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.]
For the convenience of Members I will announce now the subjects to be taken next week.
On Tuesday there will be a general Debate on domestic issues, including insurance legislation. I hope that there will be two hours at the end of the day to discuss the fishing industry, in connection with which there are several Amendments on the Order Paper.
On Wednesday, I propose to call the Amendment on export trade and the change-over of industries to peace production which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Summers).
[But, while welcoming the intention to create conditions favourable to the expansion of our export trade and the re-equipment of our industry humbly regret that the Gracious Speech contains no proposals for the reorganisation of the Board of Trade and no mention of the other steps necessary for such expansion or for dealing effectively with the change-over of industry from war to peace production.]
Thursday I propose to devote to housing subjects, and I propose to call the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Captain Cobb).
[But humbly regret that the Gracious Speech contains no proposals for dealing with housing either with regard to the speedy repair of bomb damage or the formulation of an adequate long-term housing programme.]
On Friday the first subject will be Burma. The second subject will be rural housing. I do not propose to call any Amendments on that day.
A number of hon. Friends of mine have an Amendment down dealing with trusts and combines and we attach considerable importance to it. We should like to have an opportunity, preferably to discuss the Amendment, but if not, could you, Sir, allocate any time to this subject? I know that on all sides of the House interest is taken in this particular matter.
On the same point, would it be possible on Wednesday, when we are discussing the Amendment on export trade and the switch-over from war to peace production, to have a wider Debate dealing with trade nationally and internationally, and so afford an opportunity for speakers to deal with these questions of cartels and combines, which relate to the same subject? Will the Debate be wide enough?
There are two Amendments on the question of agriculture. May I ask you, Sir, if a day will be given to a discussion of that subject, or if it will be in order to discuss agriculture if we should be fortunate to catch your eye on Tuesday next?
I think not. I was anxious not to prejudice the question of agriculture and mix it up with something else, which makes an unsatisfactory De- bate. If I cut out the whole matter altogether now I feel that there would be a stronger claim for a day later on.
Might I point out with respect, Mr. Speaker, that there are not two Amendments, as the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) said, but no fewer than six Amendments dealing with agriculture, and the problems of the countryside? I would respectfully submit that for your consideration.
The Gracious Speech at the opening of the Tenth Session of Parliament, is a notable milestone in the war. It coincides with the first public recital of the superb achievements of the British people, and also with the first slight relaxation of the sacrifices to which the people of this country have voluntarily subjected themselves. It takes cognisance of the fact that without in the least relaxing their efforts in the prosecution of the war His Majesty's Government will henceforward increasingly devote themselves to the intricate problems of peace and reconstruction. These problems are bewildering in their extent, embracing as they do issues which are purely domestic, others which concern our Commonwealth and Colonial Empire, and others which belong essentially to the realm of foreign affairs. On each of these I propose to say a few words, with the object of elucidating the standpoint of my party. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) on Wednesday last expressed our feeling of misgiving at the choice of words in the Gracious Speech relating to the Measures designed to give effect to the proposals of the White Papers on National Insurance. That misgiving was not relieved by the words that fell from the Prime Minister in the speech that followed. On the contrary, our anxiety was deepened by what he said.
My party feel passionately on these questions. We have been very patient. The Government have been allowed a long period of gestation; seeing that it has been in the neighbourhood of two years, it would not be inappropriate to describe it as an elephantine period of gestation. Now that these proposals have seen the light of day, we insist that they shall be implemented at the earliest possible moment. The British people will be bitterly disappointed if this Parliament is allowed to come to an end with nothing more than promises of fulfilment in some vague and distant future. It is true that none of us can predict with any assurance the time or manner of the collapse of Germany. I am certainly no entrant for any Parliamentary sweepstake as to the date of the official ending of the war in Europe, still less of the date of the General Election. I would only remind the House, in conjunction with my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Southwark (Mr. Naylor) yesterday, that there are some months in the year when a General Election is a practical impossibility. But without predicting the unpredictable, we in this party call on the Government to press on with all possible speed; and I repeat the promise of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield that if they will do that we will certainly give them all the help that we can in getting these Measures on to the Statute Book. Other social matters which equally will not brook delay are the building of houses for the people and the provision of full employment. These are subjects which you, Sir, have just announced are to be debated next week, and, therefore, I do not propose to devote any further attention to them to-day.
I turn to the second group of problems, concerning the lands and people over which His Majesty the King Emperor holds sway. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) yesterday called attention, rightly, in my opinion, to the fact that the British Isles alone could not be a match for our great Allies the United States of America or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Only when we add to the British Isles the self-governing Dominions and the Colonies do we become equal to them. When we add to those the greater Dependency of India, with its hundreds of millions of people, we surpass both our great Allies, not only, I think, in area, but certainly in population. I do not share the regret of the right hon. Gentleman that on occasions the self-governing Dominions have a policy of their own, which diverges in some details from ours. It is, in my opinion, a source of strength, and not of weakness, that we are united with them in loose bonds. I am certain that my party shares my view that it would be a grave error to attempt to turn those loose bonds into more rigid and tight clampings, which would interfere with the liberties and flexible working of our democratic self-governing Constitution. I regard the self-governing Commonwealth as a magnificent partnership of free nations, the constitution of which we certainly would not desire to see altered.
But my party are not equally satisfied with our dealings in the past with our Colonial Empire. We hold that in our political relationship, and still more in our economic relationship, much was left to be desired. Speaking generally, these peoples have been magnificently loyal during the years of trial. They deserve better treatment in future than they have had in the past, and my party is determined that they shall have it. Their standard of living must be raised, their social conditions improved out of all knowledge, their status must be lifted on to a higher level. We recognise that these projects will involve money for their development, and that at a time when we ourselves may find it difficult to make ends meet; but it is essential in our opinion that these sacrifices should be made. It will be an investment that will yield rich returns, not merely material but of good will and loyalty in the days that are to come. There will be other occasions to go into detail on these matters, but I have thought it desirable to state the general principle. I want to ask the Leader of the House, who will be replying, of course, not merely as Foreign Secretary, but as a Member of the War Cabinet, on all the major issues, to give an assurance that the Government are alive to the importance of these issues affecting our Colonies, and, whether it be in the reclaimed territories of the Far East or in the Colonies and Mandated Territories of Africa or the West Indies and elsewhere, they are not thinking of merely sliding back to the old position before the war—for that spells disillusion and disaster—but that they are determined to press forward with an active policy of progress, and to put the whole Colonial Empire on a new footing of active co-operation with this country.
Just a word as to India. That great sub-continent has made, in spite of political unrest, an immense, an essential, contribution to the war effort. I hesitate to think what would have happened if we had not had the support of those splendid Fighting Forces both in the Middle East and the Far East. The time is very near, if not already at hand, when the preliminary steps must be taken towards the full implementation of long-promised self-government. We cannot go back; we must go forward. I know all the difficulties of action, but I know also the still graver dangers of inaction, and I beg the Government, in this last Session of this Parliament, in which we all anticipate the defeat of Germany and signs of the coming defeat of Japan, to move forward in this matter on generous lines.
I turn now to the field of foreign affairs proper, with which the right hon. Gentleman is himself more directly concerned. I suggest to him that, at this stage of the war, it will be appropriate if he takes the House of Commons, and the country as a whole, a little more into the confidence of the Government than has hitherto been the case. The British people have given their blood and their sweat without stint to create a new world. Cannot they now be told a little more about what this new world will look like, or, at least, what lies at the back of the mind of the Government? President Roosevelt has spoken of the Four Freedoms. What is the Government's counterpart to this? How is it to be interpreted at home, on the Continent of Europe and elsewhere? Is it to be governed in the main by the principles enunciated at Dumbarton Oaks, and, if so, what does that involve for us and for other nations in concrete terms? Do the Government mean to set the international organisation going in grim earnest, or are they going to allow it to suffer from the anaemia which sapped the life of the League of Nations, and made possible the present world war?
Coming to particular countries, I refer first to Germany. I have said before and I say again that I belong neither to the school of the hard peace nor to the school of the soft peace. I regard these as sentimental vanities. I am a realist. I want to see a peace that will be lasting, because it will punish the criminals and make aggression impossible, and I am prepared to do that, if necessary, by the most drastic means. But I also want to provide an economic life for the masses of the German people. If there are to be changes of frontiers, they must be such as are demanded by justice for the neighbouring people, who have suffered at the Germans' hands, and not such as will create insoluble ethnological problems in future years. I believe that that broadly represents the views of my party.
By natural transition, I turn from Germany to the people who have been most foully treated by the German Nazis, that is the Jewish people, that remarkable people who, with all their faults, have occupied a leading place in many of the great activities of the world, spiritual, aesthetic and material. It may be suggested that this is not the moment to mention this, at a time when we are all horrified at the foul murder of Lord Moyne. In regard to that, let me say that my party are completely at one with the Government in desiring to track down and stamp out the instigators of these horrible outrages. Happily, there is no indication that any sympathy is being shown by the Jewish people, as a whole, with these crimes. On the contrary, they deplore them, and quite rightly, because such crimes injure their cause quite as much, and probably even more, than they injure ourelves. I would ask the Government to pursue a constructive policy for giving to the Jewish nation a real foot-hold in the future life of the world.
I turn from these matters to questions which are current issues. As the war proceeds, and as more and more countries come under the domination of the United Nations, problems naturally arise which have not had to be faced during the years when the German domination extended as widely as it did at one time. We have had incidents recently in Italy and Belgium, which are strictly matters of foreign affairs, and on which the House is anxious to be better informed. Before I come to concrete current issues, perhaps I may be allowed a few general observations. A suspicion exists among some of my hon. Friends that there are elements in this country whose bias is in favour of the political Right throughout the world, and who would not hestitate to allow this bias consciously to influence their attitude at all times in favour of reaction, not only against democracy but even against the real interests of this country. Such suspicions have, in my mind, real justification, but personally, I acquit the Government, and I certainly acquit my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, of being influenced by any such bias. But there is a more subtle danger; I can express it by saying that it is generally much easier to come down on the side of the established Right Wing elements, with their long tradition, with their apparent veneer of respectability, than it is to come down on the side of the more turbulent elements of the Left. It is very natural to slip into this mistake, with disastrous consequences. I will give the Foreign Secretary one or two illustrations from the past.
The Noble Lady perfectly well knows that there are——[Interruption.] If the Noble Lady will contain herself and remain silent, I will answer her. It is perfectly well-known that there are elements in this country of a reactionary character. I am not going to specify them, but they are perfectly well-known.
I have said that I acquit the Government and the right hon. Gentleman from any connection with them, but I have said that, on the other hand, there is a danger that it is very much easier to support established institutions of a Right Wing character and to be put off from the really democratic view, because it is expressed more turbulently and incoherently.
Having said that, I want to give one or two illustrations from history showing how that happened. It will be remembered that there was a time when there was a very Left-Wing Government in Hungary. I am not going to say whether that was a good Government or not, but the British Government of the day destroyed that Government by a food policy and definitely set up the Government of Horthy, which was the Government that ultimately made war on this country. That, I think, cannot be denied. The Government of Horthy came definitely into being and I do not think that that can be disputed. The work of the Allies at that time, in which this country played a prominent part——
The Government of Bela Kun was destroyed, and I suggest, without expressing any opinion whether it was a good Government or not—that is not my point—that the influence of the Allies at the time, and, I think, mainly of this country, destroyed that Government and set up, in fact, Horthy's Government to take its place. I will give another illustration. There was a time when King Fuad in Egypt had the support of British influence there, in suppressing the opposition of some of the democratic elements in that country. It was fortunate that the British Government decided to abandon that policy, and it was from that date that the friendship between his country and this country became firmly established.
Yes, I think that the right hon. Gentleman made that Treaty. I am very glad he did. I said that prior to his time there was an unfortunate position set up in the opposite direction. Of more recent date, there was the case of Admiral Darlan, which, whatever may have been the justification for it, certainly created a very great deal of misunderstanding in this and in other countries. I have said enough to show that there have been cases in the past and I think they are signposts of what the Government have to avoid. It is right that Parliament should watch the Government in order to make sure that neither by intention nor by accident do they slip into courses similarly dangerous in the future. On the other hand, there is the opposite danger that undesirable elements in foreign countries may think it a good plan to cloak their misdeeds by sheltering under a Left-Wing flag, and I am sure that my hon. Friends are not unaware of that fact, nor are they under any mis- apprehension that all persons who call themselves Left, even persons of integrity, are necessarily competent to conduct their country's affairs or to act in a diplomatic capacity.
Those who speak in the name of the Allies have, themselves, very grave dangers on both sides to consider and to face. They have great powers and they have to avoid these dangers—on the one hand, to do nothing to thwart democracy, and on the other, to allow nothing to interfere with their most active prosecution of the war. Those are the general guide-posts within which my mind approaches this problem and I propose now to come down from the general to the particular.
First, there is the special case of Italy. I would remind the House that Italy is not one of the liberated countries but is a land which was, until recently, an enemy of this country. I am not sure of the actual technical position at the present time but it is certainly under our tutelage and we have, therefore, a definite right to object, on general or personal grounds, to any Italian being appointed to the important position of Foreign Secretary in that country, provided—and this is the important point—that that is not a cloak for objecting to any man because he is a good democrat and because he belongs to any one political party in Italy. When the Foreign Secretary comes to reply, I hope he will give us sufficient information to enable us to appraise the action of the Government, which has been prominently reported, in objecting to Count Sforza holding the position of Foreign Secretary.
I turn now to Belgium, and the case of Belgium is quite different, because Belgium is a liberated country and it has, as I understand, as far as is possible in the circumstances, perhaps not exactly an elected, but, in some sense, a representative Assembly. It is a very difficult matter for the Governments of the United Nations to decide precisely what their attitude ought to be in these circumstances. To my thinking, as far as it is in any way possible, they ought not to interfere with the internal affairs of that country. They have, of course, two very strong weapons which they can use if they decide to interfere. They have, first, the food weapon, which is a weapon of great strength, be- cause they hold not actually the purse-strings, but the keys of the food storage in their hands, and they can dispense the food, which is so necessary, or they can hold it back. They also represent the force in that country. We have been told that General Eisenhower, on behalf of the United Nations, has declared his intention of supporting the Belgian Government by force, if necessary, against certain intentions of certain people in Belgium. I am not saying that that is wrong, but I do think that where such a very serious step as that is taken, it is up to the Foreign Secretary to explain the position to this House. The House has the right to know whether that decision was made on grounds of which this House would approve or whether it was made on decisions for which this House would be very sorry to be responsible.
I do not pretend to know enough, and I venture to think that very few Members of this House, of their own knowledge, have enough details to know the answer to that question. But the Foreign Secretary, presumably, has the answer and I hope that when he replies he will give us an answer which will satisfy the House with reference to the particular incidents which have already arisen. I hope he will go further than that; I hope he will give us an assurance that the principles which will actuate His Majesty's Government in the months to come, when many similar problems of great complexity and difficulty will arise, will be such as will commend themselves to the House as a whole, and to the Members of my party in particular.
I have raised these matters at some length because they are, in themselves, of importance, but beyond the immediate importance of the events in Italy and Belgium to-day lies the much larger future where countries of all sorts and descriptions—liberated, neutral, ex-enemy—will all come under consideration, and the principles which will actuate His Majesty's Government in all these matters will be guided by the policies that the Government set out to carry through, of which, what they do at the present time is the earnest and advance illustration. I think, therefore, that these matters are of supreme importance, and I trust that the Foreign Secretary, in his reply, will be able to give full satisfaction to the House upon them.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) has ranged over a very wide field and has spoken, as he is of course authorised and well-qualified to do, on behalf of his own party in connection with the very delicate matters in Europe on which he has touched. I do not propose to follow him through the various interesting and important questions which he has raised in detail; on some of them I am in entire agreement with him. I thought, if he will forgive my saying so, that his reference to Hungary was not as fully considered perhaps as one would expect from him and for this reason. He knows as well as I know, and as every hon. Member of this House knows, that a country in the position of Hungary had no choice whatever in the course it followed in the war, whatever kind of Government it had, either Left or Right, and the same applies to some other countries. When he spoke on Wednesday, the Prime Minister referred to the desirability of general subjects being discussed in this Debate on the reply to the Gracious Speech. He referred to the fact that:
… general aspects of the Address should be a considerable feature …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1944; Vol. 406, c. 25.]
when a Member can speak about "anything in the world." The first point I have to make, is that while I think the House would desire to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, upon having been able to arrange for so many matters to be brought forward for discussion next week, the time which the Government have arranged, with the consent of the House, for a general Debate is very short indeed, and I doubt very much whether all or indeed many hon. Members will be able to speak upon "anything in the world." We were all glad however to see the Prime Minister in such excellent form on Wednesday but there was one matter which he raised upon which I must point out there has been quite serious, if not deliberate, misunderstanding in a part of the Press of this country. That is on the carrying through of the social reforms to which all parties in the House are committed. I do not read into the Gracious Speech any intention whatever to shelve the Measures to which, as I say, the House on all sides
is committed, in connection with social advance. I read into the Speech a very definite statement that these Measures will take considerable time to prepare, and anyone who knows anything of Parliamentary procedure knows that that is true, and that it may not be possible, if the war with Germany finishes within a reasonable time, to carry them through in the lifetime of the present Parliament. But the suggestion that is being made in certain parts of the Press, is that the fault for that lies entirely with the Tory Party. Now, it is perfectly clear that the prime reason why this Parliament will end shortly after the end of the war with Germany is the declared intention of the Socialist Party not to take part any longer in the Coalition. I am going to be perfectly frank. If, therefore, the Socialist Party——
If the hon. Member will let me finish my point, I will gladly give way to him. If the Socialist Party feel that it is in the national interest that these Measures should be carried through in this Parliament, the first thing for them to say is "We are willing to shelve any question of leaving the Coalition until we have carried through this legislation." I am not pressing for that; personally, as a Conservative, I hope they will not take that course for reasons which I shall give, but at the same time it is ridiculous to try to press the view upon the country, that it is the Tory Party who are forcing an election.
Would my hon. Friend seriously suggest that after the physical disabilities of holding an election have disappeared, we should postpone an appeal to the country and continue our lives for another year in a nine-year-old Parliament?
I did not suggest that at all. I have said that I personally would welcome the election and for the reasons which the hon. Gentleman refers to. I think we all agree with my hon. Friend that it is quite time Parliament should be renewed. The point I am making is that, if that is agreed on all sides, it is no use blaming one party for bringing this about because, in reality, the first step towards bringing the Coalition to an end was the declared intention of the Socialist Party not to carry it on. Do not let us be mealy-mouthed in this House, let us be plain about it. If it is their intention—I do not quarrel with it—to leave the Coalition, then they are the people primarily, though not entirely, who would be responsible if this legislation cannot be carried through.
Is the hon. Gentleman not rather misrepresenting the position? Is it not a still greater act of patriotism on the part of the Labour Party to be willing to withdraw from the Coalition, leaving Conservative Members to remain in Parliament, in order to get these social Measures carried through?
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that Labour Members would withdraw from the Government, and then oppose all the Measures which all parties in the House have agreed to carry through? If not, why withdraw?
There has been no such declaration. The Tory Members can make the declaration themselves, but we have made no such declaration. All that has been said is that at the next election, when it comes, we shall fight as an independent party but we have not made any declaration about withdrawing from the Coalition Government, nor is it in our power to determine the date of the General Election.
