I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:
But humbly regret that the Gracious Speech contains no assurance that His Majesty's Forces will not be used to disarm the friends of democracy in Greece and other parts of Europe, or to suppress those popular movements which have valorously assisted in the defeat of the enemy and upon whose success we must rely for future friendly co-operation in Europe.
I move this Amendment with feelings of responsibility, anxiety and grief. To-day, on the sacred soil of Athens, in the shadow of the Acropolis, British soldiers and Greek patriots lie dead side by side, each with an Allied bullet in his heart, and I ask the Government to put an end immediately to this fratricidal strife.
Before I sit down I shall repeat this request with more formality and detail, but I thought it right to open this Debate with that appeal.
When this country entered the war, we did it not only to save ourselves from defeat and disaster, but to remove the menace of Fascism from the face of the earth. But as the conflict has developed great popular movements have emerged in the various countries in Europe which have engaged in conflict not only with the armies of Germany but with forces in their own countries imbued by the same Fascist ideas or ideology. It has always seemed to me that this country of ours, being the champion of freedom and democracy, should place herself, everywhere, by the side of these emerging forces, to help in every way we can, short of active intervention in their internal affairs, to secure for them victory over their enemies as well as over ours. In several directions, however, it has seemed to some of us of late that, as victory is approaching, British policy has been inclined to support many of the old worn-out regimes in Europe against these popular emerging forces.
Instances of this have been reported recently from Belgium and from Italy. In these cases the Government have given considered replies, and quite recently, as far as the Belgian Government is concerned, they have said, "Here is a constitutional, popularly-elected Government; it is true it was elected before the war, and so were we, but having been elected, and having a Parliament, it is entitled to our support." Moreover, they have said, "Belgium is an important military base. Through the great port of Antwerp and the city of Brussels the communications pass to serve our great armies in the field. Therefore, it is very important that we should have every right to see that those communications are not interrupted by civil strife." As far as Italy is concerned, they said, "Here is an ex-enemy country and she is not entitled to quite the same treatment as that accorded to our Allies." I have noted those arguments and, although I do not fully accept them, I do not intend to say anything further on those particular subjects to-day. I wish to observe that in the case of Greece, to which I intend to devote the remainder of my remarks, not one of those arguments applies. Greece is not an enemy country. Her heroic struggle against the armies of Mussolini and Hitler have won for her the admiration of the world. No vast armies of the United Nations are supplied through the city of Athens, and in no sense does the present Government of Greece rest upon any basis of popular election or constitutional propriety.
To understand the Greek position, we have to go back to the year 1936, when King George of the Hellenes, who, incidentally, has not got a single drop of Greek blood in his veins, tore up the Greek constitution which he had sworn to observe and to defend, and set up a dictatorship under the late General Metaxas. Except for the fact that that dictatorship did not pursue a policy of Imperialistic aggression, that dictatorship was very little if at all better than the dictatorship of Mussolini. The organised trade unions and all political parties, including the Tory reformers, were suppressed. Parliament was abolished, freedom of speech was suspended, a ban which, I think, must have borne very hardly upon a somewhat argumentative race. Democratic leaders were either interned, exiled or driven underground.
Then came the war. After valiant resistance and many victories, the Greek armies were finally overwhelmed. The King and the Government—his Government, still a dictatorship—left the country. Then, after they had gone, up in the mountains and down in the valleys, spreading like a network over the country, there was formed, from the many numerous underground movements which had been opposing the Fascist dictatorship before, this great organisation known as the E.A.M. or the National Resistance Front. I would like to point out that the E.A.M. is not a Communist Party; as "The Times" correspondent pointed out recently, it has a firm Communist core—like the United Nations themselves—but it is certainly a strongly Left-Wing organisation, Republican in sympathy, and in those Republican ideas it holds it is supported by 90 per cent. of the population of Greece—again according to "The Times." [Interruption.] That can be questioned, but my statement that "The Times" has said this cannot be questioned. The military wing of this organisation, known as E.L.A.S., has fought well and hard against the Germans. [HON. MEMBERS: "Against Greece."] Against the Germans. [HON. MEMBERS: Against Greece."] There is also a smaller body known gas E.D.E.S. under Colonel Zervas, which is Royalist or Right-Wing in character, and has also fought against the Germans.
While these resistance movements were fighting the enemy in Greece, the Royalist Government—which, I will point out again, has never been elected and was simply appointed by the King—was established in Cairo, and was there in close contact with the British Government and representatives of the British Government—one of whom I see almost immediately facing me—who were out there at the time. But although it was in close contact with the British Government and their agents and representatives, it had very little contact with E.A.M., the resistance movement in Greece itself, whose Republican views it abhorred and who, very naturally, did not get into very close contact with it. When the demand was made—I think first in last year—that the basis of that Government should be widened, and resistance leaders should be included in the Government, that demand at first was refused.
I cannot go into all the complications which then ensued. The difficulties, of course, are obvious to anyone. You have Royalists and Republicans; you have dictators and you have democrats, and those classes are not easily reconciled. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I should have thought that was obvious to anyone. At one time there was a mutiny of an extensive character in the Army and Navy, which were largely Republican in sympathy. Then there was a conference at Lebanon. That conference was followed by very much controversy between M. Papandreou and the E.A.M. leaders. In that matter M. Papandreou was advised and supported by British officials; indeed, the Foreign Secretary himself stated last July in this House, that if unity was not achieved, the blame rested on E.A.M. and not on M. Papandreou. He added further, a few days later—I think at the beginning of August—that His Majesty's Government and the Papandreou Government were acting in close consultation, and there was no divergence of view between them. So I do not think it can be denied, that last summer the British Government were showing far greater sympathy with the Greek dictatorship exiled in Egypt, than with the popular resistance movement fighting in the mountains of Greece. However, by the end of August the leaders of the E.A.M. had joined up with the Government, and an uneasy and superficial unity was at last achieved.
Now I come to recent events. The position is extremely confused and I am very anxious not to say anything which cannot be verified. When the Government returned to Athens, certain armed forces were in existence on the mainland of Greece. There was the large Left-Wing E.L.A.S. army which controlled most of the country. It was especially strong, and is still especially strong, in the North, around Salonika. There was the smaller Royalist E.D.E.S. army under Colonel Zervas, which was operating largely in the Pindus region. There was an armed police, strongly suspected of Fascist tendencies which have recently been exhibited. Then there were a mountain brigade and a Sacred Battalion, formed from troops who took no part in the mutiny of last summer or last spring, and were therefore a picked body and, in the opinion of Republican leaders, were probable supporters of the Monarchy.
It was finally decided, after a great deal of argument and discussion, that the resistance forces, both E.L.A.S. and E.D.E.S., should be disarmed by 10th December—that is next Sunday. As far as one can gather from the Press, the Republican leaders claim that if their forces disarmed, the mountain brigade and the Sacred Battalion should be disarmed also; otherwise they might be used by the Right Wing to suppress the Left, possibly to establish another military dictatorship such as Greece suffered from before the war. Now this demand was refused. I am not clear from the statements whether it was refused by M. Papandreou himself; whether it was refused on the advice of the British Ambassador—Mr. Leeper—who is, many Greek friends of mine say, the evil genius of modern Greece——
May I respectfully point out to you, Mr. Speaker, that my hon. Friend behind said nothing of the kind. What he was endeavouring to do was to give a picture of opinion. He made no criticism himself. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] He made no criticism himself. He was endeavouring to give a psychological picture. What he said was that there were certain people who took that view.
I was at fault. It does not require a Motion; I thought it did. But, of course, it is not really advisable to use opprobrious expressions about our Ambassadors. What I would suggest to the House is that instead of raising points of Order, Members should follow the excellent example set by the hon. Gentleman in opening his speech, and remember that there are Greeks and British soldiers lying dead, killed by British bullets.
I would like to confirm what my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. PethickLawrence) has just said. I said that some people thought that, but if it is out of Order, and not the right thing to say, I wish to eliminate it. To continue, I am not quite clear whether this demand was refused, on the advice of the Ambassador, by M. Papandreou himself, or by General Scobie, acting as Commander-in-Chief of the Greek Army. Anyhow, the demand was refused and the Republican Ministers thereupon resigned.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) says that the E.A.M. forces refused to disband their organisations unless the Sacred Battalion was also disbanded, did they make that a condition when they agreed to disband their forces?
I am not quite clear, but I cannot go into the detailed background of what happened, nor is it necessary to do so for the purpose of my argument. About the same time on the same day, or a few hours earlier, General Scobie issued a proclamation promising full support to M. Papandreou's Government. This was fortified by a statement issued from Downing Street on Saturday, after the resignation of the Ministers—not long after, because I understand that the Ministers resigned at 12 o'clock on Friday night—on the authority of the Prime Minister, stating that General Scobie's proclamation was made with the knowledge and full approval of His Majesty's Government. "The Times" of yesterday says:
This encouraged a most unhappy and widespread impression that the British Government and the British Army were prepared to support M. Papandreou against his former partners in the coalition.
