Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [29th November]:
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Gt. Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—[Captain Sidney.]
After this long interlude between the Debate yesterday and its resumption to-day, I think I ought to say to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who has been at the service of the House all the morning, that if he has to go off now to an engagement I shall quite understand. The present Parliament, we are told, is due to expire. The Coalition Government is coming to an end. Already the residuary legatees cast expectant eyes on the estate. It is evident that the parties will dispute the inheritance. That is a pity. It is not only for its services in the conduct of the war that the present Administration will be remembered; it came together for the purpose of destroying an enemy overseas, but it has performed more constructive services. In this King's Speech, following upon the White Papers and the legislation we have already had, we can already see the impressive ground plan of the new Britain. Future generations, it has already been decided, are to have wider opportunities of education. Our towns and cities are to be planned. Now comes the enlargement of national insurance, to cover not only one but all the sections of the population, and to bring relief in the most needful moments between birth and death. There are to be family allowances. Higher levels of nutrition are to be maintained, presumably by a continuance of the present Exchequer contribution. More houses are to be built with the aid of subsidies. All this adds to the edifice, both in height and space, first erected by the Liberals of 1906.
These items alone will add some hundreds of millions of pounds to the Budget. They represent an enhanced sense of social and neighbourly responsibility in the State. That is not all. For the first time in a democratic, as contrasted with a totalitarian, community, the State assumes an obligation to assure a high and stable level of employment. The community can only distribute what it creates. No attention has been directed to the source from which these improvements are to be financed. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge), who is such a welcome addition to this House and who has such a vast experience, when he drew up his insurance scheme postulated that full employment was a pre-requisite of the benefits being forthcoming. He postulated that as a condition. He has since written another Report—this time less officially—in which he has defined what he means by full employment. He stresses that he does not mean mere occupation, the mere provision of work for the sake of providing it. He means work of a productive kind which can raise the standard of living of the community. That is what is meant. Does it not behove us, therefore, to inquire in what respect the foundations of our economic strength are intact? That is not an academic question; it is a matter of fact.
By what process did this small island, on the confines of civilisation, become transformed into the most thickly populated and richly endowed commercial community that the world had ever seen? To what was that attributable? And do the circumstances still prevail? To what is to be ascribed the great influence exercised by this nation at every juncture of modern civilised development? Whence, and how, did it derive its power? In the first place, there is the national character, the fibre of which emerges strengthened from this war, as we can see from that remarkable publication giving the statistics of our war effort. But there are more tangible considerations. There was the good fortune of our geographical position, which conferred upon us immunity from attack, and which enabled us to go peacefully about our avocations when Continental countries were being repeatedly ravaged and drained. There was the station of this island on the main routes of Atlantic trade. There was the configuration of our coast, which has more safe harbours in proportion to its length than any country on the mainland of Europe. These ports acted as a magnet for trade, navigators preferring to come here rather than go to the Continent with their goods. Thus we became the carriers, almost in monopoly, of the whole world, and our permanent way, being the sea, required no upkeep. It was cheap.
In the next phase coal was discovered, conveniently placed next to iron ore, thus enabling us to put to profit the inventions of the industrial revolution. We emerged not only as the carriers, owning the greater part of the shipping of the world, but as the manufacturers of the world, the suppliers of the world and the insurers of the world. Our bills of exchange were the currency of the world. The credit of the world was British credit. We were the emporium, the centre of gravity of the activities of the terrestrial globe. This position continued up till the last war and though it was impaired in some degree by the last war it remained effective until 1929. Then an important change occurred. The United States whose position had been transformed during the hostilities from a debtor to a creditor nation failed to manipulate the mechanism which in our charge had given abundance and wealth to the nations.
The technique that we had applied was to accept payment for the debts owing to us in goods or by re-lending to the debtor the money in order that his production might be increased. The United States did no such thing. They instituted a high tariff, thus refusing to allow payment of the debts owing to them, which were then considerable, in goods and they recalled their loans. Having refused to take payment by any normal means, they acquired 10,000,000 dollars' worth of gold—almost all the gold currency in the world. They withdrew from the money market of the world in three years from 1929 onwards £5,000,000,000 worth of dollars. This shattered the whole structure of international trade. Prices fell calamitously. This simple cause, without our looking for involved explanations, is enough to tell the world why we had a depression between the two wars. What happened? At one moment, according to a League of Nations publication, there were 100,000,000 persons thrown out of work and told virtually that their services were of no use to society. In addition to the privation caused, to the sacrifice of savings and to the dejection and misery came psychological effects of the most far reaching character. In this foetid economic atmosphere were incubated the germs of war.
We were dethroned from our position as a creditor nation in the first world war. The deleterious effects upon our position of the second world war are even greater. Should we not crystallise our past experiences into a clear-cut national policy? What deductions are we to make? Surely the first is that the natural advantage of our geographical position is impaired. We, too, like the Continental nations previously, suffer the physical destruction of our cities, our factories and our homes. If in the first world war, originating in Europe, we lost our credit, and in the second world war, originating in Europe, we actually suffer physical destruction and find our manufacturing assets wasting and our commercial good will to some extent departed, does it not behove us as a primary consideration to have regard to our flank on the Continent? What is our policy in that matter? Is our policy, having fought this war, merely to reconstitute the nations of Western Europe as they were and say, "That is the end"? Do not our past experiences show that we cannot stand aloof from the organisation of Western Europe?
I should be the last to wish to embarrass the Foreign Secretary by asking him to make a declaration. There has been an offer by Belgium to give us the same kind of strategic outposts, and economic outposts as well, in that country as we gave to the United States in the West Indies. There is an offer. It is a matter for consideration. It is sometimes suggested that any advocacy of an economic, political or strategic unity in Western Europe is a threat to Russia. There should be no such thought in our minds, and if that thought exists in the minds of Russians it can easily be removed. There is nothing more challenging in our desire to organise the strength of the nations on our flank than there is in Russia organising the nations on her flank. I derive that as the first of the lessons of our past experience.
The second lesson is surely that America from the first great war, and now Russia from the second, have emerged as great economic federations. This is the size of the modern unit—the United States and Russia. Britain is no counterpart to federations of that size but the British Empire is. It was the policy at the Ottawa Conference in 1932—there the bases were at any rate established by men who foresaw the development, men who were clairvoyant—there the policy was to make at any rate the beginning of an economic unity in the British Empire. What has happened to that policy? We go to Chicago for a Conference on Civil Aviation and the Empire speaks not with one, but with many voices. One voice would be decisive. Many voices are confusing. The subject matter of this Conference is vital to us. Communications are the life blood of the British Empire. We are cutting our own veins. Some compensation for the loss of our supremacy in shipping tonnage would be afforded if we at any rate secured our aerial communications.
The next deduction is that our supremacy in shipping is challenged because the United States have built 30,000,000 tons. I accept what the Prime Minister has said with a full and grateful heart, and everything that can be said, about the generosity of the United States, but these matters have to be recorded, for another deduction from our experience is that the United States now have a productive capacity in excess of their consumptive capacity and must sell abroad. That is a very important and, in some contexts, a very disturbing fact. They have built up an artificial rubber industry, costing 750,000,000 dollars, which can supply 80 per cent. of the world's requirements, possibly at an increased cost, but we have relied hitherto on Malaya to give us the dollars that we need to make the payments to which the Prime Minister referred, but about which he did not at this stage desire to be precise. They have built up an aluminium industry, capable of producing more than was previously produced in the whole world. These are economic facts and there should proceed from them deductions of value in determining our future policy.
Does it not follow that in future our industrial and commercial success will depend, not on natural advantages, as in the past, but upon the pursuit of a clear conscious aim? What should that aim be? It must be to attain the greatest volume of international trade. You cannot justify a country of this size having 44,000,000 people except on a basis of international trade. We have nothing here in the way of raw materials in abundance except coal. Almost all the raw materials of our factories have to be imported. We have made a start with Lend-Lease. We are to use United States materials in the construction of our houses. Twelve per cent. of the content of our houses came even before the war from overseas. A fifth of our national income depends on our import trade. There can be no question of our eliminating the export trade. Its regaining and increasing is the first aim and it must be consciously pursued.
What must be done? In the first place, manfacturers must be told at the earliest possible date what is to be the method of trading in the future. Are we going to trade by bulk purchase through Government agency, or are we going to rely upon the same mainsprings of private enterprise as in the past? The question is not only relevant, but urgent. With what countries are we going to be encouraged to trade? There is no use making warm shirts for hot climates. The manufacturers must be told. Then they can design and procure the plant. This brings me to an observation which has occurred to me many times. In the United States one notices that the manufacturers and industrialists are taken into constant consultation. One almost has the impression that they are not oblivious of the connection between the winning of the war and the increased prosperity of the United States. They are consulted. That is not done to the same extent here.
For instance, in civil aviation, a policy which is vital to us, some of the principal shipowners who have experience of transport will tell you that they are not able to obtain from the Government any statement of policy. We should bring into closer co-operation those elements in the community on which our wealth must depend. Here one has the impression that the organisation is more bureaucratic. That is not a reflection on civil servants, because civil servants are told to discharge certain duties and they discharge them. But one has that imprestion, and the danger is that we shall become too much entangled in bureaucracy. I say to those who call attention to the defects of capitalism, which has won great achievements in the past, that in no country where capitalism has been destroyed have the working-classes succeeded to power. It has always been the bureaucracy. That is the danger here.
We should release the springs of enterprise and avoid every control that is not necessary and cannot be justified, whether it is by a cartel, a Government or a trade union, so that the maximum of enterprise can be freed for action. One respect in which the Government can help in particular is in the matter of taxation. I know that the Chancellor has made certain concessions in this respect. It is, however, interesting to read—because we are concerned here with comparative costs and with competitive industrial countries—these words in Spaulding's work on the Income Tax in Great Britain and the United States:
On the matters of depreciation, obsolescence and wasting assets the Americans began with an Income Tax law which was considerably more generous than the British. … British Income Tax law gives no allowance for depletion of wasting assets; but the rapid absorption of mineral deposits is a very much more important question in the United States than it is in Engand.
The American system is to allow the maximum allowance. What is allowed in England is allowed after a great many queries, whereas the policy should be to encourage industry to scrap machinery.
When one comes to consider what is the basis of success in industry, one finds it is productivity. The output per head is the test. The difference between the non-industrialised nation and the industrialised nation is that in the case of a nation like China, all the work is done by hand, and as industry and economic welfare develop, less and less is done by hand and more is done by machinery. We have much leeway to make up in this respect. The average output per head in an American factory or mine is twice what it is in a British factory or mine. That discrepancy is easily explained, but it must be attended to. The explanation does not involve the slightest criticism of British working men or industrialists. The explanation lies in one single word, and that is "machinery." A powerful sidelight is thrown upon this matter in the Platt Report. The President of the Board of Trade sent out this mission to America under Sir Frank Platt, who is
the Cotton Controller, and composed the mission of representatives of both sides of industry, to discover why we could not satisfy our requirements in textiles. This is the Report, and I have no doubt that it explains what is required to be done in a great many other industries:
There need be no hesitation in saying the U.S. industry is very far ahead of the Lancashire industry in production per man hour. At the same time it would be correct to say that there is no reason to suppose that the skill of the operatives of Lancashire is one whit inferior to that of the U.S.A. operatives.
That is a very welcome encouragement of the services rendered by Lancashire industry.
I have said so—it is probably universally true—and if I could say it myself in more emphatic language I would. The Report continues:
On the contrary every one of us felt that the ability of the Lancashire cotton operative remains unsurpassed.
The Report points out that to put him on an equality with his United States counterpart very heavy capital expenditure would have to be undertaken. In the United States automatic looms cover 95 per cent. of the industry, while in Great Britain they cover no more than 5 per cent. The Report concludes:
Our feelings at the conclusion of this visit, and the considerable thought which has thereby been forced upon each one of us, are feelings of great concern. … The machinery employed is of a more modern type than that of Great Britain generally and the policy—not perhaps yet fully extended—is to let the machine do more work and the worker do less.
Here is the policy to be pursued by the Government in respect of every industry, and I have indicated certain lines which it might follow. We have many assets in setting out to re-establish ourselves on the old, and even on a higher level. We have great purchasing power, which can control to some extent the markets with which we deal. We have our war record, which is unsurpassable, showing as it does, in regard to aeroplanes and radio equipment for instance, that where the demand is there and the machinery is there the output per head can exceed that of the United States. Our competitors in Germany and Japan will, as a by-product of this war, become pulp. We have cer-
tain assets and certain advantages, but it is important to bear in mind that, if the efforts which the King's Speech delineates to create a better Britain, and to raise the standard of living in Britain are to prevail and become effective, we must attend with equal insistence to the economic foundations on which alone they can be built. Perhaps the greatest asset of all that we have is what we have done and are doing, alike in the factory and in the field, and we can repose ourselves on the assurance that we, at any rate, were the only people in the world who formed the ultimate bastion of freedom.
No one will be more glad than I that my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) has lent his powerful advocacy to the cause of a Western association, in which Great Britain is bound with France to play a leading part. I would like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on the progress that has been made with this idea since it was last ventilated here. It has naturally brought forth criticisms, but these criticisms are due largely to misunderstanding. What is the real reason for the spontaneous desire—and we cannot emphasise too much the word "spontaneous"—on the part of the countries of Western Europe to get together? As I understand the matter, it is primarily to see that these countries in the West of Europe are never again overwhelmed by the sudden might of Germany. In the last 80 years or so France has been overrun by Germany three times, Belgium twice, Holland once, Denmark once, and we have ourselves been twice involved in war. Surely that is sufficient reason for us to desire to get together and see that it shall never happen again.
This ought to be made abundantly clear both in the Soviet Union and in the United States in order that their criticisms may be met. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport has referred to the Russian criticisms. In the United States any scheme that is put forward will naturally receive some criticism, for that is the land of the freest of all speech. I would point out, however, that already many of the most responsible American leaders recognise the necessity for such a Western association. I would like to
refer in particular to the support given to it by that great newspaper, "The New York Times," which, after pointing out the dangers that are possibly inherent in such a scheme, said:
Such a bloc can easily become"—
"bloc" is not the word I should use—
the nucleus for a new organisation of Europe, not only for mutual defence, but also for political and economic collaboration for the benefit of all.
If I understand the Americans, I think that they have one characteristic which they share with the Deity; the Americans help those who help themselves. As this idea is expanded, I think they will come to realise that our getting together in the West of Europe for mutual security is something that should commend itself to all wise Americans. I do not wish to follow in any further detail the speech of my right hon. Friend, because there is a special matter that I desire to raise, and I might be led far a field if I followed him.
I wish to refer to a somewhat unusual event which has taken place in the last few days. The world has been made aware that His Majesty's Government have interposed their veto on the appointment of Count Sforza as Italian Foreign Minister. This is a most unusual occurrence in the diplomatic world. I will not say that it is unprecedented, but the precedents are not very encouraging. The last that I can find comes from February, 1938, when Mussolini demanded the resignation of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and two days later that resignation was made.
If we look a little farther back into history, hon. Members older than myself will remember the stir that was caused in 1905 when that distinguished French Foreign Minister, M. Delcassé, was dismissed on a German demand. Neither of those precedents is very encouraging. Few things have done my right hon. Friend so much good as the knowledge that Mussolini had demanded his resignation, while the Delcassé affaire was undoubtedly one of the factors making for had blood between Germany and France. The step that His Majesty's Government have now taken may have good reasons, but they are reasons that ought to be given to the House, for this step, I fear, is one that will not promote those friendly relations between Great Britain and the new democratic Italy which I have understood to be the policy of His Majesty's Government.
Let me say at this point that I feel no interest in Count Sforza as such. I know him, and I have had correspondence with him, but it is not on any personal grounds that I wish to speak to-day. The essential point, the only point that matters, is that the six parties constituting the Italian Government desire to have Count Sforza as Foreign Minister and that he cannot be appointed Foreign Minister because the British representative, Sir Noel Charles, has intimated that he would be regarded in an unfavourable light by His Majesty's Government. That is a most serious position. I am willing to be convinced that there are good reasons for it, but I have not yet seen any reasons sufficiently convincing.