What my hon. Friend says in the last part of his sentence is, no doubt, strictly correct. If, however, the rest is equally true, then the matter is quite easy. The Socialist Party can say quite definitely that they feel that in the national interest they must carry on the Coalition until these Measures are all carried through. I would like to see a declaration of that kind but I have not seen it yet.
I want now to refer to the agreement which has been announced with the United States regarding Lend-Lease—upon which, I think the Government are to be congratulated—for supplies to come to this country and to the United Nations to carry on the war until Japan also is defeated. I, and I think everybody, will appreciate that the United States must definitely lay down that no goods which are supplied to us under Lend-Lease can form part of our exports. That seems to me both reasonable and right, but I do find some difficulty in understanding how this scheme will work in a practical way in connection with goods which we purchase when these very supplies may overlap the same goods sent us under Lend-Lease. I think it is a difficulty. I do not say it is an insuperable difficulty, but I think it is one of the matters which the Government will have to make a little clearer.
The Prime Minister made special reference to the importance of the resurrection of our export trade. I do not suppose any subject has been more often mentioned in this House. Lip service has been paid over and over again to the necessity for the resurrection of our export trade. It is not unkind to say that it has been mostly lip service, because the efforts of those who have tried to restart their export trade have met with little but obstruction and delays from Government Departments. I am not prepared to say that the fault entirely rests with the Government. We all know the difficulties, but it really is time now for the Department of Overseas Trade and the Board of Trade to be overhauled so that manufacturers and exporters in this country can get into touch with people who understand trade, and explain and discuss with them what are the difficulties and how to overcome them. Every industrialist is surrounded by forms and restrictions and controls of all kinds. Many of them are undoubtedly necessary to-day, and some will even be necessary for a time after the war. But I was interested to note in the speech of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Fraser), in seconding the reply to the Address—both he and the mover made excellent speeches—that he said nobody wanted controls for their own sake.
I have no doubt of it if the hon. Member says so, but that seems to be an argument for what I have just said. At any rate, there will be a tremendous battle about this matter in this country, because people are determined to get rid of unnecessary controls.
It is very easy to talk about the overthrow of capitalism. People forget that capitalism, with all the evils we are told so much about, has enabled 46,000,000 people to live in this small island. Prominent Socialists of the past, who used to speak about conditions as they knew them in their childhood, would, no doubt, express very different views to-day. Anyhow, I do not think capitalism will be replaced by Socialism, but it might be by a bureaucracy worse than any of the evils which have been attributed to capitalism. We are apt to forget, when we are dealing with this question of controls, that the money we want for social improvements must come out of industry. The House too often forgets, while paying lip-service to the necessity for restarting our industries, that all improvements in our social services and in our standard of living have to come out of industry. We do not make that sufficiently clear to the public. Let me give an example—and here I am not speaking for any party, I am speaking for myself and, therefore, may be allowed to criticise the Government as well as say a little about the so-called Opposition. I draw the attention of the House to the White Paper on Employment Policy, which was published last May. In it the Government stated clearly that the responsibility for the resurrection of industry, and the initiative, rest with industry. The Government set out a number of ways in which they think they will be able to help. They say that they will make preparations to reduce unemployment to a minimum.
There is nothing wrong with it, but I want to know how they propose to do it. We are all entirely in agreement, but surely I am entitled to ask, without necessarily expecting the Government to give full details now, how they propose to do it; as a phrase it does not carry us much further. It is well meant but we would like to see it elaborated. The Government also say that they are going to assist firms to switch over to peace-time production. What does that mean and in what form is this assistance to be given? They say they are going to find out in advance where the skilled labour is. I hope they will be able to do it. They say they are going to regulate the flow and direction of investment. Many of these ideas are admirable but others, I suggest, are dangerous to the very spirit of free enterprise and initiative which the Government say is a prime factor in this resurrection.
I am bound to compare our position as we stand in this country, as our industrialists stand when trying to restart industry and export trade, on which everything depends, and what our Government have been able to do with the position which exists in the United States. I know we are in a different position from America, but according to that creditable and generally well-written paper, "The Economist," the Commodity Credit Corporation of America have already, under Government auspices, got plans agreed for subsidies on cotton and wheat. They have made arrangements for the disposal of surplus war property. They have arranged the development of great new regional projects, and, as an example, have completed a great new airport in New York. These are practical measures which have been taken for the post-war period. I do not think we can claim that we can do all that America can do, because their position is different, but at the same time we have to compare these decisions with the rather nebulous statements, which I have read from the White Paper, for making preparations to reduce unemployment and assisting industry. I think that we and industry want something more direct from the Government as to the manner in which they intend to help.
I would like the House to consider the position of the manufacturer in this country to-day, who is looking forward to taking the responsibility and the initiative which the White Paper stated is so necessary in restarting his business. I think it is natural that after the war we shall have demands from trade unions for higher wages and shorter hours. Both are most desirable—if industry can stand it—and I believe are possible, because, taking a long view, I believe that science will in the end give us everything we want with less labour in both industry and agriculture. But are the trade unions on their part going to discipline their workers? Are they going to work to prevent illegal strikes? Let us have it plainly. It cannot be all on one side. Are the trade unions going to encourage the workers really to understand the problems of industry and get close to them, because it is only in that way that we shall have success, or are they going to put every possible obstruction in the way of those whose business it is to manage their industry?
Again, will the Ministry of Labour continue to dictate who must be employed? And what about the Ministry of Supply and its controls of all our material? What about the hundreds of forms which now have to be filled up, many of them very unnecessary? Is the manufacturer to be told where his factory must be, in what surroundings, and how he must run it? If so, how are we to get the initiative from industry of which the Government talk? How many planners are we going to have? How long is bureaucracy going to hang on to its powers? How long are we going to have a Civil Service composed of more than 1,400,000 full time civil servants, which was about the figure at the end of last year, as compared with 600,000 odd before the war?
Is the hon. Member really suggesting that private industry, if it receives no assistance whatever from the Government, would be capable of solving the problem, for example, of giving us an adequate export trade?
I did not say anything of the kind. I said a few moments ago that we cannot compare our conditions fairly with those of America, and I think it is true. America has never been 100 per cent. in the war from an industrial point of view, as we have. That does not mean that I minimise the efforts of the United States or do not fully recognise how impossible it would have been to win the war without them. That goes without saying. We do not want, any of us, to say a single word which would suggest that we minimise the tremendous importance of the supplies we have received so generously from the United States of America, and do not recognise their great part, their major part, in the war. On the other hand we are entitled to ask, Where would America be to-day if we had not stood firm in 1940? The Presidential election in America is over. We have taken no part in it; I do not think anybody here has touched upon American politics; but I think there is a need to-day for very plain speaking. No people are more altruistic or more fair-minded than the American people and no people like plain speaking better than they do, and I think the time has come when, while paying the greatest possible tribute to America for all the co-operation we have received from her, it is fair to say to her that in the peculiar circumstances of the times—the United States starting some two years after us, with their much greater productive capacity and not having been 100 per cent. in the war industrially, as we have had to be—she should not take advantage of her position to try to secure the markets that were previously filled by British goods and without which we cannot restart our export trade.
This question of our position in relation to the United States and of our speaking plainly to them—which I am convinced will do no harm—brings me to another point to which I wish to draw the special attention of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, and that is the position of Great Britain in China and British influence there. There is no doubt that, perhaps through force of circumstances, the Chinese people are learning to-day that the United States is China's sole aid and protection. It is a sad but true fact, but I think the conditions of the times are leading to that conclusion. There is undoubtedly a need for very energetic steps and a vigorous British policy if we are to maintain our position in China and our friendship and sympathy with the Chinese people. Let me give an illustration of the situation as it actually is to-day. Mr. Donald Nelson is President Roosevelt's personal representative in Chungking and, in addition, America has, of course, her own Ambassador there. Mr. Donald Nelson has been appointed economic adviser to the Chinese Government. He took with him 12 or 13 trade experts, mostly, I think, experts in steel. Some of these, I understand, have been employed in the new War Production Board, regarding which Mr. Nelson made a much publicised speech to the People's Political Council in China earlier this week. Now let us turn to the army. Major-General Wedermeyer, U.S.A., is Chief of Staff to General Chiang Kai-shek and also commander of the 5th and 6th Chinese Armies. That is a very considerable position. Lieut.-General Sultan, of the United States, commands the Chinese 38th Division, and his troops are mostly officered by Americans and armed with American arms. Arms are flown to China and go, naturally, in American transport planes. There are also, I believe, a certain number of American troops in China.
No doubt all this is inevitable in the necessities of the combined operations of the United Nations, but I think the House would agree that if there is anything we can do to maintain our position in China we should do it now, for not only is it vital that we should maintain the sympathy, the goodwill and the close connection that we have had with China in the past but it is imperative from the point of view of post-war trade. China will be one of the greatest markets of the world in the post-war period, so we all hope for her sake and our own, and it is very essential that we should do what we can to maintain our position there. If we cannot spare China machinery and tools surely we could at least send her a few of our skilled workers. China's war production is not contemptible at all, but it is true that it is not entirely efficient. Some of the best ambassadors we could have would be men to go out there in charge of some of her factories, either as foremen or overseers or in a managerial capacity. There is really no insuperable language difficulty. In pre-war days some factories in China were controlled by men who did not know a word of the Chinese language. It is amazing that they do get on, but they do. I cannot help thinking that that is a way in which we could help.
Let me put forward another suggestion. Chinese air cadets are coming shortly to this country to complete their training. I wonder whether we should not have more of these cadets to familiarise them with British planes and then send a few British planes to China. The House should not forget what happened in the last war. During that period American motor production got fully into the Chinese market and British cars have never had a real chance since, speaking very broadly. We want our share of that market. We realise that America is able to supply things which are necessary at the present time which we cannot supply. It is not a question of finding fault but of trying to hold our end up.
When Bhamo falls, as it looks as if it soon will, the Burma Road will be re-opened. When that happens of course only arms will be conveyed along it to China for a time, but many things will come out—wolfram, silk, wood oil, mercury among others. I suggest that the Government should make a point of enabling British business men who know that part of the world to have facilities to go to Chungking to try to get into that trade. The Parliamentary Mission to China was a great success, but I do not think we followed it up sufficiently. There have been recent Cabinet changes in China and they are probably favourable from our point of view. One of the new Ministers headed the good-will mission which came from China to this country last year, and is very much interested in this country. Our ambassador there is very popular; but it is not a question of the work of the ambassador but of support from this country. We want to promote intercourse in trade and every other way with China.
I should have liked to say something on the great question of our home agriculture if it had not been for the very wise decision which you, Mr. Speaker, indicated as likely to be taken by the House by which a full day may be arranged for the discussion of that subject on a later occasion. There is one other subject, however, on which I must touch, very shortly, and that is the development of our Empire, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh also referred. Something like 10 years ago, after a long conference, completely non-party, and also I think non-political, in the city of London, the late Lord Horne, then Sir Robert Horne, headed a deputation to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer to ask for an extension of the Overseas Settlement Act, and above all for the setting up of a board of overseas settlement to go into various projects which required capital in various parts of the Empire. It seems almost fantastic to-day to say that the whole scheme was turned down because it was suggested that it would require a preliminary capital of £5,000,000. Although I disagree as much as anybody with the ridiculous statement that because we can afford to spend £15,000,000 a day on the war we can afford such expenditure in peace—everybody knows that is nonsense—it is strange to recall how short-sighted we were only about 10 years ago in thinking that the provision of a capital sum of £5,000,000 for the Empire Settlement Board would be too great a strain on the finances of Great Britain, especially as I believe that every penny of that money would have been very well invested and have earned a good dividend.
We were at that time specially interested in various projects for the settlement of people in British Columbia. I have recently had brought to my notice most interesting details of the situation in the North-West of Western Australia. In the neighbourhood of the Ashburton River and the Kimberley Range there are vast areas that require only irrigation to provide settlements and homes for a large number of people, and that is only one example. I do not see why we should necessarily look upon schemes for Empire development in consultation with overseas governments as matters which must be left to the post-war period. I see no particular reason why we should not be able to go ahead with schemes of that kind now. It seems obvious that the carrying on of the war would not prevent us from dealing with them. If we can deal with questions of social security and the future at home we can surely take preliminary steps, I suggest, by setting up an Empire Settlement Board, to deal with the investment of our capital, which would bring a very good dividend, not only in money but in health and prosperity to our people in the Dominions and those who after the war wish to settle there.
I do not propose to speak any longer, because it would take up too much of the time of other Members if I were to deal with other subjects. I only wish to remind the House, in conclusion, that the Prime Minister rightly said that we must devote all our energies to the war. I have taken the opportunity of drawing attention to some of the difficulties at home and certain action which I believe could be taken abroad to help our own return to prosperity, to preserve our position in the world in the future and to help to bring about prosperity for all nations, which is what we are fighting for.
It would be very tempting to deal with a number of the subjects that have been brought forward. I should have been very glad, if I had the time, to reply to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) about Dumbarton Oaks and I should like to have dealt with the question of controls and that of China. But I should be very glad to be allowed to concentrate my attention on the subject of foreign affairs, especially in regard to France. I think we should all be extremely grateful to the Foreign Minister and to the Government for the recognition, somewhat tardy I admit, which they have now given to the Provisional Government of France, presided over by General de Gaulle. During these last weeks and months I had carefully refrained from putting any questions on the subject to the Foreign Secretary for fear of embarrassing the Government, but I was hoping and praying that the time would come when this recognition would be given. It was a very great pleasure the day before yesterday to see the Foreign Secretary and the French Ambassador standing together on the same platform after a long period of four and a half years during which the French Government were without any official representation. I should like to congratulate the Foreign Secretary very heartily on his exceedingly able, eloquent and moving address, which touched the hearts of all friends of France on that occasion.
General de Gaulle, before leaving for the Middle East, made an extremely important speech, which was published in full in the "Figaro," which we are glad to welcome once more in this country. He insisted, with regard to the future peace, that if France was to be preserved she must maintain her control over the Rhine. In making that statement General de Gaulle was only echoing the policy so strongly emphasised by Marshal Foch, who, immediately after the Armistice, came to London, saw the Prime Minister and did his utmost to persuade the British Government to allow the bridgeheads over the Rhine to be maintained by Allied garrisons, because only in that way could France be protected. He went before the Supreme Council of the Allies, "the big Four," with the same argument. He insisted on appearing before the French Cabinet, presided over by M. Poincaré. Finally he insisted on appearing before all the delegates of the Allies at Versailles. What were the arguments that he developed on those four occasions and repeated with ever-increasing eloquence? "France can only be preserved by the Rhine. She has no other barrier. All history shows that there is no other protection for her. We have won the Rhine by a miracle. Are you going to give it up? If you give it up, I prophesy that there will be another war in 20 years, and I assure you that within five weeks of the declaration of war Paris will fall." Was there ever a prophecy in history which was realised more fully by the event? The Rhine alone is the barrier. The Meuse, the Somme and even the river Marne could only protect the onrush of German armies for a few hours. "No," he said, "we have got the Rhine; let us hold it."
I am sorry to read in the accounts given by various historians, even such a usually accurate writer as the late Mr. Spender, that Marshal Foch and President Poincaré desired to annex the left bank of the Rhine. They had no such intention. I have searched the records over and over again and I can find no grounds for any such suggestion. What they proposed was this. "The left bank of the Rhine, containing 5,000,000 Germans, which we have no desire to incorporate into French territory, must be converted into a buffer State." The buffer State of Switzerland has been a bulwark of peace for over 100 years. Is there any reason why the left bank of the Rhine should not also be made into a neutral State? All that Marshal Foch asked for was that the bridgeheads over the Rhine should be held in perpetuity by garrisons of the Allies. There is a very important historical precedent for this. When Holland was overwhelmed by the armies of Louis XIV it was felt by this country that some protection should be given her against future aggressions, and in 1715 the famous Barrier Treaty was signed at Antwerp under which Holland was given the right of occupying those seven fortresses, beginning with Namur, stretching right along the frontier as far as Knooke, and she was allowed to occupy them with a garrison of 35,000 men. Great Britain undertook also to support her by sending, if the need arose, 10,000 men and 20 ships. That celebrated Dutch Barrier maintained peace and pro- tected Holland for well nigh a century. All, therefore, that Marshal Foch asked was that similarly these Rhine bridgeheads should be held as a barrier.
That proposal, backed as it was by Clemenceau, on the recommendation of all the military experts, was rejected by the politicians, but, in compensation, two Treaties of guarantee were proposed, which must not be confused with the Treaty of Versailles. They were absolutely and entirely separate. One was a Treaty between this country and France and the other between France and the United States. They depended one on the other. Unless both were ratified, both fell to the ground. The object was to guarantee the Rhine against any unprovoked aggression on the part of Germany. This country, by a unanimous vote of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, accepted the Treaty of Guarantee but, because the corresponding Treaty was not ratified by the United States, it fell to the ground. When it was brought before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States it was rejected—it never came before the the Senate at all—and consequently our Treaty never came into force. Therefore France, having renounced her demand that the Rhine bridgeheads should be held in perpetuity and having accepted this guarantee, was disappointed in the non-fulfilment of the promise that had been made to her. It was agreed, however, that the Rhine bridgeheads should be held temporarily—that the Allies should occupy Cologne for five years, Coblentz for 10 years and Mainz for 15 years. In 1930, five years before the fixed period had expired, pressure was brought to bear upon France to withdraw her garrison from Mainz and she was left without any protection whatever. However, there was still that important Clause in the Treaty of Versailles under which the whole of the left bank of the Rhine and 50 kilometres on the right bank, as well as the bridgeheads, were demilitarised zones into which the German Government had no right ever to bring Armies or to build fortifications.
What happened? Hitler, in 1935, had stated that the guarantee given by the Treaty of Locarno was one that Germany had freely accepted. He distinguished between Versailles and Locarno. The Treaty of Versailles was imposed on them by force, he said, but Locarno they voluntarily agreed to. This was in May, 1935, when he gave a most solemn promise to observe the Treaty of Locarno, but not a year had elapsed when, on 7th March, 1936, this country was electrified by the news that Hitler had invaded the demilitarised zone, marched into Cologne and re-occupied not merely the right bank but the whole of the left bank of the Rhine. What was the reaction? The French Prime Minister, M. Sarraut, would undoubtedly have carried out a general mobilisation. It was unanimously recommended by the General Staff, but there were two extreme left wing members of his Cabinet, one of whom was the notorious Déat, who bitterly opposed this and threatened resignation. Rather than break up his Cabinet M. Sarraut gave way. That was a fatal error because, had he resisted, we know what would have happened. Hitler has confessed that he would have retreated. He would not have opposed the advancing French Armies and the French had the most solemn guarantee, which we had given them by the Treaty of Locarno, that should an unprovoked attack be made on the neutral zone Great Britain would go to the help of France.
This fundamental error in not resisting the invasion of the demilitarised zone was the direct cause of the war, because no sooner had Hitler dug himself in behind the Rhine than he proceeded to the annexation of Austria less than a year later and entered Vienna without any resistance from the Allies, and, for the first time for hundreds of years, German troops advanced to the Brenner. They controlled that marvellous strategic pass, through which in the course of centuries German troops in the Middle Ages had poured down into Italy. Italy, therefore, was dominated by Germany. Austria being completely under the control of Hitler, the whole strategic situation of Europe was turned. At the time when Hitler entered Vienna, the most solemn assurances were given to Czechoslovakia that she had nothing to fear. Marshal Goering in person gave repeated and definite assurances to the Government of Czechoslovakia that her independence had been in no way affected. But what do we find? In less than a year a continual artificial agitation was being carried on against Czechoslovakia and slanders were published in the German newspapers, until at last Czechoslovakia was seriously threatened. We remember what happened at Munich and the way that the piece of paper signed there was torn up on 15th March, 1939, when, in spite of the most solemn promises which he had given to our Prime Minister at Munich, Hitler advanced and occupied Prague.
