers—that the Prime Minister used the word "Legislative" owing to a slip of the tongue or a slip of the pen or a slip of the typewriter because, as a matter of fact, there is no Legislative Assembly and there will be for some time no Legislative Assembly in France. What is provided under the ordinance of 21st April is that the present Consultative Assembly shall, on the liberation of France, go to Paris, extend itself by the inclusion of responsible people drawn from the Résistance and the old parties, and then become not the Legislative but the Representative Assembly. The representatives will then have their mandates confirmed by the electorate of the Departments which have been liberated. The Assembly, however, will only become constituent, and therefore Legislative, when the prisoners and the workpeople have returned to France and general elections can be held. I think even the most optimistic among us believe that that will not occur for at least 18 months from now, and if the Prime Minister's statement is left without correction, it means that we are not going to recognise the French Government for 18 months, and I am sure that is not what he meant.
I do not myself attach the slightest importance to this recognition and I think all the Governments are being unduly pernickety about it. We were not like that in 1870 when we recognised a far more provisional Government, a far less representative Government, and never withdrew our Ambassador at all. I do not know why they are making all this fuss, and anyhow I do not think it is very important. What I feel is vitally important is that we should not begin to decide affairs affecting the security of France and of the French Empire without France being a partner to those discussions.
May I ask one question? While it is not, from our view, of much importance, is it not a fact that the French Government attach perhaps disproportionate importance to this?
My hon. Friend is right to the extent that they are beginning to attach importance to it because its absence is now being used by those who are fomenting disorder; but they did not before—vitally interested before—not vitally. In any case, it is an absolute essential of our policy—a policy which has now endured for 40 years—it is a necessity, not an emotional necessity, but a geographical one. I would like to say it is a physical necessity that we should maintain a constant contact and a very intricate and articulate common policy with France over a constant period of years. This is absolutely essential. I know that the United States and Russia have very friendly feelings towards France; but France is not their neighbour, she is ours; and I do hope that the immense feelings of respect and prestige which we have gained in France through our policy in this war, will be maintained, by insisting with our big Allies that France must, as soon as is feasible, be rendered an equal and a potent partner in the discussions on the future of Europe which are about to take place.
I admire the discretion which has been manifested by the House in discussing this terrible Russo-Polish dispute. I think that among many admirable speeches which have touched upon the subject, the speech made last night by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Quintin Hogg) is among the ten best speeches that I have heard in this Parliament—certainly the ten best Back Bench speeches—and I think he stated great truths.
I hope that two things emerge from this Debate as the expression of the general feeling of this House which, as I said, is the general feeling of the ordinary sensible man in this country, which again means the vast majority of this country because they are ordinary sensible people. This, I think, is perfectly clear. We want to say to the Poles, "Now, do not be insane. You cannot possibly entertain the insane folly of believing that you can ever exist except with friendly relations with Russia. Why be provocative? Why worry about frontiers which you know are quite untenable unless Russia is prepared to uphold them, and why do you not try by every means in your power to place your relations with Russia upon that extremely sensible, permanently realistic basis which the Czechs—I admit in circumstances of far greater ease—established with Moscow? "That is a real model of how a border State is to place itself in a relation of dignity and virtue in regard to its powerful neighbour.
What would I say to the Russians? I admit that the Russians are terribly susceptible and one has to be careful what one says. The merest sigh of perplexity which goes up from here echoes in their ears as a hurricane of abuse. However, I do think we can say, and I think it is important for them to realise, that the perplexity which is felt in this country over this Russo-Polish dispute is not confined to one class or party. It is not a thing which is felt by the enemies of Russia—if there be any such—it is felt profoundly by their deepest friends; we hate the idea that these people, who have behaved with such absolute magnificence in war, and who have, as regards Finland and Rumania, acted with superb generosity, should in this Polish matter, appear to be acting ungenerously. It is a perplexity to us, it is a matter of distress. I should like the Russians to feel that this Debate is not a criticism of their actions but a very definite appeal to them, not merely from the Friends of Poland—or whatever they choose to call themselves—but from the great masses of our people who feel that their admiration and affection for Russia is in some way being chilled. I believe that the tone of this Debate should convey to Russia an appeal from every Bench in this House that Russia Should act with that grandeur in this matter which she has shown in the field and elsewhere.
Finally, I want to say a few words about Germany. I do not wish to alarm the House. I am not going to embark on any suggestions as to what policy we should adopt to that very unknown entity which I have heard hop. Members call "post-war Germany." I do not think there is any man in Europe or Asia who knows what post-war Germany will be. When we have cut the rind of that gigantic melon which is the Third Reich, when we have split the rind of that vast vegetable, we shall not find inside it anything but liquid pus. It will take many years of occupation and administration before the solids coagulate, and for any man to say "We will do this with post-war Germany" when he has no conception of what post-war Germany will be, is really to venture on speculations which bear no relation to any reasonable facts.
I think, none the less, that there are certain definite principles of policy which can be followed and which, if properly put, can be accepted by the majority of people in this country. I regret much that the controversy on this subject has split between Vansittartism and something else, between the good Germans and the bad Germans. It is an unfortunate thing. Of course there are lots of good Germans. Of course there are lots of bad Germans; but that is not the point. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said we made a great mistake in regarding Germany many as uniquely different from other countries. But we made a grave mistake in not so regarding her, because there is one essential and unique difference, which I think I can put in the form of a logical proposition. It is this: That there is, and always will be, in Germany, a small minority of men who are not only desirous of another war, but who are always preparing for another war. Secondly, such is the nature of the German people that if that small minority can con- vince the public that they are likely to win this other war that whole public will swing over in a night, however pacifist they might have been the night before.