Then a most dreadful event occurred. A protest meeting was organised for last Sunday. The Government banned the meeting, but it took place for all that. The crowd was unarmed—my authority is "The Times" correspondent—and consisted mainly of girls and boys. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] That correspondent was confirmed by other correspondents, and I do not think that that is now disputed. The police opened fire with rifles and tommy-guns, and the firing, we are told, was wild and savage, and continued for about an hour, despite most vigorous protests from individual British officers on the spot. When the firing stopped, there were 15 dead and 148 wounded lying in the square. It was another Peterloo massacre, which justified the people's distrust of the armed police. It started what seemed to amount to a civil war. The presence at the time of British units, which took no part in the firing, of course, but did not stop the shooting, "served", says "The Times" correspondent, only "to associate Britain with what
is everywhere condemned as Fascist action," and "has done grievous injury to Anglo-Greek friendship."
Then occurred an odd incident. On Monday M. Papandreou, apparently, resigned, quite properly, as "The Times" says, and invited M. Sophoulis, a venerable Liberal leader—all Liberal leaders seem to be venerable nowadays—to form a Government. It was stated that the Left Wing leaders were prepared to serve under him, but according to M. Sophoulis himself, the British Ambassador informed him that according to the latest instructions from the British Prime Minister, any change at present in the head of the Greek Government was impossible. That is an amazing situation, and I think the House is entitled to some explanation. Is the Prime Minister claiming the right to appoint Prime Ministers of Allied States as he might appoint a few Parliamentary Private Secretaries, or as Hitler appoints gauleiters in the different countries which come under his sway? Such action, says "The Times," "accords ill with the British tradition." It is not likely to be welcomed in Washington, which has already issued statements commenting adversely on such happenings. I cannot believe that even the present House of Commons would seriously approve such a claim, if it was made. Since then, a horrible kind of warfare has been going on in Athens. British Forces have been engaged on the side of the Royalist dictatorship, fighting the forces of the Left. It will, of course, be stated that what we are doing is to maintain law and order, but much as we, or I, would prefer the ballot-box I assert this: that it is none of our business to intervene in a friendly and foreign country to prevent the overthrow of a dictatorship, or to say that the sword of Hampden and Cromwell shall never in any circumstances whatever be unsheathed. In such fighting as is now taking place, it is obvious that British Forces must win the victory. No lightly-armed militia can stand long against the tanks and aeroplanes and equipment of a modern army. But victories such as these are not to be desired.
In 1775, British Regular Forces advanced up a certain hill on the North American Continent. They were twice repelled, but the third time they stormed the palisades. They won the battle of Bunker?s Hill but they lost America. In the long scroll of history the battle of Athens may rank in the same category as the battle of Bunker's Hill. We may lose the friendship of the Greek people in order to gain the favour of a Hohenzollern Prince. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, his mother was a Hohenzollern and his father was pro-German in the last war, as was he himself.
I will pass that by. Throughout the war the Prime Minister has acted like Lord Chatham. He has spoken with the accent of Lord Chatham on many occasions. Let him not sink now to the level of Lord North, or impose the bar sinister on the emblazonment of our great deeds. The Prime Minister is a great national figure. He sits there crowned with the glory of achievement. I am only a humble back bencher, and I do not aspire to be anything else, but I would rather this right hand of mine were burnt off at the wrist, leaving a blackened and twisted stump, than sign an order to the British Army to fire on the workers of Greece. We hear talk every now and then of the possibility of certain naval or air bases being granted to this country by the Greek King, or the Greek Government. For the organisation of future security, there may be many arrangements of that kind amongst the United Nations. The value of those arrangements will be far greater when countersigned by a free people than as the gift or bribe of a dictator. They are not certainly worth the price of shooting down Greek patriots in the city of Pericles.
I find it very difficult to suppress my grief, my horror and my indignation at these mad and mischievous proceedings but, as calmly as I can, I would ask the Prime Minister and the Government to reconsider their action, to reverse their policy and to retrace their footsteps before it is too late. The present dictatorship in Greece should be replaced, as quickly as possible, by a Coalition Government of all parties with the Left strongly represented in accordance with the feelings of the people. In order to bring this about, one of our ablest statesmen should proceed by aeroplane to Athens—the Foreign Secretary himself if possible, or the Minister of State, or the Deputy Prime Minister—to call a conference of the various parties and leaders, with a view to forming such a national Government. In the meantime, an armistice should be declared, and British troops should be withdrawn from the streets. Having established a Government of the best men—the Greeks know what the word "aristocracy" means—preparations should be made for an election as quickly as possible, and arrangements made for a plebiscite about the King to be taken in hand. Then food distribution, which has been so unhappily interrupted, should be resumed. England and Greece have been friends throughout history. They have always been the champions of freedom and democracy. Let not that friendship be broken now, or the sword of freedom be turned against the children of liberty.
I beg to second the Amendment.
I should like to supplement with a few points, the case that the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) has so ably presented. The Amendment raises issues a little wider than Greece itself but our thoughts are so much concentrated on that country that I would say no more of any of the others, than that the events in Greece come at the end of a foreign policy which for the last two or three years has, to put it rather mildly, tended to create anxiety amongst some sections of our population by seeming to lean towards reactionary and even Quisling and Fascist elements, and by seeming to delay any recognition of the genuine popular movements of Europe. I say nothing more.
I should like to add a little to what the mover has said about the background in Greece itself. He has told the House how, from early 1942, the great co-ordinating movement of E.A.M. gathered together all the sporadic resistance movements in the country. Is it not a fact that about some such time as the winter of 1942–43 the information from our accredited representatives in Greece was to the effect that E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. were effectively making resistance to the enemy, which was working smoothly all over the country, showing considerable performance already and great promises for the future. By now E.A.M. has a million members. Paris Radio put it twice as high in a broadcast this week. They said:
When an organisation has 2,000,000 in a population smaller than that of Belgium, it cannot be said that it is something apart from the people.
E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. organised successful strikes against Germany, liberated vast areas of territory and ran their hospitals, workshops and military training colleges. They won the support of the Bishop of Kozani and the Bishop of Achaia, both of whom said that in the liberated areas respect for religion was high, even for Greece; which rather suggests that Communist doctrine had not got a complete hold of the people in those areas. It stood astride important communications, and during the Libyan campaign and prevented the transport of Nazi supplies to Africa through Greek ports.
In guerrilla movements of this kind, arms are always provided by stealing them from the enemy, but a certain quantity of British arms were sent to them.
There was, however, one important difficulty from the point of view of the present Government. Again I am putting it mildly. Although no decision had been taken, it was apparent to any observer in Greece that the members of E.A.M. were not exactly enthusiastic about the return of their monarch to their country, and, for the reasons indicated by the hon. Member for Broxtowe, I do not think that this is very surprising, or that it is to their discredit. It is at this point, namely, some time in the Spring of 1943, when E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. were getting into their stride, that Colonel Zervas came on the scene. And it is important to know who he is. To say everything good of him first, he is a man of immense personal courage and great personal magnetism and he took no part in establishing the Metaxas dictatorship. Indeed he co-operated with those who worked for its overthrow to the extent of receiving a certain quantity of money from them. He is, however, a professional coup d' étatist. In 1925–6 he was, with Colonel Dertills, the leader of the Republican Guard which acted as bodyguard to the dictator Pangalos. In the autumn of 1936 Zervas and Dertilis overthrew Pangalos whom they had helped to assume power in the interests of General Kondylis; and a few days later they were plotting against Kondylis in their own interests. After the Nazi occupation Zervas was on good terms with the Nazi and Quisling authorities, and his friend Dertilis became head of the security battalions. I cannot think there is any ground on which the Prime Minister can suggest that these were in any sense worthy organisations. They were the instruments of Nazism in Greece.
I will deal with that point in detail in a moment. If there had been nobody prepared to resist Nazism in Greece except Zervas, it might have been proper and necessary to deal with him. But there was already in existence a movement representing all the democratic and anti-Fascist forces which had worked against Metaxas before the war, and it seems to me that anyone who has any feeling for democracy would hesitate a long time before coming into association with a man of Zervas' record. Yet he was the man who a little before March, 1943, had sent a telegram of loyalty to the King of Greece and who thereafter received far more in British money and arms than was ever sent to E.L.A.S. This unpopular and undemocratic gentleman has been supported with arms and money against the real people's movement of Greece. The frequent statements made by the Prime Minister to the effect that the Greek resistance movements were always fighting each other, arise directly from the British decision to send arms and money to this man who should never have been countenanced at all.