When I want to know the views of the Foreign Office I turn in the first instance to the articles written by Mr. W. N. Ewer in the "Daily Herald." Over a long period it has been their distinguishing characteristic to reflect the views of the Foreign Office more closely than the diplomatic correspondence of any other newspaper that I know; and what does Mr. Ewer say on this subject? He says that Count Sforza's ambition
has been a continuously disturbing factor.
Ewer says he is ambitious; and Ewer is an honourable man. But what really does this question of ambition matter? Are the occupants of the Front Bench opposite going to say that ambition shall debar a man from office? I think it would be a case of persons in glasshouses throwing stones if they should take that line. I doubt very much whether Count Sforza is really as ambitious as is suggested. He is over 70 years of age now and there cannot be very much left in life for a man of that age.
Well, shall I say he cannot have more than one or two decades of life to look forward to? I should have thought that legitimate ambition, kept within bounds, is a necessary ingredient in a political life. Mr. Ewer makes
another statement, which may get us closer to the heart of the problem. He says:
There has long been suspicion that Count Sforza has been working to whittle down Italy's armistice obligations and to weaken Allied control.
What does that mean? It means nothing more or less than that Count Sforza is a good Italian patriot. Before we can judge of the accuracy of that statement we must know what the Armistice terms are. His Majesty's Government have not yet made them known, although they have been frequently requested to do so by the Italian Government and by Members of this House. Will they not now tell us what are the Armistice terms imposed on Italy which it is alleged that Count Sforza desires to whittle down? I am myself inclined to believe that if I were in his position I should wish to do the same. The reluctance of His Majesty's Government to publish these details lends colour to the view that the terms are such that they will not bear the light of day. If the Government deny this, will they let us have them to see what they are?
When I cannot get guidance from Mr. Ewer on the views of the Foreign Office I turn in the second place to "The Times," although what I am now going to quote is not from their diplomatic correspondent but from their Rome correspondent, and there the reason given is this. Sir Noel Charles, it is said, told the Italian Ministers
that the constant wrangling among the six parties which professed to represent the Italian nation had caused much concern in London.
I ask us to be practical and realistic about this alleged wrangling. At a time when we are envisaging the end of our own Coalition, can we throw stones at the six Italian parties for such disputes as take place among them? Whatever wrangling they may have there has never been any divergence of view on the one essential thing, that is, clearing the Germans out of Italy as quickly as possible. The main complaint has been that they have not been allowed to mobilise their full effort for that purpose. In fact, the unity that has been achieved in Italy, both on the political and on the industrial side, is remarkable. I would single out for notice the fact that, for the first time in Europe, the Christian Democrats, the Socialists and the Communists have come
together in the same trade unions. That is a phenomenon of the utmost importance, and it has been achieved in this Italy which is said to be the centre of so much wrangling.
These are the theories given in the newspapers for this unusual action, but I have heard other allegations. I have heard it stated in very well-informed circles in London that the real reason is that a struggle is going on between the Soviet Union and Great Britain for the control of Italy and that Count Sforza has been too much inclined to the Communist side in this struggle. I do not believe that story for a moment. I think it is complete nonsense, but it is being stated in well-informed circles as an explanation of this unusual step. As far as my own letters with Count Sforza show—and there is no need for him to have concealed his thoughts in these letters, because I have taken precautions that they do not pass through the hands of the censor—he takes the view that the best antidote to Communism is a full-blooded programme of social reform, and that if the Allies should try to rivet the Monarchy, or any neo-Fascist elements, on Italy it would inevitably have the result of throwing Italy into Communist hands. But, as I say, I do not believe that that is the explanation.
There is another explanation offered and I think it deserves some examination. This is not the first time that a ban has been put on this Italian Minister. I propose, with the leave of the House, to make a quotation from a paper which I have before me and which purports to give a shorthand report of the meeting between Marshal Badoglio, General Eisenhower, Field Marshal Alexander and other high Allied officers at Malta, on 29th September, 1943, on board H.M.S. "Nelson." In the course of that meeting, General Eisenhower asked Marshal Badoglio:
What do you think of Sforza?
I know Sforza well and therefore I have a personal opinion about him, but I understand that His Majesty—
that is to say King Victor Emmanuel—
will not accept him, because it seems that in the past he has manifested anti-monarchical ideas.
At that point, General Smith and Field Marshal Alexander passed a note to
General Eisenhower, who read it and went on thus:
It could be proved to me that Sforza has sent to Badoglio a message promising, with certain conditions, his collaboration. What do you think of it?
The passages that my hon. Friend is reading are extraordinarily interesting, but I think the House would like to know their authenticity. My hon. Friend is reading what was apparently a private conversation but it will help the House very much to know exactly what it is.
No. I will give the facts. The discussion, which is very long, opens with a note saying that
a high personality, full of indignation at what is happening these days, has shown to us, and permitted us to take notes of, an important document, the official report of the meeting between Badoglio, General Eisenhower, General Alexander and other high Allied officers.
I am willing to show the paper to the Foreign Secretary in the course of the Debate. If he can say that it is erroneous I shall be very willing to withdraw. I have made my own inquiries, and I have satisfied myself that it is authentic, but the Foreign Secretary's sources are better than mine, and I am willing to be guided by what he says. I ought to add before proceeding that no such message was sent by Count Sforza as alleged. Marshal Badoglio went on:
I am aware of this message, but I must insist on the point that His Majesty will not allow that Sforza should be accepted.
General Eisenhower is then stated to have said:
Italy will have need of American collaboration and aid and Sforza is sufficiently well viewed by public opinion in the United States.
And so the discussion went on for a little while, until it came to the point when
drinks were ordered. When the conversation was resumed—
The drinks were taken after the conversation I have related, and they went on to discuss military matters. We all know that the British and American Governments made many objections to Count Sforza's return to his native country. These objections were eventually overcome, and I was under the impression that the past had been forgotten, and that he would be allowed to take a leading part in his own country. Can it be the case that Count Sforza's attitude to the Italian Monarchy has made him persona non grata to His Majesty's Government? He has, since his return to Italy, used the most violent expressions about the Monarchy, far more violent than I should ever have used myself; but then I am not an Italian, and even the Welsh temperament is not quite so violent as the Italian. May it be that this objection still persists, and that although the King has now gone into semi-retirement, Count Sforza is still under a ban for the attitude he has taken towards the King since his return?
It may very well be that there are many explanations of this step, and I am inclined to think myself—I wish to give the Foreign Secretary all the help I can in his reply, if he will be good enough to reply—that in a long public career such a diplomatist as Count Sforza has, naturally, made many enemies. I find them wherever I go. But that is not the point. What matters is not his standing in this country but his standing among his own countrymen. There is the essential fact that the Six Parties unite in their desire to have him as Foreign Minister, and opposition comes, not from Italian sources, but from His Majesty's Government. This need not be an abstract question, for we know the policy that Count Sforza would have pursued if he had become Foreign Minister. A very little while ago in the Teatro Adriano in Rome, on 20th August, he made a speech of which, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for greater accuracy I have obtained a copy.
In this long speech, he lays down his main ideas on foreign policy. What are they? The first—and I emphasise this—is that of the most loyal collaboration with the Allies. Indeed, he says that the history of the world will never record such a cordial, loyal and generous co-operation as that of the Armies which could have entered as invaders, but which instead presented themselves as brothers. Surely, there could be no more generous tribute to the Allies than that. The next indication he gives of his foreign policy is one which must surely commend itself to this House. It is that Italians will co-operate with courage and serenity in the solution of every international problem that concerns them, on one condition only, that there be no discussion of Italian problems as such, but only Italian sides of European problems. That surely is something which ought to commend itself to all of us. [Interruption.] Certainly, I think it is of general application.
The rest of the speech deals with particular problems. There is a passage expressing abhorrence of the Fascist attack on Ethiopia. There is another expressing similar abhorrence of the attack on Greece, and saying that if the Dodecanese people desire to be under Greek sovereignty, the Greeks ought to have the Dodecanese. There is a similar passage of friendship towards Yugoslavia, all leading to the theme that frontiers ought not to be written in ink, but in pencil. There, surely, is a foreign policy that ought to be acceptable to us, and I am still left extremely puzzled to know why this ban has been imposed on such a Minister.
Will my hon. Friend be good enough to enlighten the House on whether, in that comprehensive statement, Count Sforza stated his position as to the return of Italian Colonies to Italy, and other matters of that kind, which are rather significant and important?
Yes, there is a long passage on Italian Colonies which I should be willing to show to my hon. Friend afterwards. The question of their return is left vague—deliberately vague, I imagine—but Count Sforza's attitude on that point is well known. He desires the return of the Italian Colonies to Italy. Perhaps that is the objection. If it is, I hope it will be made known at the end of this Debate, because it ought to be made known.
I hope my hon. Friend has made it clear that he is speaking for himself on this matter, and is not speaking for a representative number of Members in this House, or especially on this side.
At the moment, I am merely giving Count Sforza's ideas. I think the customs of this House are familiar enough for Members to know that I am speaking for myself alone. I think a case has been made out why the Foreign Secretary should tell this House the reasons that have induced His Majesty's Government to take this very grave step. Whatever objections may have been felt in Italy in the past to Count Sforza, this is quite certain to weld the whole nation behind him, as well as the Italian emigrants abroad. It is clear that it has already done so.
If I had the leisure and the House the patience I could have filled my speech with quotations from my right hon. Friend during the period of non-intervention in Spain on the dangers of intervening in the internal affairs of another country. It may be that there is a perfectly good explanation. His Majesty's Government may have sources of information, unknown to the rest of us, which make it impossible for them, under the terms of the Armistice, to accept Count Sforza. But I am a little suspicious on this question. I think foreign countries often have a most exaggerated opinion of the British Intelligence Service. If my right hon. Friend will look up the files at the Foreign Office I think he will find a message saying that Ercoli was getting very jealous of the renown now being won by Togliatti, the writer being quite ignorant that they were one and the same person. I am afraid that is a typical kind of message received from agents abroad. I have given all the information known to me, and I am still left very puzzled. I hope that at the end of this Debate the Foreign Secretary will either be able to give us a very convincing reason why this grave step should have been taken, or will be prepared to wipe it out and remove the veto.
I hope the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. I. Thomas) will forgive me if I do not follow him straight away in his remarks about the Italian situation, and into the very attractive field of discussion as to exactly at what stage in the proceedings of the conference between Marshal Badoglio and General Eisenhower, which he has just described, drinks were served. For the last 18 months, it has been my good fortune—because that is how I regard it—to serve with my regiment in the Eighth Army, in the Middle East and in Italy. The House will forgive me if I say that it would indeed be an under-statement, to describe by the word "welcome" the way in which the recent leave scheme for those who have long overseas service will have been received. Anyone who has had contact with the troops in that area must, at one time or other, have felt just a little anxious at the far-reaching effects produced by long separation from families and homes in this country. Any of us who may have commanded platoons, or companies, or even higher formations, must all, at one time or another, have felt a certain sense of helplessness in trying to advise upon or straighten out heartbreaking domestic cases, in which the individual concerned was unable to get home and deal with those matters himself. In this island we are a home-loving people, and I think we would do well not to minimise in our future national life the important place which the family unit will hold.
I am well aware that the long service which the troops overseas have had to bear has been brought about by causes quite outside our control. In the earlier days it was due to lack of shipping plus geography. More recently, it has been due rather to the question of man-power. I am equally well aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has done what he could to reduce that period of overseas service to a minimum. What I am not quite so happy about is that it seemed to me, from the other end, so to speak, that many of the statements made and the reasons given, certainly logical, watertight and adequate reasons, for being unable to reduce this period of overseas service have lacked just that one essential element which is required when dealing with what is essentially a human problem, that is the human touch. Logic couched in Civil Service phrases is apt to act as rather a cold shower on a man who may be faced with a most difficult domestic affair from a distance of something over 1,000 miles.
Under the new leave scheme I think that something like one out of every four men will be able to get home. But if I might make a suggestion, with all diffidence, bearing in mind my very junior status both in anno domini and experience in this House, it would be that, at an early opportunity, some member of the Government, in my own humble view preferably my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, because he alone could do it in his own inimitable way in the language of which he is alone the master, should send some message in a speech or broadcast, not of sympathy—that is not what is wanted—but of assurance to the many troops who just fail to qualify for the Python scheme, and who are unlucky in the draw for leave, that everything that can be done has been done to reduce their period of service, that we in this country recognise the extra burden of long separation from home which they have borne in addition to the normal strain that is inseparable from war-time conditions, and that we shall not forget them in the years to come. Such a broadcast by the Prime Minister would produce just the psychological fillip which is required.
In Italy the Fifth and the Eighth Armies, under the leadership of that remarkable genius Field-Marshal Alexander, have liberated more than half the country. Closely behind them come another body of men, whose ranks, like the staff of Field-Marshal Alexander, are integrated British and American. Their task is, so to speak, to consolidate liberation. I refer to the Allied Commission. This body, often criticised, sometimes forgotten when bouquets are being handed out, frequently misunderstood, is the channel through which the economic life of the country is run. Their contribution will not be fully appreciated until the time comes when they will no longer be called upon to operate. Through the medium of Allied Military Government officers, in the forward areas the Allied Commission have to produce some order out of chaos. Their task is to take over a town or a district which has been recently liberated, to get public services going, to cope with innumerable refugees, to sort out and disarm any "patriots" who may come into the Allied lines, to decide which local authorities can or cannot be trusted, and, above all, to provide food for the civilians. These things have to be done quickly, and "improvisation" is often their motto. They are the first Allied administrative officers with whom Italians have came into contact since the burden of Fascism, brought about by their own folly, has been lifted. By the standard of that administration, Italians will in retrospect judge British and American democracy.
The two headaches of the administration are lack of food and transport. These two are complementary. As the Germans have been driven towards the North, the intensity of their scorched-earth policy has increased. Transport is urgently needed to bring food from the less spoiled areas to the more devastated areas. But the full result of the German scorched-earth policy will not be known until the whole of the industrial North is liberated and we see to what extent the factories and the plants in that area are devastated. In Italy, up to the end of July, less than 8 per cent. of the normal pre-war amount of wheat had been collected in many areas. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will tell us something about the food situation in Italy since July; whether it has improved, and whether we may expect U.N.R.R.A. to function in that country at an early date. The Italian people are working their passage home. That process is neither easy nor painless. They have only themselves to blame: and the birds have come home to roost. In addition to their country being devastated, the civilian population have suffered many atrocities at the hands of the German troops. What I have seen with my own eyes in Italy gives me little encouragement to suppose that it will be possible to draw a nice dividing line between the bad Nazis and the good Germans. I am convinced that the element of cruelty which, I suppose, is latent in some degree in all the human race is much closer to the surface in Germans, of all classes, than in any other people.
In Italy Fascism has been removed, and a vacuum has been created. We may as well face facts, and admit that it is somewhat difficult to fill the vacuum that has been so created. During the last 20 years almost everybody in Italy of any ambition or ability gave either lip- service or genuine adherence to Fascism, in order to acquire or to keep a job. We have knocked Italy out of the war, and liberated more than half the country. It is the duty of the Allies to encourage the Italians to cultivate, to a greater extent than before, a sense of individual responsibility and a capacity for thinking for themselves. But a balanced outlook and an empty stomach do not go hand in hand. Still less do an empty stomach and an unbalanced outlook produced by it bring about a stable Government. I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear that in mind when the whole of the densely populated North of Italy is liberated, and that great industrial area is free from German control. Sooner rather than later we must tell the Italians something about our own way of life. They are completely ignorant not only about the tremendous contribution that this country and the Empire have made in the war, but also of the great measures of social progress which have been passed by this House during the war. Let us tell them quickly about these matters. Let us send them films of London during the blitz, and let us have the recent White Paper about our war effort translated into Italian and put into every Italian newspaper. Let us try to infuse into that unhappy country something of our spirit of freedom and unity which they themselves in the past have so signally lacked, but which have been to us at once a source of pride and strength.