What is the corollary of that? It is that our main, essential aim is to prevent a situation arising in which the minority who want another German war will be able to convince the majority who do not want an unsuccessful war that there is any chance of winning it. That is where we come to the words "unconditional surrender." With the policy of that phrase I am in agreement; I think it is right. We will not have peace unless we absolutely convince the German people that the German armies have been outfought and out-generalled on the field. But the words of that phrase are the most lamentable ever invented by the mind of man. I believe that to experts in United States history those words do have some strange historical connotation, but to people in England, Scotland, Wales, or even in Europe, they mean nothing at all. If they had said "absolute military victory," "la victoire inteégrale," then I would back them every time. The Germans would understand such a phrase. The dreadful thing about this phrase is that it suggests that we are seeking to get political ends by military means, whereas if we had said "complete military victory" it would have shown that we were trying to get military ends by military means, and the effect on opinion in Germany would have been much less confusing.
Surely my hon. Friend realises that nearly everybody in the world understands the meaning of "unconditional surrender." It is surrender at the discretion of the victors, and does not necessarily mean that the victors will use their victory in an abominable or unjust fashion. The words mean exactly what they say.
I know my hon. Friend feels that very clearly, and also feels that it is a fact which is apparent to every Member of this House. It is; but it is not apparent when you see it distorted through the lenses of Dr. Goebbels, and in choosing those two unfortunate American words we have given Goebbels an advantage which he otherwise might not have had. In conclusion, I feel that if we first concentrate on convincing the Germans that they have lost this war in the field, then thereafter, gradually—because peace this time is not going to be an event, but a process—as we occupy Germany and begin to find where the good Germans are, and as they begin to recover from the horrors of the concentration camps—then we shall be able to convince the great mass of the German public that in the new world organisation they will not be deprived of any opportunity of happiness or prosperity except the opportunity of making a third German war.
We are nearing the end of this very important Debate. As I see it its importance is not due solely, or even mainly, to the comprehensive speech made by the Prime Minister in opening it yesterday, nor to the valuable contributions which have been made by right hon. and hon. Members on all sides of the House. Its importance lies in the fact that it marks the beginning of an entirely new chapter in this titanic struggle. The war in Europe is not over—far from it. It may well be that there are immense battles still to be won and that there are great sacrifices still to be made in the field and in the workshops and in the homes of the people of this country. The House of Commons, which has sustained His Majesty's Government in prosecuting the war, must, and will, continue to sustain it until the end. But to-day the pattern of the military struggle is now largely determined, and the House is ready to leave to the military, naval and aerial personnel on the spot the carrying of that prosecution of the war to victory. The main attention of this House henceforth will be devoted to the nature of the peace, and it is to that subject, on which Members of all sides have spoken, that I propose to devote my remarks today.
But before I come to those very large questions I cannot pass over in silence the events on the field of battle in the last few days. I want to join with the Prime Minister in the tribute that he paid to the very gallant men who formed the Airborne Force in Holland. In common, I suppose, with most Members of this House I listened to the descriptive account given by the B.B.C. on Wednesday night. I found it most moving. I do not know the feelings that it aroused in others but, speaking for myself, it gave me a feeling of very deep humility. I said to myself, "Who am I that I should go on living, breathing the bright air, enjoying the pleasures of life, when these men have laid down their young lives at the very outset of their careers, laid them down so generously in order that the flame of freedom should not be quenched and that the pestilential flood of Nazism should be driven back from the shores of civilisation? "The names of most of those men will not be known. Their individual deeds of heroism will be largely forgotten. But what they have done; and what they have been, will be woven into the fabric of civilisation and their actions will form part of the undying heritage, of the human race.
The Prime Minister devoted some of his remarks to the possible date of the end of the war and the manner of its ending. In common, no doubt, with most Members, I have often thought about those two things and I have envisaged, as no doubt others have, that there were two possible and quite distinct ways in which the end might come. One is the collapse of the Hitler regime from within and the other the complete defeat of German arms by the Forces of the Allies. The first, the collapse of Hitlerism from within, might have happened at any time. I imagine that on 20th July in particular it might have happened, owing to the success of the military revolt against Hitler. Possibly it may still happen. Had it happened this year or, still more, if it had happened earlier, it would have had very great advantages. It would have materially shortened the war, it would have reduced the great sacrifices which have been made by the Allies in all the countries, it would have lessened the agonies of the overrun peoples and, beyond all that, it would have done a great deal to shatter the legend of Hitler as the great hero of Germany. I have always regarded it as the best thing that could happen if Hitler were destroyed by the Germans themselves and therefore did not become in future days the wonderful martyr of his enemies outside Germany and a hero on whom the Germans would look back with veneration and respect. The advantages, therefore, of a collapse in Germany have always seemed to me overwhelming, but so far it has not happened. I have a great deal of sympathy with what the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Nicolson) said with regard to the unfortunate wording of the particular phrase used in reference to the end of the war.