There is one very simple question which I want to ask the Prime Minister: Why has he made such a point of giving his strong support to this monarch? Why could not the matter be left to the Greek people to decide? Why has pressure always been brought to bear in the interest of the King? I want to deal next with some rather detailed points leading up to the resignation of the six E.A.M. Ministers at midnight on Friday last, because that is the crux of the matter. These Ministers are accused, as I understand it, of destroying the unity which previously existed by resigning. I want to examine whether it was these six Ministers who precipitated the crisis. The facts are not easily come by. The information which comes out, is such as can find its way out. I am not suggesting that there is a rigid censorship. Reports Teach "The Times" which cannot be altogether pleasing to the Government, and one must express gratitude for that, but none the less no one would deny that we have not the fullest information.
At any rate, we can agree that the actual facts available to us are scanty. It is relevant to look, therefore, at anything from which facts can be ascertained. I want to look at various broadcasts from the Athens radio, both before and after the crisis, in order to try and find the facts. I come, first, to a broadcast by Prime Minister Papandreou on 3rd December after the crisis; a broadcast in which he was trying to throw the blame on E.A.M. I am not much interested in his arguments, but I am interested in the facts which his speech discloses. They are these. On 18th October, there was an agreement in principle for the disbandment and disarmament of the guerilla forces, that is E.D.E.S. and E.L.A.S. who, I believe, collectively come under the name of Ardentes and any other guerilla forces. There was an agreement that they be disbanded, and that a national guard be established by calling up the 1936 class. Subsequent to 18th October, the Sacred Battalion and the mountain brigade were brought into Greece from Italy and Cairo respectively. These were strong Right wing bodies in their sympathies.
This created a wholly new situation. The first suggestion that these two bodies should be disbanded, along with E.D.E.S., E.L.A.S. and any other small guerillas, was resisted either by Downing Street, or by General Scobie, or by Papandreou. In this situation, General Othonaios, the Commander-in-Chief designate of the new army, and not a member of E.A.M., indicated that he would not be able to take up his duties until a solution had been found. The agreed solution was that the Sacred Battalion and the mountain brigade should remain in existence and that E.L.A.S. should keep mobilised a corresponding number of men. Another item in the agreement, the significance of which I cannot quite make out, is that some body called the gendarmerie should be disbanded at the same time. I do not know whether that refers to the native police in Athens, or to some gendarmerie brought in from Egypt. That was part of the agreement, as is to be ascertained from Papandreou's speech of 3rd December. He argued that this agreement was produced as the result of pressure from E.A.M. Perhaps so, but why should not E.A.M. press points of detail? They have a greater claim to represent the people of Greece than any other body. Surely, when the situation is changed by the arrival of the mountain brigade, they are entitled to ask for negotiations on detailed points but even if E.A.M. was wrong to press for this agreement, the agreement was in fact made in those terms. Athens radio of 28th November said:
M. Papandreou yesterday held a prolonged conference with the Ministers Svolos, Zevgos and Serriyiannis.
Those are the E.A.M. Ministers.
The Director of the Minister of War, Spais"—
who is not an E.A.M. Minister—
was also present. All present declared that full agreement had been reached on military matters.
Then followed what I think was the most significant and important statement of all. On 30th November, Athens Radio said:
The Deputy Minister of War, Serriyiannis"—
that is the E.A.M. Minister—
has visited General Scobie and described to him the organisation of the National Guard.
In other words, one day before the release of the Scobie leaflet, and the Scobie broadcast, General Scobie, one must assume had a full discussion with Serriyiannis on the whole of the arrangements for this disbanding of the Ardentes and for calling up the National Guard. He had an opportunity of asking him any question he liked upon the agreement, yet—one wants to know why—General Scobie made no suggestion or criticism of the agreement which had been reached. Next day there were dropped all over Greece, pamphlets which must have been in print at the time General Scobie was meeting General Serriyiannis, and one would like to know whether he mentioned those leaflets during their discussion. The leaflets—and to my mind this is the crucial point on this issue—repudiated the agreement which had been made between the parties. It may be said that it was a wrong agreement, one got by pressure, and should not have been issued; I would not myself agree to that; but even so the agreement was made and it was never repudiated. There was never any overt act by anybody in repudiation of the agreement until the leaflet was dropped. Let me quote some of the words of the leaflet. It said:
The Allied Commander in Chief in Greece, General Scobie, has undertaken to supervise the execution of this Government Order,
that is, the order for the disbanding of E.L.A.S.
According to the orders of the Greek Government, all Ardentes"—
which means all the forces of the E.L.A.S. leaders—
are to be demobilised between December 10th and 20th.
This leaflet made no mention of the disarmament and the disbandment of the gendarmarie which was one of the essential terms of the agreement; and by saying that all Ardentes were to be disbanded it repudiated the other essential term, namely, that E.L.A.S. were to keep under mobilisation the same number of men as
were in the Sacred Battalion and in the mountain brigade. If we are asking where and when and by whom unity was broken, I say that it was broken by whoever authorised the dropping of that leaflet. It was that leaflet which showed that British forces were going to be put behind an arrangement for disbandment which was entirely other than that which had been agreed by all parties.
I need not repeat, and I have nothing to add to the words which my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe used in describing the action of the police in opening fire upon a crowd without any question of having first asked the crowd to disperse or indicated that it should not proceed in certain directions or should proceed in other directions. I have one point to make about the alleged general strike. I am not sure how widespread the general strike is. I have seen no information of the general strike having begun before the shooting. People are inclined to say: "Why are these wicked people striking, when people in Greece are starving?" It has to be remembered that it is the starving people who are striking. I put it to my hon. Friends above the Gangway, some of whom have experience in these matters. In regard to industrial strikes, strikers usually start with their savings; and when the workers lose, as they sometimes do, it is starvation which sends them back at the end of the strike. These people are beginning a strike on starvation. Either the strike is a very small affair and should not be thrown into the argument one way or the other—and if it is, I withdraw the argument which I have used—but if it is a big affair and if starving people can maintain a widespread strike, it shows pretty clearly which way their whole sympathies lie.
I would add only one thing to what my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe called the "odd incident" of M. Sophoulis. I call it the inexplicable incident. I have no doubt that attempts will be made to explain it. I shall expect to hear suggestions that Sophoulis's efforts to form a Cabinet were not likely to succeed, but at any rate on the Monday afternoon and the Tuesday morning, when the whole Greek situation was manifestly directed towards tragedy, here there came, through the intervention of M. Sophoulis, a chance—it might have been only a small chance—of bringing the parties together again, and making a new start. If the chances of their reaching agreement seemed slender, so to speak by themselves, under M. Sophoulis's direction, then I would not have counted it altogether wrong if General Scobie had insisted that he should participate in the negotiation for forming a Cabinet, and that he should take part in all their discussions. At any rate, it was a chance. I cannot come to any other conclusion than that His Majesty's Government from London have, for some reason, bolted the door to that chance of averting the tragedy.
I want to ask—and I hope we will be told—What the Government are going to do now? If they are not going to accept some such suggestion as that put forward by the hon. Member for Broxtowe or some variation of that suggestion what are they going to do? I venture to disagree with the Mover of the Amendment in one point only. He said that, from a military point of view, British forces were sure of victory. I am not convinced of it. British forces did not win a victory over the Sinn Feiners in Ireland at the end of the last war, and German forces, probably more heavily armed, did not win a victory over E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. in four years in Greece. I see no reason to suppose there will be an automatic walk-over for British Forces in Greece, even if such a walk-over were desirable. Are we to commit ourselves to a stark, slogging, struggle, policing, arresting, confiscating, and imprisoning, and burning villages, in order to stamp out a popular movement? I pray heaven that the Prime Minister may hold out some other alternative than simply to wade straight forward with that. My last word, and the only word which I wish might proceed outside the confines of this country, is that I am certain that if this matter could be put to the vote of the people of this country, instead of to a 10-year old House of Commons, the result would be much more unfavourable to the Government than it is likely to be to-night.
The value of the speech which has just ended was, I thought, that it showed how extremely complex these Greek politics are. The hon. Gentleman made a very large number of assertions, some of which were accurate, some of which were, according to my information, rather the reverse. At any rate, hours of debate, day after day, would be required if this House were to attempt to emulate the mastery of the details of the position in Greece, which he has been able to acquire in spite of other serious preoccupations.
I address myself to the Amendment as a whole, and I must point out that it does not deal only with Greece, but with other parts of Europe, and with the suppression of those popular movements which have valorously assisted in the defeat of the enemy in other countries besides Greece. The House, I am sure, will therefore permit me to deal with the whole of this question of our intervention in Europe, the tone, character, temper and objects of our intervention where we have to intervene, by dealing with other countries besides this one which has been the main focus of the two speeches to which we have listened. Before I come to particular countries and places let me present to the House the charge which is made against us. It is that we are using His Majesty's Forces to disarm the friends of democracy in Greece and in other parts of Europe, and to suppress those popular movements which have valorously assisted in the defeat of the enemy. Here is a pretty direct issue, and one on which the House will have to pronounce before we separate this evening. Certainly, His Majesty's Government would he unworthy of confidence if His Majesty's Forces were being used by them to disarm the friends of democracy in Greece and other parts of Europe.