In the Debate on the Address the House usually tries to concentrate on important issues which face the country. I do not propose, therefore, to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Windsor (Major Mott-Radclyffe) in the discussion which he has opened up, but rather to concentrate on one of these great questions. If they were to be placed in the order of their immediate urgency I think housing would be first of all; secondly, the provision of jobs and the rehabilitation of industry, so that people can earn their livelihood. But behind these immediate issues, in the heart of every soldier and of every person in this country is the desire that this shall be the last war, and that out of this war shall arise some machinery to prevent the recurrence of war and further disputes.
I would like to make one or two observations on this question of international peace. So far as we have a positive aim in fighting this war it is to preserve democracy. Democracy gives people the right to settle which Government they shall have, and to decide their legislation by vote, rather than by force of arms. On the Continent to-day we see signs that, arising out of the war, there are temptations to jump claims in the formation of Governments and to utilise arms, rather than intelligent, reasoned discussion and votes. We can sympathise to some extent with these underground movements, that have been fighting and risking their lives, in order to maintain some of their national rights. We can sympathise with their impatience when they have to give way to Governments which come back and which they consider, have not been in the forefront of their underground battles. But so long as people are to be given the opportunity of selecting a Government by reason and discussion, there can be no justification for attempting to seize government by force of arms.
Our party have always taken the view that it is a step forward in civilisation to leave force for reason; and we still adhere to that, and deprecate anything which may disturb peace in these countries when we have liberated them from the enemy. Our Forces with those of the Americans and other nations have set Belgium and France free. Even now our men are risking their lives to preserve that freedom, and no one, however sympathetic he is to the impulses of youth, can justify the starting-up of a private war on the lines of communication of our troops, and so endangering the lives of the men who have restored liberty to those countries. Whatever disputes they may have internally we ought to ask them to restrain themselves from endangering the liberating armies, and to settle their disputes by some other means. On the other hand, there is some suspicion that in these countries there are men who have gorged themselves to the full by collaboration with the enemy who are still flourishing. That must be a terrible aggravation for people who have been fighting in the underground battle, and something should be done to bring them to justice. But these are incidents which are small in relation to the great human desire for settled peace among the nations of the world.
The problem of preserving peace depends, I think, almost entirely on whether the great Powers stand together in preserving the peace among themselves. If these great Powers can hold together, undoubtedly, by diplomatic pressure, by economic pressure, by blockade and boycott, and finally, if necessary, by armed enforcement of the law, they can preserve peace internationally. But permanent peace is unlikely if it depends on haphazard association and discussions. It must rest on some permanent system; otherwise it will break down. When we look for a permanent system we are faced with the necessity of establishing international law to eliminate the causes of war.
The great cause of all wars is a struggle for power. Power takes a material form in the control of economic resources, of markets and raw materials, territory and populations. Mussolini, Hitler and then Japan, made no bones at all about the purposes of their wars, which were to get control of more territory, enlarge their economic power and dominate the peoples of the world. So far back as 1713, and perhaps far earlier, endeavours were made to solve this problem. The Abbé de St. Pierre, in 1713, formulated a way to avoid wars by "mutual security against foreign and civil war, and mutual guarantee of respective possessions and of treaties of peace," the "respective possessions" being a very important factor. Therefore, if we are to eliminate the causes of war, it has been a consistent conclusion of all consideration that there must be some organisation which will eliminate the necessity to use force in settling disputes.
The last great attempt was the League of Nations. I have heard a great many criticisms of the League of Nations, but, in my own view, the League of Nations never really failed, so far as its machinery was concerned. The nations failed to use it. That is true, and, no matter how beautiful a machine you create, if the nations do not use it, it makes no difference at all. It reminds me of the story of the discussion between Americans, one of whom was accused of having no conscience. He said: "I can assure you my conscience is better than yours, for I have never used it." It all depends on whether you use machinery whether it is effective, and the failure of the League of Nations was, in my view, the failure of the countries between the wars to make use of that machinery which could have performed great services in the prevention of war. The Prime Minister himself has said that the League of Nations machinery could easily have been used to prevent this war, and, looking back on the attempts that were made, I think we can all agree that, at the time of the Abyssinian campaign, there was a very narrow margin between complete and permanent success for the League of Nations and failure. When we introduced economic sanctions at the time of the Abyssinian campaign success just hung in the balance, but, unfortunately, it toppled backward instead of forward. I think that, if we had succeeded at that time, this and other wars would have been eliminated, and we should have secured a permanent new instrument for controlling aggressor nations without the use of armed force.
I am convinced that, if France and this country had stood together, and America had been with us, in economic sanctions, Mussolini might have climbed down. As a matter of fact, he nearly did, but, instead of that, there were people ready to blackleg, even on morality, and nations and organisations were actually supplying Mussolini with the very weapons he was using against Abyssinia. I do not think we should be disheartened because of that failure, because law in our own country was built up only after long centuries of trial and error. It took many years before we reached the stage when people naturally observed the law. The police are at most a last resource. Here, I think, we have the secret for peace.
Peace can never be quite assured if it depends solely on its enforcement by an international police force. The first essential is that people and nations must accept and be willing to observe the law. If that is to be done, we must make laws which are generally acceptable. It is easier to enforce a law which is generally just. In this matter, I would commend the Dumbarton Oaks conversations on world organisation, which I think are a step forward based on the experience and failures of the League of Nations and which can take us very far towards organisation for peace. But, if I may say so to our American friends, there can never be peace in the world if any country or group of people are going to declare economic war on the rest. When I read some organs of the American Press, which, I am very glad to say, do not seem wholly to represent the United States, it does alarm me to see how intent they are on preparations for commercial and economic rivalry and struggles for markets throughout the world. If that is going to be the approach, the peace organisation will not have a very sure foundation, and I would suggest that, in furtherance of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals, the nations should get down to a firmer and more specific basis of economic understanding.
There are some moral principles that ought, in my view, to be observed. People ought to have a right to the nationality which they want. Poles should be allowed to be Poles, Germans should be allowed to be Germans, and Russians should be allowed to be Russians, just as we want to be British, and the settlement of the war should not force populations into other nationalities than those which they Want to have. That raises a very difficult problem from the point of view of frontiers, because frontiers economically do not always coincide with frontiers racially. There are countries where a racial frontier raises economic problems and an economic frontier raises racial problems.
I would suggest a method to eliminate this. Would it not be possible to put certain aspects of administration such as education, culture, literature and the more cultural side of people's lives into a racial parliament, and to leave to the political government the administration of matters within the economic frontiers? I see no reason why, in the worlds of literature, music or the arts, the races should not each have their cultural parliaments, so to speak, quite apart from the economic problem which does not necessarily separate race from race. People could use their common language and books and not have this confused with political difficulties. That suggestion might be examined as one way out of the problem of minorities in Europe, which is a very big problem.
If we pass to the economic basis of peace I suggest that, further to the Dumbarton Oaks proposals, there should be more specific agreement on certain points. Firstly, we require an international law which deals with territorial and property rights—on what basis is territory to be transferred from one nation to another, and on what basis is property to be transferred. Without agreement on a legal method, sooner or later, people will take the law into their own hands. Secondly, I think there must be economic control and regulation of the production and distribution of vital products—food, coal, wool, petrol, rubber, cotton, tin and several others. These are very important, not only in regard to assuring fair play to the nations of the world, but also because, if we are going to use economic sanctions, there should be some organisation in control of these products.
Thirdly, there should be principles upon which backward peoples should be helped to develop. It is an extremely difficult matter, in a world where people are struggling for markets, to distinguish between economic penetration and economic aid to another country. I do not think the world can continue to be divided into some nations who receive and some who give all the time. Backward peoples have to be organised to help themselves, and, therefore, there must be some international principles, upon which they can be given aid. Fourthly, there must be some world agreement on international labour conditions. If there is to be conflict between cheap labour and high standards of living, there are bound to be differences arising among the nations. Our country has built up a relatively high standard of life, and I think all will agree that our purpose should not be to depress our standards to the lowest, but rather to try and help other countries to raise theirs to ours.
Fifthly, there must be principles for the payment of goods and exchange. If we are going to exchange goods, there must be an arrangement how these are to be paid for. Here again, if I may say so to our American friends, they appear to me to be in an impossible situation in thinking that they can sell to every country in the world and yet buy nothing from the rest of the world. That could only work for a very short time. One of the defects of the Bretton Woods Agreement is that it provides only for gold as the ultimate form of payment. I think this should be altered to provide that goods of the value of gold will be accepted by the creditor nations. There will not be sufficient gold in the world to settle all the debts, and a creditor nation should be bound to accept goods to the value of gold, and we shall be able and willing to pay our debts in a form most suitable to international arrangements.
We shall need also arrangements in regard to loans. I do not know if there are any real figures available, but, so far as I can gather, we have exported something like £10,000,000,000 to countries abroad on loan. Out of that, nearly £5,000,000,000 it is alleged has been lost altogether. For that we have got nothing in return. That has been a bad arrangement. There are some countries which have defaulted because they could not help it, but there are some defaulting because they know there is no machinery to compel payment. There must be some moral obligation on people, if they arc borrowing wealth from any country, that they should repay. This country, in the days when it was wealthy, poured out its wealth to the other countries of the world. In times to come, it may be that we shall not be quite so wealthy, and we are entitled to call upon those whom we helped to prosperity to repay, in some form or other, the debts that are due. In the future loans should be by international arrangement as part of a world system.
After all these things have been established and accepted, there is the necessity of discipline to enforce the law. Enforcement comes last. A great deal of misunderstanding arises because some people think law starts with force—which, in my view, is the most futile way of getting progress. Force should always be the last resource of the law and of the new United Nations Council. If we get these foundations right, economically and politically, I am confident that we shall make progress.
I have only one or two further incidental observations to make. One of the great evils between the wars, and even before the last war, was what was known as profiteering in armament manufacture. If great armament organisations are going to be allowed to intrigue it will still be a very dangerous element in our civilisation. One of the early steps of the United Nations should be to bring the manufacture of armaments under public control and not allow private profiteering and exploitation of armaments. The second point is that we have spent thousands of millions of pounds upon war and yet, between the wars, our expenditure and that of other nations on the League of Nations was of the most grudging kind. To build a united organisation of nations, we should be prepared to spend sufficient money in order to make it effective. As an insurance against war and a guarantee for peace, that will be money well spent, and I hope, therefore, in this House of Commons in time to come there will never be any meanness towards the price of peace and that we shall be willing to pay generously. I cannot believe that peace can be made effective without publicity and I hope the further discussions with regard to Dumbarton Oaks will, if possible, be conducted in public, so that the peoples of the world may be able to understand what is happening and see the progress that is being made in one organisation we so much desire.
Since I came to the House of Commons I have been very much impressed by the sensitivity of the House to public opinion outside. I hear people talking about the House of Commons being ten years out of date and out of touch with the public, but it has astonished me to see how quickly this House reacts to public opinion, which has been one of the safeguards of democracy in our own country. The world organisation should learn from that and the people of the world should stand behind the world organisation for peace. I took some prominent part in inducing the Conservative Party in West Scotland to take its part in organising the Peace Ballot. I do not think that there has been any greater referendum in history than the Peace Ballot. The vote of the people was almost unanimously in favour of the principles of law and enforcement which lie behind world peace organisation. They were prepared to impose economic sanctions and as a last resort, if necessary, they were prepared to use an international police force. I take it, therefore, that I am stating not only the views of our own country but of the peoples of the world when I say that one of the most urgent needs with which this House of Commons, this Parliament, this country and the United Nations have to deal is the establishment of a world organisation for peace and the elimination of future wars.
I welcome the pronouncement in the Gracious Speech from the Throne that we, with our Allies, are pressing the enemy on his own borders, and that, from the East and from the West, Germany is being invaded. This initial occupation of Reich territory is, for the Germans, the beginning of the end, and for us it is a pre-requisite of our victory to come. I am deeply conscious of my temerity and my unworthiness in addressing this House, but I am fortified in the knowledge of the traditional kindness which this House has always shown in the past to its new, to its unknown and its untried Members. For the very short period during which I have had the honour and privilege of being a Member of this House, I have listened with attention and with a very great feeling of pride to the Debates which have taken place and to the statements which have been made. I desire to say that no man could witness our procedure here, or could have listened to what has been said, without coming to the conclusion that every Member of this House, whatever his political creed or colour, is striving for one object—the betterment of his fellow men.
It is right that it should be so, for here gathered in Westminster is the Mother of Parliaments. It is the Assembly to which all other democratic assemblies in all parts of the world turn for guidance, for example, and for precedent. There is a story which has been translated many times. It is the story of the young Indian recruit who turned to his company commander for advice on some trivial domestic affair, and when the advice had been given the company commander asked the recruit why he had turned to him for advice in the first place and the young Sepoy, answering very simply in Hindustani, replied, Ap main bap rai—"You are my father and my mother."
I am going to suggest that the good work and the good endeavour which we witness here in this House might possibly all be lost, if in ten, 15 or 20 years' time this country is called upon to face another war. And so I would very respectfully ask this House to consider, for a few minutes, the question of a long-term policy of peace and security. This is a question of such magnitude that in the course of a few minutes it can only be considered in the form of headlines. I suggest that we might consider this question under three headings: First, what are we, in concert with our Allies, going to do with Germany after the war, and secondly, and thirdly, what is our home policy to be and what is our foreign policy to be relative to this question?
May we consider Germany first? I have always thought that one of our weaknesses at home has been the fact that so many people here fail completely to understand the German make-up and the German mentality. A very brief psychological survey of the German population would place those people into three groups. The first group is the Prussian Junker. They are the hereditary, military aristocrats of Prussia, born into, and brought up to glorify, war, with the belief that the end justifies the means. They are disciplined, courageous and efficient but they are also fanatical, ruthless, and, under certain military conditions, they personify the quintessence of brutality. The second group is the industrial group, who think along lines very similar to the Junker but with the difference that, whereas the Junker group desires military conquest, the industrial group desires commercial conquest. Nevertheless, they have very much in common. They appreciate each other's outlook with the result that, both in peace and war, they are able to work together, and so they are complementary to each other.
The third group, and by far the largest, is the group of ordinary German people, who have never honestly sought the right of free political expression. They have been willing to lend themselves to fight and to work in any scheme of aggression which has been put forward by their leaders. Surely, the time has come when we should learn our Prussian lesson. It is a very true saying that "the leopard does not change his spots" and Prussia, the dominating factor in Germany, has not changed hers. She is the same to-day as she was when Brandenburg was first handed over to the Hohenzollerns, and later after the creation of the first King of Prussia, followed by Frederick the Second—who made a most solemn Treaty with Maria Theresa of Austria and, when it suited him, broke it. So it went on until we had the Confederation of the German States. We had the 1870 war, with Bismarck, with further acts of aggression in the taking over of Alsace and Eastern Lorraine. Germany was basically responsible for the 1914–1918 war and she is basically responsible for this war, and if we allow Germany, as we know her and as she is constituted to-day, to rise again, we shall be buying a heritage of war for the children of this generation.
The question arises what we are to do with Germany and I will offer the following suggestions, with very great deference, for the consideration of this House. In the first place, let us realise that we are not just fighting Nazi Germany. We are fighting the whole German nation, and when the time comes, either to mete out punishment or to impose obligations of any kind, the weight of these obligations must be carried by the German people as a whole. I consider it of the utmost importance that war criminals should be punished. Germany, as a nation, is peculiarly susceptible to propaganda, and when these war criminals have been punished, it is just as important that every man and woman in Germany should know what has been done. Nazi doctrines must be completely purged. Fourthly, and I think probably this is the most difficult of all, there is the removal of Prussian influence from the rest of Germany. Without mincing any words, this means splitting Germany.
With regard to her war potential, I would say this: Germany cannot make war without ships and without planes, and for a period of at least 25 years she should be precluded from aeroplane manufacture, and she should be precluded from shipbuilding. There should also be a partial control of her chemical and heavy metal industries, and as a further safeguard, I suggest that there should be Allied control of of the German coastal and telegraph services. We cannot prevent the German war scientist from thinking, but we can prevent him from putting his views into practical application. The question might also arise; What is to happen to Germany after the war with regard to employment if we are to wash out shipbuilding and aeroplane manufacture? I suggest that Germany should become much more of an agricultural country and much less of an exporter.