I should imagine that our psychological war against Germany should be directed towards ending the war at the earliest possible opportunity by the collapse of the Hitler regime so long as we said nothing which would detract in any way from the objectives which we all have in winning it. I do not think there is any real substantial difference in any part of the House on this question. I think probably, apart from a few extremists to the Right and a few to the Left, we are all agreed about the main objectives. First we have no intention whatever of making any peace with Hitler and his associates, because we all realise that the whole Hitler regime has to be extirpated right down to its bottom roots. In the second place we have no desire to make terms with the German military high command, which would give them a basis from which to start making a third aggressive war. But, if we could get the German people to revolt against Hitler and destroy him and to realise the folly of being committed to the German militarists, I think we should have achieved the purpose for which we set out.
As far as it goes, I think the proclamation put out by General Eisenhower to the German people, a proclamation which, I assume, is not only supported but inspired by this and the other Allied Governments, is a step in the right direction. But sooner or later, and in my view the sooner the better, I think a statement should be made, not merely on the level of the B.B.C. but on the Governmental level, which would set out quite clearly and without qualification the kind of conditions which the Germans must and will expect when their surrender in one shape or another has been consummated. The sooner that is done the greater the possibility—I will not put it higher than that—that the Hitler régime may collapse from within.
I come now to the other possible ending—the total rout of the German armies in the field. A few weeks ago when there was, following upon the victory in Normandy, a rout throughout Brittany and France as a whole, and throughout Belgium, there seemed a possibility that the Germans would not be able to rally and to withstand the onrush of the Allied Armies. That, of course, has been belied by events. The Germans have rallied. Without pretending to know anything about the prospects of the military campaign, it would appear to me in my position of complete ignorance that the war may be protracted for quite a considerable time, and therefore the situation which now confronts us is this. We have the major part of Europe liberated but Germany has still to be reduced to submission. In the meantime we are faced with two problems: What is to be the future of Europe, and what are the conditions to be ultimately imposed on a conquered Germany? I realise, of course, that it does not rest solely with this country or this Government to decide that issue, but at the moment when we are at the pinnacle of our prestige and when our voice will be one of very great importance in determining those two large issues it is the right and duty of this House to express itself so as to mould the policy and attitude of our Government. It is to this question that I propose to address the few minutes that remain to me in this Debate.
What should it be our business to try to promote in Europe? We have at this moment a very great prestige. Our word will go a very long way if we are prepared to give a lead, and I think it will particularly be supported by the countries in Western Europe bordering on the Atlantic and by the countries in Southern Europe bordering at least on the Western Mediterranean. The first objective of our lead should be to call attention to the essential unity of the Continent of Europe. I do not believe that there can be any real, lasting prosperity, either in this country or in any part of Europe, unless there is prosperity throughout the whole. Any degradation and misery in any one country in Europe is bound to have its sinister influence upon all other countries. I believe that the time has come when it is not merely a spiritual truth but a material fact that no country can live to itself alone or exist or prosper to itself alone.
The second principle which we should support is that there must be a derogation of sovereignty. We saw before this war how the smaller countries in Europe went down one after another like ninepins at the end of a skittle alley. Unless there is to be a common pooling arrangement by which they are prepared to stand together, unless they are prepared to bind themselves to act in common against aggression in the future, I do not believe the old system in Europe can hold. One hon. Member spoke yesterday about "sloppy internationalism," and I have no objection to that phrase being used. I do not know that the hon. Member and I would agree precisely as to what was meant by it, but I certainly have no use for sloppy internationalism. I have a firm belief in the recognition of realities. This seems to me to be the most fundamental reality that has emerged from this war—that no country, however great, however remote from the immediate scene of hostilities, can afford to be isolationist and to stand alone. If that is true of the great Republic across the Atlantic, with its vast resources and its comparative distance and separation by the ocean, and of the great Soviet Union which stretches from the White and Black Seas right across to the outer confines of Asia, both with almost all the resources necessary to civilisation within their own land areas, surely it is much more true of this country and of this Empire which has its hostages in all of the Seven Seas. It would be out of place to go into any details of what I think should have been done and should not have been done at Dumbarton Oaks, or the precise form of world organisation which will arise at the end of the war. I have no intention of inflicting anything of that kind on the House. But it does seem to me to be inevitable—and the nations must recognise it—that there will have to be some derogation of their sovereignty if they are to survive at all in the kind of world that will come after the war.
The third general principle for Europe, which is to some extent new, or, at any rate, new compared with what has been accepted for the last 50 years, is that we have to realise that the kind of government which exists in each country is not the sole domestic concern of that country itself. It is of paramount importance to all the countries of the world, and particularly to this country, where free institutions prevail, that there should be, as far as possible in all countries, libertarian constitutions. I support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) in that respect earlier in the Debate. If I am asked what I mean precisely by "libertarian constitution" I can put it in words which I think will commend themselves to all sections of the House. The meaning was admirably expressed by the Prime Minister in what he said in Italy a few weeks ago. He put the case very clearly and succinctly. I wish that he had always put it in that way in times gone by, but I do not want to awake past disagreements with him. I think that his statement in Italy carried conviction to all free-minded people in this country. It applies not merely to Italy, but to other countries throughout the Continent of Europe. I do not suggest that whenever there is a country that has not what we consider is the right constitution, we have to gird on our sword and go Don Quixote-like to stamp it out. What I suggest is that our whole influence should be thrown in that direction. That has not been so in times gone by, but it ought to be so in future, and our influence, with the great prestige we have at the close of this war, will carry a very long way. I hope that whatever Government may be in power—and it is not a matter of the precise complexion of the Government, but of the constitution and kind of Government—its influence will be thrown in that direction.