I could deal with that in detail, but it would take me too long. I will be glad to have a chat with the hon. Gentleman in the smoking-roam and go into that question fully. When Czechoslovakia was in the hands of Germany, Poland was desperately threatened. Her Foreign Secretary came over here and sought the help of this country. Mr. Chamberlain came in to this House on 31st March, 1939, and gave a solemn guarantee to Poland, and it was by honouring that guarantee that we were brought into the war on 3rd September, 1939.
I claim that I have proved my case quod erat demonstrandum, as we used to say at school. The whole cause of this war was the failure to adopt the frequently repeated and most solemn expert advice of Marshal Foch to hold those bridges over the Rhine. Had that been done the war with France would never have broken out. That is the real germ of this war, and I implore the House to use its influence not to allow the same mistake to be made over again. General de Gaulle, in his recent magnificent speech, gave, like Marshal Foch, the strongest arguments why it is essential that we should hold the Rhine. As for the left bank, let it become, as I have already said, another Switzerland, another buffer State; as a protection to France and the whole of Western Europe. With regard to the Rhine, may I repeat the hope, expressed so eloquently by that great Ulster statesman Lord Castlereagh, that the Rhine should cease to be either exclusively French or exclusively German, but that it should be a peaceful highway for all the nations of Europe.
I am sure the House has listened with great interest to the very erudite review of the strategic causes of the war which came from the hon. Member for Queen's University, Belfast (Professor Savory). It seemed to me, however, that he is living in the past. He was suggesting that the peace of Europe would be maintained if French territory went up to the borders of the Rhine. I do not think that is sound. To start with, the Rhine flows only on the West of Germany, and there are other parts of the world where war might break out. My major comment is this. It is ridiculous nowadays to consider that any readjustment of frontiers, whether those frontiers are rivers or mountains, will be a major factor in securing the peace of the future. That may have been so in pre-war days, before the aeroplane had been developed as the tremendous weapon it has become now. It may have been so before paratroops could descend by the ten and twenty thousand behind the enemy lines.
Moreover, since the development of the aeroplane as an important war weapon, we have had the flying bombs and we are now having the rockets, and to suggest that the West of Europe will be at peace under these new conditions just because France holds the bridgeheads of the Rhine, is nonsense. Further, it has been proved during the last six months that a major water barrier, far greater than the Rhine, does not prevent a nation that is determined to do so, from launching an attack. The British and American Armies launched a very successful attack across the Channel, and a broad part of the Channel. Why, therefore, should we believe that it will be impossible for a nation that is determined in future to launch such an attack, and has the power to do so, because the enemy holds the bridgeheads of the further bank of a river? I think that on consideration the hon. Gentleman may see that there are serious weaknesses in the case he tried to put before the House.
The Prime Minister told us that if he had to alter his estimate for the duration of the war, he would omit the word "early" from his previous prediction that the war might be over in the early summer. In other words, he feels to-day that in all probability the war may last a few months longer than he anticipated when he last addressed the House. Everyone will agree that the Prime Minister is right in frankly telling the nation on the information which he possesses how long the war will last. It is far better that the people of this country should appreciate to the full the tasks that lie before them, however burdensome they may be, than that they should be buoyed up by false hopes only to become bitterly disillusioned later on. But there is no hiding the fact that the country was very disappointed by the postponement which the Prime Minister indicated, and people are wondering what has gone wrong. It does not appear that anything has gone wrong in the generalship of the Armies or the valour of our troops. Indeed, the Prime Minister said on a recent occasion that the success of our Armies was greater than he had anticipated.
Why, therefore, is not the war over now or why is it not likely to be over within a month or two? Why has not the anticipated collapse come, in view of the fact that our Armies have done better than the Prime Minister thought possible? Why is it, that when it became apparent to the whole world, including the German people, that defeat was inevitable, the resistance of the German Armies, instead of weakening, actually stiffened? Every newspaper reporter on the front line tells us that the spirit of most German troops is excellent. We are told in the official reports from S.H.A.E.F. that our forces everywhere are meeting strong resistance. That resistance is puzzling many people and, I understand, worrying very much those in charge of our Armed Forces. This House should consider why this is happening; why, contrary to all expectations, the spirit of the German people is strengthening, and their determination to resist increasing. We should consider this, not as an academic problem, but with a view to seeing whether steps can be taken to prevent that spirit of resistance in the German Army stiffening further and prolonging the war yet further.
The reason which has been given for this remarkable phenomenon is that, as the native soil of the German people is being invaded, there emerges a "back to the wall" spirit which reinforces their fighting morale. I suggest that that is not the normal reaction of a nation which realises that it is facing certain defeat. The normal reaction to that situation is to discontinue the appalling suffering and the risk of almost certain death as soon as the prospects become obviously hopeless, if—and that is the essential condition—those who are fighting and working, feel that there is some preferable alternative to continuing the struggle. So far, neither this country nor the Allied Nations have given the German people or the German Armies any preferable alternative to going on to the end. What have we told them? We have told them that we demand unconditional surrender, and that after that, they must rely on our sense of mercy and justice. These are abstract qualities. It may be, and I hope it is, the intention of this country to see that these promises are carried out; but far more important than abstract promises of that sort, are the concrete proposals that have been put forward from time to time, officially and unofficially, to the German people.
What are the proposals from semi-official and even official sources of high standing in this country and Allied countries? First, that the German people as a whole are a pariah nation and will have to be treated as such when the war is over. That sort of speech has been made in this Debate by more than one Member, including, for instance, the hon. and gallant Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan). In the second place, plans have been put forward more or less officially—they certainly have not been contradicted—which propose that millions of German people are to be shipped away to labour, indefinitely separated from their families, in far foreign lands. Every German working man naturally imagines that he is one of those who will be shipped away. Then the German people have been told that their country is to be broken up and that large parts of it are to be taken over by other nations, in flat contradiction of the Atlantic Charter, which they, therefore, naturally no longer respect. Also, that German industries are to be destroyed, and the German people know that that will result in unemployment and malnutrition for the whole nation.
The result is that all in Germany, however much they may hate the Nazi philosophy, have been inspired by the propaganda carefully served to them by Goebbels but based on announcements and statements made in Allied countries. They have been inspired to fight with the extraordinary obstinacy which we are seeing everywhere to-day. And so it happens that to-day the men of this country, Americans, Frenchmen and Russians are fighting with great heroism and courage under what we believe to be first-class generalship against the German forces, while at the same time, our political actions, both by commission and omission, are strengthening the fighting qualities of those forces. That is a tragic situation. If our demand for unconditional surrender of the German forces, which we all believe to be essential, had been accompanied by a declaration in broad outline of our positive plans under the Atlantic Charter; if we had told the German people that when Nazism, militarism and all their manifestations had been completely eliminated from the scene, they were to take their full and rightful place in the comity of nations, then this war would have been over many months ago and the casualty lists would not have been so long.
I raise this matter to-day, not in order to have an inquest on the past policy of this Government, but in order to ask the Government to reconsider this situation now before it is too late. The major objective of everybody in this country, from the Prime Minister downwards, is to get this war over as quickly as possible. Its length will be conditioned to a material extent on our ability, even at this late hour, to make up for our failures of the past in our psychological approach to the German people. Everybody in this country is longing to get the war over and for the boys to come home again, but when that will happen, while depending mainly on the strength of our Armed Forces, will also depend on our willingness to tell the German soldier and the German working-man in clear terms, why it is better that he and his family should give up the struggle now, than go on suffering the appalling punishment which the coming months of the war will involve upon them.
It was suggested in the past, and the policy was accepted by a large number of people, that one of the best ways of undermining the morale of the German people was by the bombing of German industrial cities. This has doubtless achieved most valuable military results but it has not had any adverse effect whatever on the morale of the people; indeed, it appears to have had the opposite effect. It has encouraged the spirit of resistance in Germany, in exactly the same way as the bombing of our towns encouraged the spirit of resistance of our own people. It is obvious that when a soldier at the front hears that his town has been bombed, and his wife and children killed, he will fight more desperately rather than less desperately. I am sure that it is necessary to bomb German war industries as effectively as possible, but let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that we shall thereby in any way undermine the will of the German people to fight.
So far, the war has been conceived chiefly in physical terms, and we are on top of the Germans to-day on every front in our superiority of numbers and weapons. We have enormous superiority, but its effectiveness is much weakened by our failure to reinforce it by the psychological weapon of telling the German people why they should stop resistance, and why it will pay them to do so. The Prime Minister asked the nation, quite rightly, to continue to concentrate all its efforts on the winning of the war. I suggest that nobody can hasten the end of the war more effectively than the Prime Minister himself. The people of this country can, and will, contribute by their patience, fortitude and courage all that they can, but the overriding policy and strategy, military and political, are the responsibility of the Government, and not of the people.
Lack of political direction, and bad political direction, by this Government and other Allied Governments are the major faults of our war effort at the moment, and are unnecessarily prolonging the war and increasing our casualties. That applies mainly to Germany, but not only to Germany. By our interference in Belgium, Italy and Greece, this country appears to be opposing the new progressive forces which are emerging in those countries and which have been the backbone of the resistance movements.
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I should be extremely grateful if he will tell me how we are doing what he suggests in Greece, where there is a Government of all the parties?
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that he and the Prime Minister have gone to that Box many times during the last six months and have not only criticised E.L.A.S. and E.A.M. but poured scorn upon them, and have supported the attitude of the Royal Greek Government when they have been in conflict—the Prime Minister significantly always emphasises the word "Royal." The whole policy of the Government has been to pour contempt on those resistance forces in Greece which fought so magnificently.
Their criticism was that we failed to arm them effectively. It is true that we gave them some arms. I think I can quote the right hon. Gentleman on this point. I naturally have not the quotation with me at the moment, but I have in mind one in which he suggested that because these resistance movements were difficult to the Greek Government we should not support them any further or give them arms. If the Foreign Secretary tells us to-day that he has wholeheartedly supported the main resistance groups in Greece, E.L.A.S. and E.A.M., during last year, I can only refer him to the speeches that he has made about them. I repeat that the attitude of the Government in regard to many European countries—Belgium, Greece, Italy—appears to be that of opposing, or if the right hon. Gentleman prefers to put it this way, giving no support, encouragement or sympathy to, the forces in those countries which have been the backbone of the resistance movements and who fought by our side so gallantly. On the other hand, they appear to be reserving all their sympathy for the representatives of the old social order in those countries.
Our policy appears to be one of drift, a steady drift, in the wrong direction. My plea is that that drift should stop as soon as possible, and that we should clarify the position by telling Europe and the world on what firm principles our foreign policy is based. Those firm principles should be essentially friendship towards all those who have borne the brunt of the fighting against the Nazis and for those progressive elements that are emerging to-day throughout Europe. Above all, our policy, if the Government want to shorten the war, as I am sure they can, should be, even at this late hour, to make such plain declarations of our policy towards the future of the German people as will provide them with some good reason why it would be worth while to stop fighting; by telling them that they have no need to fear, when the war is over, that they will be sent away and separated from their families for the rest of their lives, or that their country will be dismembered, or that they will suffer impoverishment and unemployment for generations. We should tell them, concretely and positively, what our policy is. If we do so, we shall end the war far earlier than if we continue this policy of drift and of merely declaring that the German people are going to have a very bad time because we are determined to punish them all for their responsibility for the war.
The hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss) has made a number of statements with which most other Members must profoundly disagree. I do not propose to take him up upon them—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"]—though I have a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT which is a complete answer by the Foreign Secretary himself to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for North Lambeth that the Foreign Secretary had poured scorn on the resistance movement in Greece, and had shown lack of sympathy with whatever work of real resistance to the enemy they had carried out. But I will not take my right hon Friend's words out of his mouth.
It may possibly be worth while to spend a few minutes trying to see ourselves as others see us, which is usually a chastening and corrective process, however salutary it may be, but on this occasion I think can give us a certain amount of encouragement. Nearly a year ago, the former mayor of Narvik broadcast a speech in which he said that the people of Britain are the fixed point by which other peoples, whose lives have been more violently deranged by the German onslaught and occupation, will seek to regain their bearings. Invasion, with all its train of horrors, occupation of one's country by the enemy: that is the thing which distinguishes the experience of Britain from that of all other European belligerents in this war. The enemy's oppressions, his depredations, his cruelties and his crimes have been done on other soil than ours. Other peoples have known real hunger and famine, not we. Other people are, at this moment, dying of hunger, not we. Many of our homes have been devastated, but other lands are battlefields, not ours.
These are physical facts, which have grave consequences, and I think are too little imagined by many of the people of these islands. But they are not the whole tale. They are the wounds of the body of Europe: but there are wounds of the spirit also. There is the humiliation of defeat in war. There is the consciousness of fatal policies that have led nations into misery and disaster. There is hatred, of which those who are responsible for those policies are the object. There are deep divisions within peoples, exacerbated by all the circumstances of poverty, hunger, need and sorrow. Here are the ingredients to make a situation of great tension and no little danger in many European countries. It is a situation which the most subversive elements within those countries will seek to exploit for their own purposes. Indeed they are at their work already. The behaviour of the Communists in Belgium, and in France, and of the notorious E.A.M. in Greece, to which such favourable reference has been made by the hon. Member for North Lambeth, is already familiar to the House. This is the reason why General de Gaulle himself, in a remarkable speech a few weeks ago which excited a good deal of controversy, and also our own Prime Minister more recently, speaking in France, appealed to the French people to achieve unity among themselves. And the same urgent necessity of unity appears in Italy, and many other European countries.
This country has been exempt from the experiences which have produced these results. Consequently although we shall in the future have great difficulties, especially those springing from economic causes, we shall, I think, avoid that state of serious tension and disorder which threatens so much of Europe. That is our good fortune: but it is also our opportunity, and our responsibility. Europe, I believe, at this moment looks to England to supply the element of stability and order in a Continent where there is so much to threaten authority, and where civil strife, disorder and many ugly possibilities lie very close to the surface. The first immediate, practical, obvious need in Europe is the provision of food, and then, scarcely second, transport for the distribution of food and for the carriage of the raw materials that reviving industry requires. These are the general, most urgent needs of Europe. But within each country there is one condition upon which the satisfaction of these needs and the whole restoration of the life of peoples depends, and that is the sure establishment of the authority of Government.
Here I must refer critically to an argument used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) this morning. He complained of something of which he thought he detected signs: a bias, or prejudice shown by His Majesty's Government in favour of established institutions against democracy. Thus he suggested, indeed he asserted, an opposition between established institutions on the one hand and democracy on the other. It is important to controvert this argument. That opposition is false. There is no true opposition between established institutions and democracy. Indeed it is just these institutions which themselves preserve democracy. But if the Government have a bias or prejudice of this character, it should be so. I certainly say that His Majesty's Government should support established institutions, because they are the foundation of order. The practical and already almost insuperably difficult work of alleviating the physical distress of peoples cannot possibly be carried through except in conditions of discipline and order secured by obedience to the authority of their legal Governments. Therefore, I say it is the duty of Britain, upon this ground alone, to use all her influence in support of the legal, constitutional Governments of Europe. But support of legal government is demanded not only by the present state of Europe, which we may hope is temporary: it is also derived from a permanent, general principle of law which is evidently right and good, and which it is the fundamental purpose of this war to assert.
I think it would be well if those elements abroad who have a vested interest in violence, and who seek to undermine or destroy existing institutions, had received no encouragement from this country; but unfortunately they have. They have found valuable support in the propaganda of those persons in this country who have never desisted from their attempts to substitute a false war for the true war, and to turn the war against Germany into a war for the triumph of extreme left and revolutionary ideas. Mr. H. G. Wells, that most consistently wrong-minded man, has said that this war will not be worth winning, unless we make it a war for the revolutionary elements of Europe. Some of the favourite sons of the B.B.C. always speak in the same sense; and there are even voices which have uttered the same note in this House. It is very necessary to make plain that these voices do not speak for the British Government or the British people. Support, then, of rightful constitutional Governments: here is a principle to which the natural stability of England, and her exemption from those experiences which have disrupted the lives of others, should incline her; here is a principle which Europe looks to England to maintain. That these are not academic considerations, the example of Poland alone would be sufficient to prove; but there are other examples too—Yugoslavia and Greece, nor are they all. They are indeed considerations of the highest practical importance.
But important as they are, they are but introductory to the more fundamental and chief reason of the reliance of other countries upon Britain. This is the simple principle, which is one of the guides of British foreign policy, of opposition to the domination of Europe by any great military power. Here, on the plane of practical policy, is the common meeting ground of Britain and Europe. Here is the ground on which the interests of Britain and the interests of all Europe outside Germany meet. Here is the ground on which Britain in this war has stood to fight. Let us not show less firmness and singleness of aim than we have displayed in the field, in the stand we take for the just rights of nations, especially the lesser nations which most need, as they expect, our support. The precise and detailed application of this principle it is unnecessary for me to elaborate on this occasion, and I do not attempt it. There is no incompatibility between this principle, with those other traditional ones which determine foreign policy, and full, active, sincere support of an international organisation formed for the preservation of peace, whether it be an organisation of the kind that has been discussed at Dumbarton Oaks or another. I am not claiming to-day a special virtue for our people. The things of which I have spoken are simply part of the tradition of England. Let us be true to our tradition and ourselves. Europe, and indeed the world, expects no more, but it expects no less.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) and I have an Amendment on the Order Paper which reads as follows:
But humbly regret that the Gracious Speech does not refer to the need for redirecting foreign policy so as to give support to the genuine people's movements of Europe instead of to reactionary elements which seek a return of the old European order.
I feel it a great pity that that Amendment is not to be called, because, looking at the Order Paper, I feel that it is probably the only Amendment which, if it had been called, would have been pressed to a Division by those who put it down. We intended that Amendment as a censure on this Government and therefore would have pressed it. Seeing that it is not to be called, however, all I can do is to make my case as briefly as I can. It is relevant to the arguments which have been put forward by the hon. Member who has just spoken, for he has obviously been opposing the Amendment which I have just read. In this Debate various hon. Members have brought from their own store of detailed knowledge many facts about foreign policy to-day. I shall not base my case on any inside story. I intend to base it on those broad facts which are so well known that they have only to be mentioned to be supported, and though there are few Members here to contradict—if they thought fit to do so—I do not think that, even if the House were full, the facts that I shall put forward would cause any disagreement.
The first is that the world has been drifting to war since 1930. No one can deny that. Manchuria, Abyssinia, Albania, Czechoslovakia—these are the steps by which this war started. One does not need to do more than cast one's mind back to newspaper and B.B.C. reports to know these facts. It is not necessary to delve into the archives of the Foreign Office. The second fact is that the only way to have stopped that shameful progress from one act of war to another, was for us to have applied the principle which we have applied to the conduct of this war. This war could not have been won by one nation alone: it bas taken the United Nations to do it. I do not think anybody will contradict me when I say that if that same principle had been applied at any time between 1930 and the beginning of this war, if the nations which had an interest in maintaining peace had really combined to stop it, that would have prevented this war. In other words, to use a phrase which does not find favour in some quarters, collective defence, collective security, was the one thing which would have prevented the shameful progress from one act of aggression to another, which led to this war.