When this war is over, we shall probably try to create a new League, and I think it is right and proper that we should do so, but let us remember that it is a new instrument and untried, and it would be morally wrong to put the safety of our Commonwealth into something which is still in an experimental stage. I hope that, never again, shall we indulge in the criminal folly of unilateral disarmament. This country, of all countries in the world, should be the very last to disarm. I hope that when our Service Estimates are presented, we shall be generous to our Navy, to the Army, and to the Air Force. I hope that after this war there will be no "axing" of Navy personnel. We have commitments and obligations of honour which stretch over the Seven Seas. I am not suggesting that we can maintain an enormous number of warships in full commission, but we can keep a very large number of ships "in cold storage"—that is, with very small maintenance crews—and, should the occasion arise, they could be very quickly placed in commission.
Of our Merchant Navy I would say that in time of war all ships are necessary, and we cannot have too many. Those of us who have been privileged to serve with the Royal Navy in anti-submarine convoy duty, or in the air, appreciate the tragedy of the slow ship in convoy, and appreciate the tragedy of the merchantman torpedoed amidships when we see how quickly she sinks. I would suggest that a small subsidy should be paid to every merchant ship built over 500 tons dead-weight, in order that she might be built with collision bows, water-tight bulk-heads, specially strengthened decks to carry gun-mountings, and with a reasonable increase in our ideas of pre-war speed. It is a bad thing to lose a ship, but it is a thousand times worse to lose the gallant men who man the ships.
My last point is this. It has been stated by responsible people on numerous occasions throughout the war that we do not desire to gain territory because of this war. I am thinking now of Malta, beleaguered and besieged for months on end, and it seems to me that the very least we can do for that island is to guarantee that never again shall she suffer as she has suffered in the past. If a new naval base and a new air base are necessary in the Eastern half of the Mediterranean, and if Tripoli and Benghazi, or any other ports, will fulfil our requirements, we should, without the slightest hesitation whatever, take them, and when I say take them I do not mean take them as mandated territory, but take them "to have and to hold," for all time. Let us make our mind up that never again shall the Mediterranean Sea be closed to this country. We owe it to Malta, we owe it to Egypt, we owe it to Aden and our few scattered people in British Somaliland and, going East, we owe it to India and Ceylon, Australia and New Zealand. I hope that we shall uphold the high tradition of British justice, that we shall give justice to our enemies, but do not let us do what we did in the last war—grant justice, and then so temper the justice with mercy, that it ceases to be justice for ourselves.
It is my fortunate privilege to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Rusholme (Major Cundiff) on his admirable maiden speech. He said that this House always extends its special indulgence to untried and unknown Members; after the speech my hon. and gallant Friend has just delivered, I am quite certain he will not long remain in that category. I feel particularly that he touched the heart of the House when he said how proud he was to be a Member of this Parliament, and I feel that all of us here deeply feel that privilege, to be Members of this great institution which has grown steadily through 900 years, and whose name is as good to-day as it ever was. Therefore, I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will be vouchsafed a long period in this House of Commons. In a recent Debate on foreign affairs my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Quintin Hogg) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stafford (Captain Thorneycroft) made a point which my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) again made in his opening remarks to-day. It is this: that in the period after the war, this little island of 42,000,000 can only remain a great nation, if it works actively with the British Empire. He likewise instanced in his speech that whilst this should be the first principle of our foreign policy, the alliance with our two great Allies, the United States and Russia, is equally important and, in fact, it is impossible to obtain a satisfactory or lasting peace in Europe without this supposition.
I would like very briefly to transfer my attention from Europe—which is more likely to engage our attention—to the Far East. What sort of picture shall we see in the Far East at the end of this war? I think it is more than certain that Japan will resist in the most desperate and fanatical way. We are told that when the American Marines captured the island of Saipan, not only did every Japanese soldier fight to the last man, but every Japanese civilian man committed harakiri and the women drowned themselves in the ocean. If this is true of an outpost of the Japanese Empire, how much more desperate is the Japanese resistance in its homeland likely to be. I believe, therefore, that whilst Japan will be shattered and devastated to a tremendous degree by our final conquest, our conquest of Japan will not solve the main Japanese problem, the problem of the Far East, namely, the growth of population, for Japanese population is growing at the rate of something like 1,000,000 a year.
I believe, to transfer our attention to the other centres of the Pacific, it will certainly be necessary for British prestige that Singapore and Hong Kong should be recaptured by force of British arms. I believe, likewise, that France will maintain its claim to Indo-China, and the House of Orange to the Dutch East Indies. I believe we shall find America, having spent much blood and treasure in the recapture of all those islands throughout the Pacific—we know them as Micronesia—will be intent on holding on to those strong points. I believe we shall find China exhausted but determined on its material recuperation. I believe we shall find, China intent on the return of Manchukuo to the motherland and possibly of Formosa, but she will be more intent on internal reconstruction than on Imperialist ambition. As for Russia, she will find herself extremely strong with the elimination of Japan, and possibly interested in the Chinese Eastern railway. As regards Korea, it is possible that some joint Allied administration will eventually give way to Korean independence.
From this brief picture it seems to me that two problems emerge for the Allied nations. The first is the question of security in the Far East, and the second and more difficult problem, because of future wars possibly, is the continuous rise of population in the Far Eastern countries. Now with regard to the Far Eastern security problem, it seems to me that our British interests centre in the South in a rough quadrilateral extending from Singapore to New Guinea in the North, to Australia and New Zealand in the South. American security interests centre from the Aleutians down to Formosa and possibly the Chinese Coast, the Philippines, the Pacific Islands, and to Pearl Harbour. These two spheres of security are vital to each other, for we know it was the capture of Indo-China by the Japanese which opened the way to Singapore, and it was the temporary disablement of the United States Fleet at Pearl Harbour, which gave Japan her mastery of the Pacific, and allowed her to sweep forward in a series of unchecked invasions. Therefore, we, and the United States, are vitally dependent on each other in the Pacific. So is China dependent upon us and the United States. Obviously, were Japan to rise again, China, with its vast resources of raw materials and man-power, would become an easy victim for Japanese aggression. Nor can Russia feel secure so long as Japan is a menace.
The point I am trying to make is that, just as in Europe it is essential for an effective security scheme to have the three great Powers working together, so it is equally true, in the Far East, that China, Russia, the United States and the British Empire should have a working partnership. With regard to this difficult question of population, it seems to me that we should look at the picture of the Far East: Japan's population rising by 1,000,000 a year, China's by an untold figure, in spite of war, and India's by 60,000,000 in 12 years. We are going to be faced with a dangerous situation unless we take some steps. It seems that the only parts of the Far East which are fairly inhabitable and suitable for Eastern settlement are those areas round Borneo, Indo-China and the Indian islands, and I think we may be forced to the decision that in that area we should have something like the Caribbean Commission, which studies the whole question of the Caribbean as a whole and can deal as a whole with that problem. Perhaps, therefore, we ought to create in that area something—to borrow a Japanese phrase—of a co-prosperity sphere, and try to settle the problems of the populations in the Far East.
One other sector of the world, the Middle East, will remain as important to us after the war as it has ever been, not only because the Suez Canal runs through the Middle East zone but because of the future airways of the world, from East to West, and I think we can realise how important this sector is to us if we picture the disaster which would have befallen us had Rommel won the Battle of Alamein. Nothing could then have prevented the capture of the oilfields, and within possibly a few months we should have seen German forces joining up with Japanese forces in the plains of the Ganges. The Middle East is vital to us—it is the roundabout, so to speak, of Empire routes leading South, West and East. I am also convinced that this area is vital to us on account of oil. Since our battle fleet depends exclusively on supplies of oil we cannot afford to lose all those very valuable sources of supply in the Middle East.
The United States has, likewise, obtained very important oil concessions in Saudi Arabia. The United States is therefore equally interested in the Middle East. What about the other great Power, Russia? I believe it is understood that Great Britain and Soviet Russia have undertaken to evacuate Persia within six months of the cessation of hostilities, and I believe that Russia hopes to see a belt of demilitarised nations running from the Baltic—Germany, Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria—past a friendly Turkey. Therefore it is in the interests of Russia, as well as ourselves and the United States, that no untoward development should take place in the Middle East.
There is the difficult Palestine situation, and although Palestine is our particular Mandate, I should like to see a joint agreement on Palestine between this country and the United States of America. I am well aware that both parties in the United States have put in their election programmes what amounts to a pro-Jewish policy. At the same time, let us not forget that the United States has a vital interest in the Mohammedan world with its big oil concessions, and so have we. We can only reach a lasting agreement if we can get some agreed policy on this vexed question of Palestine.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I believe this country has a tremendous period ahead. As we look back on the Battle of Britain I think we all realise that it was one of the decisive battles of the war. It is an interesting fact in history that big victories have often heralded the greatest periods of national achievement. The defeat of Carthage preceded the great period of Rome. In our great history we find that the defeat of the Armada was the period not only of our greatest literature but also of expansion overseas. Trafalgar, by making possible the victory of Waterloo, not only established our own supremacy in the 19th century, but led to the development of democracy, not only in Westminster but in Washington as well; and we must ask ourselves whether the Battle of Britain may not herald, perhaps, one of the greatest periods in our history.
If that is so, and if the opportunity is before us, I believe it would be a tragedy if this island continued to remain comparatively unknown to the peoples of the world. We are rightly told that it is a prime feature of our foreign policy that our Empire should be united. Do we realise that in our Empire there are many non-English-speaking peoples, Indians, Chinese and Malays, who may be interested to know about our institutions, about how Parliament works, or about our system of justice? We are told of the vital importance of our alliance with the United States and Russia. The fact is that many a Russian and many an American knows next to nothing about this country. We are told, again, that it is vitally important that we should work in harmony with the nations of Western Europe, but to many Frenchmen, Belgians, Dutchmen, or Scandinavians, this island is the unknown island. We should really let its virtues be known. We should make known our institutions, our social services, the discoveries of our laboratories, the best thoughts of our writers and thinkers, and I would say, also—although many hon. Members of this House dislike the Ministry of Information—that I think it would be a tragedy if the end of hostilities saw a complete disbanding of the machinery created in this war for telling the world about ourselves. I think it is important that this machinery should not be immediately disbanded and that valuable institutions, like the British Library of Information, should continue for an interim period.
In the meantime, I should like to see the Government thinking about plans for the future so that this country, if it be true that we can look forward to one of the greatest periods in our national history, will be given a position of leadership. Let us remember that Europe, overrun for four years, is looking to this country for leadership, and I believe we shall lose some of the great opportunities tins war and our unique victory in the Battle of Britain have given us if we throw away the opportunity of telling the world about ourselves.
I believe it is not unusual, in discussing the contents of the Gracious Speech from the Throne, to call attention not only to the Speech itself, but to what it does not contain, and my purpose in rising this afternoon is to discuss the latter aspect of it. It is somewhat astounding to me that the White Paper issued by the Government, together with the commentary upon that White Paper, in connection with the proposals which arose out of the conversations between the four great nations for the prevention of future wars, has attracted no great measure of publicity in the Press, nor has it, up to the present, received any considerable attention in this House. Yet this document is perhaps the most vital of any of the White Papers which the Government have issued. I know that at the moment public attention, and especially the attention of Members on this side of the House, is intently focused on social security and social insurance problems, but if some machinery of an effective nature which will prevent another world war is not brought into existence we may find considerable difficulty in supporting in another 10 years, say, the social security measures which we hope will, before long, be brought into operation.
The document concerned with conversations at Dumbarton Oaks puts forward, for the first time, proposals of an exceedingly practical character. The inherent defects and weaknesses which character- ised the government of the League of Nations have been avoided, and a proposal has been put forward that there should be established a Council of Security which would have the right to take immediate action for the prevention of aggression. This is supplemented by the proposition that there should be a permanent military staff which should have at their disposal forces adequate to prevent aggression. One feature is the point that although there has to be a General Assembly it would not be necessary to convoke that Assembly, and wait until the different nations had arrived at a unanimous decision, before something could be done. On the contrary, the Security Council would be able to take whatever measures they considered necessary to prevent or punish aggression. I acknowledge that the proposals in this White Paper are tentative, and that none of the four Governments concerned in the conversations is definitely committed to any one of them. Nevertheless, it is a great step forward that four powerful nations such at Great Britain, the United States, Russia and China should have agreed among themselves to issue such a White Paper. If these proposals are to mature it seems likely that a great deal of criticism will centre on the enormous power that is to be placed in the hands of the Security Council. But I accept the giving of that power as a logical necessity if we are to have effective means of preventing world aggression.
Let us remember that these four nations will have the power to prevent another world war, inasmuch as they will have to bear the great burden of preventing or punishing aggression. If it should be found impossible to obtain agreement among, the members of the United Nations—and it has been shown during the existence of the League of Nations that a small and comparatively obscure nation could put sand into the machine—then these four Powers could constitute the nucleus of an instrument which would be strong enough to prevent or punish aggression. There is no reason why other nations should not congregate around that nucleus. Nothing is agitating the minds of the people of this country more intensely than their desire that there should never be a repetition of this war. People are deeply concerned about social security and the economic conditions to be provided for our fighting men when the war is over, but, above all, they are deeply and vitally concerned in their innermost beings that there shall be established by this Government, or any other Government, such measures as will guarantee to them the prevention of another world war. I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary and all those who stand in the forefront of British political life to-day will draw the attention of our people to the Dumbarton Oaks proposals. If this Government can shape those proposals into a practical machine for the prevention of war then they will have done something which will evoke a greater measure of gratitude from the people of this country than they could evoke by performing any other act.
The opportunities for raising matters connected with the reserved services in Northern Ireland are very few, and I owe my constituents the duty of expressing their views so that the Ministers who are concerned—and there are various Ministers concerned with what I shall have to say—may be able to give some attention to the arguments that I shall bring forward. It is to the credit of Ulster that just before the war no vote was given against the principle of National Service by any of the Members from the North of Ireland. That cannot be said of either England, Scotland or Wales at that time. But, although we were unanimous on the necessity of this service being applied to our constituencies, we were voted down by the combined forces of everyone else in the House, although I committed the political indiscretion not only of voting but of telling against my own side, and, the more I have seen, the more certain I am that I was right. But the situation in that part of the United Kingdom which, through no fault of its own, has got voluntary service should have more attention paid to it. It is quite different from the position where the National Service Acts apply.
Many cruel cases have come within my knowledge recently which arose in the following way. In some small families the young people wished to go and serve their country as volunteers. Possibly it was a whole family of young people. The old man, who may have retired or may be on the verge of retiring, said, "Go and fight and I will keep the show going until you get back." He had no idea, and neither did we, that the war was going on for six years. In many tragic cases the old people who gallantly shouldered this burden have died or are broken down in health. Then I am told that no distinction can be made between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country where the National Service Acts apply. None of the young people can be sent back. The competing firm next door, which is not patriotic—I am afraid we have a good many people who are in favour of neutrality scattered about the country—did not send anyone to the war. All their young people can go on serving in the shop or running the firm. They secure the business of the place from which the young people have gone to the front and the old man has perhaps lost his life in trying to keep the business going. I appeal to the Service Ministers to keep this kind of situation in mind and not ruin the business of those who have been prepared to make any sacrifice in their power, to the profit of those who have not done so.
There is another and more important aspect which I should like to bring to the knowledge of the House. If there is one point on which we in Ulster are all agreed, which is the key note of all our policy, it is that we want better and closer relations with our brothers in England, Scotland and Wales, and, if there is one thing that has been done more effectively than another during the war, it is to blockade Ulster people from contact with their brothers in England, Scotland and Wales. We have been cast into the outer Stygian darkness with the neutrals across the border, because nothing as regards hindrance of communication with this island is applied to them without its also being applied to us. Practically all in the North of Ireland have been in violent disagreement with the policy which has made the Channel the boundary between the two islands. We say the boundary should have been between the United Kingdom and the neutral territory. There was no difficulty whatever in going to Antrim Head and seeing the great convoys setting out across the Atlantic, taking the next train to Dublin and informing a friend of the German Consul, who would doubtless know the best way to avail himself of the information.