The question however arises, and one may be permitted to dwell on it for a moment, Who are the friends of democracy, and also how is the word "democracy" to be interpreted? My idea of it is that the plain, humble, common man, just the ordinary man who keeps a wife and family, who goes off to fight for his country when it is in trouble, and goes to the poll at the appropriate time, puts his cross on the ballot paper showing the candidate he wishes to be elected to Parliament—that is the foundation of democracy. And it is also essential to this foundation that this man——
I beg pardon. There is always the stock answer that man embraces woman, unless the contrary appears in the context. But this man, or woman, should do this without fear, and without any form of intimidation or victimisation. He marks his ballot paper in, strict secrecy, and then elected representatives meet and together decide what government, or even, in times of stress, what form of government they wish to have in their country. If that is democracy I salute it. I espouse it. I would work for it.
I am not at all afraid to go into that discussion, but I have a good deal of ground to cover. It is one of those gross misrepresentations in which a certain class of people indulge that I have spoken praising words about Franco. All I said was that Spanish politics did not merely consist in drawing rude cartoons about it. It is really no use for my hon. Friend to screw his face up as if he were taking a nasty dose of medicine.
I do not know about many other people in the country, because everybody can have their opinion about that. But so far as the hon. Gentleman is concerned I expect there are some other nasty gulps to swallow in the course of what, with great respect, I shall endeavour to lay before them. I must say that I do not wish to be drawn into a discussion of Spain this morning. In the remarks I make about democracy and the attitude I have taken throughout the time I have been burdened with these high responsibilities, and broadly I believe throughout my life, in the remarks I have made, and in the statements representing the policy of His Majesty's present Government, we stand upon the foundation of free elections based on universal suffrage, and that is what we consider the foundation for democracy.
But I feel quite different about a swindle democracy, a democracy which calls itself democracy because it is Left Wing. It takes all sorts to make democracy, not only Left Wing, or even Communist. I do not expect a party or a body to call themselves democrats because they are stretching further and further into the most extreme forms of revolution. I do not accept a party as necessarily representing democracy because it becomes more violent as it becomes less numerous. I cannot accept any of these as democracy. One must have some respect for democracy and not use that word too lightly. The last thing which resembles democracy is mob law, with bands of gangsters, armed with deadly weapons, forcing their way into great cities, seizing the police stations and key points of government, endeavouring to introduce a totalitarian régime with an iron hand, and clamouring, as they can nowadays if they get the power——
I am sorry to be causing so much distress. [Interruption.] I have plenty of time, and if any out-cries are wrung from hon. Members opposite I can always take a little longer in what I have to say, though I should regret to do so. I say that the last thing that represents democracy is mob law and the attempt to introduce a totalitarian régime and clamours to shoot everyone—there are lots of opportunities at the present time—who is politically inconvenient as part of a purge of those who are said to have—and very often have not—sought to collaborate with the Germans during the occupation. Do not let us rate democracy so low, do not let us rate democracy as if it were merely grabbing power and shooting those who do not agree with you. That is the antithesis of democracy; this is not what democracy is based on.
The hon. Member should not get so excited because he is going to have much the worse of the argument and much the worse of the Division. I was eleven years a fairly solitary figure in this House and pursued my way in patience, and so there may be hope for the hon. Member. Democracy, I say, is not based on violence or terrorism, but on reason, on fair play, on freedom, on respecting other people's rights as well as their ambitions. Democracy is no harlot to be picked up in the street by a man with a tommy gun. I trust the people, the mass of the people, in almost any country, but I like to make sure that it is the people and not a gang of bandits from the mountains or from the countryside who think that by violence they can overturn constituted authority, in some cases ancient Parliaments, Governments and States. That is my general description of the foundation upon which we should approach the various special instances on which I am going to dwell. During the war, of course, we have had to arm anyone who could shoot a Hun. Apart from their character, political convictions, past records and so forth, if they were out to shoot a Hun we accepted them as friends and tried to enable them to fulfil their healthy instincts.
We are paying for it in having this Debate to-day, which personally I have found rather enjoyable, so far. We are paying for it also with our treasure and our blood. We are not paying for it with our honour or by defeat But when countries are liberated it does not follow that those who have received our weapons should use them in order to engross to themselves by violence and murder and bloodshed all those powers and traditions and continuity which many countries have slowly developed and to which quite a large proportion of their people, I believe the great majority, are firmly attached. If what is called in this Amendment the action of "the friends of democracy" is to be interpreted as carefully planned coups d' état by murder gangs and by the iron rule of ruffians seeking to climb into the seats of power, without a vote ever having been cast in their favour—if that is to masquerade as democracy I think the House will unite in condemning it as a mockery. I do not admit—I am keeping to the words of the Amendment—that those popular elements who so "valorously"—in some cases I must say—assisted the defeat of the enemy have the right to come forward and say, "We are the saviours of the nation; we must therefore henceforward be its rulers, its masters; that is our reward; we must now claim to sit in judgment over all"—that is, the vast mass of people in every occupied country who have had to live out their lives as well as they could under the iron rule and oppression of the Germans. These valorous elements are now to rule with dictatorial power gained by a coup d'état, by bloody street fighting and slaughter, and are to judge the high, the middle and the poor.
So far I am generalising on the principles of what democracy should be and also some of the principles which it should not follow. War criminals, the betrayers of their countrymen, the men who sincerely wished that Germany might win—these may be the objects of popular disgust or boycott, and may in extreme cases be brought before the courts of law and punished with death, but I hope those will be courts of law, where fair trial may be had, and not mere expressions of mob juries or political rivals. But to those who try to establish the point that the men who went out into the hills and were given rifles or machine guns by the British Government have by fee simple acquired the right to govern vast complex communities such as Belgium or Holland—it may be Holland next—or Greece, I say I repulse that claim. They have done good service and it is for the State, and not for them, to judge of the regards they should receive. It is not for them to claim ownership of the State, which cannot be admitted.
That is what is being fought out now. However long I laboured I could not hope to convert individual gentlemen opposite to the better course, but I am addressing my remarks not only to them but to other Members in the House, of whom there are quite a large number. I say we march along an onerous and painful path. Poor old England! Perhaps I ought to say "Poor old Britain." We have to assume the burden of most thankless tasks and in undertaking them to be scoffed at, criticised and opposed from every quarter; but at least we know where we are making for, know the end of the road, know what is our objective. It is that these countries shall be freed from the German armed power and under conditions of normal tranquillity shall have a free universal vote to decide the Government of their country—except a Fascist régime—and whether that Government shall be of the Left or of the Right.
There is our aim—and we are told that we seek to disarm the friends of democracy. We are told that because we do not allow gangs of heavily armed guerillas to descend from the mountains and instal themselves, with all the bloody terror and vigour which they possess, in great capitals and in power, that we are traitors to democracy. I repulse that claim too. I shall call upon the House as a matter of confidence in His Majesty's Government and confidence in the spirit with which we have marched from one peril to another till victory is in sight, to reject such pretensions with the scorn that they deserve.
The Amendment on the Paper has particular reference to Greece, but it is a general attack on the whole policy of His Majesty's Government which is represented as supporting reactionary forces everywhere, trying to instal by force dictatorial government contrary to the wishes of the people. I deal, therefore, not only with Greece. I pin myself at this moment, in the first instance, on to other parts of Europe, because this theme has also to some extent been opened up with the last sentences of a recent American Press release with which we were confronted a few days ago. It is not only in Greece that we appear to some eyes, to the eyes of those who support this Amendment, to be disarming the friends of democracy and those popular movements which have assisted the defeat of the enemy. There is Italy, there is Belgium.
Let me come to Belgium. Belgium is another case of what the Amendment calls the friends of democracy being disarmed in favour of the organised constitutional administration. If so, it is a grave case and deserves scrutiny. At the end of November there was to be what the Germans call a Putsch organised in Belgium in order to throw out the Government of M. Pierlot, which Government was the only constitutional link with the past, and the only link we have recognised during the war with the Belgian Government that was thrown out over four years ago by the Germans in their brutal invasion. This Government has received a vote of confidence of 132 against only 12, with six abstentions, from the Belgian Parliament, so far as it has been possible to reconstitute it, because some time is needed, after chaos, to set up some authority.