There is one thing more with regard to the world as a whole which I have not yet covered. It is an economic question—the satisfaction not merely of the prosperity of the country as a State, but the prosperity and reasonable standards of life of all the people in it. I do not believe we can tolerate in the future, as we have been prepared to do in the past vast pools of stagnant misery within any one country in Europe. We have seen only this week proposals put forward by the Government in two White Papers, and only a few weeks ago in a paper relating to unemployment, in which it is clear that all sections of this community are determined that in this matter there shall be no return to the pre-war world. After this war we are not going to tolerate wide divergencies of prosperity inside our own country. I do not suggest that we should make war in order to bring prosperity to other countries; that is too ridiculous to imagine; but I do suggest that we have to use such means as are in our power to prevent this wide divergence in days to come. U.N.R.R.A. is the first attempt in that direction, and I suggest that now, when Europe outside Germany is being recovered, is the time when we have to lay down these principles. While I am talking about starting now, I should like to say a word about a point mentioned by the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) yesterday afternoon. I recognise that the conduct of the war comes first, but as Europe becomes liberated, and as far as normal life is already beginning in the liberated countries, it ought to be possible for us to have that exchange of ideas and breath of freedom of thought to which he referred and which I think is essential to the revivification of the civilised life of Europe.
In the last few minutes at my disposal I want to express a few ideas about the conditions to be applied to Germany. Like the hon. Member who last spoke, I have no use for the sentimental approach to the problem exhibited, either by those who want a very hard or by those who want a very easy peace. I hope that in this House the great majority of us are sufficiently realist to enable us to face facts. It is on the facts, and not on these marvellous theories, that we have to solve the problems of real life. The essential fact that none of us can get away from is that there is in the centre of Europe that large country called Germany, and we can neither eradicate Germany from the map nor exterminate the whole of the German people. Our task consists of two parts. The first is to prevent Germany from fomenting another war, and the second is to prevent Germany from becoming a plague spot of destitution and unemployment which would be bound to infect all the other countries of Europe, and ultimately the people of this country. These two rocks are the Scylla and Charybdis between which we have to steer a very difficult passage. It will be for the Government and for the Foreign Secretary to do their best to steer between them.
In spite of the remarks of the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Nicolson) I shall venture to go in where he was unwilling to tread and mention some of the conditions which seem to me will have to be applied to Germany. I will try to say just a few general words. The first great problem is one of reparations. On principle, I think it is thoroughly sound that we should impose on Germany and the Germans the duty of making restitution, as far as it is possible and workable to do so; but I am old enough to remember the last war and the consequences of the reparations that followed, which did incomparable harm not only to Germany but to us, and soured and poisoned the channels of commercial intercourse of the whole of Europe. I trust that we shall not make a similar mistake again. It seems to me that we can sum this matter up as nearly as possible by saying that the reparations should be such as can be worked off during the transition period. If they are such as to run on indefinitely we shall repeat the mischief, the trouble and the confusion which arose out of what was done last time.
The second question is the punishment of war criminals. There is not the slightest doubt that the war criminals include not only the direct participators in the atrocities but those at the head of German affairs who inspired and insisted upon them. It is quite clear that the sense of justice in mankind will not be satisfied unless these people are apprehended and punished, and I for one am certainly not against that proceeding. There are still two things about it that I want to say. The first is that the punishments must accord with and be carried out in a judicial spirit. The second is that they must be such as will commend themselves not merely to us in our present frame of mind but to posterity. If those two conditions be not fulfilled, I foresee very great trouble. In connection with this question of apprehending the war criminals of the Hitler régime, I noticed a few days ago a statement which I give now for what it is worth. It was that there are already beginning to seep out into Spain a certain number of highly-placed German Nazi officials. I feel sure that the Foreign Secretary is watching that matter. Although I appreciate the difficulties, I trust that he can assure us that he is doing what he can to prevent the frustration of Allied intentions in this way.
With regard to frontiers, it seems to me that here again is a case where sentiment has to give way to real objectives. The essential objective in fixing the frontiers of Germany and throughout Europe is to secure the greatest stability in Europe in the days that are to come. Any other consideration that enters in may mean that if our children who follow us have to suffer in any war that arises because of a frontier fixed for any other reason than a desire to secure stability, they will level a very serious charge against us. These frontiers must not only be such that we can support them to-day but such as we and all the other people of Europe will be prepared to support in the days that are to come, and, if necessary, to enforce by arms. If that is not so, we shall see a repetition of the situation that had developed previous to the present war.
Military occupation will have to be imposed and during it we shall insist upon the complete destruction of every vestige of the Nazi system and the liquidation of the whole Nazi machinery of government. That has to be continued until that system is destroyed and Germany can be left to build up a more satisfactory government in its place. What many people seem to forget is that the hardest problem will not be the military occupation of Germany but the civil administration. Generally, when a country is conquered, the civil administration falls naturally into line. The conquerors have only to insist that the civil administration obeys certain broad rules and then it can be left to the people themselves to carry them out.
That will not be so in the case of Germany, because the whole system of civil administration in Germany, from the judiciary at the top and the teachers in the schools down to the typists and the messengers, is permeated with the abominable Nazi philosophy. It will not be possible to leave any person in any position to carry out any function of civil government in Germany who is permeated by this Nazi philosophy. That will create a terrific problem, because those people do not run into tens of thousands but into hundreds of thousands, and probably over a million. There are probably 500,000 teachers alone in Germany.