We have always said that was wrong, but we have made no continuous complaint. Now the irritation is growing, very naturally, because although alleviations are coming to other forms of security control practically nothing has been done as regards Northern Ireland. We are not in 1940, 1941 or 1942, D Day is long past, restrictions on diplomatic bags have gone, the seaside lodging house keeper is brightening up at the thought of a good season next year, mines and obstructions are being removed, but we are still under practically the same restrictions as we have been for the last five years. The tourist trade in Northern Ireland, which was very considerable, has been completely and utterly ruined. That perhaps had to be. But it seems that a lot of restrictions in the nominal interest of security are still kept on because no one seems to think about taking them off. Surely the time has come when we may be allowed some of those privileges of which we have been deprived for the last five years. Charlotte Corday complained of the crimes committed in the name of liberty. I complain of the crimes committed in the name of security, because they are manifest and manifold, and they are more strictly applied to the respectable people in the North of Ireland than to almost anyone else. There are hundreds of people who have not been allowed to visit their old homes for five years and thousands who cannot meet friends and relations, because they can only get permits for very near relations in England.
Violent traffic control has been applied to us, though no attempt was made to control the traffic of evacuees from London. They travelled as free as the air, paying scant attention to pathetic appeals by Ministers. Although in other countries such traffic has been controlled, it has never been controlled in this country, but we have been controlled and not allowed to go back and forth on grounds of security. Hordes of Irish labourers came back and forth, and some of them chalked up swastikas on the houses that they built. The entire cat was let out of the bag owing to the British Government being embarrassed by the presence of several thousands of citizens from Gibraltar, whom they did not quite know what to do with. Though they would not allow Ulster people to go to their homes, they shipped over thousands of Gibraltarians. I do not make any comment on the citizens of Gibraltar, beyond saying that I do not know that they have ever had a reputation for discretion above the normal standard. They were brought from the heart of London and elsewhere, and those who were in my constituency certainly did not pay very much respect to the border of Eire, for they went over it whenever they felt inclined, and were rather difficult to stop. That shows that the security end was not so very pressing, but it was kept on us because, I suppose, we did not complain enough.
The censorship still goes on. I cannot send a parcel to my home in Ireland unless I get a permit, but the process of getting a permit is so laborious that it takes most of a week to get it, and I might not get it in the end. Those deadly documents, parish magazines, are absolutely forbidden. If you attempted to send one to Northern Ireland, it would be at once returned. You cannot send photographs, and there is no attempt at discrimination. I have known an effort, in very doubtful taste, to send a photograph of a baby in a bath, but it was turned down on security grounds as it might give valuable information to the Germans, and it was returned to the sender. On grounds of delicacy, there may have been some argument for returning it, but it was returned on grounds of security. The utter futility of censoring letters from the North of Ireland to Great Britain is, I should have thought, apparent to the most infantile mind. There is to my mind good reason for not relaxing the security arrangements the other way. How any argument can be put up by any person, who is capable in the eyes of the law of making a will which will stand, that there is any purpose in spending £11,000 of Government money in employing people to censor the mail that goes from Belfast to London, I cannot understand.
The people who are naturally wishing to send their relations presents at Christmas from Great Britain are not allowed to do so. I hear that the Minister of Food has hit on a brilliant counter-blast conception. He says that people who rear turkeys in Northern Ireland are not allowed to send them to their friends in this country. That seems to me to be an imposition on what is normally assumed to be the right of individuals to do what they want with their own property. I have had something to do with raising turkeys, and I know it is a hard and watchful job, and people who rear them should be allowed to do what they like with them. This question of the censorship is a daily irritation. It slows up the post, and letters which used to come in 24 hours now take four, five or more days. I had one letter from constituents which had been delayed 20 days, because one of the censors sat on it and forgot all about it. It was from a number of infuriated fishermen who were writing about an urgent matter connected with the sale of fish. The normal delay is three or four days.
The main difficulty may well be the lack of shipping. The service of cross-Channel packets has been cut to the bone. I cannot obviously deal with the matter in terms of individual ships, because that would not be a proper thing to do in war time, but by the modesty of my demands, it will be apparent how much has been cut. War transport probably doubles the normal amount of transport that would wish to cross from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. All I would ask—indeed, I would demand it, to use a phrase which is becoming more familiar on the Benches opposite—that we should be allowed to have 50 per cent. of the tonnage in cross-Channel traffic that was employed before the war. That is not unreasonable because it means that per passenger we would have only one quarter of the facilities we had then. The Minister of War Transport is sympathetic, but there is no prospect, as far as I know, of our reaching even this modest standard. I would not wish any Members to undergo the appalling conditions of some of these crossings which are experienced, even with the restricted amount of travel which is allowed by the Home Secretary. It is a shocking state of affairs at the present time, and for Northern Ireland, which has a population equal to that of New Zealand, to have its transport cut down in this way is rather an outrage.
We have borne our share in the war. We would not require to have any rationing, if it were not that our food is going to the constituents of hon. Members in Great Britain. In eggs alone, we are supplying as many as will provide London with its egg ration every year. Again, as regards air attacks, Belfast has had more killed than nearly any provincial town in England. I think that it has had more than Southampton. We have borne our share of the war, and we demand that we should be treated reasonably. We demand the rights that are common to every other person in the United Kingdom, of reasonably free travel through the United Kingdom and an end to censorship, unless it is justified by the facts. Whenever any fresh restriction is put on Ulster, there is always an allusion to our well-known patriotism. We are patriotic and we are proud of it, but the next time an allusion is made to our patriotism, I hope then it will be in response to what we have tried to do. I hope we shall have equal rights in these matters, and be let off some of the irksome and irritating restrictions from which we have suffered for the last five years.
The Prime Minister yesterday made an intervention, in which he drew attention to the fact that we still have a great task lying before us of winning and finishing the war. That is something we cannot possibly ignore. All we hope to do is based upon the necessity of bringing the war to an end at the speediest possible moment. The people of the country recognise that need. The men in the field recognise it. Every effort that can be made at the front and in the factories should be now directed towards the earliest possible moment of victory. That is what the people of the country want. When, however, we discuss this question of carrying through and finishing the war we often find it made a pretext for holding off the speedy realisation of essential legislation. It is becoming more and more apparent, that the necessity of winning the war is being made an excuse on the part of reaction, for holding up various features of legislation that are necessary for this country—necessary not only in the sense that the people require their conditions, in different respects, ameliorated, but necessary as one of the most important factors in bringing the war to an early and victorious conclusion. That is something which is very often neglected, particularly by reactionary Members of the Tory Party. They will talk about winning the war, but they never realise that the remedying of grievances by progressive legislation has a terrific inspiring effect on the soldiers at the front and the working men and women in the factories.
I will come to that in a moment. What I want to have understood is that we must not discuss progressive legislation as something that can be conveniently brought forward, if the winning of the war permits it. It is one of the essential factors in the winning of the war, and an early victory. The people of this country are deeply concerned about an early victory. No Tory reactionary should be allowed to do anything that hampers, in any way, the successful carrying through of the war to an early conclusion. To stand in the way of progressive legislation, shows that you are not concerned with the future of the people.
What is the effect among the people? I have had many letters from soldiers—I handed some of them to the editorial board of the "Daily Worker" last night—expressing disgust at what is going on, and the opinion that there will be little hope for them when they come back, if things go on as they are now going. There is, certainly, in the King's Speech a mention of legislation but is there anything which can, in any way, inspire the people of this country or the soldiers? It says: Those things will he done "as opportunity serves." Does the King's Speech show any recognition that those things should be done and are essential to the carrying through of this terrible struggle? No, it does not. The hon. Member spoke of progressive legislation; did we not have an exhibition on the Town and Country Planning Bill? Why was the Prime Minister forced to come to this House on that Bill? Because of pressure from the Tories. It was not the Labour benchers, or the poor or small people outside, of whom there was so much talk, who forced him to come here. Everybody knows that it was Tory pressure.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister spoke. Everybody is prepared to pay tribute to him. He took upon himself the national leadership at a critical period for the country and he inspired the people and the soldiers of this country to carry through the war. Never does anyone miss an opportunity of paying tribute to that. All right; hon. Members heard the Prime Minister yesterday. I ask the hon. Member who just made the intervention, and any other hon. Member, whether the Prime Minister spoke yesterday as the national leader who inspires the people of this country, or as the Leader of the Tory Party. When he spoke yesterday, did he inspire anybody? Listen to the workers outside talking, last night or this morning. They got a feeling of depression—that progressive legislation was not to be treated seriously. That was the feeling created. There is not a Tory old or young who can deny that the national leader who inspired the people at the time of crisis, yesterday depressed the people of this country, when he spoke as Leader of the Tory Party.
One of the biggest matters, that should be rushed with the greatest possible speed, is the solving of the housing question of this country. What an effect that would have on the soldiers and the workers. Thousands of soldiers are fighting who have no homes to come back to, yet the King's Speech says: "As opportunity serves." How is the King's Speech going to affect them? They cannot stand for that. No Tory on the other side, who has any sense of the fitness of things and is really keen about winning the war, can stand for "as opportunity serves." The housing problem must be solved, and for that we have to take over the land. That is an essential feature in winning the war. How many Tories are prepared to take over the land?
I want to take over the land so that houses can be built. The question of compensation can easily be a subject for discussion. The important thing is to take over the land, so that houses can be built. That is all I am concerned about—getting the land. I would not allow anything to stand in the way of taking the land to build houses, neither the Tory reactionaries nor any talk about compensation. If we got the Government coming forward and saying: "We are going to take the land of this country and use it in the interest of the people to get houses built immediately," what an effect it would have on the Army.
We can get the labour for building houses, as we got the labour for supplying the soldiers with munitions. It is the spirit that matters. We have the labour; but to make a start, let us take over the land and take over the materials. Do not let us put "labour" in the way of that all-important principle. If we want to win the war at the earliest moment, we should inspire the soldiers and the people of the country, and that is how to do it. The mover of the Motion for the Address spoke for the soldiers, or as representing them. Very nobly he represented the soldiers. The seconder comes from the coal face. Hon. Members listened to him, but without any real appreciation, in many cases, of what that meant—the soldier from the fighting front, right from the valleys of death, and the young lad from right deep down underground, digging there and producing the lifeblood of the industries of this country.
Why do not the Government come forward with a clear policy on this question of the mining industry? There is continual crisis on the coal question. Why not put an end to dual control and take over the industry, the lifeblood of every other industry of this country? Let them do that. What an inspiration it would be, not only to the miners and the workers as a whole, but to the soldiers. One soldier, a sergeant, who has been fighting in Burma from the beginning, wrote to me, giving some terrible descriptions of the life and conditions there. He told me that he is watching with eager interest for the development of a single miners' union in this country as it was vital, he said, for those of them who were miners, and he added:
We know what we shall have to face when we come back.
It is terrible that he should have to write in such a way as that. How can we get the best fighting out of the men if they feel that when they come back they will be the victims of a body of private capitalists out for profit, as they were before the war? Let the Government face up to
its own promises, or the promises of its Members. I have heard the Minister of Labour talking, time and time again, about social security. Yes, we shall have social security, they say. Why do not the Government say in the King's Speech that they are going to provide the houses, not "as opportunity serves" but as an essential part of this mighty struggle? Why do they not say that they will produce a policy of social security, and guarantee to every man, woman and child in this country—as we can guarantee to them—that the days of poverty and disease and degradation will be ended, that the war against poverty and distress will be carried through as vigorously as the war against the Nazis and the Fascists?
The Prime Minister spoke about the time when the war against Germany will be over and the continuance of the war against Japan. Surely every Member will recognise that an essential feature of the fight against Japan, or a factor that would greatly shorten the length of the fight against Japan, would be for the Government to liberate the Indian leaders, and solve the deadlock and bring about unity between the forces of this country and the Empire and the great masses of the Indian people. I know there are many Indian volunteers, but because of the failure to end the deadlock, because of the failure to recognise the just demands of the Indian leaders and the Indian people, we have a situation which is bound to hamper and hold back the possibilities of an early victory against Japan. Let us never suggest that there is a time for winning the war, and then a time for progressive legislation. Progressive legislation is an essential factor in bringing the war to the earliest possible end. It is essential, arising out of the King's Speech and the situation that now confronts us, that the progressive forces should somehow or other, be brought together, to ensure that the legislation will be carried through; that the soldiers who are fighting and the workers who are making the tools to enable them to fight, will get a fair deal from now to the end of the war, and security when the war is over, and peace has come again.
The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) whose fiery eloquence always reminds me of a raging torrent dashing over Niagara Falls, will perhaps forgive me if I do not follow him in the numerous subjects he covered, because I have other matters to raise. At any rate I look forward to being with him in the same Division Lobby when progressive legislation, in the various Government Bills to be brought before the House in the course of this Session, is laid before us. The Prime Minister, whom I am sure every Member of this House will have observed with so much satisfaction looking hale and hearty on his 70th birthday when he came down to the House this morning, declared in his speech yesterday, that there was more than a possibility that the war might continue into next summer. Be that as it may, I will venture an opinion myself. I would express it as a possibility, though not as a probability, that the war situation may well see the General Election postponed beyond the date of present expectations. Whether we take the longer or the shorter view of the war, the time has come when we should consider the postwar planning of the world, particularly in relation to the treatment of Germany, and our own methods of seeking security. I, therefore, propose to devote the few remarks which I shall address to the House this afternoon, to that particular subject.
When hostilities have ceased in Europe the primary object of the Allies must be to make sure that Germany will never again be in a position to challenge the Powers for world hegemony either in our time or our children's life time. Should we fail in this object, the spoils of victory will prove to be no more than Dead Sea fruit. To reach our goal we must approach this problem with great determination. At the same time, we must try to follow what I believe to be the sane middle course as opposed to a blind policy of vengeance against the Germans, on the one hand, and weak sentimentality on the other. Unfortunately, in spite of the lessons of the past and the fact that we in Europe are now in the sixth year of the war, there are still a number of influential people who cherish the illusion that, when violence has ceased, the victor has only to treat the vanquished with clemency to ensure the establishment of good relations in future. To my way of thinking there can be no doctrine more false than that. The public memory is notoriously short, and therefore I pro-
pose to trespass upon the patience of the House to make a rather prolonged quotation from a speech made by a German Minister in the heyday of Nazi conquest of 1940, lest we forget the awful fate that would have overtaken our people had the Germans triumphed over us. The speech was made in May, 1940, by no less a Nazi than Richard Walter Darré, Germany's Minister of Agriculture, and it was delivered in secret before a gathering of high German officials. Speaking of Germany's war aims, he said:
We are fighting for the highest goal, struggling for the aim entrusted to us by God, struggling to master the world for our future generations and for time eternal.
It will be our duty to organise economically the territories gained, which gradually will be included in the German area. We will introduce in our new 'living space' completely new methods. All soil and industrial property of inhabitants of non-German origin will be confiscated without exception, and distributed primarily among the worthy members of the party and soldiers who were accorded honours for bravery in this war. Thus a new aristocracy of German masters (called Herrenvolk) will be created. This aristocracy will have slaves assigned to it, these slaves to be their property and to consist of landless non-German nationals. England must be destroyed as once Carthage was destroyed; the centres of this perfidious plutocracy must be turned into ruins, so that this punishment might serve as a lesson to all who will attack our nation, and particularly the nations of the Western hemisphere who should be cognisant of the fact that should they stand up against us it would be their last role. Thousands of our planes will fly over proud Albion and the thunder of bombs and fires will shake to the very foundations this accursed island, which has hindered for centuries our development.
Those are the kind of people with whom not a few in this country feel disposed to deal softly at the end of this war. If I have not read enough to emphasise the moral I am striving to drive home, I will make one more quotation, from a letter which a British general who read Darré's speech in the Press, sent to the "Sunday Express," giving an account of a conversation he had with a Nazi agent, competent to pronounce upon high Nazi policy, who declared:
As soon as we beat England, we shall make an end of you English once and for all. Able bodied men and women will be exported as slaves to the Continent. The old and weakly will be exterminated. All men remaining in Britain—as slaves—will be sterilised. A million or two of the young women of the Nordic type will be segregated in a number of stud farms where, with the assistance of picked German sires, they will be
during a period of ten or twelve years producing nearly annually a series of Nordic infants to be brought up to be in every way as Germans. These infants will form the future population of Britain. They will be partially educated in Germany, and only those who fully satisfy Nazi requirements will be allowed to return to Britain and take up permanent residence. The rest will be sterilised and sent to join the slave gangs in Germany. Thus, in a generation or two the British will disappear.