However, the friends of democracy, the valorous assisters in the defeat of the enemy, take a different view. They organised an attack upon the Belgian State. A demonstration, largely attended by women and children, marched up to the Belgian Parliament House, and lorry loads of friends of democracy came hurrying in from Mons and other places, heavily armed. Here you see the hard-worked Britain, which you are asked to censure to-night. What does this reactionary, undemocratic country do? Orders were sent—I must confess it—to stop the lorries on the way, and to disarm their occupants. Moreover, we British placed light tanks and armoured cars in the side streets near the front of the Parliament House, which the Belgian gendarmerie were defending for the Belgian Government. Here was interference in a marked form. Here was an attempt to stand between the friends of democracy and the valorous, anarchic overthrow of the Belgian State. We British stood in the way of that; I have to admit these things to you.
But under whose orders, and under whose authority, did we take this action? General Erskine, the British officer, made various proclamations, like those that General Scobie has made, on the needs of the situation. His proclamations had a highly salutary effect, and those concerned in the movement of Allied Forces acted accordingly. Who is General Erskine? He is the British head of the Anglo-American Mission, which has been set up to act as a link between the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force and the Belgian Government and people. He represents, is directly responsible to, and derives his authority from General Eisenhower, that remarkable American Supreme Commander, whose wisdom and good fellowship we admire, and whose orders we have promised to obey. The following are instances of General Eisenhower's intervention in Belgian affairs
On 28th October General Erskine handed a letter to M. Pierlot, in which, with the authority of General Eisenhower, he directed that all civilians in Belgium should be disarmed, and asked for the co-operation of the Belgian Government—that is the old Belgian Government, which had been installed in Brussels—in this matter. The letter concluded with the request that the Supreme Commander should receive the immediate assurance that this assistance would be forthcoming, and stating that the Army group commanders—in this instance, Field-Marshal Montgomery—would then be instructed to offer all assistance. On 11th November His Majesty's representative in Brussels reported to the Supreme Commander that he had himself been in Brussels on the previous day, and had met the Belgian Prime Minister and Government. He had reaffirmed his decision to give them all the assistance they required in carrying out the disarmament of the Resistance Forces. On 29th November the Belgian Government received information that armed demonstrators were on their way in lorries from Mons, and intended to attack Government offices. The Belgian Government made an official appeal for Allied support—I am talking about Belgium now, not Greece, because the positions seem so very similar—and the necessary precautions were taken by S.H.A.E.F., and the measures I have described were taken by the British troops and Belgian gendarmerie.
Personally, as the House will readily guess, I consider that General Eisenhower's decisions were absolutely right, and that they stopped disorder and tumult along the lines of communication. After all, these lines of communication, from Antwerp forward, are those which will sustain several millions of men in their forward march into Germany in this war—which I should be sorry to see go on longer than is necessary. Not only did we obey General Eisenhower's orders, but we thought these orders wise and sensible.
Might I be permitted to continue this argument? [Interruption.] I will give the hon. Gentleman the opportunity when I have finished the particular phase of the argument that I am dealing with. I do not want to deny any courtesy—although it would be abusing that courtesy if the hon. Gentleman turned a question into a speech. After all, we British, who are now suggested to be poor friends of democracy, lost 35,000 to 40,000 men in opening up the great port of Antwerp, and our Navy has cleared the Scheldt river. The sacrifice of these men has always to be considered, as well as the friends of democracy advancing in lorries—in lorries—from Mons, to start a bloody revolution in Brussels.
Did General Eisenhower or General Erskine receive any information confirming the threat, other than the appeal from the Belgian Prime Minister; and is it not a fact that the military authorities in Belgium are satisfied that the Belgian Prime Minister unwarrantedly asked for the intervention of British troops? Does not all the evidence now coming forward go to show that there was no such threat as the right hon. Gentleman pretends?
I back up those who seek to establish democracy and civilisation.—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) must learn to take as well as to give. There is no one more free with interruptions, taunts, and jibes than he is. I saw him—I heard him, not saw him—almost assailing some of the venerable figures on the bench immediately below him. He need not get so angry because the House laughs at him; he ought to be pleased when they only laugh at him. As I said, I back up all those who seek to establish democracy and civilisation on a basis of law, and also popular, untramelled, unintimidated, free, universal suffrage voting. It would be pretty hard on Europe if, after four or five years of German tyranny, she was liquidated and degenerated and plunged into a series of brutal social wars. If the friends of democracy and its various defenders believe that they express the wishes of the majority, why cannot they wait for the General Election; why cannot they await the free vote of the people—which is our sole policy in every country into which British and American Armies are advancing? There is the story of Belgium, which I submit, with the utmost respect and affection, to the American people, as well as to the House of Commons, carries many lessons which are applicable to other parts of the world.
Now I come to the case of Italy, which is, I gather, oddly enough, embodied in the case of Count Sforza. The Amendment does not specifically mention his name, but other communications which have been given to the world seem to show that in this respect also we have offended against democracy. It is a great mistake, as the Foreign Secretary said, and quite untrue, that we have vetoed Count Sforza's appointment to be Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary of the Italian Government. The Allies alone could do that. The Italians, having unconditionally surrendered, have a perfect right to choose anyone they please for any office of State. That, so they say, is one of their fundamental rights, and it belongs naturally to any country which has unconditionally surrendered, after having done most grievous injuries to its conquerors. We have not attempted to put our veto on the appointment of Count Sforza. If to-morrow the Italians were to make him Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary, we have no power to stop it, except with the agreement of the Allies. All that we would have to say about it is that we do not trust the man, we do not think he is a true and trustworthy man, nor do we put the slightest confidence in any Government of which he is a dominating member. I think we should have to put a great deal of responsibility for what might happen on those who called him to power.
How little helpful it is to the progress of our Debate to fling in other large questions. I am not speaking about France to-day. I certainly never felt about de Gaulle the sentiments which experience has engendered in me about Count Sforza. De Gaulle is a man of honour, and has never broken his word. That is what I am coming to, because these things have to come out. I say that we should have to put a great deal of responsibility on those who called him to power. We are not avid of becoming deeply involved in the politics of the conquered or liberated countries. All we require from them is a Government which will guarantee us the necessary protection, and facilities for the lines of communication, from Naples to Ravenna, lately taken, and to the North.
This statement was made on the Floor of the House, in Secret Session—that is the allegation. The allegation of the hon. Gentleman is that I made a certain statement here in Secret Session. I submit that I cannot reply to that statement, because of the strict Rules of the House.
There is no question about it that any statement which refers to something said in Secret Session is distinctly out of Order, and should not be made. The hon. Member really must remember that we passed a particular Resolution, which makes it an offence.
Have I the right, Mr. Speaker, to say that I am not the hon. Member responsible? The intervention was made by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) that the Prime Minister had said something about General de Gaulle, and I said that that statement had been made in Secret Session, and asked if the hon. Member was entitled to make this statement in the House.
I think the hon. Member was somewhat unfortunate in that he drew attention to the fact that some statement was made in Secret Session. Indeed, to do so is definitely out of Order and a breach of our Rules.
I make no comment at all. The hon. Gentleman, no doubt, has quoted many things I have said, as he has a right to do. As I say, our interest in Italy is in the front where we have Armies engaged under General Alexander and General Mark Clark, that daring and skilful American General under whom we have confidently placed an Army which is at least three-quarters British or British-controlled.
At this point, I will take a little lubrication, if it is permissible. I think it is always a great pleasure to the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) to see me drinking water.
We have a joint arrangement with the Americans about Italy, and we should be very sorry if it were proved that we had broken away from this joint arrangement, and we have not done so, in any way. When, in the shifting tangles and contortions of Italian politics with six parties rolling over each other, with all their conflicts of political interests, none of them being hampered by having been elected by anybody, in this confused scene, we were suddenly told that Count Sforza was to become Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary. The British Minister, Mr. Hopkinson, who is under the Ambassador, did undoubtedly say to the Italian inquirer that we did not think this would be a particularly good choice, or words to that effect. We had a perfect right to say this. We could not stop his being chosen, but we had a right to say our say. We were entitled to say, as I say, that we did not think it would help the conduct of Italian affairs to choose for this office a man with whom Britain, if she counts for anything, would not care to establish cordial relations.
What is the reason for this prejudice on our part? I would not like to make charges against public men without giving reasons, or one of the essential reasons. Why is it that we, and I particularly, say we have no trust in him, that we do not think he would be the sort of man we would like to have to do business with round the table? I must go back to the time of the Italian collapse and surrender in 1943.
Count Sforza, who had been living for 20 years in America, was very anxious to get back to Italy. We did not think that this would be a good thing in the extremely disordered and tumultuous state in which Italy was left on the morrow of her revolt against Germany. However, on 23rd September Count Sforza sent the following message to Marshal Badoglio, and repeated it in a letter to Mr. Berle, from which I have the President's permission to quote:
I have read with extreme interest the statement of Marshal Badoglio of the 16th September, 1943, unequivocally stating that he considers the defeat of the Germans and their expulsion from Italy to be his primary duty and urging all Italians to join in this struggle.