The third fact is that the nations did not so unite. Sometimes it appeared that one nation was ready to make a stand, sometimes another, but never throughout that period was there a real willingness among the Governments of the great Powers to stand up to aggression. It would not be much use my complaining about what other Governments were doing: all I can speak about is the policy and the record of the British Government. It is a fact, which I do not think anyone will contradict, that throughout that period of drift to war, there was not a real consistent lead by the Government of Britain to the nations of the world to unite in the defence of international law, and to secure peace by collective security. There may have been occasions when words were spoken by British statesmen which could be interpreted as giving some slight support to this idea, but there was not that consistent lead which it was the duty of a power like Britain, with all its its influence and might, to give.
A fourth fact is that throughout this period of drift it was not that we were drifting without knowing where we were drifting; there were plenty of warnings given to the Governments of the world, and to the Government of Britain in particular. There were the warnings of events. No one, surely, could be blind to what these repeated acts of aggression were doing in the breakdown of international law. There were repeated warnings by hon. and right hon. Members of this House. No one can suggest that there was any secret about where this drift was taking us. I think it is right to say that the man in the street was well aware of the result of allowing these continual acts of aggression to take place. The whole thing was open, and not hidden. Here is the fifth fact, which also cannot be denied. During this period when things went wrong, from 1930 onwards, it was the Conservative Party which was, in effect, in control of this House of Commons. I am not arguing whether the parties that were in Opposition were on every occasion absolutely right. That does not concern my case.
From the time of which I am speaking, when the first major act of aggression took place, when the Japanese attacked Manchuria, it was the Conservative Party which had a tremendous majority in this House, and which could steamroller its way through any opposition. Indeed, if there were a few voices, such as that of the present Prime Minister, in the Conservative Party shouting warnings, they could be, and were, steamrollered, and appeasement was the policy of the Conservative Party. If those who supported that policy with most vehemence are now shouting in the opposite way, I say that that is largely because of their guilty consciences. The more they call for violent measures, for instance, against the people of Germany, the more they think the people of this country will forget their guilty record. During the time when things went wrong it was the Conservative Party which had the power, and the Conservative Party must take the responsibility. Now we come to this paradox. The interest of Britain as a nation, the interest of the British people, which was in peace, demanded that our foreign policy should be directed to opposition of the growing strength of the aggressor nations, under Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. But, in spite of that very obvious fact, the Conservative Party policy was appeasement. To me there is only one explanation.
The scales were weighted strongly on the side of Britain supporting collective opposition to the aggression of Mussolini and Hitler: there were very strong arguments for that; but our action was in the opposite direction, which proved that there were even stronger arguments, heavier weights, on the other side of the scale. It is my belief that the weight on the other side of the scale was as follows. The Conservative Party in Britain had a dual role. I believe they were sincere in their desire to promote the interests of the nation and of the people of this country, but their idea of promoting those interests was to support in every possible way the existing social and economic order. By definition, I think the Conservative Party take the view that it is necessary for the wellbeing of this country that the capitalist system should be preserved. There is a broad feeling, too, I think, in the whole world among capitalists that they must hang together. Looking overseas, those in this country who wished to see the strengthening of the capitalist system would necessarily feel afraid of what would happen if that system were to go down abroad. That explains for instance the opposition of the Conservative Party to the Soviet Union. In particular, it explains why they were incapable of opposing, in any way, the regimes of Hitler and Mussolini.
The Fascist and Nazi regimes were, undoubtedly, bent on supporting and maintaining the capitalist system in Italy and in Germany. They were maintaining it because there was a danger that the people of those countries, in some way or other, might supersede those regimes; so it was the German industrialists and the big German landlords who were the supporters of Hitler, and who gave him the influence and wealth to build up his movement. Those, I submit, were the natural allies of the capitalist class in this country. Because of this natural alliance, there was no readiness to support collective security in opposing Hitler. In other words, the British Government, from 1930 to the outbreak of this war, were in all cases putting class interest before national interest.
Some few of them were sent, but in the main the people who were sent to the concentration camps in Germany first were the leaders of the German trade union movement and of the Communist, Socialist and Social Democratic Parties in Germany. I agree that as time went on, some few of the industrialists may have fallen foul of the regime, and measures may have been taken against them. But the broad fact is that the Hitler regime was directed against those who desired to see a Socialist system. To return then to the balance of forces in this country, where the scales were weighted with two weights. The national interest of this country said, "Support collective security, and oppose Hitler." The class interest of the Government said "Appease Hitler." At first the latter was the heavier weight, but at some time in 1939 the scale was tipped, Hitler's armies and air force grew stronger and stronger, and the immediate threat to Britain's interest grew greater. At this point national interest, because of the immediate threat, took precedence over class interest, and this war began.
What has happened since then? I submit that, from the day when it appeared fairly certain that we were going to win the military side of this struggle, there has been a great tendency for the scales to tip back again. Wherever the Allied Armies have succeeded, there you have the class interest of the British Government coming back. Darlan, Badoglio, and what is now happening in Belgium, are all indications, as other hon. Members have pointed out, that since the military operations have rolled on, the political objective of the present British Government is to see that representatives of the old order are put safely back in the saddle.
I do not say that the pressure came from the majority in this House: it came from a minority of this House. I will make one prophecy. If the precedents of what we are doing now are any indication of what the Government are going to do in future, as soon as the Armies of Marshal Tito are of no further use to us, as soon as Yugoslavia is sufficiently liberated for us to be able to impose the old regime, the Armies of Marshal Tito will be asked to hand back their arms and those Armies will be banned and broken up—that is, if we follow the precedent of what is happening in Belgium. But my case does not depend on any detailed inside story: the facts are sufficiently known to the whole country. In the main, the use to which our military victories are being put is to put back those representatives of what the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Emmott) called order and stability, the representatives of the old economic and social order
I want to make one more prophecy. What is going to be the position of the balance of interests of the Conservative Party when the German Army and Air Force are completely defeated? I said that before this war we had a scale with the heavier weight on one side, and that, when the weight of the German Army and Air Force increased, it tipped the balance, making national interests for a time have precedence over class interests. With the destruction of the German Army and Air Force, the weights are completely swept away from one side of the scale, and therefore we shall see a swing back. We shall see the class interests of British capitalists and Conservatives, who will be in exactly the same position as regards foreign affairs as they were in the years 1930–1939, predominate again. They will, I think, inevitably seek to support those elements in Europe which are endeavouring to maintain the old order, and I suggest that the re-establishment of that old order, which is bound to be nationalist, will inevitably lead to another war.
I want to ask what would have happened to the British people if we were in the same position as the Belgian or French people; if, for instance, instead of our being able, in 1940, to prevent the invasion of this country, we had been invaded and occupied and the fight had then been carried on from across the seas; if, after years of occupation and resistance, the Dominion and American Armies had come back and forced the occupying Nazis out? That is the com- parable situation to what is happening on the Continent. During these years of occupation, if this hypothetical situation had arisen, I contend that the British capitalist class would have reacted in exactly the same way as the French or Belgian capitalist class. They would have collaborated, economically, with the invader and then, when the ordinary common folk, organised in resistance movements and assisted by the American and Dominion troops coming from overseas, had thrown that yoke off, I think the people of this country would have done exactly what the people of Belgium and France are wanting to do. They would have said "We have seen these people in their true colours; they will always put class interests before the national interests; now that we have an opportunity, we are going to see that we are finished with the capitalist system." There would have been demands for the nationalisation of the mines and heavy industries, just as there are on the Continent.
The comparable situation would be this—that the Americans coming in would be putting back the clock, the forces of the so-called liberators being used to oppose the will of the British people and see that the old reactionaries were put back in the saddle. I am quite sure that that is what would have happened if we had been invaded and occupied. I am quite sure we should not tolerate such treatment from our so-called liberators, and I think that it gives us an appreciation of what the people of Europe must be thinking about us.
We talked a lot about building up a sound political order in Europe to maintain peace. There can be no such maintenance of peace unless there is real trust and friendship between the peoples of Europe. It is my belief that it is the people's movements, the resistance movements, which are going to win, and, whatever we may do to try to support the Pierlots and Umbertos, it will be the people's movements that will win in Europe. Therefore, if we are going to have these friendly relations which are necessary, we should go out of our way to offer that friendship when it is needed most; if we do not, we are making a legacy of bitterness which will render international collaboration very difficult indeed.
In this question of foreign relations and what we are doing in Europe, we have one side of the great problem facing us to-day. It is my belief that we are at one of those periods in history when principles which have been firmly held for many centuries are in the melting pot. There was a period when Europe was struggling to throw off the ideas and the yoke of feudalism so that a new economic and social order could develop. I believe that the clock has turned right round and that we are at a similar time again, when Europe is at the end of an age and is struggling to throw off the shackles of the capitalist system and all it comprises, to go forward into an age based on the common ownership of the means of production. That is my belief, and it is also my belief that the foreign policy of this Government, decided by the control of the Conservative Party, is standing against it, and that is my condemnation of this Government. That is why my hon. Friends and I put down this Vote of Censure, and why we would have been glad of the opportunity of showing our views in the Lobby.
I had not intended to speak about foreign policy, but I am emboldened to say a word or two after the speech of my hon. Friend opposite, the Member for Skipton (Mr. Lawson). It may be that we did not jump to arms against Japan and Italy, but we had not many arms at the time, and I do not know that my hon. Friend opposite and his friends helped us to get them. I think it would be worth while looking at the records of hon. Members in this House to see how the Armed Forces, small as they were, were prevented or hindered, by the votes of my hon. Friends opposite, from securing even some small increase in their powers.
If my hon. and gallant Friend will allow me to interrupt, I was not an hon. Member of this House at the time, but I would point out to hon. Members above the Gangway that the last Army Estimate of the Labour Government was £109,000,000, which was reduced by the first National Government, dominated by the Conservative Party, to about £102,000,000, and it was not for two or three years that arms expenditure got back to the figure provided by the last Labour Government.
A very powerful argument, I am sure, but the collapse of Britain's economic position occurred not at the beginning of the Labour Government at that time, but at the end, and the nation had to make some remedy. The idea that if Britain had been invaded the only people who would have jumped to arms would have been himself and his colleagues on those Benches——
—and that we here would have sat up and collaborated is really too fantastic to deserve serious attention, and an examination of the services rendered in the Armed Forces by hon. Members of this House in this and other wars would hardly support such a contention. I did not intend to talk about foreign affairs, however. I want to speak about ex-Servicemen, and I apologise to the House for so constantly returning to this subject. There is no reference to ex-Servicemen in the King's Speech, not one word about the men who are serving and about the problems which will arise when the war is over and they come back. This is the last Session of this Parliament, and it may be that, by November next, we shall have concluded victoriously the German war and may have had an election, or may be in the process of having an election. Therefore, this King's Speech in Parliament, the Grand Inquest of the Nation, as it has been termed, seems to be the occasion for making up our minds what this Parliament will do to ensure that the men who come back from the war, and who will begin to come back, we hope, during next year, are adequately and properly cared for. The vanguard may already be here by this time next year.
Before I say a word or two about their situation in particular, there is one general observation which I should like to make which affects them and all of us. No section of the community is greater than the whole, and not even the rights of ex-Servicemen must prejudice the nation's well-being. They must co-operate with the rest of the nation and must make sacrifices with the rest of the nation if they are needed in the general interest. The other point is that no single factor in the economic sphere will contribute more to the well-being of all, including the men who are fighting, than the revival of our export trade. I do not see a reference in the King's Speech to a vigorous study of that problem, or vigorous action which will give us the assurance and certainty that we shall have a real chance of getting our export trade, or some of it, back again. I believe we shall need more of it than we had in previous times.
The Board of Trade might well be criticised for its lack of activity in this matter, and the Government might be criticised for the squeamish policy about other nations, and more particularly about the Americans. It is necessary that we work together, but the Americans are not people to admire you if you do not say what you think, and, just as they have been perfectly prepared to say what they think in the Air Conference—they said, in fact, "We are out for full and unadulterated competition in the air"—we ought to listen and realise that we are out for full and unadulterated competition throughout and will have to fight to get our export markets back. Let us prepare for that battle now, and not be found unequipped and unarmed to wage it when the time comes.
But there are other ways of increasing the balance of purchasing power than by the encouragement of the export trade. One good way is by the manufacture more freely in this country of goods which we have bought abroad, and there is a particular industry, the smelting industry, in which that problem is very acute. We have not encouraged the smelting industry, and, certainly, in regard to some metals, such as copper, zinc and tin, we have been prepared to buy the finished metals instead of processing them here. The Government can help very much now by consulting these industries even more than they are doing to make sure that we take full advantage of the natural skill and facilities we have here, and of the fact that we are, traditionally, a seafaring people and that it is our intention to revive our merchant ships and shipping.
When the men do come home, what will they want? First, I think, they will want a home—a simple home, not a palace, somewhere where they can either revive the old home which has (been broken up or found a new home with a new wife, somewhere where they can have a little space for their children. They will want a home, and they will want furniture and pots and pans to put into it. Have we adequate assurance that these things are going to be provided? I do not believe that it is possible to provide homes for all or furniture or pots and pans for all in a short time. The facts about the war damage and about the maximum capacity of our building trade in peace time make it clear that there will be a demand for houses for some considerable time to come. If that is so, we shall have to take certain steps, if we are determined to see that, as far as possible, the men who return from the Armed Forces get a home. We cannot promise them all a home immediately, but, seeing that they have been away for four or five years, living a hard life, divorced from their own home surroundings and their familiar sights and sounds and their own folk, they must be made to feel that, if there are not enough for all, and not even enough for half, at least they shall have some priority in the allocation of homes, of furniture and of pots and pans.
The Government recognise this because only recently they granted to local authorities the power—to be read into a recent housing Act—to take ex-Servicemen into account when letting houses, and I ask that in this Session of Parliament the Government will make the priority for ex-Servicemen in the matter of housing much stronger and much clearer than it is. There are several things we can do. In the rural districts, we can allow private enterprise, as quickly as possible, to get on to the job of repairing rural houses and of reviving some rural houses which are old-fashioned and out of date but which can be made reasonably habitable by a reasonable expenditure of money. The organised building of pre-fabricated houses or partially pre-fabricated houses in large numbers in big areas is one thing, but in villages and small towns and rural districts the building industry is a small local affair, broken up into a number of independent, trivial units. It would be most efficient if they were quickly brought back to work in undertaking repairs. It may even be necessary to reduce to some extent for a time the standards which have hitherto been imposed by the Government upon local authorities in rural areas. That is not because I want housing standards to go backwards—I am sure none of us want that. But in so far as we would agree to lower standards for the pre-fabricated house on the ground that it is better to have a house like that than none at all, so we might be wise to agree that a great many cottages throughout the length and breadth of the land could be renovated or put into repair and put to good use to help to meet the need.
Anyone who goes to the country and says that housing can be solved easily is misleading our people. There is bound to be a tremendous shortage for years, and we should take every step to get a dry and a decent roof over people's heads without insisting on standards which would prevent the largest possible number of houses being put into use. As regards the Portal houses, I am not satisfied about two points. One is whether it is not a great waste of money to build a house for 10 years, and the other is whether there is a sufficiently big programme of these houses. I would ask whether it would not be better to acid a little to the cost of these houses and make them last 20 or 30 years.
There is no reason why prefabrication should be confined to temporary dwellings. It is a process of manufacture which could be applied to permanent structures. It is already a recognised development in building. Windows are generally made in factories and are fitted in by the local carpenter on the site. There is no reason why some hundreds of thousands of good permanent dwellings should not be largely made in factories and erected. Moreover, the Portal house to last 10 years is to be put on ground that would otherwise be used for a permanent dwelling. There is a strong case for a revision of policy there. Another thing is that Portal houses have only been offered to boroughs. There are a good many towns in the country which have not the distinction to be boroughs and have not been offered them or been asked to put in an application for them. That position ought to be revised. There should be an estimate of what we could erect, and we should do better there.
When a house or a home has been found for the returned man, what next? A job. I believe it is the honest intention of the Minister of Labour, whose work in this connection I admire, to try to get the utmost possible amount of employment for all at the earliest possible moment. I believe that he has genuinely invited the trades unionists, and that they have largely responded, to help to get the ex-Service man back into work and back into the unions. I realise the point he frequently makes that goodwill between the trades unionists and the returning ex-Service men is essential. It therefore follows that the ex-Service men must be wise in their own time and on their own side, and not ask too much by way of preference or priority, lest they lose some of the goodwill which the trades union movement is showing them.
A big change has taken place in their relationship to each other and to the State since the end of the last war. In those days we relied upon the voluntary feeling, which expressed itself in many ways—upon a preference given voluntarily by employers all over the land to the returning men. Even that was not wholly successful and there was great unemployment. More and more we have been regulated and controlled, and more and more men have been asked to do just what is written down rather than what they would like to do. Very often they would like to do everything in their power for returning ex-Servicemen, but the fact that they have to look up what is written down for them to do has prevented them from giving that timely help they would otherwise give. If we take away voluntary incentive we must put something in its place. I know that the Minister of Labour would like to avoid the issue if he possibly could, but I submit that neither he nor the House nor the country can avoid it. Whatever sacrifices we are all of us prepared to make, to achieve full employment, the capitalists, as my hon. Friend opposite was pleased to call us, on one side and trade unionists on the other, it cannot be achieved in a hurry.
I know of men who are out of work for a few weeks in a particular factory because a tail plane which they are making has to be replaced. If a few weeks unemployment is caused by the change-over from one type of machine to another, how much more dislocation there will be in turning over from the making of swords to the making of ploughshares. There will be dislocation and pockets of unemployment. If there is unemployment in a town and if there are 10 men out of work and there are nine places, will anything be done to see that the ex-Serviceman is not the one to be left out? This is a plain question which the Minister of Labour cannot avoid, and which this House cannot avoid and about which it has to make up its mind. My own view is that where the man has been in the Armed Forces and where, in very many cases, he has been away from home, out of touch, unable to look after himself, when he comes back he must be given some kind of priority. The Government do not have this in mind. They do not put it into the King's Speech. I believe that they do not intend to do it if the Minister of Labour can prevent it.
I say to the House that there must be a challenge on this matter. Unless the Government are prepared to say that, where there is a scarcity of employment in any place, perhaps for a limited time, preference is to be given to the men who come back after the war, they will have to be challenged in this House, or in the country when the election comes. I do not believe the nation will be satisfied to see that this preference is not given. In order to give it there must be administrative preparation. A separate register will have to be kept in the employment exchanges, otherwise it will not be known who are the men and who are not. The Minister of Labour will say, "We do not like the principle and we cannot do it." I would remind the House that under the pressure of this House he did it in the Disabled Persons Act, when he set up a separate register of those who were ex-Servicemen, and he did take powers. Indeed it was imposed upon him as a duty, where there were not enough places in the training establishments or in the factories, to give a preference to the ex-Servicemen. The House must ask the Government to extend that to fit returning men as well, and among them I include the men of the Merchant Navy, too often left out.
A contribution to employment and the easing of the anxiety of a great many people would be made were the Government vigorously to plan the use of many small war factories. There are some of which I know in my constituency, and there must be similar establishments in the constituencies of many honourable and right hon. Friends, which were set up only in this war, or which may be old buildings taken over for this war. At present no one in the workshop or the management seems to know what is to be done afterwards, which are to be closed down and which kept open. The Ministers concerned could do a lot if they were to review these war factories and let us have a plan, as far as it is possible, for keeping them open and diverting them to peace-time work. The important psychological point which I want to ask the House to consider is that the King's Speech contains no reference whatever to the anxieties of men now serving in the Forces, who are so soon to come back. Is not the idea bound to lurk in their minds that, though they are wanted now, they are not going to be wanted afterwards? They will feel that for five years they were wanted by the nation, and when the war has ended are they to come back and wonder whether they are wanted any more? It is not enough to say that our policy is one of full employment and that our policy is to build houses, and they must have their share. The facts of the case in regard to them make it necessary for the Government, and if the Government are unwilling, for the House, to say that there must be a preference for them in these matters.