I have read rather prolonged extracts in order that it may be realised how narrowly we escaped seeing our civilisation perish from this earth. For averting this calamity, England and her Empire may fairly take chief credit. To our imperishable glory, for a whole year, in 1940–41, we stood alone against the worst that the barbarians could do. We make up our minds, when we think of these things, that they are never going to happen again. If they are never to recur, then the following minimum precautions against future German aggression are vitally necessary. I have boiled them down under six brief headings. First, there must be total disarmament of Germany, and the destruction of all her war equipment and war plant. Secondly, there will have to be armies of occupation within her territories for many years. We must be practical in facing this problem, and realise that men weary of such tasks. It is not therefore inopportune to suggest to the Government that they might consider the proposal of training our soldiers on German soil, as a means of providing occupation troops in the years to come. Thirdly, I believe that one of the keystones to the future European edifice will be the creation of a new Austria, under a Hapsburg monarchy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Have we not got a monarchy here in this country?
I do not make any comparison at all. I was going to suggest that, included with Austria, might well be the State of Bavaria, and possibly Hungary. All these countries, incidentally, are Catholic, and it might be a means of bringing some stability into that part of the world, where it has been completely lacking since the breaking-up of the old Austrian Empire after the last war.
I agree that that was the case. With regard to the other interruption from the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) I would suggest that there were mistakes made in the Treaty of Versailles as well as in the Treaty of Trianon, and that that was one of them. The fourth point concerns East Prussia. I would hand that over, in its entirety, to the Poles, if for no other reason than that it is the cradle of Prussian arrogance and aggression. The French frontier I would shift farther Eastward, to the Rhine, and the solution of the Ruhr question could be best made by internationalising that area. Finally, I believe that the Germans should be deprived of all armed forces, on land, the sea, and in the air; moreover, in the light of past experience, the Germans should be allowed to retain no commercial air force either.
Having dealt with Western Europe, I now turn to the question of future security for this country. The foundation-stone of security for Britain must be strong armed forces, to be the first charge on the Exchequer. I think that no one will quarrel with that in any part of the House. I often reflect myself that human nature has changed very little in course of two thousand years, but the English, broadly speaking, are a people who seldom study history. In support of my contention, I propose to quote no less a protagonist of armaments than St. Luke, who wrote these words nearly 2,000 years ago—words which are as applicable in the present age as they were when they were written:
When a strong man keepeth his court, those things he possesseth are in peace; but if a stronger than he come upon him and overcome him, he will take away all his armour wherein he trusted, and will distribute his spoils.
In addition to maintaining a strong armed force after the war, we must base our security upon close alliances with the United States and Russia, who, alone with the British Empire, can guarantee the
peace of the world. Further, bearing in mind the annihilation of space through modern inventions and the power of modern weapons, we have to make up our minds to seek close alliances—and the sooner the better—with all these other States, France, Greece, Poland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Low Countries and Scandinavia. We must never forget that "the price of liberty is eternal vigilance." In framing these alliances, there can be no limited liability as there has been in the past. Each country must be called upon to contribute to the common pool in direct proportion to its wealth and population. Therein lies the secret of success of all future agreements reached.
To sum up, in my view, we may do more, but can do no less, if we are to have peace in our time. If then we do these things, if, also, the mettle of our people remains sound, as I believe it will, if we never allow the fact to escape us that there is a standard of life as well as a standard of living, and finally, if our liberties are restored to us as soon as practicable, and the Government bear in mind the old and highly practical principle contained in the Chinese proverb that
great nations should be governed as you would cook a small fish,
that is, with a minimum of interference, then I am prepared to face the future of this country with considerable optimism.
I have no intention whatever of following the hon. Member who has just spoken in his peroration about the future of the German Reich. We know only too well what our fate would have been had the enemy overrun this country as he did so many other countries, with its following trail of brutality and martyrdom. We have listened to two very instructive speeches, one from the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Address, and, to-day, that of the hon. and gallant Member for Rusholme (Major Cundiff), who, I believe, has served in all three of the Armed Forces, and who revealed to us what the serving man has been saying. I believe he voiced the view of this House when he declared that war criminals should not be allowed to go unpunished. The King's Speech outlines fairly good ideas, but its vagueness as to possible early legislation is a matter of very deep concern to many of us. If the social insurance scheme were not put on the Statute Book before Parliament dissolves, there would be a feeling of disappointment in the country. It would be assumed that the Government had at last yielded to the reactionary views of the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Sir W. Smithers), who, by his speeches and letters to the Press, has urged that there should be delay in dealing with the national insurance scheme. Then, again, the staffs of approved societies whose livelihood is at stake will be left wondering as to their fate.
Further, workmen's compensation is a long overdue Measure which we all hoped would soon have been placed on the Statute Book. I notice also the following in the King's Speech:
Measures will also be laid before you making further provision for the regulation of wages and conditions of employment.
May I ask if this means Joint Industrial Councils, and, if so, may I say that such a step should certainly be welcomed by the House, in view of the good work done during the war by these Joint Industrial Councils in the distributive trades? I hope they will be extended so as to cover both wholesale and retail. We must seek to prevent the possibility of what happened after the last war, when disputes occurred all over the country through lack of wage-fixing machinery, while, in the Armed Forces, the men had no knowledge of the cost of living at home. When they returned to civil life and found that wages offered were insufficient to make ends meet, there were disputes all over the country. I hope that is not to happen again.
I know that some hon. Members have shown considerable concern about the position of small traders. I hope they will be equally concerned about the small traders' employees. In the past, with the small trader, it has too often been a case of long hours and low wages, and, therefore, any Measure to improve the conditions there should be welcomed. I sincerely hope that this wages question will be dealt with without delay. Again, I notice in the King's Speech that progress will be made in providing housing accommodation. Let us hope that that progress will be speedy and that the housing of the people will have a priority over everything else. It is unfortunate, I think, that no mention is made about pensions for the old people. Let us hope that the old people will not be a forgotten army, and that something tangible will be done for them before this Parliament goes out of office.
As one who has served in two wars, and is therefore most anxious to avoid any further wars in my lifetime or the lifetime of our children, I regard the second sentence in the Gracious Speech from the Throne as the most important. Without peace we can do nothing, and unless we can get a satisfactory solution all measures of national insurance or anything else will fall by the way. The sentence is:
They now look forward with greater confidence than ever before to those final victories which will give to the peoples of the world the just peace which is our chief desire.
The words "just peace" are absolutely the correct words in this connection. I do not want to-day, because there will be many opportunities later, to deal with the future set-up of Europe, and the war is not over yet. I do not want, as the hon. Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Mr. Chater) did, to refer to Dumbarton Oaks, but as he has done so, I would just say that no form of international peace, international arrangement or international organisation can be successful unless it is based on the good will and good faith of the nations concerned. The Dumbarton Oaks proposal suggests a Security Council of the great Powers, but the great Powers themselves have to have the will, and to continue to have the will, and, above all, the ability to enforce their will, and nothing set up in the form of an organisation can succeed unless the big Powers in the world have the will to peace and the will to enforce it.
I want to deal with this matter in a slightly different way. Foreign affairs—and this is a trite remark—are British interests abroad. What are the British interests? I believe, broadly speaking, British interests abroad, at any rate as far as Europe is concerned, are the interests of Europe itself. There is no conflict, because we want nothing from Europe except peace, between British interests in Europe and the interests of Europe. The first want is obviously a just peace, an unassailable peace, as is also mentioned in the Gracious Speech. But that must mean that the people who agree to this peace must really agree to it and that it must be, more or less at any rate, by consent, and the people for whom the peace is made must be more or less content with the settlements that are made.
Let us take one or two countries in Europe to-day and see if contentment and consent are really covered. I know that there is to be a further Debate on Poland and I will not labour the question now, but let me mention Poland in passing. Whatever settlement is come to in Poland it must be obvious from hon. Members' conversations with Poles in this country, from letters in the Press and the general knowledge of what the Poles are feeling in the Fighting Forces and elsewhere, that unless the Poles are given a reasonably decent peace they will never be content with a peace imposed either by the Lublin Committee or by Russia. It would not, in the long run, be in the interests of Russia herself to have a peace which is imposed and which creates such discontent among the Polish people abroad and Polish people in Poland that it may well be a festering sore in that part of Europe for the future.
Let us take Jugoslavia, which again is a case where, unless the Serbian majority accept the peace, there will be no real contentment, or peace by consent of the people. The British Government have been backing Marshal Tito, who, besides being a Communist, is a Croat, and up to now the new Prime Minister of Jugoslavia and the Royal Jugoslav Government have failed to obtain any real representative Serbian to serve in that Government. Unless we can get the Serbian element, which is the majority in the country, to serve under that Government and to lead that country towards contentment we will never get the sort of peace that I would like to see in that country.
There is one small point which it would seem requires the consideration immediately of His Majesty's Government. I understand that Marshal Tito has refused the services of U.N.R.R.A. for the people of Jugoslavia freed from the Germans. The Civil Affairs branch of the Military Forces, I understand, are feeding the people, but the effect of the refusal of Marshal Tito to have U.N.R.R.A. to come in behind the army is that Marshal Tito will feed his own people and leave the Serbs unfed. That seems to me to be a matter for His Majesty's Government, with the American Government, to put right. You cannot get peace if you are going to starve to death the majority of the people of a particular country.
I think I am right in saying that the Serbian people are more numerous than all the other nationalities combined. If there is to be peace, there must be contentment and consent among the people for whom the peace is made. That applies equally to the big nations as to the small nations.
No, of course not. I am talking in terms of the Allies and occupied countries. The hon. Gentleman will agree with me that Germany and Japan are aggressors and must be treated in an entirely different way.
I was taking the test which the hon. and gallant Gentleman applies, that any peace must leave the nation involved contented, and I wondered why that does not apply to Germany too.
I should have thought that it would have been obvious that the Germans, by their history and by their character, do not deserve to be treated like a civilised Power and I am surprised that the hon. Member, in his quest of logic, fails to recognise the difference between Germany and the rest of Europe. That is the first point, that it is to the British interest and the interest of Europe that there should be the contentment and the consent of the people.
The second British interest is, perhaps, not quite so morally strong, and that is that there should be British concern with trade. In these days, when we have sunk all our savings in the war, it is vital that we should retain and extend our trade. In this connection I think it is a little unfortunate that His Majesty's Government should have agreed to the Armistice terms with Finland. I only mention this in passing, but I understand—my right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong—that the Armistice terms with Finland include provisions for reparations in kind which equal 10 years of the exportable surplus of Finland before the war. If that is so, all chance of our trade with Finland after the war goes. The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) and I are equally keen on dealing with housing in London; for that purpose, one of the finest countries to go to for high quality timber is Finland. How shall we be able to get timber from Finland if reparations equal to the total exportable surplus from Finland must go to Russia for the next 10 years? Must we buy it from Russia? Surely, during the discussions on those Armistice terms, the British Government could have said, "You can deprive Finland of her total exportable surplus for 10 years if you like, but we want our share. We must stand up for our trade rights because, in this particular instance, it affects not only our trade but the housing of our people after the war."
Then take another country, Rumania. I understand that the Rumanians have to hand over machinery, and various other things, to Russia as part of the Armistice, but in fact the Rumanians are handing over British oil machinery to Russia. Now that should never be allowed. We have British rights there, and one of the British rights are the British and American oil firms in Rumania. That is the sort of thing which the British Government should watch to see that it does not arise.
I want to allude not only to Russia but to America, to the Civil Aviation Conference that is going on now. I am very glad that Lord Swinton is chairman of it, because I think he is the kind of man who can stand up for British rights, and I hope he will. It would be far better, in my opinion, to come back with no agreement rather than to subscribe to an agreement as the result of force majeure owing to the unfortunate situation in which we find ourselves as a result of the war regarding aircraft. We cannot get 100 per cent. always of what we want, but British interests should be frankly stated and, with a democracy, the people should understand that they have been frankly stated. I do not believe that the Foreign Office to-day in their operations in connection with these countries, par- ticularly some of the smaller countries, have been strong enough in their representations or frank enough to a democracy. After all, we have a right to speak. Our prestige in Europe was probably highest in 1940 when we stood alone. It is lower, I think, now, because of what is happening, but we have a great opportunity to lead Europe towards the unassailable and lasting peace we all want. The foreign nations trust us. When they were invaded, I think all the nations of Europe came to us; their exiled Governments came to us, they did not go elsewhere, and we have fostered and cared for them during their hard times. We have a great opportunity of leadership, and we have a right to speak as leaders.
What have we done? Not only did we save the world in 1940, we were the first to fight before we were attacked, and that goes for Russia and America. We have in the White Paper at last disclosed to the world some of the things we have done at great sacrifice to ourselves. It is a triumph of under-statement to call this White Paper, "Statistics relating to the war effort of the United Kingdom." It should be called "The Heroic Record of a Great People"—5,500,000 people in the Services, 7,000,000 women serving in munitions, 22,000,000 men and women serving in the war altogether. We have strictly rationed ourselves, and made our diet dull, if just sufficient. We have rationed our clothing. We have to have points and coupons for almost everything we need. We have built 722 major naval vessels, 25,000 tanks, and 102,000 aircraft. We have ruined our export trade—cut it to nothing—and we have to start all over again. We have given £1,000,000,000 in reverse Lend-Lease to our Allies, and this in spite of two long periods of heavy bombing by high-explosive or fly-bombs. Physically we may be small, but I believe we shall not be considered so small if we have close and even closer contact with our Dominions.
Materially, our resources may not be so great as other countries', but morally I believe we are the greatest nation on God's earth. We have a right to speak and to speak as equals. We have put everything into this united effort of winning the war. We have had no thought for the future. We deserve to be listened to with respect. My plea this afternoon is that the British Government should recognise that we are a great nation, that we have a right to be heard as equals, and that we should not be afraid, as the greatest democratic nation in the world, which has kept democracy alive here as a landmark and as a guide to the future, to state our minds frankly and clearly to the world. I believe that if we can get what we want, it will be in the interests of Europe, and in the interests of the unassailable peace that we all desire.
I have listened to most of the Debate yesterday and to-day and have been intrigued with several statements made by those who have taken part. I was rather touched by what the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan) said when he drew a distinction in the treatment to be meted out after this war to certain of the Central European States and that, of course, we must not give to Germany the same treatment that we give to other countries because Germany is the enemy. I will come to that point later on. Some of us have placed an Amendment to the Address on the Paper, in these terms:
But humbly regret that there is no indication in the Gracious Speech that His Majesty's Government, in conjunction with its Allies, intend making a declaration which would encourage the emergence within Germany of a new régime composed of democratically minded persons in whom the United Nations could have faith, so that a settlement of the problems which caused the conflict in Europe might be reached on the basis of the principles set forth in the Atlantic Charter.
Those who have been good enough to read it, will see that it contains challenges on three points. The first thing our Amendment challenges is the policy of unconditional surrender; secondly, it challenges something that will interest the hon. and gallant Member, namely, the ridiculous theory of the good and bad nations. Finally, it challenges the British Government primarily, and their Allies, for having discarded all that is worth while in the provisions of the Atlantic Charter.
Let me say on the first point, about unconditional surrender, that I do not know my history as well as other hon. Members, but I understand that these two words have been borrowed from the vocabulary of the American Civil War. I do not think therefore that they are at all applicable to a war between nations. What the use of that slogan has done, has been to stiffen the German people behind the Fuehrer and turn his followers into fanatical fighters. Here, let me make it plain once again that I am as much opposed to Fascism as any Member in this House. Some may recall that a long time ago, I protested at this Box, against some Members of the House of Commons welcoming the coming of Nazism in Europe; they regarded it as something which would provide a sanitary cordon to prevent Bolshevism travelling West. Now, however, Bolshevism is travelling West very largely because Great Britain and America are helping it by providing Russia with munitions of war. I have said before that all that Great Britain and America will be doing in this war from now onwards is to make the Continent of Europe safe for Communism. In any case, unconditional surrender is an unworkable policy. All that has happened in Southern Italy is sufficient proof for the contention I have made. I very much doubt whether the Italian people will feel very well disposed towards us and the Americans, for imposing this policy of unconditional surrender on their country. I am told that the Italian people are actually suffering from want of food, and that there is political chaos among them. Without being prejudiced at all I am not so sure that the Italians who have been liberated feel that they are any better off than they were under the bondage of Germany, and that is a terrible state of affairs.
