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Orders of the Day — War and International Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th September 1944.

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Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale 12:00 am, 29th September 1944

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.