Two last very short observations. The Government must undertake to set up a Select Committee to review the whole of our war pensions system. There are many principles and details in it which do not meet with universal approval, and if not before the election, then immediately after it, it seems to me there must be a Select Committee to review the whole matter, and place Parliament and the country in the position of knowing all the facts, and of hearing evidence from all and sundry. Lastly, I would make a plea for liberty. These men who have been fighting all these years have been subject to rigid discipline, of a kind to which we in England are not accustomed. I believe they will want to feel when they come back that, within reasonable limits, they can lead their own lives, not lives which are ordered for them by the Government or by trade unions, but their own lives; choose their own employment, not be directed to this or that. They will want personal liberty. So, I hope that the controls which must stay on while there is a great shortage of commodities, will be removed as quickly as possible, and that it will be the Government's declared intention that they should be removed. My hon. Friends opposite, I know, would like to keep controls on as long as possible. It is their policy also to control business in every possible way, though they are inconsistent enough to deny that they want to control labour. Their policy is one of control, and though we do not want a political row in the Government now, I hope the Government will make plans for the abolition of these controls, and I hope they may disappear as soon as possible.
May I repeat just one sentence? There is no reference in the King's Speech to the problems of bringing men back from the Armed Forces; there is no declared intention in the King's Speech on the part of the Government to give them a preference for houses, or jobs, or for all the things they want. I did think of putting down an Amendment upon this matter, but it might not have been called and, if it were, it might have promoted discord and I do not want to do that. Therefore, I ask the Government to see whether, during the progress of the Debate, or at any rate during the progress of the Session, they cannot remedy this very glaring defect.
I think hon. Members appreciate the point of the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir Ian Fraser) calling attention to the housing difficulties that exist and will continue to exist for some time. I understand, however, from what Mr. Speaker said to-day that a whole Sitting is to be devoted next week to a discussion of the housing situation, and therefore perhaps I shall be excused from following what my hon. and gallant Friend has just said.
I wish to bring the Debate back to foreign affairs. I notice that the Prime Minister on Wednesday said he did not wish to discuss foreign affairs, and he made little or no reference to them, because he had not been provoked into doing so. I do not quite know what the Prime Minister means by that. Are we to throw stones at him, before he will give attention? I must confess it puts me in a quandary. If we become loyal supporters of the Government, and sustain them by a discreet silence, they assume that everything they do is perfectly correct; on the other hand, if we provoke them into discussion, we are accused of throwing an apple of discord.
I hope the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will take a more responsive attitude than the Prime Minister, who spent over 40 minutes in a rambling speech which was faithfully reported in the national Press as usual. Most of it was highly irrelevant; some of it was very dangerous and very provoking to us on this side of the House. This is the first time I have ever known the Prime Minister commending the language he put into the King's mouth, by saying that we shall not be able to carry out the legislation. It is the first time I have ever known a Conservative election address masquerading as a King's Speech, because what the Prime Minister said was that, although this Speech contains a very large number of items, it will not be possible for us to carry them through this Session and, of course, afterwards we shall have another King's Speech—this is supposed to be the programme but we shall not be able to carry it out. Then we are twitted from the other side of the House because we are not prepared to continue the Coalition Government, to give them enough time to carry out every item in the King's Speech. Really, we are getting into a most difficult situation. Yet the fact of the matter is that the people who are determining how long this Parliament is to sit are the Germans. When the Germans give in we shall have an election. So the whole thing is out of our control, and what is in the Gracious Speech is so much rhetoric, as related to the real situation outside. Everybody knows what has been said from the other side and from this side, that immediately we are relieved of the obligation of continuing the war in Europe, this weary old Parliament will come to an end, and we shall give the people an opportunity of electing a new one.
But if we did not provoke the Government into making a statement on foreign affairs, the Government indeed provoked us on this side of the House, and hon. Members opposite, to raise a matter of general interest to all Members in the House. I think it is time that somebody said a word for Members of Parliament. For over five years we have been in a sort of intellectual and political quarantine. No one can pretend that we have been making exorbitant demands upon the Executive. Indeed, the astonishing thing is this, that as soon as war is declared and the functions of the Government are enormously enlarged, the Civil Service is triplicated and the executive powers are increased, and that is the exact time chosen to restrict us, limit us, handicap us, and half starve us of all the powers we need. [Laughter.] Hon. Members must not overlook the end of my sentence—of all the powers we need. The fact is, and hon. Members know it very well, that there are more burdens thrown upon Members of the House of Commons in wartime than at any other time. It is our function to try to scrutinise, criticise, and control the vast apparatus created by the Government under wartime conditions. What happens? They take away our HANSARD volumes, they take away all facilities in the House of Commons, they take away secretarial facilities; in fact, at the moment when we need our facilities, we are reduced to less facilities than we have in normal times. That is the fact, and the country ought to understand it. I do not know what is the experience of other hon. Members, but I am finding my post bag now unbearably burdensome. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Not only that, but there is the difficulty of getting through the vast amount of paper work now involved, and the Government have not eased our situation by these White Paper pronunciamentos which we have from time to time. Indeed my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge) of distinguished repute has added to it still more. By the time we read our correspondence, answer our letters, interview Ministers—if they can be got at—read all the White Papers——
—and all the documents, and then come and spend some time in the House of Commons trying to find out what the Government are doing—which is very difficult because they usually shut themselves in behind all kinds of security excuses—by the time we do that, I say Members of the House of Commons have a very, very hard job indeed. I think it is necessary that the country should recognise it. In addition to that, one great disability from which Private Mem- bers of Parliament suffer, as against the Members of the Government, is lack of access to information, and it is, of course, particularly grievous in wartime. There have been some excursions under Government auspices into different parts of the world; Members can go on various expeditions to harmless parts of the world but they can only do that when they get Government permission and are provided with Government funds. We cannot go out of the country to America, even if we had permission, because we cannot take out more than £10, although I understand the Treasury finds no difficulty in allowing a payment of £40,000 for an American cinema actor, to come to this country, and pay it in dollars. There are all those restrictions on travel, and we have borne them. I do not know what is the experience of my hon. Friends, but I find it extremely difficult to learn what is happening in other parts of the world. The censorship, the limitation on travel, and the deliberate conspiracies of Government Departments——
—otherwise I shall be compelled to produce the evidence. I say that the deliberate obscurantism of Government Departments in this matter makes it very difficult for us to find out what is happening. We have borne it with more or less patience but now, I think, our patience is about exhausted.
Last night the Home Secretary was sent down by the Government—I think we all recognised that the Home Secretary last night was the spokesman of the War Cabinet. Therefore I shall not be accused of attacking him in his absence, because he came down, not merely in his capacity as Home Secretary, but straight from a Cabinet meeting, to inform us all as to what extent we are still in quarantine. Two Members of Parliament applied for permission to go to France. I understand that the Foreign Office said "Excellent; you can go." Then, apparently, the Home Office stepped in and stopped it. Why? The two Members who were going were doing so on the invitation, I gather, of the British Ambassador in Paris and of the Minister of Information, and with the support of the French Ambassador here, but the Home Office intervened. Why? I know one of those hon. Members very well, and I am sure he would not create much discord in Paris. I understand, furthermore, that there were no transport difficulties, because places had already been allotted to them on the aeroplane, but they were refused by the Home Office. I have been asking myself why, and I think I know the answer. The answer is that the Government can see no way of allowing those Members to go to Paris and keeping me here. When I say "keeping me here," I use myself symbolically. I would have liked to have gone to Rome, to Brussels and to Paris, I would have liked to have found out what my comrades in those liberated capitals were thinking about the behaviour of the Foreign Office. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will provide facilities?
It seems that the right hon. Gentleman will, but the Home Secretary will not. I hate to see this rift in the Coalition lute. [Laughter.] This is a very serious matter indeed, because our reputation in Europe is being made at the present time, for years to come, by the conduct of the Government, and Members of the House of Commons ought to have access to information on what are the reactions of the people of the Continent. At present we are limited by what is being said in the Press. No one can go across to the Continent, it seems, unless he is clapped into uniform. I have a good many friends in Fleet Street, some young, some old, some fat, some thin, some fit and some unfit, and I have found them in a transformation scene, all walking about in uniform. They go to Brussels——
Yes; if a British journalist wants to go to France, it is far easier for him to go there in United States uniform. What happens? As soon as they are in uniform, they are subject to military censorship. The stories they send back here have first to be passed and, consequently, they are in no position to tell the whole truth. When we meet them here we learn the facts, but they have to talk surreptitiously. I met a member of my right hon. Friend's Department the other day, who was talking to some journalists about my right hon. Friend's plans for the post-war re-education of Germany, but as soon as I arrived on the scene he stopped talking. What did the Home Secretary say last night? He said that one of the reasons why we could not travel at the moment, was the absence of travel facilities. Everybody in the House knows that to be nonsense. It is about time that Ministers treated the House as a gathering of adults, instead of talking nonsense of that sort. We know there is no transport difficulty. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that we do not know, we would invite him upstairs to a private meeting, so that we could tell him all we do know about the transport system. We know exactly what is happening. There is no difficulty, for certain people, in going across to Paris whenever they like. One has only to be a "ham" actor to go across to Paris and back at will. I do not Object, if Ministers are going abroad on the service of the State, to such Ministers taking their wives with them if facilities are available.
I have never objected to the Prime Minister being entitled to whatever domestic facilities he can obtain; I do not subscribe to the rather malicious and evil-tongued gossip about the Prime Minister taking members of his family away with him. Good luck to him. Nobody in this country grudges that. Further, I do not object to the Chancellor taking his wife to Paris. But is it not rather unreasonable, in such circumstances, for a Minister to refuse travelling facilities to Members of Parliament on the ground that there is no transport? Surely that is unfair and undignified. My hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan)—I have not got his permission to say this but I am certain that it is public knowledge—was given permission to go to Ireland, but as he could not take his wife with him, he refused to go.
I think it is a scandal. I had intended to speak on another matter, and I apologise to the House for taking up time with this subject. [HON. MEMBERS "No."] I telephoned to the Foreign Office for permission to go to France and they said, "You will have to apply to General Eisenhower." The whole place was clear of troops. Correspondents and Americans were, at that time, going across the Channel.
It was not under the actual control at all. The Armies had moved beyond Paris, and the whole area was perfectly clear. But I did not apply to General Eisenhower, and I will give the House the reason. If I had been as tactless as the Foreign Office, I might easily have created a most unpleasant international incident. If I had applied to General Eisenhower, as a Member of this House, to go to France, and had been refused permission, he would have been compelled to refuse United States Congressmen that right as well. I thought it unfair to put such a responsibility upon the general in charge of operations; I thought it an extremely invidious position in which to put him, that of deciding Whether American Congressmen or British Members of Parliament should go to France, or whether it should be the decision of Congress and Parliament and not the decision of a general.
I do not know whether I ought to have heard of this or not, but I had not heard of it. Perhaps the hon. Member would not mind telling me, because I want to be fair, whoever was concerned.
I will give the right hon. Gentleman the exact information. I am indicating the great difficulties which might have been created, if I had said that I would apply to General Eisenhower. Is the decision to refuse permission to Members to go to France the decision of the Home Office or the Cabinet? I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary should carry this burden alone. I was amazed last night by what the Home Secretary said. He said, in the first instance, that it was a decision of the Government and then, a little later, said that Government Departments were only too ready to recommend that Members be allowed to go to France. What does that mean? Does it mean that the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Information recommend that Members of Parliament be allowed to go, thus leaving the Home Secretary in the position of having to refuse them? Is that what is happening? I think the time has come when we should say that Members Of Parliament in no circumstances should take second place to Congressmen in this matter of transport. I think it is unbearable that 30 or 40 Congressmen should have every facility to go to France, while the same facilities are denied to Members of the House of Commons. I think there is universal resentment against this.
I agree with the hon. Member's general argument, but I think we should get this matter in its right perspective. The Congressmen who have gone to France were official representatives of official committees of Congress, appointed by Congress to carry out the work of Congress.
That is my submission, but if it is incorrect, perhaps the Noble Lord, or one of his friends, will tell me. If that is the fact, however, I do not think it is a comparable case to that of Members of Parliament going to France in their individual capacity.
I have met Congressmen in official and semi-official capacities, over here for years. Furthermore, I have heard my American friends say, "If you want to go to France, travel in an American plane. There is plenty of room." I do say that the time has come when we should ask for the restoration of some of the facilities which we have voluntarily given up. This is not a matter for the Government. Last night, the Home Secretary said that the Government decided the priorities in this matter. That is a strange doctrine. Since when has the Executive decided how far Members of this House are to be allowed to travel? We decide that for ourselves; it is not decided by the Government. What would be the situation if the Government were allowed to decide? Minority opinion in this House would be permanently limited. According to the Home Secretary, everybody in the country must be allowed to travel before Members of Parliament, because he said that there must not be any favouritism as between Members of this House and others outside. So it seems that everybody must go before we start. Surely, that is what it means, otherwise we would have preference over other people. If the Home Secretary's view is to be sustained by this House, then we shall be the last persons to be relieved from this enforced insularity.
I have spent more time on this subject than I intended. I want to say to the Foreign Secretary that all the information I am getting at present from Rome and Brussels shows that almost all the great advantages we have obtained by the struggles we have made during the past five years of war, are now being thrown away by the policies being followed by His Majesty's Government. Our prestige is being progressively lowered on the Continent.
My right hon. Friend shakes his head, but he knows very well that an ugly situation has been created in Italy. The British Foreign Secretary, or the British Government, insist that the Italians should submit their choice of Ministers to us before they are allowed to appoint them. The cheap sneers at the Italians have been really discreditable, because many hundreds of thousands of ordinary Italians have lost their lives assisting General Alexander in the last two years, and General Alexander, who is a great gentleman as well as a great soldier, has paid tribute to their assistance. Now these men are asking why they should lose their lives and why they should drive the Germans out. They are insisting that, if an Administration is to be formed in Italy, it shall be one in which their influence shall be represented.
The Foreign Office has indicated to the British Ambassador at Rome that Count Sforza is unacceptable as Foreign Secretary. What effect do hon. Members think that behaviour is having on the whole of the Balkans, and on the whole of the Italian nation? When that is added to the fact that British soldiers are being used to keep in power an unpopular Government in Belgium, we realise that, under the control of the Prime Minister, British foreign policy is turning a complete circle. The decision that we had to take was whether we were going to back the forces of democratic progress or of reaction in Europe. The decision was to back the forces of reaction, and we got the war. Exactly the same decisions are now being taken by the Government, estranging our friends and estranging the democratic and progressive forces on the Continent and destroying the good will and support which five years of war have earned for us. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should lift the ban on travel and allow Members of Parliament to go to Europe to find out for ourselves what is happening there, and allow us to tell our friends in Europe that all the British people are not represented by the policies of the British Foreign Office.
I do not want to follow too much in detail what the hon. Member has been saying, because I think this question of Members of Parliament going abroad has been pretty thoroughly aired yesterday and to-day, and I cannot help feeling that the Cabinet will probably think the matter over again and decide what proportion Members of Parliament should be allowed to go abroad. There are also business men in my constituency who are particularly anxious to get abroad and are not finding it very easy. If it is true that there is a possibility of people getting out by transport planes, perhaps it is merely a question of organisation and it can be worked out between the two Departments. I have now been in the House for something like nine months, so it is possible that I may know something about countries abroad before that time which hon. Members have not been able to learn since they have been in quarantine. Before then I had spent most of my time abroad until I got into the Air Force. In these nine months I have noticed the vast field of different subjects which has had to be covered, and again in the Gracious Speech we see the vast field that has to be covered in the present Session, all different types of subject and yet every one of them in some way connected with foreign affairs. It seems to me that next to nothing can be done that is being suggested as a possibility for the future unless the foreign situation is more or less secure.
It affects everything that is being said at present about whether we can afford this, that or the other type of social legislation. The Government do not say whether the question of affording is also going to bring in the cost of keeping on the Forces after the war. I should honestly like some assurance that the Government really have in mind the fact that after the war is over there will still be an underground war to face.
Some months ago I think the Foreign Secretary, but certainly the Secretary of State for the Dominions, pointed out that we are now learning that organisations in Germany are preparing to go underground immediately after the war. I spent a great deal of time before the war started on behalf of the Royal Institute of International Affairs and the Rockefeller Foundation, in Germany, visiting Nazi schools and training camps to find out exactly what was being taught to these people. It is to my mind rather awful to hear some of the speeches that I have heard from the Opposition benches in the last two days about the future. They seem to think there will be no more risk. On more than one occasion leading Nazis told me before this war that a war was inevitable but they did not really think they would win it. They hoped they would, but they thought it was merely a campaign in a series. They have such ambitious schemes over the next 100 years that they are prepared to go underground for another 20 or 30. I said, "Suppose we defeat you; cannot we humiliate you and put you down?" They said, "No. Hitler has given us a recipe which will bring us back in five or six years." One of their secretaries told me in 1936, "If only we can get the boys and girls of this country for 10 years we are absolutely safe for the future and nothing really matters." They have had these children, and many young people who are now themselves parents. The Nazis had, as early as 1936, special schools for German children—chosen children. They have to be able to prove their ancestry since 1800, because it was not till then that the Jews started inter-marrying with Germans. That is a point to be remembered.
All these children were chosen for that purpose. They were taken to these schools, and I need not go into the details of what they were taught, for the hon. Member for South Salford (Mr. Stourton) spoke in some detail on that matter. In every district large numbers of children were sent to one of these schools. The plan was that they should go there until they were 18, when they were sent to the labour camps and after that into the Army. Then the key people came out of the Army and went into civilian jobs, where they were watched for three years. After that they went into the Yunker schools. There are only four of them in Germany, one in each area at each end of Germany, one thousand students in each. There these people are taught the most fantastic things, some of which were suggested by the hon. Member for South Salford yesterday and laughed at by Members on the other side of the House. I feel horrified, because I know how true these things are. I saw them being taught the most fantastic ideas—how they were the Herrenvolk, the major race; I saw the taking of specimens of the blood of animals, and things like that to prove the laws of breeding. It all sounds fantastic to us, but there are 80,000,000 people in that country who are being taught these things. They are taught to worship man and that when they die their souls do not go to heaven or hell, but back into other Nazis, which is a belief copied from the East.
All these things have been taught since 1936 to the Germans. They were taught that, though they might not win the next war, we in this country and, of course, other democratic countries, would, as soon as the war was over, forget about it and spend colossal amounts on social services, which would so cripple us that we would not be able to afford the forces to protect ourselves against them in 15 or 20 years' time That was their plan. I feel that the Government have their eyes open and that they will be able to keep our Forces going, but I would like some assurance on it. The Nazis believe that after this war they can go into hiding underground and carry on their work. They are doing it already. They are not waiting until after the war. Hon. Members on the other side have told us, as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) told us, how monstrous it is that the whole Belgian country is against the Belgian Government and yet we are supporting it. The Belgian Government was elected before the war and has come back now. Everybody who knows anything about it knows that the Nazis have been leaving behind in Belgium, France, Yugoslavia and Greece their well trained quislings, most of them Germans and Italians. They have been deliberately trained to cause trouble and to make things difficult in the first two years after the war.
The hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss) made some remarks about the ridiculousness of unconditional surrender and how it was responsible for the fact that in the last few months we have had to go on fighting, and that, but for that, the war would have been over a few months ago. He seemed to blame the Prime Minister and the Government for it, but I think that if there is one thing for which we can most thoroughly praise the Prime Minister it is for the wonderful way in which he has seen to it that as few casualties as possible are taking place. He knows only too well that, if he now starts making public plans for peace on the lines suggested by the hon. Member, the Germans will in a few years' time say, as they did after the last war, that they had been told this and that but it had not happened, and they will get themselves ready for a future war. The Prime Minister has tried not only to stop our people being killed in the war and to make sure that we gain victory at the least possible human cost, but to make sure that in a few years after the war we will not be called back to fight another war. We shall be called back again unless we watch a little more thoroughly what the Nazis are doing and teaching—and do not forget that the Nazis are the National Socialists of Germany.
There is another point with regard to the foreign affairs side of our plans for the future of our own country. We say that we are going to have all this economic development for ourselves, but we cannot have it unless we are sure of an export trade and of friendly relations with all sorts of countries, not only in Western Europe, but in Central Europe, in the Near East, and even in the Far East. We have to get back our trade with those countries. We have to get back our friendship with Poland, Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania, Czechoslovakia and Austria. They are all countries that have admired us considerably in the immediate past, but they were frightened because they knew we were not strong. Many times one has seen ambassadors and ministers wringing their hands because, in the days before the war, there was no military backing to this country. They knew that statements they made to Hitler and others would be apparently accepted but laughed at behind their backs, because the Nazis knew that we had not forces behind us. Our Ministers wondered how they could put across to foreign countries that somehow or other we could pull ourselves together and get the forces.
We have got the forces now, and I think that the British Empire is to-day in many ways probably as powerful as Russia or the United States. We have now got forces behind us. Some of these countries took an awful risk, when things were going badly for the Allies, to come in on our side. They are still with us, and they are asking us that they shall have back again what they went into the war for, that is to say, democratic ideas, not ideas exactly like ours, but, still, democratic ideas. We know that there is civil war going on in Yugoslavia and nothing can hide the fact that it has been going on for some time. The hon. Member for North Lambeth kept on saying that we were not supporting the resistance movement, but it seems to me that the Government are doing the best they can to clear up the situation; they support Tito in Yugoslavia but not the extremists in Greece; though they gave them all arms when it was for fighting against the common enemy. But we did not give different groups arms to turn against each other. I would like to have the assurance that the people who were our friends and supporters in 1940, 1941 and 1942, unless we are absolutely certain that something very strange has happened to them, are not going to be maltreated, and that they will be left, no matter what their leaders did or felt, to be our friends in the years to come.
There are those who say that they are not being given a fair deal and that Tito is having a wonderful time when he goes through Yugoslavia and is getting everybody on to his side straight away. No one who thinks and knows about Yugoslavia, and the Serbs as well, denies that a civil war is going on. Nor can they believe that such unanimity of support from Tito is possible unless there is an amount of pressure, which some of our own troops writing back to their Members of Parliament tell them is actually horrifying. Those people who were our friends should be kept as our friends. We have got back the strength which we should always have had and I know people in the Forces want us to use this strength for the causes they feel are just and for which we went to war.
If we are to have success with our trade and make it possible for all our industries and our plans of social security and of the other White Papers to succeed, we must have contacts and raw materials from the Far East, as well as from more central European areas. We have to make sure that, in the years to come, we shall be able to keep the routes open to India and to the Far East. Above all, I think that the Forces and the people of this country want a considerabe amount more of information given to them in the months to come about what we are fighting for in the Far East and what it is all about. To me it seems that the Far Eastern war is probably in some ways more important than the present war against Germany. It is all very fine for Britain; we are afraid of being blitzed and bombed, but we should remember that there is a vast British Empire of which England is only a small, though central, part. That vast Empire is more frightened of the future of Japan than of anything else. Japan is one of the most appalling dangers in the world—not yet, but it may become so in the near future. The Japanese, for nearly 300 years, were absolutely and completely cut off from the outside world, yet in the 1870's they suddenly came out and decided to copy Europe in trade and in other ways. Entirely on their own, though copying everybody else, they have from the 1870's to the 1940's been able to become the most important country in the Far East, and to beat us in some ways. If they can do that on their own in about 70 years I would ask hon. Members to consider what it is possible that they may be able to do if they go an for another 100 years, or only 20 or 30 years, with something like 500,000,000 people conquered and under their sway and with all the raw materials with which they are now strengthening themselves and which we used before. It will not be possible for this country to carry out its social security and other plans without clearing the Japanese from the areas which they have taken over.
Not only this House but the whole country ought to be told a great deal more, and we should have a Debate on what is going on in the Far East. The subject is so vast that one cannot possibly discuss it in a speech or in a series of speeches. It must be dealt with with far more publicity and have far more importance. The Services, and other people who are going out there, want to know about it. They want to know from the Government exactly why we are fighting the Japanese. I think some of us could tell them but there is no time for that now. I would make this plea that, during the coming Session, we shall devote a little more time to Far Eastern affairs, because we should realise that their satisfactory direction will help us to solve problems in our home policy and it may save our civilisation.
I am afraid that time will not permit me to follow the arguments and the outlook of the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Flight-Lieutenant Teeling), but I would like to make one comment in opening. It is that foreign affairs, which have rightly taken up the first day of the Debate on the Royal Speech, are probably the most important of all questions that we could discuss at this time, precisely for the reason that all our social security, education and other schemes will depend ultimately upon whether we are able to rid the world of the burden of war. One is sometimes horrified when listening to Debates on foreign affairs in this House to find repeated so often from the Benches opposite the conception that there is only the present enemy as a potential aggressor for all time in the future. One would imagine that hon. Members opposite, in spite of all their educational advantages, have never heard of the wars with France and of the course of history from time immemorial, or had never been into the Royal Gallery and seen that wonderful picture of the historic event in which General Blücher and Wellington are shaking hands over the prostrate bodies of the French enemies of civilisation. If we approach the question of establishing world peace and world affairs in general from that point of view, I am afraid we have lost the battle from the beginning.
It is completely true, but I do not find any satisfaction in it, that Britain, in these last three or four years, has raised her prestige throughout the world, as a result of the experience of 1940, to a level which it has never occupied before in history. We are no longer regarded as perfidious Albion. We are a different race and people. We are the people who stood alone and saved civilisation. I take no gratification out of that, because I had no part in selecting the place where I was born. I am no more proud of it than I should be ashamed if I had been born in a German village and if my name were Johannes instead of what it is. It is largely an accident of circumstance that we have been able to attain that prestige. We talk largely about the courage and steadfastness of the people of London under the rain of enemy bombs and we boast that London can "take it." But other people can take it. We find that Malta, Berlin and Cologne have taken infinitely more than London has ever been asked to bear, and even the little yellow rats who were going to run at the first bomb, their paper houses tumbling about their ears, are taking it just as we took it. Their houses are more substantial than ours. This approach to the problem is, in my submission, entirely wrong, if it assumes that we have established that prestige without acquiring a tremendous responsibility to the democratic world. That point seems to have been entirely overlooked in a number of the speeches we have heard.
There is a considerable amount of distrust in certain responsible quarters in this country in regard to the action that has been taken in Belgium, British Forces supporting the Government against what appears to be a large mass of popular feeling. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) pointed out that we are without full information and that it is difficult to judge. I am prepared to concede that in a country like Belgium, where they are on the fighting front more or less, the situation may be very difficult. There may be good excuses for it, but we have not forgotten the instance that was cited by the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) of the Hungarian experience after the last war, when, through the deliberate policy of the Government of this country and the American Government, we were able, by manipulation of the food resources, to decide which Government would take power in that country; nor, as the Debate has shown, have we forgotten the experience of Darlan, the recent statement in regard to Franco and the experience of Yugoslavia as well, which has been invoked by hon. Members opposite. We do not forget that however much the British Government may be supporting General Tito at the present time, that support was secured only as the result of tremendous pressure over a long period in this country. As a result, it was possible to change the attitude of the Government, who had denied General Tito and supported Mihailovitch for such a long time. Similarly the situation in Italy has given rise to considerable disquiet. There is no need for me to dwell further on these particular examples.
I would refer to the peculiar change in the attitude of the Government and political circles generally to our own Ally Poland during the last two or three months. We find the Poles, who after all played such a tremendous part in the Battle of Britain, and formed such a considerable portion of those few to whom so many owed so much, those Poles for whom we understood we went to war in the first instance, who were defending a mighty tradition of independence and democracy and national integrity, are now being toned down, and in our Press and political circles those great emotions which inspired them to put up a tremendous stand against the Nazi menace are now becoming a romantic conception, which they really should be prepared to lay aside and see the realities of politics and the realities of dependence on neighbouring Governments. These modifications of policy are a historic development in war circumstances and post-war circumstances, and must obviously give rise to considerable disquiet.
I turn to developments in Germany. We find it stated in our Press recently—I do not know to what extent the announcements are official, perhaps the Foreign Secretary can explain when he replies—that S.H.A.E.F. has given instructions that in the occupied parts of Germany certain Nazi organisations have to be disbanded. Amongst these is not the N.S.D.A.P., the Labour Front. I believe it is even specified that S.S. and S.A. sections of N.S.D.A.P. are to be allowed and encouraged to continue their activities. If that is to be the position it is presumably the intention of the British Government and the military authorities, so far from suppressing organisations of Nazi Germany and encouraging the formation of democratic organisations, to bolster up, as is the case in Italy and elsewhere, the actual régime we have been fighting. In Aachen to-day, for instance, is the Nazi Labour Front continued in existence under the Allied military authority, or is it the intention of the Government, or has any evidence been given in Aachen and the other occupied parts, that it is the intention of the Government, as in Italy and everywhere else where we are ostensibly seeking to banish Fascism and encourage the emergence of democratic organisations, to encourage the emergence of free trade union organisations in place of the Nazi Labour Front, or are the Government encouraging the N.S.D.A.P. against the independent trade unions?
This is bound up with the question of unconditional surrender, and there is probably no more important question in connection with the tactics of the political side of the war. This unconditional surrender policy, if it means anything at all, means that we have no hope whatever to offer to any elements in Germany, never mind how large or small, who may be prepared to come forward and render any assistance, whether in the military field or in the construction of the administration within the German cities, because whether hon. Gentlemen opposite like it or not there has to be administration in those cities and towns. That administration must have some co-operation from some elements in the German community, and I submit that if democratic organisations are not to be encouraged the only alternative is the maintenance of the established régime—the Nazi organisations themselves.
I have heard it as a fact—the Foreign Office will probably know better than I do—that practically every one of the German prisoners captured on the Western Front at the present time, and French officers and others who have been temporarily captured and released, have been affirming that Goebbels' propaganda about the V.2. bomb has completely seized the imagination of the German troops, that they have been convinced that if they hold on to the last man, for two or three days, for two or three weeks, or for two or three months, England is being so devastated by this V.2. bomb that in two or three weeks or months England will be bombed into surrender. That is one of the factors which is playing an important part in the desperate and suicidal resistance being put up by these Nazi pockets of resistance at the present time. If that is the case, what are the B.B.C. and the Ministry of Information doing about it? I understand that Englishmen are going to the microphone, indeed I have heard them myself, and telling the Germans that it is not true, that V.2. is an incident here and there, but that it is having no fundamental effect on our lives.
The German people do not believe that, any more than we believe statements made in German propaganda. But we have in this country the leading personalities of nearly every one of the pre-war German political parties, ready and eager to go to the microphone and tell the people of Germany who know and recognise their names what are the actual facts. It may be said that they would not convince the Germans in Germany. That may be, but they would convince hundreds of thousands of Germans who are soldiers, of the position in this country. Do the Government appreciate the necessity and urgency of at least trying the experiment of sending these German political leaders in this country to the microphone to see if they can convince some of their people of the actual facts about the V.2. bombing?
I wish to refer to what would have been the burden of my speech had I had a little more time—the establishment of future peace. If we are approaching this question from the point of view that there never has been and never can be any enemy but Germany the obvious solution is to build a ring of V.2 bomb sites round Germany and starve the Germans out until they are all dead. That is rubbish; it is nonsense. Peace loving nations, as the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) said yesterday, change from time to time in the course of history. If we had taken another view in 1919 we would have turned our backs to the Japs and the Italians and have been stabbed in the back. Are we certain that in the next 20, 30, 40 or 50 years it will not be, not Germany, but one of the "big boys" who will break the peace of the world. What is Dumbarton Oaks doing about that? Setting up a collective security organisation which does not cover any of the "big boys." It is a guarantee against aggression by whom—Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Hungary? Who will be capable of aggression in the next 20 years? Germany will be disarmed. It could only be one of the "Big Five," but they are ruled out, they do not accept the jurisdiction of this organisation. If a collective security organisation is to be set up, with the armaments in the hands of the only people who can commit aggression, those people who do not come within the jurisdiction of the organisation, it is undermining any possibility of establishing peace. I suggest this is an entirely wrong approach. If we are to have collective security in the future we have to put Japan, Germany, Russia, America and the rest on the same plane.
There is ample evidence that the United Nations are not 100 per cent. united on every question. We have the International Civil Air Convention in America at the present time, where there is a fundamental cleavage, and a bitter one, between two of the chief United Nations, and the third is so unable to see eye to eye with any of its comrades that it is not represented, as indeed it was not represented at the I.L.O. Conference. We have seen ample evidence of unilateral decisions on questions which affect the United Nations. If we are to approach this long-term problem on the assumption that the "Big Five" will always be 100 per cent. united, and that there is no prospective aggressor other than Germany or Japan, we shall be making the wrong approach. An approach must be made on a completely universal basis. Otherwise there will be no security.
Although we have spent most of the time to-day in considering foreign affairs, this is one of those few occasions when we are able to raise other topics which are not suitable, without considerable distortion, for raising on the Adjournment. Therefore, I make no apology for raising a problem which I regard as being of great importance to ex-Servicemen—that is, the position to-day of the many funds and associations which have grown up during the last 25 years to help ex-Servicemen. There are a large number of these funds, and they are of many kinds. There are the old regimental funds, formed in many cases a long time ago, to help the men of particular regiments, and their families. They form, I think, the basis of our regimental system in the Army. But there are many men who have served in this war in several different regiments, and a large number of new regiments have been formed, which have no accumulated funds to help their men or their families in after-life. So it could not be said that the needs of the Army can be met from regimental funds alone. There are also many funds of a general character, such as the United Services Fund and the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund. There are those which seek to deal with particular disabilities, funds to help the blind, the deaf, the disabled, or the limbless. There are those which seek to provide a special kind of assistance, such as the provision of homes, or of training, or employment, for ex-Servicemen. There are some based on geography, to help Scotsmen, for instance, or the men of particular towns or districts.
I have not been able to discover the total number of funds in the country, but my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was good enough in October to give me a list of 29 funds which are under the jurisdiction of the Charity Commission. That list did not include the regimental funds, or those considerable funds which have grown up during the war and which are licensed or exempt from licence by local authorities under the War Charities Act, 1940. Some people suggest that the assistance of ex-Servicemen from voluntary funds is wrong in principle, and that Government Departments should assume power to provide all the assistance that may be necessary. I agree that to-day the scope for voluntary help is very largely diminished. The assumption by the Government of responsibility for employment has taken away a great deal of useful work which was performed by these associations in the past. The training facilities of the Ministry of Labour, obviously, are going to reduce the number of claims on many of these associations and funds. The alterations in the Pensions Acts will have an effect in the same direction. But I do not think one can cover the very wide variety of human wants by legislation. Any Government Department responsible to this House for the expenditure of public funds can administer those funds only according to rules and regulations. There must be borderline cases, those very difficult and hard cases which many hon. Members will have met very often among their constituents, especially hon. Members who were here 10 or 12 years ago, cases which obviously ought to be helped but cannot come within the scope of assistance from public funds. Whatever we do, I think that those borderline cases will always exist, and will provide a big field for help from voluntary sources.
There are two facts which stand out to anyone who attempts a study of this matter. The first is that the British people are very sensible of the obligations they owe to those who have served them in the Armed Forces. In spite of the crushing taxation which war always brings, and which is nowadays so widespread throughout the country, they are always willing to subscribe liberally to any appeal on behalf of ex-Servicemen. The other fact is the immense wastage which must occur in administration when there are a vast number of funds under separate and distinct management, the amount of overlapping which must result, and the delay which we in this House have often met in connection with our constituents' claims when trying to find the right fund for a particular case. Often one has to obtain assistance from several different funds in order to help one case. One of the difficulties is that so many Government Departments are concerned. The Home Office, I suppose, are primarily responsible—it is, I understand, because of illness that they are not represented here to-day. They deal with funds which come under the jurisdiction of the Charity Commission. All the Service Departments have a measure of responsibility. The Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Pensions are naturally concerned. Perhaps it is because so many Departments are concerned that no action has been taken to provide that the voluntary assistance which may be necessary is provided in a more efficient form. I think that the Government have a responsibility towards ex-Servicemen—not only where public funds are concerned, but where that help is best provided through voluntary sources, as I believe will often be the case—to see that assistance is provided in the most efficient form.
I have no access to the information which would be necessary in order to suggest a complete remedy. One would hesitate to suggest compulsion for voluntary associations or funds if agreement on some solution is not possible, but I would make two tentative suggestions. The first is that steps must be taken to prevent the creation of new funds and associations, where the objects which they seek are already covered by existing funds or organisations. The second is that a central co-ordinating registry should be set up—under some different title, probably—and that through that registry all claims, of whatever type they may be, should pass. I would like to see that central organisation having power to say which of the voluntary associations should deal with a particular claim. It might be considered that the voluntary associations should then have some right of appeal, if necessary, against the proposal of the central body. I believe that on those lines some, though by no means all, of the difficulties could be met. Alternatively, it might be considered that a Departmental Committee, with wide terms of reference, ought to look into this matter. But I feel that this is urgent. I do not believe that the voluntary assistance which will be required for ex-Servicemen after the war can be efficiently provided under the present method. I am sure that the matter needs attention, and I hope that the Departments responsible will consider what I have said.
On any other occasion, I should have been very happy to have followed my hon. and gallant Friend on the subject which he has brought to the notice of the House to-day. It is a very important matter, and, as he may be aware, a Committee has been considering one aspect of the matter and its report will probably be available before very long. It is true to say, on the general subject, that the generosity of the public, stimulated by the war services, has, in some directions, contributed far more money than is necessary to meet any known need, and this is a matter which requires careful consideration.
It is my wish to invite the House to turn its attention to a matter which, odd though it may seem, has not yet been touched upon, to any extent, in this Debate, which has ranged over a very wide field. This Debate has been concerned largely with what are still called foreign affairs, and I have been asking myself if the people of this country realise that there are no such things as "foreign affairs" in isolation. There are no "foreign" affairs at all, because there are no decisions which any one country might take, except on the domestic side, which might not have serious consequences for its neighbours and on the whole course of international life. I do not know how that is to be brought home to the country, but clearly something has to be done to bring this home to the people, although the process of education is going on very rapidly.
I should like to refer to the observations which have been made on the subject of the policy of unconditional surrender. It has struck me in recent weeks that we are, perhaps, letting Goebbels have it too much his own way, and, without doing anything else, we might, at least, put on record some of the things which we do not intend to do to the people of Germany when the war is over. I know there is the dictum of Bolingbroke that one should never wrestle with a sweep, but I do think we should be unwise to let him have the whole field to himself, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to have some consideration for that aspect of the matter.