Our Amendment challenges too the idea of the good and bad nations, and that is where I quarrel with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Kensington. Surely, he, who is very much better educated than I am, does not seriously argue that nations are eternally divided into good and bad. If he does, let me remind him of the fable written by Æsop, one of the wisest men in history, and ask him to remember that it is not so long ago since the Russian people were thought of by the majority of the people in this country as the most wicked on the face of the earth. One fine morning, however, we awoke and found that all the Russians were saints, and Stalin ever since has been a very decent fellow. What nonsense! The fable I have just mentioned runs something as follows. This wise man Æsop was walking front Argos, where he lived, to the city of Corinth, close by, when he met a traveller, who said, "You live in Argos. Tell me what sort of people live there." The wise man said, "Tell me first what sort of people are living in Corinth." The traveller replied, "I am leaving the Corinthians for good, because they are a lot of rogues, scoundrels and rascals." The wise man said, "Oh, you will find exactly the same type in Argos." He walked further on and met a second traveller who posed the same question as to what sort of people lived in Argos. The wise man said to him also, "Tell me first what sort of people are living in Corinth." The second traveller said, "I have lived there for a long time and have found them decent, straightforward, honest and clean folk." Then Æsop said, "You will find just the same type in Argos."
Later on the two travellers met one another and began to argue how it came about that such a very wise man should tell two different tales about the same people living in the same area until one said, "What he meant was that you will find your own type of human beings wherever you go." Well, I have travelled large tracts of this world, and wherever I have been I, too, have found my own type wherever I have gone. That is the history of mankind throughout the ages.
But, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman had fought against the Russians, he would be saying exactly the same thing about them. I am sorry that the hon. Member for South Salford (Mr. Stourton), who, I understand, wants to put the Hapsburgs back on their throne, is not in his place at the moment. I want to tell him and those who think like him that there are two wars going on in Europe at present, the obvious conflict between the United Nations and the Axis Powers and the less spectacular war between the common people and those who rule them. Unfortunately—and I may be biased about this—I am very much afraid that before this war ends British working-class folk will be used to keep the workers in other countries in Europe in subjection. We see what is happening in Belgium now. British military power is being employed to restrain the Belgian people who want a better Belgium to emerge from this conflict. The same applies to Greece too. I have no claim to speak on this next subject except as a traveller. I have seen the people of Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Hungary and elsewhere, and I want to say, with as much emphasis as I can command, as one who has lived longer than most Members in this House, that it makes me a sad man to see the Continent of Europe in the plight that now overwhelms it. I believe that this is the darkest of all the dark ages in the history of man; and here, in this Parliament, the freest in the world, and the freest spot in this island—freer than our political parties or churches—yes, in the darkest of all ages in history, there is not a glimmer of light or hope in the struggle to the death that is now proceeding on both sides. I was taught from childhood to believe that there are characteristics in the men and women of every nation which, if appealed to, can rise above the use of force to settle international quarrels. I am appealing to that.
Some parts of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for North Kensington however were sensible, and I thought he would be willing to apply his philosophy of peace to all countries alike, including Germany, when the war ends. What I cannot understand is how it comes about that people use in turn exactly the same vocabulary about every country fighting against us. We hear now that the Japanese are barbarians and scoundrels, whereas in the last war of 1914–18, when they were fighting on our side, they were the gentlemen of the East, and decent little fellows at that. God forbid, but I have heard it whispered that the Red Army is travelling a little too far West to please some hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. I would not be surprised, therefore, that before this world conflict ends to see Great Britain, America, France, Germany and Italy combine to push the Red Army back to their own country. If that should happen, the Russian people, now regarded as saints, will then be called "blackguards" and "bloody baboons," as they were termed by the Prime Minister not so very long ago. Do hon. Members realise that new generations are born every day? Do they realise, for instance, that it is quite possible that 50 per cent. of the young men now fighting in Europe to-day were elementary schoolboys when the war started?
I respect the hon. and gallant Gentleman's views; indeed, I have always respected the man who volunteers and thinks he is fighting for a principle, and I also respect likewise the man who refuses to fight at all. The person I do not respect is he who wants the other fellow to do the fighting for him. The hon. and gallant Gentleman talks of security. I want therefore to quote from "The Times," 1st December, 1855. We were then at war with Russia in the Crimea; and, as far as I understand my history, both sides lost the war, but each Government convinced their people that they had won. That, of course, is the habit of Governments. I am a little surprised that people can be easily deceived by war-time propaganda. If the Governments that are at war decided to-night to wind up this conflict on a negotiated basis, as they might do without asking Parliament—they have done similar things before—I would give our own Government just one week by propaganda to convince 80 per cent. of the British people that Hitler is a decent fellow after all; and, in Germany Goebbels would need only three days to convince 95 per cent. of the Germans that our Prime Minister has never tasted whisky or smoked a cigar. That is propaganda, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman is I am afraid as susceptible to it as anyone. For instance, our Prime Minister paid a generous tribute to Franco, the Fascist, the other day, and hon. Members opposite said "Amen." Then, who would have said 10 years ago, that our Prime Minister would be eating caviare and drinking champagne in Moscow with Stalin? I am astonished that hon. Members who have been educated in colleges and universities are so susceptible to this propaganda clap-trap. Nice smooth things used to be said about the Nazis. I once heard a right hon. Gentleman opposite say what a grand thing it was that Hitler had arisen and he hoped that, if anything untoward happened to the people of these islands, a Hitler would arise here too, [HON. MEMBERS: "Who said that?"] The Prime Minister said it. It is on record and I will give proof if hon.
Members want it. This is what "The Times" said on 1st December, 1855, about the Crimean war. It is the hon. and gallant Gentleman's language in paraphrase:
Let us have security this time so that we shall not have the same bloody work to begin over again some 10 years hence. With what hope could the English Government face Parliament and the English people if they were to give us no other return for the blood of our soldiers and for the vast amount of treasure that we have lavished on this war than a peace which will leave us to begin again when another human crop was ripe for the sickle of the Czar?
How comes it therefore that we once hated the Greeks, the Turks and the Boers? We have hated the Russians, too. Now we hate the Germans. The only people we really love are ourselves, and we are not certain of that always. I am attempting here to debunk all this foul propaganda that gets hold of the people.
I represent a seat in Lancashire and I expected more intelligence from another Member from my county. Because I stand in a free Parliament to criticise the institutions of my own country, and to debunk the hypocrisy of my own Government, the hon. and gallant Gentleman thinks that I must be a friend of Hitler. If our two minds could be properly analysed it would be found that I detest Nazism more than the hon. and gallant Gentleman does.
The English historian Stubbs once wrote this about the French nation:
How comes it about that the English and the Germans have always been the peace-loving nations of history?
He answered his own question by saying:
Because France showed herself to-day, as she has been through the course of a thousand years, aggressive, unscrupulous and false to a degree.
In 1860. My point is that nations do not change like that in turn, so that you hate the Russians to-day and make friends with them to-morrow, hate the Germans to-day and make friends with them later. There is no such thing as good and bad nations in the world. Mankind is not divided fundamentally into German, British, American and Italian. Mankind is divided into good, bad and indifferent everywhere. I do not profess to be a saint, but that is what Christianity teaches. Hon. Members go to church on Sundays and contribute lavishly to keep the Christian Church going, then they come here and denounce the very basis of Christianity. Then we go to war and say we are fighting for the Christian religion. I for one am not having that hypocrisy, and this is the place to say it. I am glad that this place does exist, and let me tell the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Procter) that if there was a similar place in Germany and I were a German, I would say there exactly what I am saying here. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman cannot contain himself because he would probably like to shoot me. That is the spirit that apparently animates him. As we are now proceeding to a General Election the division of opinion on these issues will emerge in due course. It is beginning to come already in this House.
Once again, I am very glad that we have a Parliament, for one of my objections to a totalitarian regime is that you cannot in that case change the Government without bloodshed. We can change it otherwise here. Let me conclude by saying that all my teaching and all that I believe in, is against the use of force to settle international quarrels. To that end I will do my part in assisting to bring forth and establish a durable peace in the world.
The business of "debunking" must not be allowed to be the monopoly of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). I would ask him to remember that it is dangerous to seek to prove a case by proverbs and fables, with so many of which he adorned the passionate discourse which the House has just enjoyed. I prefer history to parables. I would remind the hon. Member that twice within this century, the majority of the German nation have proved themselves to be a people that loves and glorifies successful war. They have shown themselves to be the greatest and the most brutal trouble-makers in the annals of mankind. Indeed, the Germans may well deserve the language deprecated just now by the hon. Member—"the dirtiest scoundrels on the face of the earth"—language that I would describe as more remarkable for its accuracy than for its elegance.
Foreign policy, on which hon. Members have dwelt considerably to-day, is beyond question the most vital element in our affairs. It is a truism that in order to conduct our foreign policy most effectively, we need two circumstances—first, a healthy and harmonious British Commonwealth, and, second, sane and sound political conditions in the United Kingdom. The absence of either of these factors would gravely weaken that prestige on which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan) laid such correct emphasis just now.
In the Gracious Speech reference is made to our comrades in the Forces from the British Commonwealth and Empire. I want to touch on an aspect of this matter that has not yet been mentioned in the Debate and to ask this question. How is the British Commonwealth of Nations going to emerge from this struggle? What effect on its future will flow from the experience of the young men from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa who have fought beside us? Those who have been here will each take home to his own Dominion a record of the treatment he received in Britain. I am glad my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is here because I believe he can help in this matter. There is a certain class of men whom, I hope, the Government will take especial care to handle well. I mean the repatriated prisoners of war, because they are now physically and directly concerned in this country, who come from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. One can say from observation that the fact of having been a prisoner of war need not leave upon a man any permanent effect. It does not so deeply scar his spirit that he is for ever a changed man. But, immediately after his release, his state of mind cannot be expected to be completely normal.
I have known of a British soldier lately returned from captivity who—it sounds trifling, but it is symbolic—refused the offer of a cigarette-lighter, because he considered that the manufacture of such an article was an unwarranted luxury, and that the energy expended upon it should have gone into munitions. I know of another case, which has a pathetic aspect, of an officer ex-prisoner of war who always took the seat in a room furthest from the fire for the same reason. Fuel, he asserted, should go into the armament factories and not into the home. He was shocked after his own experience in Germany that we had left to us any domestic comforts.
No doubt, in time, these men will recover the balance of which their sufferings and their narrowed outlook have for the time being deprived them. We in this country can look after our own, but I want to ask the Government to consider the vital importance of the men from the Dominions. There are thousands of them in transit from Germany to their homes. They are physically sick or at best weakened by their grim and unnatural experience. For years, they rightly regarded obedience to authority as wrong. That is the right state of mind for a prisoner of war; he ought to cause all the inconvenience he can to his captors. The result is that when they reach this country, some are inclined to take leave without its being granted, or to refuse leave when it is offered to them. They are critical of the open world into which they are suddenly projected and restored. These Dominion soldiers, too sick perhaps to serve again, cannot be shipped home at once, and vet each one of them is a potential ambassador of Empire.
This is not a trifling point. We want, I am sure, no damage to be caused by avoidable negligence to the British Commonwealth of Nations, which is at once the greatest and the most successful large-scale political experiment in history. The accommodation in which these men have to be housed, while they are waiting to be shipped home, should be adequately staffed. I do not consider, to give an illustration of what I have in mind, that the rule that Australians should look after Australians, and that South Africans should exclusively tend South Africans, should be observed so slavishly that there are too few men for the job. They should have the best and most sympathetic treatment possible from humane and experienced companions; it does not matter whether they are drawn from the Dominions or from what is called the mother country. In a word, I hope that the Government will agree that nothing but the best available is good enough for these men, who have been in captivity so long after having come to assist us from the sister Dominions overseas.
There is one other matter which I wish to raise in the course of my brief remarks. I take leave to say that it is of general interest. It may be necessary to ask for the indulgence of the Labour Party before I say it, but I think it should be said, because political honesty demands it. Yesterday the Prime Minister said in the course of his speech:
Our tenure now depends upon the official end of the German war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1944; Vol. 406, c. 34.]
I do not know precisely what "the official end" may be, but if that is the factor governing the date of the General Election, I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. It is difficult for one to take an objective view about something which most people dislike intensely, a General Election, but anybody who is able to do so will agree that the House of Commons should be renewed as early as possible, provided that it can be done without causing undue dislocation to our war energies. But, and these are the questions I wish to ask, what is to be the form of the Election, and what is to be its political sequel?
It seems to be almost universally assumed that we are to have an Election conducted on what are usually called party lines, and very devious and misleading those lines may be. The proper consequence of a party Election should be a party Government. There is, I submit, no other honourable and logical result. If that does not follow, you deceive the public. If you deceive the public, you weaken and tend to destroy Democracy, because it will lose faith in itself. Yet, when you ask anyone whose judgment is deserving of respect, either inside Parliament or outside, whether a party Government should introduce the social legislation, which the passage of time on the one hand, and the ravages of the war upon the other, have made abundantly necessary, or should conduct the war against Japan—I would remind hon. Members that Japan is much more insensitive and just as formidable as Germany—or should frame the guarantees against future German aggression, or should proceed to place upon a permanent foundation our future relationships with Russia and the United States—to mention only three or four of the most urgent problems which will face that next Government—that individual, whom one questions because one respects his judgment, will answer, spontaneously, speedily and automatically: "Certainly not. There must quite obviously be a Coalition. And the man at the head of it, so long as we are engaged in hostilities against Japan, must certainly be the present Prime Minister."
I submit to this House and to the Government, and in particular to the leaders of the Conservative Party and the Labour Party—because they are the main factors in deciding this matter—that it would be dishonest and ridiculous to fight a party Election, as it is called, while the party leaders nourished at the back of their minds the firm intention of reviving the same Coalition just after the General Election. I suggest that that would be as unsavoury an arrangement as a trial divorce. I think trial marriages are unsavoury, but I believe that trial divorces are even grosser. If the Labour Party, taking the initiative in this matter, which I think is now a matter of fact, insist upon a party Election, and are then returned with a majority, it should be made quite clear to them now before the Election that they will have to struggle on by themselves so long as the country—at war be it remembered against Japan—is able to endure a régime of dim leadership and undiluted Socialism. If, on the other hand, the party Election on which the Labour Party seems likely to insist—although it is not too late for it to alter its intention—results, as it well may—I am not trying to predict anything in this matter—in a big majority for the Prime Minister's party and its associates, it should be made equally clear to our hon. Friends, or the hon. Members of the Labour Party, that the Labour Party will not share in the Government which helps to ensure the final triumph of the United Nations.
It may be said that what I say is suggesting disunity, but hon. Members will agree that the motive clearly underlying what I have been saying is the prevention of disunity. All these unpleasant disunities can be avoided, if we preserve our unity, and what has been a most fruitful co-operation, through and beyond the Election. I assure hon. Members of the Labour Party that there will be plenty of local opposition up and down the country to the co-operation of the great parties, and plenty of local conditions such as will ensure real contests. At such a juncture in our history, when, for all we know, we may be little beyond half-way through the war against the two aggressor nations, Germany and Japan [Interruption]—I said "for all we know." It is probable that we are about three-quarters of the way through the war against both of them—we cannot overemphasise that there is still Japan to be defeated, and that if her defeat is not so thoroughly accomplished as the overthrow of Germany, all the efforts we are now making will be historically futile.
Before my hon. and gallant Friend leaves that point, may I ask whether he is proposing that the Labour Party should be confined to contesting the 160 seats which we hold at present? If not, will more be given to them and which seats would they be? Would West Leeds be one of them?