It is quite unthinkable that you can replace all these Nazi officials or Nazi permeated officials by foreign nationals. You cannot do it. You cannot appoint 500,000 teachers to run German schools. Therefore you have to get—and this is the essential reality as against sentimental talk about there being or not being good or bad Germans—German officials to run the administration. That means two things. You have to find a number of well intentioned ordinary Germans who can be trusted to do their work properly. Over and above that you have to find Germans who really want your ideas carried out, who will help you to pick and choose the right Germans to fill these subordinate positions. Whether you like it or not, unless you succeed in finding the right Germans who will give you that assistance, your whole administration of Germany will fail, either because you will simply get chaos or, because, through putting in the wrong people, you get a Germany that is a danger to European civilisation.
I am aware I have only touched on the fringe of these problems, but the time is coming, it seems to me it has already arrived, when the people of this country will have to think in these realistic terms, when these sloppy sentimental ideas on one side or the other have to give place to a factual working out of real and immediate problems. These problems are already upon us, because we have already entered Germany, and the civil administration of Germany will very soon have actually to begin. I have ventured to lay these points before the House in the presence of the Foreign Secretary, because I feel that it is only by facing facts, being realistic, and dealing with situations that are of actual immediate occurrence that we shall assist the Government in solving the vast and difficult problems that are before us in the immediate future.
The right hon. Gentleman has contributed, as he always does, a very thoughtful and a very constructive speech to what has proved to be a very remarkable two days' Debate. I think the House would wish me, before I try to deal with the manifold issues which have been dealt with as the Debate proceeded, first to welcome back, in my opening words, our colleagues who have returned to us from their visit to Australia. Every hon. Member in this House who heard the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Taunton (Lieut.-Colonel Wickham) yesterday must have been deeply moved by his account of the warm-hearted greetings extended to them by our Australian and New Zealand friends. The Australian and New Zealand Parliaments will know that these feelings are warmly reciprocated here. Sometimes, I am told, the journeys of Members of Parliament and even, incredible as it may seem, the journeys of Ministers, come in for some criticism, but I am sure that no journeys are of better value than those that carry hon. Members of this House to visit their colleagues in the Parliaments of the great Dominions, or those that bring our Parliamentary colleagues overseas on most welcome visits to us. We in this country take some pride in our Parliamentary institutions. I judge that this two days' Debate has justified to the hilt our methods of conducting affairs, and I find myself in most emphatic agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. Nicolson) when he says he hopes our methods and our words will find an echo in other parts of the world.
Before I pass to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, I would like to say this about the Foreign Office. I think everyone who has listened to the Debate will have been conscious that the international situation is not without its problems. Indeed, I find that as the Allied Armies sweep forward, so these problems have a habit of increasing and multiplying. I would be less than just if I did not take this opportunity to pay tribute to the relatively small staff—I wonder if the House knows quite how small—only 82 in number in all the departments of the Foreign Office, of the regular Foreign Service—whose responsibility it is to advise the Government on these manifold and difficult problems, and guide us in paths which even our critics will admit are not exclusively smooth and easy.
My right hon. Friend yesterday reviewed, as only he can review, in his own masterly fashion, the course of the war since we last met, and he spoke also of the international situation. In these two days hon. Members in all parts of the House have spoken and commented with candour and discretion on the state of our national and international affairs. Indeed, I was impressed, I might almost say startled, by the extent of the discretion everywhere shown, and which even spread to Ebbw Vale. I heard the hon. Gentleman interrupted and asked whether in his complaints he included Allied Governments, or was only dealing with His Majesty's Government. He replied most properly, "I deal only with my own Government." I hope the hon. Member will never forget that. The occasion may come a little later on when we shall have cause to remind him of that most proper remark. Almost every Member who has spoken has referred to the masterly unfolding of Allied strategy in the two years which have elapsed—almost exactly two years—since we in this House were assembled in the dark days before the turn of our fortunes at Alamein. The transformation has indeed few parallels in history. The wheel has come full circle. The enemy, from the supreme oppressor, has become the battered victim of ever heavier blows. It will not be for us but for historians of the future, to describe this momentous change in our fortunes.
I think the House will feel it is right that I, speaking on behalf of his colleagues in this Debate, should pay tribute to the man above all others in this and every land whose genius and determination have carried us through to this point in our fortunes. In every phase and every hour, it is no exaggeration to say, it has been our Prime Minister who has directed our strategy and inspired our arms, and I have liked more than anything else in this Debate that even those who have been his critics in the past, have had the generosity to join in the fair estimate of his work.
There has been something else—a growing and a justified sense of pride in the achievements of our own Armed Forces, and the desire that that estimate, which we know to be a fair estimate, should be understood and fully valued by all our Allies. We felt that as we read what our Airborne Division has achieved. Nothing in all that gallant and tragic story has given us more satisfaction, perhaps, than the knowledge that our Allies in the United States and Russia have understood to the full the meaning of that sacrifice and its value. I believe that in their determination to fight on against odds, however extreme, they have given expression to what is the very best in all our Fighting Services. They have, we like to think, epitomised the spirit of Britain at war. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) referred, and I think rightly, to the 14th Army. He will have noticed, of course, as the House has done, the very full report which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave of that Army, so that its gallant part, in circumstances of greater discomfort and difficulty than those of any other Army, should be fully understood by the world. I can assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that the Government understand full well the special problems of that Army. Very recently its Commander-inChief—I think I can say, its beloved Commander-in-Chief—Lord Louis Mountbatten, was back here for consultations with the Government, not only over our future strategical plans for that area, but to consider also just those problems to which the hon. Gentleman referred earlier in the Debate.