In my view, it now becomes the paramount duty of all Italians, irrespective of party or political differences, to support and assist in the struggle to crush German Arms and to drive every German soldier from Italian soil.
So long as Marshal Badoglio is engaged in that task and is acceptable to Allies in devoting Italian military resources to that struggle, I consider it criminal to do anything to weaken his position or hamper his work in fighting for the liberation of Italy and the Italian people. I am prepared to offer my full support so long as he is thus engaged, all the more because it is the only way to destroy the last criminal remnants of Fascism.
Matters of internal politics can, and should be, adjourned for the period of the struggle, and activities, military and political, of all Italians who seek freedom and the future of their Fatherland should be devoted to supporting the organised forces which are endeavouring to overthrow the common enemy. I pledge my honour to do this myself, and urge this course on my many friends and associates.
As Count Sforza passed through London, I was anxious to ascertain whether this was his sincere resolve or not, because something had appeared in another paper which was of a different tenor. We had a meeting, at which the Minister of State and Sir Alexander Cadogan, of the Foreign Office, were present. I went through this letter with Count Sforza almost line by line, and he assured me that it represented his most profound conviction. No sooner, however, had he got back to Italy than he began that long series of intrigues which ended in the expulsion of Marshal Badoglio from office. Many may be very glad of this, but it is not the point I am considering. The point is whether he did not most completely, and without explanation, depart, at a very early day, from the solemn undertaking he gave, and without which we should have had
power, I think, to convince our American friends, with whom we act in common, that it would not be a good thing for him to go back.
I must be careful, because I am infringing on foreign affairs. It was because of armed violence threatened by one side and armed violence being used against it by the other.
I am not a bit afraid of anything I have said in a long political life. I certainly thought, at that particular time, that the kind of regime set up in Italy at that time was better than a general slump of Italy into the furious Bolshevik civil war which was raging in many other parts of Europe. I never see the slightest good in going back on what you have said, and the hon. Member himself has views of his own which seem to be equally obnoxious to all parties in the House.
I have no particular need to defend Marshal Badoglio. It does not arise in the course of the argument, except that we got from him the Italian Fleet, which came over intact, except for the loss of one ship and 1,700 men, and there was no moment in his tenure of office when he did not do his utmost to carry out his bond and help to drive the Germans from Italy and keep good order behind the lines. In other words, he helped Italy to work her passage home, which is by no means yet completely accomplished.
Presently, he fell a victim to Count Sforza's intrigues, and a six-party Government was formed under Signor Bonomi. Six parties were in the Government, but none had the slightest electoral foundation. They were merely parties like the Commonwealth Party here and had just about the same claim to repre- sent democracy. We now did our best to help this new Government. I travelled to Italy and interviewed Signor Bonomi and others, and took the greatest trouble to draw up a series of mitigations in the treatment of Italy by the victorious Allies. These I proposed to the President by telegraph, and, when we met at Quebec, and when I stayed with him at his home at Hyde Park, we framed a joint declaration designed to give Italians a good chance of playing their part as co-belligerents, and also to make sure, as far as we could manage it, that the necessities of life were not lacking to the masses of the people.
The six parties have now made another contortion. Signor Bonomi has fallen and I understand he has now formed another Government of four out of the previous six parties. We wish him well. We have no objection at all to his forming a Government of four parties. Indeed, it is a remarkable thing to keep together for so many years.
I do not challenge the hon. Gentleman when the truth leaks out of him by accident from time to time.
The House will be glad that I now come to Greece, which forms the mainspring of the Vote of Censure we have to meet to-day. I have taken great responsibilities for our foreign policy towards Greece and also in respect of what has taken place in Athens, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have worked in the closest agreement. On or about 16th August, it became evident that the magnificent advance of the Russian Armies—[HON. MEMBERS: "Bolsheviks."] Oh, no. That is a very mischievous remark. Some hon. Members are always trying to entrap me, when we have to have these difficult Debates on foreign affairs, into saying something which would seem to be disrespectful to the splendid patriot Armies which have cleansed the soil of Russia.
I say that we have taken great responsibilities, and when in August it became evident that the Russian advance along the Black Sea shore, and their probable impact upon Rumania and Bulgaria was imminent, and this taken together with the advance of the British and American Armies up the Italian Peninsula, and also with the growing power of Marshal Tito and his partisans—whom we have always supported—would make the position of the Germans in Greece untenable. I therefore proposed to the President that we should try to gather forces to enter Greece as and when the German position was sufficiently weakened, and, above all, to save Athens from the anarchy and starvation which threatened it. I pointed out that, if there was a long hiatus after the German authorities went from the city before an organised Government could be set up, it was very likely that the E.A.M. and the Communist extremists would attempt to seize the city and crush all other forms of Greek expression but their own.
But we had the right to express a point of view on the Greek question, because in an attempt to redeem our pledged word, we have sustained 30,000 casualties, in what may, perhaps, be called a chivalrous resolve to share the miseries of Greece when she was invaded by Italy and Germany in 1941. At this time we were all alone ourselves in the world. My honoured friend, the President, was of opinion that we should certainly have plans made and accordingly, at the Quebec Conference, it was proposed by the combined Chiefs of Staff that the British should prepare a Force to occupy the Athens area and so pave the way for the commencement of relief and for the establishment of law and order and for the instalment of the Greek Government, which we and the great bulk of the United Nations had formally recognised. The Americans and ourselves began to accumulate large masses of food and shipping, and established U.N.R.R.A. U.N.R.R.A. began to grow up in Alexandria and other organisations for food distribution were actively engaged, and we gathered our much strained shipping vessels together at the cost of food to this country. A large part of these stores and medical relief were provided by America out of her riches. The rest of the burden fell upon us, and, of course, the diminution of shipping falls heavily upon us.
The proposal of the combined Chiefs of Staff was initialled by the President and me, and on 14th September a directive was sent by the combined Chiefs of Staff to General Wilson, the Supreme Commander in the Mediterranean, with whom I had already consulted on the military aspects. He was instructed to take the necessary action as and when he thought fit. All through 1944 we have had the usual trouble with the Greek Government and Greek troops in Egypt. There were mutinies and disorders; there were repeated resignations of Ministers and repeated returns to office but out of this emerged a man, Papandreou, who had lived all this time in Greece without being in the slightest degree subservient to the enemy or losing his reputation in any way on such a charge, and when he came out he restored order to the Greek Government, which is the constitutional Government and which can only be displaced by a free vote of the people.
At an hotel in the Lebanon in May, 1944, a long meeting was held between the Papandreou Government and leaders of all parties in Greece, including E.A.M., whom we brought out by air. An agreement was reached to establish a joint Government which could take over power in Athens when, with or without the power of the Allies, it was freed from the Germans. At the same time we prepared in deepest secrecy our British expedition. We did not think it necessary to tell anyone about it, not even the Greek Government. It was duly authorised by the British and American Chiefs of Staff and secrecy was all important, and secrecy in this case was also preserved. M. Papandreou repeatedly appealed to us in the name of his Government of all parties, including the Communists and E.A.M., to come to the rescue with armed forces and was much disappointed when I was unable to give him any definite reply. Our first move was to bring the Greek Government from Cairo, where they were living, to Caserta, which was the head-quarters in Italy, so that they might be ready to go in should we at any time find it possible to provide the troops, about which we said nothing. When all was in readiness and the right moment came, General Wilson struck by air and by sea, and this enterprise, like so many others, which the House must not forget in judging this afternoon the fate of the National Government, was marked by excellent timing and extreme efficiency and was also crowned with complete success.
The British troops were welcomed enthusiastically as they entered Athens and so also was the Greek Brigade, which had mutinied earlier in the year but was freed from the mutinous element. I took great trouble about this Brigade to give it a chance to redeem its reputation. It not only redeemed its reputation but won renown for the Greek Army by entering Rimini at the head of the Allied Forces. By wresting Rimini from the Germans, this Brigade now came back to Athens, having heaped coals of fire upon the Italian heads who had invited the Germans to ruin Greece. But now the Greeks helped the Italians to drive the Germans from Italy itself, and this Brigade was received with a great welcome in the streets of Athens. By this time M. Papandreou had gathered no less than six E.A.M. representatives into his Government, and the leader of the Liberal Party, Mr. Sophoulis, a veteran and venerable counsellor of 84 or 85 years of age.—[An HON. MEMBER: "You are getting on."]—Oh yes, I am getting on; we are all getting on. Mr. Sophoulis was already complaining that too many E.A.M. and Communist representatives were already installed in places of power. M. Papandreou, however, is a man of the Left, a democrat, a Socialist, not a Liberal or anything like that, in fact almost everything that is supposed to be correct nowadays, M. Papandreou put his trust in those six gentlemen.