I am trying to avoid any personal references to one's own private electoral interests, but I am perfectly prepared, as soon as my hon. Friend likes—perhaps he will come and be my opponent himself—to fight an Election in my constituency. I am not as fearful of the result as he thinks I may be. The question he raises will, clearly, be a matter for the local associations.
I see no objection in the Government as it now exists going before the country as a Coalition with what used to be known as a coupon, which is not a gambler's ticket so much as a certificate of the acceptability of the particular candidate to the existing Coalition Government. It is true that, owing to the very objectionable circumstances of the 1918 Election—circumstances which did not flow from the coupon so much as the Coalition cries which were then current throughout the country, of which the worst of all was "Make Germany Pay," which would have damaged the creditor nations more than the debtor nations—the word "coupon," through its associations, has fallen into disfavour. After all, I imagine that any candidate of any party has, if not an actual coupon, at least a notional coupon, given to him by the headquarters of his own party at every General Election. Why a list of candidates considered acceptable to a Coalition Government should be more immoral than a list acceptable to some political party is beyond my comprehension. The hon. Member raises a practical difficulty, but I do assure him that the difficulties and damage of the alternative of having a party Election, and immediately afterwards, if you are to be honest men, insisting upon party Government, when we are still in one of the most critical periods in our history, will greatly outweigh any difficulties the hon. Member may have mentioned by way of interruption to my speech. In any case, I hope anyone will think a long time before he is responsible for disturbing that national unity which, undeniably, for the last four years has wrought so much, and is still, I submit, for two or three years still to come, of such urgent and vital importance.
The hon. and gallant Member for West Leeds (Major Adams) has raised an interesting question with which I would like to deal, but I hope it will be understood that in no way can I speak with authority on behalf of the Members of my party, although I think my views would coincide with theirs if the issue were raised. I would like to say to him that his appeal comes rather late in the day, when the political armies are actually in battle array.
The stage is set for the battle, and even policies have been promulgated, which in the Army would be referred to as strategy. All that has been done following Debates in the House and outside the House, concerning the policies of the two great parties of the State. I wish to say something about the Prime Minister's speech yesterday. He is always very meticulous, when he proposes a question to the House, in dealing with every aspect of the question. That is to say the Prime Minister never shirks the case
of the opponent in his enthusiasm for his own case. But I listened to him very carefully yesterday, and I felt that he was not following his usual custom of considering more than one side of the case. He has told us, from time to time, just what he thinks will be the duration of the war with Germany, and he has led us from spring time to early summer, and yesterday he asked us to ignore the word "early," which means, of course, that the Prime Minister is thinking not only in terms of the war with Germany, but also in terms respecting a possible General Election. The Prime Minister, once upon a time, put his pen to paper and wrote a passage which, I think, applies to the present political situation as reflected in his speech of yesterday, bearing in mind the fact that he expected that the war with Germany might end in the summer, which would be July. This is what he said regarding General Elections:
July for General Elections is dear to the heart of the Tory organiser"—
he then went on to add—
when democracy is supposed to be under the soothing influence of summer weather and before villadom has departed on its holidays.
That seems to fit in with what the Prime Minister said yesterday as to the probabilities of a General Election coming in a month, or thereabouts, that is dear to the heart of the Tory organiser. I suggest, especially to the hon. and gallant Member for West Leeds, that even so——
Surely the hon. Member does not expect me to keep in mind chapter and verse of all the books I have read, especially at my age. But he has disclosed the fact that apparently he has not read this book. Possibly other hon. Members cannot name the book in which these words appear. It happens to be a book that ought to have been read by every Member of the Conservative Party. I will give the hon. Member chapter and verse: page 461 of the second volume of the Life of Lord Randolph Churchill, written in the Prime Minister's own hand. As hon. Members may not have read that book I would recommend them to read it. It is one of the outstanding political biographies, especially as a biography that has been written by a son of his father. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to hear the approval expressed on these Benches. It is evidence to me that at least Members of the Labour Party have read that book.
When I say that the Prime Minister did not show his usual meticulous care in considering all aspects of the question when the war with Germany will end, I want to suggest there is a possibility that the war with Germany will end suddenly, and at a much earlier date than suggested by the Prime Minister. We all hope so, and it may be so. None of us can prophesy with any accuracy or expectation of being believed when the war with Germany will end, but those who say that the war cannot end until next summer have no more right to their opinion than have I or any other hon. Member to the opinion that it is quite as likely to end in January or February next. I put that before the House as a possibility.
That being so, what is the position in regard to what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for West Leeds? The Prime Minister will inform the House that Germany has offered unconditional surrender, and a few days, or maybe weeks, afterwards the House will be called upon to consider the position in the light of the statements that have been made by the Prime Minister. What statement is the Prime Minister likely to make in the event of an announcement being made, let us say, in the early months of the year, that the war with Germany is at an end? Is he coming to this House, with His Majesty's Gracious Speech in his hand, to tell us that all these magnificent promises of social reform can no longer be considered, because—and this is the important point—he has come to the conclusion that it is his duty to advise the King to dissolve Parliament? It is in the Prime Minister's hands to give that advice to the King whenever the Prime Minister pleases, with or without the consent of the Cabinet.
That means, with the probability of an earlier ending of the war with Germany than was suggested by the Prime Minister yesterday, that there will be no opportunity to initiate the many Bills that will be necessary to carry out the promises made in the King's Speech. When that time comes the Prime Minister will have an alternative course open; and that al- ternative, I suggest, might be considered by my hon. and gallant Friend who represents West Leeds. The Prime Minister has the power to advise the King to dissolve Parliament, but he is not compelled to exercise that power merely because the end of the war with Germany has arrived. He can consult the Cabinet and get them to agree that, whatever the opinion of the Conservative Party—who, like the Labour Party, have no reason to fear a General Election—rather than allow His Majesty's Gracious Speech to be outraged by its non-accomplishment, he should recommend an agreement between all parties to carry on with the work of Parliament until the social Measures outlined in the Speech have been put on the Statute Book.
We on this side want these promises carried out before the General Election, for this reason. Under present conditions there is no possibility of this legislation being promoted unless we have plenty of time. Hon. Members with experience spread over many years know perfectly well that the legislative programme in this Speech—although, obviously, the Speech was composed with a full knowledge of the doubtful probability of its ever being carried through—would require much time and attention from Members in a wholehearted endeavour to carry the legislation through.
It is true that the Government are proposing that Standing Committees may be brought forward again in the new year. I am not sure that we shall gain time by the appointment of Standing Committees in place of a Committee of the Whole House. I have vivid recollections of Standing Committees on controversial matters being very obstructive. Knowing, as we do, that there are Members opposite who will stop at no form of obstruction to prevent these Measures being implemented, I am sure that we shall get along much more quickly if these matters are entrusted to a Committee of the Whole House than if they are entrusted to Standing Committees. We are past the time when we can consider the continuation of the Coalition after the war, but when the Prime Minister is satisfied that the war with Germany is at an end, and when he is satisfied that he will get the support of Members on this side of the House for continuing Parliament until these Measures are turned into Acts of Parliament, we shall then be in a better position to judge of the honesty and sincerity of every Member in desiring to carry through this business.
Like other speakers in this Debate, I want to discuss our peace aims, or war aims, whichever one likes to call them. During the course of five or more years of war, some people seem to have become a little vague as to exactly why we declared war on Germany. I am afraid that many of our people, for instance, have fallen victims to our own propaganda, and think that this is a crusade for freedom and democracy, whatever those terms may mean—and they mean different things to different people—that the armistice will usher in an era of peace and prosperity, that everybody will be better off, and that we shall live a happier life under the shelter of the Atlantic Charter and other Sermons on the Mount which have been preached by various Ministers—although I would point out that the Sermon on the Mount at least applied to all men, whereas the Atlantic Charter excludes some 250,000,000 of the human race. Some hon. Members above the Gangway seem to have "gone haywire" about the benefits they expect from this war. They hope to see Socialism spring up everywhere, even to be imposed if necessary—their own particular brands of Socialism, of course. They expect to see unemployment abolished, and peace and plenty supervene. As the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford University (Petty Officer Herbert) wittily wrote, why do not we have bigger, better, and more frequent wars?
We heard all this after the last war, all about homes for heroes and the world being made safe for democracy. But was the world safer after 1918? It was not even safe for democracy. We did not declare war on Germany for the sake of freedom and democracy, still less to promote Socialism. Sometimes I wonder why hon. Members above the Gangway opposed National Socialism before the war. After all, National Socialism and their own creed have much in common. I can only imagine that it was professional jealousy, because a corporal was able in peace time to put so many of their precepts into practice whilst they have had to wait for a war to push this country
along the road to serfdom. I think we have quite enough of our own difficulties—Palestine, India, Ireland and our own domestic troubles—without meddling in other countries' affairs unless they threaten our interests, and that is the first point I want to make. I am supported in this contention by William Pitt, who, in this House, on 10th November, 1797, spoke as follows:
I have no hesitation in avowing … that for the sake of mankind in general, and to gratify those sentiments which can never be eradicated from the human heart, I should see with pleasure and satisfaction the termination of a government whose conduct and whose origin is such as we have seen that of the government of France, but that is not the object—that ought not to be the principle of the war, whatever wish I may entertain in my own heart.
Nor do I think that we declared war on Germany for the freedom or the rights of small nations and against aggression. If that is so, we have been lamentably unsuccessful and lamentably inconsistent, as in the case of Finland, the Baltic States and Poland, and the threats of many leaders of public opinion towards neutrals, all of which can be taken as meaning the failure of our object, if that was the reason why we went to war. But I do not think that we are fighting for any of these things, but simply and solely because the growing strength and aggressive policy of Germany appeared to threaten our security and existence. We are fighting for the very good and sufficient reason, which is the only reason why nations are willing to fight, for the defence of our vital interests, and I quote the Prime Minister in support of that view. He was under no ideological illusion when he wrote, in 1936:
British policy for 400 years has been to oppose the strongest Power in Europe by weaving together a combination of other countries strong enough to face the bully. Sometimes it is Spain, sometimes the French Monarchy, sometimes the French Empire, sometimes Germany.
Stripped of all frills about freedom and democracy, barbarism and aggression, our fundamental aim is as it always has been, and as I hope it always will be, to defend our vital interests against any one Power gaining a hegemony of Europe. When that danger is removed, then our purpose is achieved.
I have said that because I think many people do not recognise that that is the fundamental aim of the war. They have been tricked by oratory about democracy, the freedom of small States and that sort of thing. Therefore, we should keep our minds glued to that point. If our intentions are fulfilled, Germany and Japan, after this war, will be and will remain disarmed, impoverished and dismembered, and, now that the Chinese bubble has been burst, and until France revives, power will rest in the hands of America, Russia and the British Empire. Germany can be repressed by any one of these Powers, or even by such a small country as Belgium. The real problem we have to face is not Germany at all, and all the talk about how to keep her powerless is beside the point.
The real problem is whether good will and unity will inspire the victors, or whether mistrust, ambition and self seeking will prevail. If harmony prevails, then peace is assured. If there is discord, then any plans made for keeping Germany down will be destroyed. The problem seems to me to be exactly what happened after the last war. I remember that in 1919 I wrote that the League of Nations was an alliance of the Allies for the maintenance of the status quo, and I do not think I was far wrong. The Council of the United Nations is a precisely similar body though it makes less pretence about its purpose. The League failed, not because it had no weapons, but because it had no will. The armed and victorious Allies became disunited. When people talked about the teeth of the League of Nations, that was quite beside the point. No amount of teeth would have made it function except to coerce small Powers whose disputes did not affect the interests of any of the great Powers.
It is the same to-day. Once Germany is disarmed, she can be kept powerless as long as the Allies wish, but, if the Allies fall out and Germany can play off one against the other and hold the balance of power between them, whatever precautions have been taken will be of no avail. If Germany is defeated and disarmed, the German problem ceases to exist, if we assume that the victorious Allies will remain armed and united. After all, that is the basis on which all these plans are being made and on which we base all our hopes; that is, that the victors will remain armed and united. If we are only seeking security, a Carthaginian peace therefore seems unnecessary. Only if we are seeking vengeance, punishment or economic advantage can such a peace be justified and Germany converted into a vast Borstal Institution. But we should surely decide which policy we are following for this reason—that the demand for unconditional surrender and the fear of a harsh peace are undoubtedly prolonging the war by stiffening German resistance. If you are only offered blood and sweat and tears, whether you fight on or surrender, you may as well fight on, and, for that reason, I regard those who are in favour of unconditional surrender as doing a great disservice to our Armed Forces by producing a stiffening effect upon our enemies. In one of our most eminent journals the other day, the opinion was expressed that if Lord Vansittart had not existed at all, Goebbels would have had to invent him.
I am encouraged in this view by Mr. Thomas Dewey's recent speech, in which he said that Allied lives were being lost and the war needlessly prolonged by the slogan of unconditional surrender, and that the Morgenthau hard peace plan had been worth at least ten fresh divisions to the Germans in stiffening their resistance.
I therefore beg the Government to reconsider their attitude on this matter, although I know, of course, that they have to maintain an accord with our Allies and that we cannot blame the Government for everything. If we only aim at security, an Allied Control Commission could report any sign of rearmament in Germany, and this, backed up by the threat of bombing, could keep Germany powerless for as long as the Allies wish. Therefore all the elaborate schemes for re-education, the destruction or control of industry, the partition of Germany, and so on, seem to me unnecessary and impracticable, and undesirable.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is confusing, I think, the application of unconditional surrender with Armistice terms and peace terms. In the last war Germany rendered herself militarily impotent when she signed the Armistice, but she only signed the Armistice on condition that the peace terms should be based on certain principles, which were a condition of the Armistice. I am not suggesting for a moment that we should not insist on the complete disarmament of Germany at the Armistice, but what I am suggesting is that the fact that we are going to destroy and mutilate Germany and break up her industries, and so on, is likely to stiffen the German resistance.
I have studied the whole history of the last peace, and if I had time I could give the hon. Member the whole information. The Allies definitely accepted the Fourteen Points of President Wilson, and the Germans accepted them and the Armistice was signed on that understanding, and the evidence is in the Library of this House. I say that these elaborate schemes are impracticable and are also undesirable. They may prevent that harmonious co-operation and intercourse among the nations of Europe which alone may discourage aggression. It is not a question of being kind to the Germans. That is always the sort of cheap talk one hears when one tries to approach peace aims in a realistic way. It is not a question of being kind to the Germans and indulging in sloppy sentimentality but a question of what will work and go on working when passions have cooled and this war generation has passed away. I do not think that the hon. Member for South Salford (Mr. Stourton) faced that problem very successfully when he spoke. I cannot imagine anything less likely to prevent peace and security than the extension of France's frontiers to the Rhine, as he suggested. One might imagine that Germany would feel strongly the loss of Cologne, as France did the loss of Alsace and Lorraine. We know what a cancer that had been in the body of Europe for 50 years before the last war. I think that the extension of Poland to the River Oder, to within 100 miles of Berlin, is not going to make for contentment, which, the hon. Member said, was the only hope on which future peace could depend. Lord Castlereagh, in a dispatch to the Prime Minister during the Congress of Vienna in 1815, wrote:
The more I reflect upon it the more I deprecate the system of scratching such a
Power. We may hold her down and pare her nails so that many years shall pass away before she can wound us … but this system of being pledged to a Continental war for objects that France may any day reclaim from the particular States that hold them, without pushing her demands beyond what she would contend was due to her own honour is, I am sure, a bad British policy.
We should try to diminish the causes of war and not to increase them, and I ask the Government not to commit itself on such vital matters as frontier rectification. I sum up what I have tried to say in a few words. This is not in essence an ideological war but a struggle to restore the balance of power. Already a new grouping of the nations is taking place, and indeed, has been encouraged by various Members who have spoken to-day; and only so long as those Eastern and Western European groups act in harmony can Germany's revival of power be prevented however elaborate and drastic are the peace terms. This country's policy should be first to rely on its own armed strength for its security, and, secondly, to build up a system of understandings and agreements with other sympathetic Powers for our mutual defence. Lastly, we should give wholehearted support to the United Nations Council without relying too much on its efficacy. Only then do I believe that we may successfully weather the storm which the defeat of Germany may well bring about.