I would also like to associate myself with those hon. Members who expressed the hope that, whether the life of this Session is short or long, the activities of Parliament will be such that there will be no misapprehension in the minds of the people of this country about the fact that Parliament, as a whole, regardless of party, does mean business regarding the programme of social legislation contained in the Gracious Speech. We have been living for some time past in a somewhat rarified atmosphere of blueprints and White Papers. It has been an important process in our deliberations, and has had great educational value throughout the country, but we cannot go on like that. We must pass to action, and this is particularly true in the case of housing. A tragic situation is developing; the position becoming worse, rather than better, as time goes on. Men are discharged from the Forces and find that there is nowhere for them to live. This is the most serious and most tragic of our domestic problems.
There is one other matter referred to in the Debate which I should like to mention. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) made a series of observations on the activities of our American Allies in regard to the export trade. There is no division of opinion in this House on the desirability of increasing our export trade as soon as may be, but, in regard to what my hon. Friend said by way of criticism, I would remind him that the activities of any of the Allies in trying to steal a march on the others, would have no sympathy, I hope, from the Government of this country, or from that of the United States. The setting up of the policy of Lend-Lease was a great inspiration, and a great foundation for our war activities, and, if there are people in doubt now about what was in the mind of the American people, and what was their policy, I suggest that they should go back to the words of President Roosevelt. Speaking of the war efforts of the Allies, he said that the resources of one might be greater than the others, but, with each one doing their best, there could be no debts. That is the spirit which must go on from the war into the peace, if we are to carry out such aspirations as those to be found in the fifth chapter of the Atlantic Charter, and if we are to work together, after the war, for the economic and social advancement of all the peoples of the world.
I pass to the subject to which I specially wanted to draw the attention of the House. It is a matter which has only received a fringe of attention at Question Time, but it is one which, I think, is of very great importance, although, perhaps, its expression is not very spectacular. I refer to the new Dark Age which has settled on parts of Europe, and is in process of spreading to others, and which will cause very great difficulties, as we pass from peace into reconstruction unless we can find some way of doing something about it. The new Dark Age did, in fact, begin in Central Europe when the Nazis came to power. The hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Flight-Lieutenant Teeling) referred to it as a process of re-education which has been going on since the Nazis came to power. The whole of their intellectual life was arrested, and the teaching of history and philosophy perverted to conform to strange ideas of pagan mythology. The whole effort was directed to the purpose of war and domination. One knows what happened to professors, teachers, and leaders of intellectual life in those countries, who were removed unless they conformed to the strange standards laid down by those in authority.
As Germany's armies advanced and occupied other countries, that intellectual black-out continued to spread. Universities were closed in Czechoslovakia and Holland, and books were destroyed everywhere in Germany itself and in the occupied countries. Every book found not to be in accordance with the prevailing theories was destroyed. There is, at this moment, a great famine in books in Europe, and it is one of the difficulties of the existing situation that, in the liberated countries, there is no means, with the resources at present available, of telling the people what Anglo-Saxons have written or thought about the war.
That is a very serious situation. As to the situation as it affects ourselves, it would not be true to say—and I do not wish to exaggerate—that there is an intellectual black-out here. That is not the case. We have escaped it. But it would not be untrue to say that there is an intellectual dim-out. No fit man has taken the full great course at Oxford for four or five years. The whole life of the universi- ties has been gravely upset and disturbed, and all that has been fully preserved has been the physical and mechanical sciences and medicine or things Which are in some way related to the prosecution of the war. What I have said of the older universities applies also, but not so fully, to those in the Provinces. There, they have been able to keep their arts courses going, through women students and through short courses, but no full courses have been taken by fit men in philosophy, history, economics or social sciences for four or five years.
If we are going to call up our young men of 18 for the next five or, possibly, ten years, it means that there will be an interruption in the intellectual life of this country which will be something more than a dim-out. This is not a matter merely of sentiment. You may say that this is the price of war, that young men must fight wars, that there is nothing to be done about it, and that it is just too bad. But it has a very serious practical application. It does mean that the flow of recruits into the Civil Service, business, municipal administration, and all the high administrative posts and the learned professions, will be interrupted for perhaps, five, eight or more years. That is the situation. There is bound to be a very serious bottle-neck in the whole course of reconstruction in every field of our national endeavour.
One looks round to see what has been done, or whether there is any indication that the Government are alive to the situation and are taking steps to deal with it. The only evidence that one can find comes not from the Ministry of Education, but from the Ministry of Labour. In their White Paper dealing with the re-allocation of labour after the war, there is a small paragraph—almost the smallest paragraph in the whole thing—which says that their arrangements may be modified having regard to the needs of further education. The serious situation that I have indicated cannot be met, moreover, by the post-war education services of the Ministry of Labour. If we are to avoid disablement of all our scientific, industrial and intellectual activities in this country, we have to do something about it. We must endeavour, by some means or other, to increase the flow of students to the universities.
One thing that can be done is to use to the full, and generously, the provision by which we can recall teachers from the Forces under the Class B procedure. That, I hope, will certainly be done, but that is a small way in which the intellectual life of the country can be refreshed. Again, the Ministry of Labour and not the Ministry of Education, as part of their post-war educational programme, have issued a plan for State-subsidised courses at the universities. I would like to have an assurance that these courses will be brought up to date, and will be put into operation at the earliest possible moment. If the youth of this country from 18 upwards are to be recruited and called to the Forces it is necessary that something should be done to give consideration to the comparatively small student class in the annual call-up. This will have an effect on the course of events in the development of our national life.
I turn for a moment to another practical side of the matter. I have just said that there is a famine in books on the Continent of Europe and that people have no means of knowing what Anglo-Saxons have written or spoken about the war or history. One example of what has happened was the sending of £12,000 worth of British books a few weeks ago to Algiers. They disappeared from the bookstalls over-night. It is useless to suggest that it is possible to fill the gap of books on the Continent of Europe, or in this country alone, on the very small increase of 2½ per cent. which was given in the last four-monthly period. I am informed that, having regard to the administration of the regulations, it gives practically no increase at all. We all know the difficulty in our own country. It is not possible to get the recent book of my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge) on Full Employment; at least, it might be possible to get it for love but not for money. It was quite unobtainable in the course of a few days. These things are going to hamper the development of Europe.
The Prime Minister yesterday spoke of a gradual easing-off in this sixth year of war and said that there should be some easing-off here and there for the people of this country. I suggest that the very first thing that should be eased off is the paper situation. There is too much confusion of thought about this matter. The amount which is required for books is relatively small. We are told it is due to the shipping problem, but it is not a serious shipping problem as the amount is so small. If it were a shipping problem, it would be a very small problem in comparison with the other problems. We are told that it cannot be increased because it is a dollar problem. Can nothing be done to increase the supply of esparto? There is no dollar question there. We hope that traffic will be renewed with Sweden and Finland before very long. I ask for a closer examination and a greater realisation of its importance, so that the intellectual dim-out in this country may be removed, and we may do something to prevent the Dark Age spreading from Central Europe throughout Europe.
There is one other subject to which I would refer. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr), yesterday, referred to the necessity for making Britain known to the peoples of the world. He said, speaking of the Middle East and other parts of the world, that it would be a great misfortune if the Ministry of Information were closed down. I do not think the people of this country would be prepared to welcome the idea of the Ministry of Information having a very prolonged life, but I think we would be all prepared to agree that it would be very unfortunate indeed if information about this country which has flowed so widely throughout the world during the war should be cut off the moment the war comes to an end. I have no doubt that this aspect of affairs is receiving the attention of my right hon. Friend, and I hope that part of the Ministry of Information may be incorporated perhaps with some other body.
However, the Ministry of Information is not the only body concerned in this country with reporting the life of Britain at war. Owing to the energetic activities of the late Lord Lloyd, the British Council has taken an ever-increasing part in the work, which is too little understood in this country to-day. I sincerely hope that steps will be taken to make its wonderful record known to the public. With the resources available it has done much in the Middle East, in Turkey, in Egypt, in South America, and throughout all the neutral world. The Council have done a great deal by sending abroad representatives of British art, music, and individual representatives of the indus- trial and scientific life of this country, to let the world know what we stand for. I am not quite sure what we did stand for between the wars, but we certainly made no attempt to make it known abroad. That must not happen again, and when the hon. Member for Oldham referred to the fact that there were many Belgians, French, and others who did not know anything at all about these islands, he could not have been acquainted with the work of the home division of the British Council which, at the instance of Government Departments and in pursuance of its Charter, has been a most wonderful organiser of hospitality to civilian people that the world has ever seen.
I have not the time to go into that, but I doubt whether my hon. Friend is in fact accurate in his suggestion. The work in Turkey has been of the greatest value. A friend who came back from Teheran the other day said that the value of the work of the British Council there had to be seen to be believed. The point I was making when my hon. Friend interrupted me—and his interruption lends good point to what I said a few moments ago—was that it was time the record of the work of the Council was known in order that this work should be thoroughly understood. In every great centre of population in this country there is a welcome for these stricken people who have come here. The Council is working on a very large scale.
At the Allied Centre in Liverpool, for instance, some 30,000 people attend every month. There they are taught English, they are given opportunities for lectures of all kinds and, as I say, it is perhaps the greatest single act of organised hospitality which has been offered by one nation to others. So as a result of this process there will go out to all these countries tens of thousands of ambassadors who will think kindly of our country and who will be willing to reciprocate after the war. They are dong very important work in building up that foundation upon which such purely constitutional and other efforts which emerge from the Dumbarton Oaks Conference and other conferences of that kind must rest if we are to have a successful peace and avoid future wars.
I have mentioned the doubts cast during these Debates upon our capacity to do this, that, or the other, to build up a system of social security, to house our people. To all those doubters who take part in this Debate I would say: "Turn your attention to the statistical record of Britain's achievement published within the past few days. If you have any doubt, look at that very marvellous and impressive achievement. If we want things as badly in peace as we have wanted them in war we can achieve them."
The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White) always gives a thoughtful contribution to our Debates, and if the House will bear with me, I would like to touch upon one or two of the matters he raised, because they are matters which happen to interest me personally very deeply also. I agree with every word he said on the problem of books, of getting our books and information about our ways of life to-day well spread abroad in Europe. One of the things that impressed me most in Paris the other day was how little our French friends knew of the war effort of this country and of the conditions in which we have been living. When you come to think of it, it is natural enough, because they have been cut off by German propaganda and the curtain which has been dropped round France. I think the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right when he says that it should be an urgent effort of ours to see that our own contribution in literature, this country's contribution, should be made available to Europe as rapidly and as speedily as possible.
I was glad to hear also what he said about the British Council. Of course, no organisation is perfect. Let me hurry to reassure the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) who was slightly critical. In point of fact any organisation of this kind which develops at the enormous speed at which this organisation has done—when I first pressed it on the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day it was a very small organisation with a Vote of £10,000, extracted with difficulty, and it has now grown into a very large organisation indeed—obviously, such an organisation requires pruning and re-organising from time to time. But the concept behind it is undoubtedly right, and will, I hope, be supported not only by this Government but by subsequent Governments also.
I also liked what the hon. Gentleman said on the question of intellectual contacts with Europe, and especially on this question of languages. Both the Prime Minister and I discussed this question at Moscow with Marshal Stalin and M. Molotov; it was one of the subjects we discussed one evening, the question of contacts between our two countries on a literary and a language basis. There is no doubt that a very great effort is being made in Russia to-day in the teaching of English, and we have to get going to see that we do not drop far behind in a comparable effort on our part. We are taking steps here, but it is difficult to exaggerate the limitations which exist to-day owing to the language barrier. It is also difficult to over-estimate the importance of meeting them. One is apt only too easily to be old-fashioned and to think that particular languages which were taught in the nineteenth century still hold their position to-day. But all that is changed and certainly, as far as the Foreign Office examinations are concerned, we have had that very much in mind, and there is to be a readjustment in the languages which we propose to set for the examinations.
This Debate, as is right and proper, has ranged very far and wide during the last two days. There has been no Government spokesman since my right hon. Friend opened the discussion. We thought it better to give the House a full opportunity to say all it wanted to say. I must apologise if this afternoon I take rather longer than I usually do, but I want to answer as many of the questions as I possibly can and to try to deal with all the main matters that were raised. Some of them, notably in a speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) and my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir John Wardlaw-Milne), will, I think, be dealt with next week in the course of the discussion on trade and economic matters. I have taken notes and given them to my colleagues on the various points, which range a little wider than our discussion of the last two days. I propose to apply myself first to what I may call a domestic matter, namely, the movement of Members of Parliament. In the second place I want to deal with certain aspects of foreign policy which have been raised and, in the third place, to say something in reply to criticism about a certain sentence in the Gracious Speech which reads, "as opportunity serves."
With regard to travelling, I felt very troubled about the hon. Member for Ebbw vale (Mr. Bevan). He was quite worried about what would happen to him if he happened to be a silent supporter of the Government. I think he is quite right to be worried about that prospect, but I do not think he is in any great danger of ever reaching that position. He was also worried about what may possibly happen to me if I am in political or intellectual quarantine. I am not sure that I know what that means—it sounds a slightly totalitarian expression—but I think I can be trusted to escape from that. He said he thought the decision that has been taken must be due to a desire to keep him here. He will acquit me of discourtesy if I say, as Leader of the House, that that would not be at all my ambition. It never occurred to me that it was to my interest to do my utmost to keep him here. I think I ought to say in support of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that the decision that he announced to the House was the decision of the Government. I read the discussion that took place last night, and I have heard what has been said to-day, and it seems to me that the House takes a more pessimistic view of what my right hon. Friend said than his actual words warrant. Towards the end there was a great deal of commotion so perhaps everyone did not hear it, but he said:
Finally, may I say this, that it is the hope of the Government that the transport situation will be improved. As I said at the beginning, there is no wish that Members of Parliament should not go to France. It is a matter of ways and means, and the Home Office has to be equitable and fair, as between individual and individual."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1944; Vol. 406, c. 197.]
The actual position, as I see it, is that the Government cannot promise that every Member of Parliament will be able to go to France as and when an indi-
vidual Member of Parliament may desire to go. There are problems not only of transport but, still more, of accommodation at the other end. It may be possible to stay at the Embassy but the problems of accommodation are real. The Government desire closer contacts between the two Parliaments and I should hope that we shall be able to organise before very long some contacts between Members of this House and Members of the French Parliament—a group appointed to go from here to France and for one to come here.
Does that mean that the party Whips and the Government make up little parties agreeable to the Whips and to the Government and having amiable exchanges? We have had that for five years.
I do not know why the hon. Member should think that exchanges like that are of no value. Members can go but when they get there I cannot guarantee whether they will be agreeable or disagreeable.
It cannot be smarmed off like that. Is the right hon. Gentleman insisting that there is an absence of transport facilities? Secondly, are Members of Parliament to make themselves agreeable to their party organisation and to the Government Departments before they can go abroad at all?
I did not say that anyone had to make himself agreeable to anyone else. What I say is that these visits have to be made at present by transport at Government expense, and I do not think hon. Members themselves would say that whenever they want to go they must be allowed to go. All I say is that I think we can, by consultation, find means of arranging these contacts which will not exclude Members because they are not supporters of the Government. I wish I could convince the hon. Member that we gain by those who are not our supporters disappearing for a short time. No one will ever suggest that I have tried to stop the hon. Member from going abroad because he does not agree with us. I am optimistic enough to think that, if he visits some countries, he will come back and support the Foreign Office when he returns. The matter can be further discussed, but we are not adopting the attitude that Members are in no circumstances to go abroad. I ought in fairness to say something about the United States of America Congress Delegation. It is a Delegation of the Military Affairs Committee of Congress who have come to inspect United States military establishments here and in France and they are going on to North Africa and Italy. They are travelling under the auspices of the American military authorities.
There was some discussion about a particular party and I find that it was this official party. I am not basing my argument on what the United States does or does not do. It is a matter which we can go into further, but the Government are not trying to stop Members of Parliament going abroad. I am asking for a little time to see how the situation can be handled.
Would it not be a good suggestion to adopt this practice? We have the Anglo-French Parliamentary Committee and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. If Members do not like the executives of those Committees, they can turn up at the Committee meetings and turn them out and have official delegations similar to that sent by Congress, and I feel sure that my right hon. Friend would not object in the least to give reasonable facilities.
There would be considerable advantages in the plan and I do not see why it should not be followed, but I do not see why it should be the only plan. We have become a little angrier than we ought to have done. If there has been fault at the Foreign Office, I take my share of the guilt.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir. J. Wardlaw-Milne) asked me about the position in China and referred to the efforts that are being made by the United States to bring aid to that country. All that is planned in accordance with the international military agreement between us and China.
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of Members' visits abroad, may I say I am quite cer- tain that Members on both sides of the House will expect me to say that I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement on this matter as satisfactory, and that some of us will put an Amendment on the Order Paper, in order that the House can discuss the matter further.
I do not make any complaint about that at all, although I would remind the hon. Member what I once heard about a distinguished Australian statesman at Geneva. He pressed his point very hard and got a great part of it, after which the chairman said, "Now, Mr. so-and-so, are you satisfied?" to which the statesman replied, "No, sir, gratified, but not satisfied." It seems that I have at least got as far as that.
To turn to the Far East, arrangements have been made for aid to China by an international agreement between ourselves and the United States and that agreement, of course, must stand. I am not sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster knew how much is being done by us to bring aid directly to China. I will give two examples. A number of Chinese air cadets are being trained in this country now and another 600 to 700 are being trained by the Government of India in India. These cadets will fly in the Chinese Air Force. In a number of ways like that we are fully conscious of the importance of working together with our Chinese friends, and I do not think my hon. Friend need be apprehensive that that is being neglected.
Now I come to matters nearer home, about which I have a few things to say. Several Members have spoken about the future of Germany, including my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Rusholme (Major Cundiff), who yesterday made a notable maiden speech on this subject. As I listened to him and another hon. Member opposite speaking about Germany I thought that the essential factor we have to remember in deciding on our plans and policy for the future is that in the German character the unquestioned authority of the State is what counts for most. The average German is the instrument of the State to an extent which is incomprehensible to us. He belongs to the State, and the State does not belong to him. I see no signs of that in this country, and I believe that the authority we enjoy in the world to-day is precisely because we represent the complete antithesis of the German State conception. This acceptance of the State, since the days of the Prussians, has made Germans ready to aid any leader who wants to guide them into fields of aggression. With the German, the larger the State the more remote and the more majestic is the authority he is prepared to follow into battle or wherever he is led. Germans believe that it is the destiny of their race to be the dominating Power in Europe; that is far more important to them than either the freedom of the individual or the dignity of any particular man or woman. Unless we are seized of that we do not understand the foundation on which Nazi doctrine was so easily superimposed. It was acceptable to the average German because it expressed in aggressive forms the belief which the average German has had for 200 years or more.
I am glad that the hon. Member has said that, because it shows that he is not yet seized of the problem. It is quite true that the Nazis were in a minority for a long time, but it is equally true that with a few gallant exceptions the Nazi doctrine was acceptable to the German race. It was accepted because it fitted into the belief that the Germans were the dominant race, which is the thing that the Germans are taught. I want to give the House an example of that. I happened to be——
Well, I should have said that whatever one may feel about the Napoleonic era it did confer certain definite benefits, some of which are still to be found in France to-day.