I cannot pronounce any of those names rightly. Meanwhile, the forces of E.L.A.S., which is the military instrument of E.A.M., were planning a descent on Athens as a military and political operation and the seizure of power by armed force. E.L.A.S. is a mixed body and it would be unfair to stigmatise them all as being entirely self-seeking in their aims and actions. Nevertheless, during the years of Greek captivity I must say that E.L.A.S. devoted far more attention to beating up and destroying the representatives of the E.D.E.S., commanded by Colonel Zervas, a man of the Left by our standards.
Even extremes meet. He was less extreme than E.A.M. He was a man who was correct according to the current jargon. The wrong element of the E.A.M. devoted themselves more to attacking Zervas and his followers on the West side of Greece than they did to attacking the Germans themselves. For the past two years E.L.A.S. have devoted themselves principally to preparations for seizing power. We may, some of us, have underrated the extremes to which those preparations have been carried or the many privations and cruelties which have been inflicted on the village populations in the areas over which they prevail. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the evidence?"] I have taken every pains to collect information and everything I say on fact in these matters has been most carefully examined beforehand by the officials who are thoroughly acquainted with the details.
I really must be allowed to continue my argument. [Interruption.] Of course, in this House we are Conservatives, Labour, Liberal and so forth; we are not E.L.A.S. and E.D.E.S. as some gentlemen seem to imagine. They did not hesitate, on occasion, to help the Germans to catch and kill the representatives of E.D.E.S.
In this country we do try to have debate. The hon. Gentleman who, I am sure, has been treated with extraordinary and great consideration in this House in these times, should learn to keep his mouth shut. E.L.A.S. did not hesitate on occasion to help the Germans to catch and kill the supporters of E.D.E.S. The German rule in Greece was feeble and took the form mainly of hideous reprisals upon the unhappy countryside and it was from this that by a kind of tacit agreement the Security Battalions, some of which were a kind of local Home Guard of the villages against predatory E.L.A.S. bands, came into being. Others were formed and acted in a manner contrary to the interests of the country. From the depredations and ravages of E.L.A.S. there was, however, as we can now see, a fairly well organised plot or plan by which E.L.A.S. should march down upon Athens and seize it by armed force and establish a reign of terror under the plea that they were purging collaborationists.
How much the Germans knew about this before they left I cannot tell, but a number of them have been left behind and are fighting in E.L.A.S. ranks. Faced by this prospect, the Greek Government containing the six E.A.M. Ministers tried to arrange for a general disarmament to be followed by the creation of a National Army or Home Guard of about 40,000 strong. This met with a ready response in all districts which E.L.A.S. could not dominate, but the formation of this national army had not advanced to a point where they could offer effective resistance to the organised movement of subversive forces intending to overwhelm the State by violence. Also, the police in Athens, who had lived through the vicissitudes of the German tyranny, were no sure guarantee of stability. While all this was coming to a head, peace and order reigned in the city of the violet crown. Sir David Waley and treasury experts toiled to save the drachma and to re-establish a stable currency, and the British Navy and merchant ships were landing at the Piraeus stores, mainly American, which actually reached a total, I am told, of 45,000 tons in a single week. We came therefore to Greece, with American and Russian consent, at the invitation of the Government of all parties, bearing with us such good gifts as liberty, order, food, and the assurance of an absolute right to determine their own future as soon as conditions of normal tranquillity were regained.
I told the House that I would be frank with them. I have stated our action in detail. I must admit that not everyone agreed with the course we have taken, for which I accept the fullest responsibility. There were those who said, "Why worry about Greece?" I am not speaking of Cabinet discussions. I come in contact with many streaks of opinion. They said, "Why worry about Greece? If they have to starve, there are other countries in like plight. Haven't we enough on our own hands without being lumbered into this job of International Red Cross, U.N.R.R.A., and maintaining order while the process of liberation and of distribution of food is going on? Why not let Athens take its chance? What does it matter to us if it falls under another tyranny when the Germans go, and if its people starve? We have full occupation for every man that we can call to our service for work against the German foe." Well, Sir, these are powerful arguments, especially when put in a more attractive form than I have cast them, but His Majesty's Government felt that having regard to the sacrifices that they made at the time of the German invasion of Greece, and to the long affection which has grown between the Greek and British people since their liberation in the last century, and having regard also to the decisions and agreements of our principal Allies, we should see what we could do to give these unfortunate people a fair chance of extricating themselves from their misery and starting on a clear road again. That is the only wish and ambition which we had, or anyone in the British Government had, for our entry into Greece and for the action forced upon us there. That is our only wish and, personally, I am not ashamed of it.
However, events began to move. The carefully prepared forces of E.L.A.S. began to infiltrate into Athens and into the Piraeus. The other bodies began to move down from the Northern hills towards the city. The six E.A.M. Ministers resigned from the Government at this timely moment. One gentleman, I believe, was a little slow, but on being rung up on the telephone and told he would be killed if he did not come out, he made haste to follow the general practice. The intention of the "friends of democracy" who now entered the city was to overthrow by violence the constitutional Government of Greece and to instal themselves without anything in the nature of an election, as the violent expression of the people's will. And here the trouble came to a head. I repudiate, as I have said, the idea that democracy can stand upon a violent seizure of power by unrepresentative men, or that it can be maintained by terrorism and the killing of political opponents. No doubt there are others who have a different view. We, however, were now assured by General Wilson—who is up to the present moment in actual charge of the Mediterranean—that we had ample Forces in Greece and on the way. Moreover, we did not feel it compatible with our honour, or with the obligations into which we have entered with many people in Greece in the course of our presence there, to wash our hands of the whole business, make our way to the sea, as we easily could, and leave Athens to anarchy and misery, followed by tyranny established on murder. We may not be level with the strongest Powers in the modern world, but hitherto we have always been ready to risk our blood and such treasure as we have to defend our honour.
In the small hours of Tuesday morning, with the full approval of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, I informed General Wilson that he was responsible for providing sufficient forces on the spot, and very substantial numbers of highly trained troops which he had already sent were being reinforced. At the same time I directed General Scobie, who has shown very great qualities of sobriety, poise, and at the same time martial vigour, to assume complete control of Athens and the district around it, and to use whatever force might be necessary to drive out and extirpate the E.L.A.S. bands by which the capital had then become infested. I also directed our Ambassador to do his utmost to prevail upon M. Papandreou, who seemed to wish to resign, to remain in power. I did this because nothing could be more silly or futile or dangerous than to have violent street fighting proceeding all around the Prime Minister's hotel while he was endeavouring to transfer his powers to some other leader, perhaps M. Sophoulis, 84 years of age, and arrangeing with the five or six principal parties all the details of a new Administration. I thought it would be much better to have calm and peace and order in Athens before any question of political change in the Administration was embarked upon. It is a great pity to have everything in the melting pot at once, though this is one of the well-known subversive methods by which the undoing of States, great and small, has often been accomplished.
If I am blamed for this action I will gladly accept my dismissal at the hands of the House; but if I am not so dismissed—make no mistake about it—we shall persist in this policy of clearing Athens and the Athens region of all who are rebels to the authority of the constitutional Government of Greece—[HON. MEMBERS: "'Constitutional'"]—of mutineers to the orders of the supreme commander in the Mediterranean—[HON. MEMBERS: "Quislings."]—under whom all the guerillas have undertaken to serve. I hope I have made the position clear, both generally as it affects the world and the war, and the Government. I have no fear at all that the most searching inquiries into the policy we have pursued in Europe—in Belgium, in Holland, in Italy and in Greece—the most searching examination will entitle any man into whose breast fairness and fair-play enter, to accuse us of pursuing reactionary policies, of hampering the free expression of the national will, or of not endeavouring to enable the countries that have suffered the curse of German occupation to resume again the normal, free, democratic life which they desire and which, as far as this House can act, we shall endeavour to secure for them.
I think that most people in the House have given great credit, and rightly, to the Prime Minister for his fine war record, but I think it is also true to say that a very large number of people in the country at the present time are very full of disquiet about the recent policy of the Prime Minister with regard to Greece. The Prime Minister said a little earlier in his speech that his record of public life right the way through would stand up very well as now representing the views of the Government on this question of democracy. However, I would like to remind the Prime Minister of the occupation of Archangel in 1919, and of the war of intervention in Russia and of his exploitation of the Bolshevist bogy at that particular time. Many people in the country are feeling that, great as is the Prime Minister's record in connection with this war, he is himself a man who is a little overfond of warfare. People are defintely feeling that we have our plate very full already with the wars against Germany and Japan, and they do not want a war in Greece as well and that, to be quite frank, is what the Prime Minister's policy is landing us in. We are seeing our own people being shot down in the streets of Athens at the present time. My own brother, I believe, is over in Greece just now. He went there with his comrades not to fight Greeks, but definitely, having been through the North Africa and Italian campaigns, to fight the Nazi and Fascist enemies which this country has been fighting in the course of this war—Germany, Italy and Japan. It is, I think, a very different thing to ask our troops to intervene in the internal affairs of Greece—and that is definitely what many people in this country are feeling is the policy of the Government at the present time.