We should err if we read into this marked improvement in our fortunes since last the House met a signal that the main battle is won. It is much too early to speak in these terms. No one can tell how long the struggle may yet endure in the West and in the East, and so our overriding need remains for the maintenance of Allied unity, for the delivery of Allied blows in accordance with plans laid down at Teheran and carried through since. That need is as great to-day as it has ever been since Hitler's challenge was taken up five years ago. If anything has disturbed me a little in this Debate it has been the assumption in one or two speeches that the victory is almost won. No one is justified in framing his policy on such an assumption until the two enemies with whom we are still engaged in the death-grapple have laid low their arms. So, the first duty of all of us is to sustain that Allied unity without which victory cannot be won. In Europe at the present time the German propaganda machine has not much material with which to work, apart from the issue, which I am coming to in a moment, of the terms of peace for their own people. There is only one hope which could really give them comfort; that is, if they felt that some wedge could be driven into Allied unity. Only then could this growing sense of the inevitability of defeat, of which indeed almost every German prisoner speaks, be broken, and the Germans hope again. That hope, I am convinced, will be disappointed; and, indeed, its impossibility is what, as I see it, this House wants to send out as a message to the world to-day.
It is in that context that I want to deal with references which have been made from time to time in this Debate to the nature of the peace to be imposed on Germany. There have been advocates
of a hard peace and of a soft peace. I confess that I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester that I am not greatly impressed by those terms "hard peace" or "soft peace." I think it is a pity that a controversy in that form should ever have arisen in this country at all. There can be only one peace which will be acceptable to the people of this country. That is a peace which takes every precaution in our power to see to it that neither Germany nor Japan has any avoidable opportunity of starting this business again. That is not, of course, the end of it. The hon. Gentleman said a little earlier on that we would be wrong if, as in fact he suggested, our policy was only the disarmament of Germany. Certainly it is not. If that were our sole policy I agree we should be at fault; but it is not so. Let me explain what I mean. We have heard some criticism of this phrase "unconditional surrender." I would draw the attention of the House to the definition of that phrase which the Prime Minister gave a little time back. I want myself to explain what we mean by it. My right hon. Friend said, in a Debate in this House:
It means that the Allies will not be bound to them at the moment of surrender by any pact or any obligation. … Unconditional surrender means that the victors have a free hand. … We are not to be bound to the Germans as a result of a bargain struck."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1944: Vol. 397, c. 699.]
That is my right hon. Friend's quotation. I would only add to it this sentence. What we mean by "unconditional surrender" is this. We are not prepared to make a negotiated peace with Germany. The reasons for that go deeper. They are based on the experience of history and on the interpretation which, without doubt, the Germans placed on the Fourteen Points on the occasion of the last war. On that basis I hope I shall carry the body of the House with me. Let me go a little further. Many hon. Members, I know, have studied the relevant documents which have been issued about German activities immediately after the last war. They show—I do not think anybody can doubt it—a devastating indictment of the complete absence of German sincerity from the very beginning in fulfilling any of the disarmament stipulations of the Treaty of Versailles. I believe it to be a fact that
over the whole range of the disarmament stipulations of that Treaty the German military authorities practised ingenious, universal, and, let us admit it, to a certain extent successful evasion and obstruction at all possible points. Here I am not dealing with, what the hon. Gentleman spoke of, the later stages of German disarmament, but I am dealing with the immediate problems which will confront us at the time of the German surrender. I believe that this policy did receive the general support of all the early Governments of the Weimar Republic.
Let the House see where this takes us. It takes us to this point: that we cannot take those risks again. What do we propose? There are many in Germany, no doubt, who see the writing on the wall. They understand that if Allied unity is maintained and Allied military operations are carried through—and no doubt they will be—with the same vigour and success as in the last months, final defeat is certain. What is their reaction? The House has been told by my Noble Friend in another place of the information which we have had from a number of channels that the German General Staff, recognising the inevitability of defeat in this war, are already thinking in terms of the next.
That, as has been pointed out, is nothing new, but that is not the whole of it. Himmler, the chief and begetter of the Gestapo, is now making preparations for the organisation of continued resistance during the occupation of Germany by the Allies, and, for this purpose, fanatical young Nazis are being trained. I know the House is alive to the difference between the new situation and that of 1918. We have had all these years of Nazi training of a certain section of the population, and every report we get from France and from areas where the Germans have been in occupation shows that these young Nazis are much the worst, especially those who have not yet reached military age. That is the effect of these doctrines upon these people. The Germans know that, whatever they or Himmler can organise now in the way of this kind of resistance can only be temporary; but they know, too, that their main work, if they are to pursue their purpose, consists in laying the foundation of a secret organisation intended to operate many years ahead. From our information, these foundations are being laid now. That is what we believe is going on in Germany now—that Himmler's organisation is laying the foundation for this future secret organisation which is to revive the spirit and meaning of Nazidom in the German people.[Interruption.] Well, our reports are pretty good, and I would not say this to the House unless I were absolutely convinced.
The point I wish to make is this. When the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern)—I am sorry he is not here, but I must answer a remark he made—said there was no need for the occupation of Germany, and that the German people will do it themselves, I can only answer, relating it to our own experience, that he is living in cloud-cuckoo land. It would be utterly unjustifiable, whether we believe in good or bad Germans, if, in the preparations we are now making with our Allies, and which are virtually complete, for the time when the surrender comes, for the occupation of Germany, we did not take every precaution in our power to ensure that what we are suffering to-day, we shall not suffer again.