The hon. Gentleman must not think that I feel in the least embarrassed. It so happens that this country has always resisted an attempt by any one Power to dominate the Continent of Europe. Bonaparte did some good things. He gave France the "Code Napoleon," but he tried to dominate Europe and that was unacceptable to us and to Russia. The German doctrine began on a worse hypothesis. When the hon. Member opposite interrupted me about Napoleon I was about to give an example of what happened when I went to Danzig. It fell to my lot to act for some time as rapporteur on the Danzig issue and I saw the methods which the Germans developed there and their attitude to the Poles, or whoever was concerned. It was, "I am the master race, and I should be treated as the master race. If I am not treated as the master race I am not getting justice." Of course, I am not saying that this is a new discovery; it is well known to everybody who has studied German history, but, nevertheless, it is a matter we should have in our minds in considering the German problem. Every report the Government get on many of these subjects shows that it is among the younger generation, between the ages of 16 and 25 in Germany, that this problem is most serious. Real efforts will have to be made, and much time will have to be devoted to it, before we can hope to eradicate that feeling from that generation. Unless it is eradicated we shall be at the mercy of any other Hitler who comes forward in Germany. I have spoken at length on this matter before, and I do not want to say anything further now other than that precautions must be taken on that basis, in unity with our Allies.
We have had an active year, a year of continual labour in the international field, and I think we can say that our relations with our three great Allies, the United State, Soviet Russia and France—I put them together now—have steadily improved during that time. We have been able to an increasing extent to handle the vexatious problems which Europe presents, and which, no doubt, will present themselves in the future, and to handle them in a spirit of candour and understanding. Anybody may say that that is an easy thing to do, but if he had actually to carry out the discussions he would not so readily take that view. Yet the fundamental truth remains that if we four can stand together until victory is won, and afterwards, there is no problem which we cannot solve. If we do not stick together or if we fall apart, I do not care how good the inter- national organisation we build, or how perfect the machinery, it is not going to work at all.
That is the fundamental on which we are all agreed and for this aim my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have travelled far and wide. We make no complaint about that. We took these journeys on our own initiative. Perhaps I might just remark that we hope that, in due course, others will visit us here as frequently as we have visited them. I must also remind the House of something which did not appear very often in this two days' Debate, namely, that the principal task of our diplomacy in the last two years has been to promote the unity of this coalition. We had talk earlier about propaganda, and how we should put over our stuff better, and make some other appeal to the Germans, but there is only one way in which we could, with certainty, prolong the war and that is if the enemy were to discern and proclaim any division between the Allies. Therefore, our first task is to keep that unity unimpaired, and I think that we can claim that we have done so. We have had the help and support of the House in so doing. I was asked by the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) and the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale to say what we are trying to do and what are the aims of our foreign policy. I would say that they are threefold: First, victory, which means the continuance of the unity in the great coalition; second, order behind the lines of our Armies; and, third, fair and untrammelled election of Governments, dynasties and Parliaments alike. That is what we seek. Is there any quarrel about those objectives?
Now I come to the question whether the Government are supporting in Europe Governments of the Right or the Left. I have listened to this Debate, and I am conscious that behind me there is complaint that we are supporting to a considerable extent Governments of the Left. Opposite me there are complaints that we are supporting Governments of the Right. Let us try to examine these propositions a little. I propose to take one or two questions, but before I go into detail I want to say this. I hope the House will believe that it is true. I can assure them that it is true. It is that in trying to pursue our policy in the state of tension such as Europe is in, we are really not dominated as a Cabinet by a desire to set up any particular Government of the Right in this place or Government of the Left in the other. When we discuss these matters in the War Cabinet we have never once discussed them on the basis that there is somebody on the Left and that we ought not to help him, and that there is somebody on the Right and that we ought to help him. What do we try to do? It is to give countries the best chance of expressing their own wills in their own ways freely. We are not concerned whether that expression of will in the end is to the Right or to the Left. It struck me as curious that the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh seemed to think that you were only a democrat if you belonged to the Left. You can be a very good democrat if you are on the Right.
I want to look at some of those countries that have been called in question. Let us first take Belgium. There has been a good deal of indignation about Belgium and all sorts of things have been said. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) said that British military power is being employed to restrain the Belgian people who want a better Belgium. I do not know in the least what he means. I understood from his doctrine that you must never use force in any circumstances at all. Certainly, he is the most complete pacifist I have ever heard speak, except in this instance, when he seemed, as far as I could make out, to hold that whoever was trying to use force against the Belgian Government ought to be heartily encouraged. What have we done in Belgium? I ask the House to look at this because it is the basis on which we work, and if they do not like that basis they should tell us and put down a Motion of Censure and make it clear.
What have we done? The Government of Belgium was elected and was the legal Government of Belgium in 1940. It was constitutionally appointed and was supported by a majority of the duly elected Belgian Chamber. After the country collapsed the Government came here. There happens to be a provision under the Belgian Constitution, which is rather far-seeing in these matters, to the effect that, if the Sovereign is incapable of performing his functions, the Government can act for him. The Sovereign was, in this case, unable to perform his functions, and the Government came here and functioned for him. M. Pierlot and his colleagues, after a number of misadventures, arrived in this country, and their legal and constitutional position is, as far as I know, absolutely unassailable. When Belgium was liberated they went back. We assisted them to go back. Was that wrong? The two Houses of Parliament were at once re-assembled. Was not that democracy? What was wrong with that? In that Parliament the great majority of the Members elected before the war were still there. Of course, it may be a crime to be elected before the war, but most of us here have committed that crime.
When the Belgian Parliament was called together M. Pierlot first rendered an account of his stewardship abroad and then resigned. In the meanwhile, both Parliaments, the King being away, had elected Prince Charles as Regent. I go into this in detail because I want the House to see what happened, and I want to know where we have been wrong. The next thing that happened was that many attempts were made to find an alternative Government, but they were not successful. Eventually, M. Pierlot was pressed and he accepted the task of forming a new Government, which was composed of members of all the parties, including representatives of the Communists and the Resistance Groups, the great majority having been in Belgium throughout the war. I do not know what was wrong about that or what other Government could have been formed. This Government was constitutionally appointed by the Regent and was supported by the overwhelming majority of the two Houses of Parliament. More recently, there have been other developments. The Communists have left the Government, but M. Pierlot still has the support of all the other parties, who represent the overwhelming majority of the population.
How can the hon. Member say that it does not? This is a Parliament, elected just like ourselves, and it is a constitutional Parliament, including the Socialist Party, who are now supporting M. Pierlot. I looked up to see what was the last vote which M. Pierlot received. A day or two ago he was granted special powers of a kind that I do not think I would like to conic and ask the House for, because lots of people would be eloquent about it. He had an overwhelming majority of 116 for, 12 against and 6 abstentions. Does one believe in democracy or does one not? How else is one to work the machine except in this way? What is the Government supposed to have done so wrong about Belgium? Hon. Members have used language as if we had stopped the people of Belgium expressing their opinions. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said it was an unpopular Government in Belgium. How does he know? I do not pretend to know, but I know that it is a Government supported by the elected Chamber, which represents the people. That must remain so until the Chamber can be democratically elected again. That is the basis on which we are trying to work.
That is a most unjustified statement. Here is a Government who have gone back into their country—a country in a disturbed and difficult condition—with no force of their own of any kind. Sometimes I wonder whether the House understands what has been the effect inevitably of these years of enemy occupation on these countries. It was right, it was their duty to do everything they could against the German authority—to live on the black market and work against the German by every means—and suddenly, the whole scene changes. There are no forces, no police and no Army, and you turn round to the same young people who have done nothing else but work against the law, and say: "Now you must obey law and order," and expect that to happen in the twinkling of an eye. Of course, it is very difficult. I can only say that we shall support the Government that has the support of the majority, and we can only judge of that by the elected Chamber.
I think we must be very chary in judging all these countries and we must not immediately say: "This Government does not represent the people," just because it happens to be of a different party colour from our own. It is the most tempting thing in the world to do, but I did ask the House some considerable time ago not to fight our election in all these countries in Europe. We are beginning to do it already. The hon. Member spoke of the Belgian Government as wrong, because he does not like it, and because it is a Government of the Right. On the other hand, some of my hon. Friends have been very eloquent in the other direction, because we have been supporting Marshal Tito in Yugoslavia. The hon. Member also said "Have you ever supported a Government of the Left?" What is Marshal Tito? Is he Left? Some people think that you could not get anything more to the Left.
I hoped the hon. Member would say that. We were the first to do so. We did so long in advance of the Soviet Government. Hon. Members may say whether that was right or wrong; I am only trying to bring home to the House that it was done as the result of a military decision, because we thought it was the right thing to do. Politically, there are many things to be said on both sides, but we do not sit round in the War Cabinet and say "So-and-so is Right; let us back him. So-and-so is Left; we must not support him."
I did not think my right hon. Friend said only that; but I ask him to remember that His Majesty's Government are still in alliance with the Royal Yugoslav Government.
Of course. We in this country believe in democracy. We have already stated that when the time comes to express the popular will in Yugoslavia it ought to be done in a really popular way. There should be candidates—I say that word in the plural—and the people should be allowed to express their views. That is the policy for which we stand in these countries. I am sorry to have been so long in saying this, but I hope I have done something to dispel some of the feelings which existed on this subject.
There is another matter to which I must refer, and that is about Italy and Count Sforza. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Thomas) made a very long speech yesterday—not as long as mine—about Count Sforza, and he read a very interesting document, which I must say was new to me. He told us all sorts of things which were novelties, although interesting ones, but any hon. Member who listened to his speech might have been pardoned at the end of the hon. Member's defence of Count Sforza for even then being reluctant to see Count Sforza as Foreign Secretary. I do not think the hon. Member added a great deal to the reputation of Count Sforza in the statement which he made.
I will tell the House very briefly what is the position. The hon. Member drew a parallel between our attitude to the construction of the Italian Government, on the one hand, and on the other, the German attack and overthrow of Delcassé, and Hitler's and Mussolini's attacks on me. I do not think there is any such parallel. Italy is a country with whom we have recently been at war, and which surrendered unconditionally, and—let us face it—whose record in the present struggle, under Mussolini's guidance, was a most shameful one, not only towards ourselves and France but towards Greece and Albania. There was not a sentence in the speech of the hon. Gentleman which showed any realisation of that fact, or of the fact that those countries were subjected to aggression carefully calculated——
—but, as it turned out, this aggression was a miscalculating policy. We have now accepted Italy as a co-belligerent but that country is not an Ally. She remains a base for the operation of our troops. In my submission to the House, we are perfectly entitled to emphasise our views about the appointment of any particular statesman by that country. We are absolutely entitled to do it. We have not expressed a veto but there is no reason why the British Government should not say: "In our view the appointment of Mr. X to the particular post of Foreign Secretary would not facilitate the smooth working of our relationships." There is no crime in that and it applies particularly to the post of Foreign Secretary. We do not feel, for a number of reasons, that Count Sforza would be a particularly happy choice as Foreign Secretary. He did tell us some time past that he would pursue a certain course on his return to Italy—I am not dealing with the Royalty question at all, but I may say a word on it later—and he did not pursue it. According to our information he has been working against the Government of Signor Bonomi, who himself has given us loyal support and has fulfilled all his obligations towards us. Knowing that, I really do not see that there is anything wrong in our saying that we would prefer not to have as Foreign Secretary a man who has been working only lately against a Prime Minister who has been perfectly loyal to us.
I did not say that. We simply judged on our experience of Count Sforza. We are entitled to observe what happens in Italy, after the experience we have had in that country. We observed that, on his return, he rapidly began to work against the Government of Marshal Badoglio which at that time the Allies supported, and later he proceeded to do exactly the same against the Government formed under Signor Bonomi. We have said that, in those conditions, we should not be very happy to have as Foreign Secretary somebody who had behaved thus. We expressed our view, that, in all the circumstances, we should be happier without that particular appointment and I cannot see why we should not be allowed to say that.
I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman reads his speech he will realise how this part of it compares with what he said about Belgium. [Interruption.] The House must be patient with us, because we have had no state- ment on foreign affairs in this Debate until we have reached the end.
I mean this hon. Member. [HON. MEMBERS: "Right hon. Member."] My right hon. Friend will notice who are his defenders. The Socialist parties of Italy affiliated to the organisation to which we are attached, have repudiated the action of the British Government. They refuse to co-operate in any Government whatsoever under Signor Bonomi.
The right hon. Gentleman gave way. I have been interrupted several times. I wish to say that all the parties in Italy with which we are associated have repudiated the action of the Foreign Office.
However that may be, I am not basing my action on that, or on what any particular party in Italy may do. That is not the position in which the British Foreign Secretary stands. I am rather surprised at the hon. Member, who is often so fond of saying that we do not assert our authority enough. I have said that this particular individual, regarded as an individual, is not one who as Foreign Secretary gives us confidence. That is His Majesty's Government's view and I have expressed it. It is my view and it remains unshaken, no matter what the view of any particular Italian party may be. There is not the slightest parallel between this matter and Belgium. Belgium has been our Ally throughout this war. Italy has not been our Ally throughout this war, but the hon. Member seems unable to discover this fact.
The battle must have been equally hard against Mussolini from there. What we have done in this case is not to impose a veto, but to express an opinion, which we are entitled to do, particularly in the circumstances which exist between Italy and ourselves.
I was asked about supplies to Italy. We are trying to increase those supplies. The problem is one of shipping, which has to be related—the hon. and gallant Member for Windsor (Major Mott-Radclyffe) made a very good speech on this point—to supplies to our Allies, who are entitled to some consideration in the matter of our supplies, as well as Italy.
I wish to say something about the Greek Government, which has not been quite such a matter of controversy as others to-day. The present Greek Government is a coalition of all the parties. We asked them to join and continue in the reconstruction of their country. In view of the supplies we are sending, and the sacrifices this country has made, we are entitled to make that appeal, and ask them to set aside their internal differences, as we have done, for a while longer until the task of rebuilding their country and stabilising their national finances is carried through. Let me say again about Greece, that I do not think there should be any misappre- hension. We have no intention of interfering with the right of the Greek people to choose freely both the regime and the system of government they prefer. That is for them to decide. We have tried to set Greece on her feet by supplies of which she was in dire need, and we will enable her to make a free choice in due course.
In reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan) I think he was a bit unfair on the Foreign Office. I wish he had said that the Foreign Secretary was inept and slack, rather than the Foreign Office, because I am responsible for all the misdeeds of the Foreign Office. He talked about Finland. He asked why we had agreed to Finnish reparations amounting to 10 years' exportable surplus before the war. His figures are wrong. Finland's exports were of the order of £35,000,000 a year. Reparations are 50,000,000 dollars a year for six years. I think that is where confusion has arisen. The hon. and gallant Member asked, What about our supplies of timber? That was in our mind. We have been in contact with the Finnish Government about that, with a view to procuring timber and wood pulp from Finland. He asked: Must we buy timber from Russia? I do not know why we should not get it from Russia. If we send goods to Russia, we are entitled to get something back. As a matter of fact, it was one of the subjects I raised with M. Molotov in Moscow. They have sent us some deliveries of timber and——
My hon. and gallant Friend referred, I thought, to timber from Russia. We shall get some timber from Finland, and I hope also to get more from Russia. Russian production has suffered much owing to the calls on man-power but I have asked for special consideration.
As regards Rumania and oil, I have had a complaint about the removal of some of the machinery. It is not as simple as all that. Some of the machinery was delivered from Germany in return for deliveries of oil to Germany, a transaction over which the boards of directors of the companies had no control. That is an additional complication. We are making our claims in respect of that, and so are the Americans, to our Russian Ally. The hon. and gallant Member is wrong when he thinks that we do not express ourselves about British rights to our big Ally. I have never felt myself to be in a smaller position in dealing with either the Soviet Union or the United States of America. I am not however prepared in the course of a war to state every argument I have put forward to our Allies. I think it would be unwise to do so, but I have referred to the Finnish and Rumanian points because special reference has been made to them. It would appear that the Foreign Office seized on these points, if I may say so, before the hon. and gallant Member himself had done so.
In the last few minutes I have something to talk about which has nothing to do with foreign affairs, that is the words "as opportunity serves" in the King's Speech. I listened to the hon. Member and one or two others who criticised in the Debate the use of these words. We have been asked several times, Why did the Government put them in? My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) asked "Why put them in?" and "What did they mean?" I should have thought their meaning was pretty clear. What they mean is that the Government have no certainty about their own life after a definite event which cannot be fixed in time. It is impossible for any of us to fix a definite time limit, because none of us can say when the German war will end, and it is our hope and intention to continue the life of this Government and Parliament until the victory is won. Here let me say so far as concerns the party to which I belong, I do not think we have been very guilty in the starting up of this controversy. I do not think it can be charged against us that we were the first to start to discuss the life of this Government; whether it would last to the end of the German war or beyond. I do not think we were, but I do not wish to probe that problem deeper, or to make any undue complaint. It is perfectly legitimate for any party or individual to take the view that this Parliament does not truly represent the country, that the view of 1935 would not be repeated now. Anybody can argue that. The trouble is that nobody can prove it in this House without going to the electorate to get the final decision.
I must add that when the moment comes to part, as come it must, we shall all do so—we colleagues who have worked together in the War Cabinet—with the utmost regret. But it can also be argued that it would be both undemocratic and even anti-democratic to prolong the life of this Parliament, as the hon. Gentleman said earlier to-day, more than is absolutely essential in the national interest. This Parliament is already nine years old, and most of the electors under 31 in this country have never had an opportunity to cast their votes. That is a condition of which, if we are democrats, we must take account.
The second point is the relation of this phrase "as opportunity serves" to progress with Measures of social reform. Let me put the Government's position. We have set our hand, let me tell the right hon. Gentleman, to a great social reform programme. Nobody disputes the magnitude or the importance of that programme. Even though there be an interruption it is the intention of each one of us who are Members of this Government to carry that programme through. I have no doubt that if there were an election and if a Labour Government were returned, that Government would put through what was outstanding in that programme, and I can say, on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that we, as members of the Conservative Party, would give them support in putting through what remains of that programme, to which Members of both parties have put their names. It might happen otherwise, and the Conservative Party might be returned. If that happened, I can say that we should—and I give this undertaking on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and all the rest of my party here—we should do our utmost to put that programme through, and we should feel that we had the right to ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to give us their support. [Interruption.] I cannot speak for all of them. The point is that there is no intention of allowing that programme to be lost, or thrown away. Any suggestion that that is our purpose is utterly unfounded, and is unjust. Reading some of the things that have been said, one would have thought that the Government have started on this programme because they have been compelled to do so by some unknown forces.
The hon. Gentleman must answer that question himself: I cannot answer it; it does not depend on me. It is not true that this programme has been forced on the Government from outside. The hon. Gentleman is the first to complain of the dictatorship that he says the Treasury Bench always has over us. If he thinks he is forcing us to do this, he is exaggerating even his own significance. This programme is agreed by all of us in the Government, and we are determined to put it through. The Prime Minister was the first to start the labour exchanges and he did a great deal of the work of social insurance——
With the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. It is unjust to suggest that we are half-hearted. Let me sum up. I have spoken of what may or may not happen when the life of this Government comes to an end. But we must not get into a state of mind where we are already counting several moves ahead in the political field, and ignoring the fact that the main task for which this Government was formed has not been accomplished. No one can tell how long or how short the time may be, but it is our duty to the country, to the troops overseas, and to our Allies to use all the endeavours we possess to bring this victory about as early as possible. Then, and only then, I beg and pray, should we return to those controversies which are so dear to the British heart.