May I say that there is no need to have this romantic notion of the Nazis in order to justify the occupation of Germany after the war in order to prevent rearmament? Where we find a difficulty on this side of the House is in reconciling the necessities of having an army of occupation, with the idea that these supermen in Germany, even at the time that the noose is drawing round their necks, are still thinking of the next war 20 or 30 years hence.
Let me put it in simple English. We accept the necessity of the occupation to prevent the Germans rearming. We do not see that that is necessarily supported by this romantic idea that these Nazis, with the noose drawing round their necks, are already thinking in terms of another war 20 or 30 years hence.
I am very sorry if I have not made myself plain. I think the answer is a fairly simple one. There are those who believe that there are good Germans, and there are those who believe that all Germans are bad. My position is that I am not interested in which argument is right, because I know that there are men in Germany who are working already for a recurrence of these events in a later generation. So I say that the occupation of Germany, and not only the occupation but the taking of every precaution that can be devised to prevent the recurrence of these affairs, becomes the insistent and most important responsibility of each one of the Allied Governments. I think I have made my position clear.
Now I come to the speech of the hon. Member for West Leicester and the remarks he made about Bulgaria. He said he hoped that Bulgaria would not be allowed to retain any part of her ill-gotten gains. I am in entire agreement, and, not only am I in agreement, but His Majesty's Government are in agreement and the Governments of our Allies are also in agreement on that point. It is indeed essential that Bulgaria should withdraw her troops from Greece and Yugoslavia, and no armistice will be signed with her until she does.
My hon. Friend asked me about France, and he said he was not quite clear what the Prime Minister meant yesterday—whether he intended to convey that there could be no recognition of the Provisional Government of France until an election had been held, which, of course, in turn, depends on the return of prisoners from Germany. It certainly was not my right hon. Friend's intention to convey that impression at all. As we understood the decrees issued at Algiers, it is the intention of the French Provisional Government to set up, very shortly, a consultative body, and it was to that process, and not to the election, which we can fully understand cannot take place for perhaps 18 months, that the Prime Minister was referring. I can only add, as further comfort to my hon. Friend, that we, like him, wish to see France an equal and a potent partner in all our affairs. We are already in discussions with our Allies about this problem, which I, personally, agree is a relatively minor one, of recognition or non-recognition of the French Provisional Government.
There has been some discussion about the machinery which exists between our Allied Governments for handling the various work which confronts us and our daily problems. We have of course our diplomatic channels, and the cables are sometimes pretty heavily charged. There is also the work of the European Advisory Commission established here in London as the result of a suggestion we made at the Moscow Conference a year ago. The task of that Commission was to discuss and advise us on the questions which must arise as the result of the cessation of hostilities with Germany, or any of the satellite countries—questions which call for an agreed solution between ourselves, the United States, and the Soviet Union, and with other Powers as they develop. That Commission has already, since it began this year, had nearly 50 meetings and, though its work has not been publicised, I am confident that it has laid a firm foundation for collaboration between the three Powers for the post-hostilities period.
Against this background, I want to deal with some of the more difficult questions raised in the Debate and, more particularly, those of the relations between our Soviet and Polish Allies. I think it will be fair to say, and I have listened to almost all the Debate, that each point of view has been put quite fairly in this House. It is all to the good, in my judgment, as Foreign Secretary, that that should happen, and that foreign lands should know what the people of this country think on these problems. There is no subject that causes the Government, or myself as Foreign Secretary, more concern than this, and there is none, I beg the House to believe, on which we have laboured more persistently to try to make our contribution to a solution. In 1941, we reached a happy moment, to which we have never since been able to get back, when we managed to help to secure a Polish-Soviet Agreement, which was signed here in London. Events cut short the life of that Agreement, but I can assure the House that our efforts have been unremitting to try to build again on the foundations which we laid then.
I have been asked certain questions by my Noble Friend the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) in a very admirably phrased speech. He asked me whether, for instance, at Teheran my right hon. Friend and I had made it clear to our Russian Allies how much importance we attached to a settlement of the differences then outstanding between them and the Polish Government. The answer to my Noble Friend is "Yes." We made it plain at Teheran, as we had made it plain earlier at Moscow, at the conference there, and as we have done many times since. There has been a suggestion by one or two of my hon. Friends that perhaps we had failed in the emphasis of our language. I do not accept that. We have spoken as friends to friends and when speaking thus it is, perhaps, wiser and also more effective to speak firmly in private rather than to hector peremptorily in public. Nobody in this House should suppose—and I ask the House to accept the assurance—no member of any party should suppose, that we have failed to make clear our position or our anxiety.
I am going to make only two observations on the present situation, and in particular about developments at Warsaw. I have been asked to give some account of them and I know the House will understand me when I say I do not propose to do so. It would not be very difficult for me to retail events, but I do not think it would be helpful in the light of the outcome of the representations which have been made. Of course we have considered the Warsaw situation. There have been discussions, arguments, representations between the Allies, but I think, on the whole, I will not give a detailed account of these. I will make only two observations. The first is that we ourselves have done everything in our power by military effort to bring help to the garrison at Warsaw since the first day of the rising and every tribute that the House can pay to the Royal Air Force, Polish, British or South African, is justified. The second observation is that we have done everything in our power by diplomatic initiative to co-ordinate the efforts of our Allies in the same sense. For my part, it is a source of thankfulness that, since last week, help is being brought to Warsaw by ourselves, the Americans and the Soviet Union also. I believe other problems will equally find themselves capable of solution.
There has been some discussion about the Eastern frontier of Poland and on that I would like to make an observation or two. I have, in one or two of the speeches, found an assumption that these matters were a little clearer than in fact they are, and that they may be simplified or solved by reference to this treaty or to that. The truth, as the House knows well, is that there has been no more vexed issue in all history than these Eastern frontiers of Poland, and His Majesty's Government, bound as they are by treaty to both their Allies—Poland and the Soviet Union—will not swerve in playing their part to try to reach a solution, which will result in bringing about that to which we are all pledged—all three of us—the creation of a strong, sovereign, independent Poland which can play its full part in the comity of nations.
I am not sure I quite got that, unless it means that the hon. Member is against the Polish Corridor and wishes Poland to have an outlet down to the sea. I am in entire agreement with him. If I have spoken with caution about these Polish-Soviet relations—and I ask the attention of the House to this—it is not because of the significance of these matters in themselves, but because of their inevitable reaction upon our relations with the Soviet Union. When the world emerges from its turmoil, it will yearn for lasting peace and the plain truth is that there can be no guarantee of any such peace unless we, the United States and the Soviet Union can work together in enduring harmony, and that is to me the overriding importance of this Polish sovereign issue. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) in his remarkable speech last night. So that is the chief object of the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government. Nothing is easier than to emphasise the points of difference. There are too many. A while ago we were all shocked to read of the devastating explosion at Bombay which was said to have taken place because somebody may have dropped a lighted cigarette. Bombay is not in that respect entirely different from some aspects of the international situation from time to time.
Reference has been made—and I must deal with it briefly—to the work of the Dumbarton Oaks Conference. It has been described, I believe, as 90 per cent. successful, and any such results would be a most heartening achievement. But let me say at once, I for one had never expected that a complete solution of these vexatious problems was going to be produced at the first sitting of this kind. If I may be absolutely frank, it is probably just as well it was not reached, because these problems are of so searching a character and the work we must do, and that we have done, must stand the stress and strain of the times. I had much rather the difficulties were faced, than that we should try to improvise and gloss over the difficulties, and, later on, find that we have not done our work properly. This time we must do it on a sound foundation, and it is better to take a little longer in order to do that. I am sure that good work has been done at Dumbarton Oaks—but a good deal of work remains to be done.
Many hon. Members have expressed themselves about post-war organisation and it is all to the good that they should do that. Here I come to a point which has been raised from time to time in this Debate. Hon. Members have expressed the difficulty there inevitably is with Conferences in keeping contact and obtaining information in this House. It is a true point and one which should be made, and any Foreign Secretary or representative of this country who attends these Conferences is infinitely strengthened if he has behind him the general consensus of opinion of the House, and is in a difficulty if he returns and finds that he has not that authority. That happened in a very minor matter only a night or two ago.
There is one other matter to which I wish to refer before I close. In several speeches hon. Members referred to the need for our close collaboration with our neighbours in Western Europe and with the small Powers generally, but particularly with Western Europe. I agree with everything that has been said on that subject, and I think we can be sure that the friendships which have been made by the representatives of these countries while they have been here in the war years will be found to be of great value when they return to their own land. We have had certain informal discussions about our future relations and these will be pursued further in due course. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) stressed that issue and I agree with him. On the other hand, I think we would be wise to use these conversations, and our close friendship with these countries, as a buttress to strengthen the general world structure.
We should, I think, be wrong if we thought that in any such arrangement alone we should find peace or security for ourselves. It is an element in the general international system and, as I think the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale rightly said, it will give us more authority with the other great Powers if we speak for the Commonwealth and for our near neighbours in Western Europe. That seems to me the right conception of the structure that we should try to build, and that is just the task on which we are now, in point of fact, engaged.
I say frankly that we have not pressed this matter beyond a certain point. As the hon. Gentleman will understand, these Governments have all to return to their own countries; they have to seek fresh authority, perhaps reform, perhaps change, their personnel; so deliberately we did not carry the conversations beyond the general point that we, for our part, are ready to enter into close association with them, as they are with us, to guarantee the future peace of Europe and to play our part in dealing with our common problems.
I do not know what the hon. Gentleman means. If he is suggesting that that alone is not enough, that is precisely what I have been saying, but it would be an important element in unifying the nations against any potential future aggression.
Let me, finally, say this. Our problem, our continuing Foreign Office problem, is to play our part in the diplomatic field to bring about the defeat of Germany and Japan. To that task all our strength must be devoted, but let no one think—and this is the warning on which I want to close—that with the defeat of Germany that issue is at an end. The problem of Germany will be a continuing problem. It is the key to the foreign policy that this country must pursue, and I think it is good that hon. Members in this House should argue and present their different points of view as to how the Germany of the future shall be handled. I agree emphatically with the hon. Member for Oxford that any diversion from concentration with our Allies upon this problem within our own generation would invite disaster. The principal danger to Europe—this may not be agreed to by all, but this is my conviction—after the defeat of Germany will be the re-emergence of a militant Germany. You may disagree about how you wish to avoid it, but that is the problem which will be a continuing one for the foreign policy not only of ourselves but of all those who come after us. If that crude, harsh fact be accepted, then I think our foreign policy may have a fair chance of leading our people and the Allied peoples and the peoples of the United Nations to a lasting peace.