At the present time in Greece I understand that there is not a German on the mainland. There are still German garrisons left on some of the islands, and I think it would be quite reasonable that we should have Forces there to contain them, but it is a different thing to argue that it is necessary to have large forces in Greece for the purpose of waging war against the Germans at this time when their rearguard is somewhere in the Montenegrin mountains. But to leave that point. The view in my constituency at present—and it has had a very severe basting with bombs, rockets, and so on during the war and has stood up remarkably well to that basting—the view of my constituents is that they are tired of the war. They agree with Field-Marshal Montgomery that it is time the war finished as soon as possible. They are quite prepared, in spite of being tired of war, to do everything possible to win it speedily, to put an end to the wars with Germany and Japan, but they are not going to be at all pleased with the idea of being drawn into another war in Greece, and into other possible wars in other countries, because those countries want to have Governments of which the Prime Minister disapproves. That is the view, not only of my own constituents, but of a great many people at this time.
I would like to warn the Prime Minister of this: The last war Prime Minister of this country got into trouble over Greece. I would like to remind my hon. Friend that it was the party opposite who turned out the then Prime Minister in 1922, because they felt that the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to Greece, was likely to involve the country in another war, and the people of this country were tired of wars.
Of course there were a lot of other things, but there is an important point in common between the position then and now. The people of this country do not want more war at the present time, and I would remind the Prime Minister of the fate of the previous War Prime Minister on a similar issue.
With regard to the present position in Greece, supposing we occupy Athens—as I think it is likely we shall do—and all the surrounding neighbourhood, are we to go on and occupy Salonika and all the big towns in Greece? Are we to try and crush the E.L.A.S. movement right through that country? If we are to try and do that, we shall have a very difficult job before us. We shall be in the same position in Greece as the Germans were in; we shall occupy the great towns and ports and rail communications, and probably the airfields. We shall not be able to occupy all the mountains and hills, and the underground movement, which has been very well organised to fight the Germans, will with very great ease take up the job of fighting us. We shall have to try forcibly to maintain our authority in Greece, on exactly the same lines as the Germans did before us, and we shall, therefore, meet with the same kind of resistance. Our people will be shot in the back and all that sort of thing if we carry out the policy of the Prime Minister in backing the line taken in Athens; that is what we are in for. As soon as casualties begin to come in on a considerable scale people will want to know where the Government's policy is leading. Our position should be friendship with the Greek people. We have a fine record of friendship with them, from the time of Byron, and it would be a great tragedy if that friendship was broken. I cannot understand why we should support the setting up of a tyranny in Greece. No one can pretend that the present Government is in any way a constitutionally-appointed Government. It was appointed by the King, and first and foremost is a dictatorship. The present Government have no more justification on a legal or constitutional basis than E.L.A.S. or anybody else. We might get a Government containing all the main parties which might make such claims, but the present Government cannot claim to be constitutional, and I am surprised that the Prime Minister tried to use that argument.
In the course of his speech he argued about Belgium and so on, but did not deal at all with the able case made out by the mover and seconder of the Amendment about the Greek situation. In fact, he ran away from many points which were put in regard to Greece. We in this country, from the start of this war, have made many propaganda broadcasts to Greece, and have done a good deal of propaganda in other ways, all upon the line that we intend to give the Greek people the right to choose their own Government and freedom in doing that. The action of our Government at the moment is letting down the whole of the propaganda we have put over to Greece in the past. That is a serious thing to do. I ask this Government to show their talk about democracy for the Greek people by actions, and not by professions. The Prime Minister has given lip service in regard to democracy in Greece, but it is actions that count. In regard to the question of the behaviour of E.L.A.S. in the past and security bands, I think that is a red herring. Resistance movements in Europe, in fighting against the Nazis, have had to take the things they needed by force in order to live, and in so doing have sometimes incurred the wrath of the peasantry, but whenever they have been supplied with money, munitions and food, dropped from airplanes by ourselves or Russia, they have had to do less of that. When this Government quarrelled with E.L.A.S. it forced them to use force in order to maintain themselves. The argument advanced by the Prime Minister with regard to Greece could very well have been advanced against the resistance movements in Yugoslavia, Poland and France. There is no justification for saying that these security bands were set up in order to stop the peasantry being robbed. It is amazing that the Prime Minister should have used that argument. I would like to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) said about the feeling many Greeks have about our Ambassador in Greece and his actions there. They believe that he has behaved in the different discussions which have taken place in an extraordinarily hysterical way——
On a point of Order. Is it not the case, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that His Majesty's representatives in foreign countries are assumed to be acting under the orders of the Foreign Secretary, and is it not, therefore, the custom of this House that if there is need to criticise the action of a foreign representative that criticism should be directed to the Minister responsible in this House, and that the representative overseas should not be mentioned by name, or criticised?
There is a strong feeling that the actions of our Ambassador in Greece have not been helpful to the good relations between our Government and the Greek people, and I would like to suggest that if we want to have more friendly relations it is the job of this Government to see that we are represented by a more adequate and less partisan Ambassador than we have had in Greece up to now——
I cannot help feeling that the speeches made by the mover and seconder of the Amendment, admirable and able though they were, will do nothing to clear the situation in Athens. In fact, I am afraid that they will do something to exacerbate the feelings which are already running disastrously high. That British troops should have fired on men who, a fortnight ago, were their Allies, men who, during attacks by Italians upon Greece, took part in the struggles to hurl them back, is a disaster. I do not use such a romantic and poetic description of the tragic circumstances in Greece as was used by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), but I would ask him to believe me that my regret at such a tragedy is at least as sincere as his own. A disaster it undoubtedly is, but disasters do happen in war, and what we want to do now is to find out whether the disaster was avoidable and take steps, if possible, to see that it does not occur again.
What were the alternatives confronting His Majesty's Government and the commander of the troops in Athens? It seems to me that there were only two. The first was definitely to make up our minds to keep order or, secondly, to withdraw our troops altogether from Athens and Greece. That could have been done, because so far as my knowledge goes the port of Piraeus is not absolutely essential for our lines of communication. But, as the Prime Minister said, to do so would be a breach of our undertaking to the inhabitants of Athens The Prime Minister said that a general election had been promised. Why could not they wait for that election? May I say why I think they could not wait? A very large number of members of E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. believe—and, I think, genuinely—that that election will be deferred to the very last possible moment, and that when it does take place it will do so under such conditions that an accurate reflection of the opinion of the people is almost impossible. They think it will be a repetition of the election in Austria, when Hitler received such an overwhelming majority immediately following the so-called Anschluss. They believe that the polling stations will be picketed by our men, and that ballot boxes coming in from the districts where E.A.M. have a predominating influence will disappear on the way. They have no trust in the election being carried on fairly, because they know how the election was carried on in Austria, where a voter was handed a paper and made his cross in the presence of a polling clerk in Nazi uniform who kept his thumb on the trigger of an automatic pistol. It is true that there was a curtained recess in the corner to which a voter was invited to take his paper if he wished to do so, but the invitation was made in such a threatening and menacing tone that few people took that course in face of the possibility of trouble immediately afterwards.
That is why E.L.A.S. is so sceptical about a general election, and I think that the only way we can calm down their fears is by arranging for this general election, when it takes place, to be carried out under international supervision. After all, not so long ago a plebiscite decided whether the Saar should remain with France or Germany. It was carried out under international supervision, which was a great success. At any rate, the Germans were satisfied, and so far as I know none of the French actually complained. What has happened has happened, and we want to ensure that it does not happen again. To do that we must try to bring the various parties in Greece—unfortunately, there are more than two—into agreement. That agreement must be something on these lines: first that a general election should take place at the latest within two months after the defeat of Germany, and, secondly, that it should take place under international supervision. That being so, who is to do the supervising? In the Saar it was done, I think, by ourselves and the Swedes. I do not think it is necessary to have two nations in this case. Who, then, is it to be? I am much afraid that we have to some extent "blotted our copy book," certainly in the view of many E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. supporters. An election to be carried out under British supervision would not give satisfaction to many, and it seems to me that under those circumstances it should be carried out by the American Army. Of course, we do not know at the present moment whether the Americans would be willing to take such a responsibility, but from what we all know about the public spirit and international mindedness of President Roosevelt I have little doubt that if it was put to him he would see that the election was supervised and fairly and properly carried out.
Is there any chance of getting the conflicting parties in Greece to agree to these terms? I think there is, because we could say to the E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. parties, "Unless you agree to this your resistance will be put down with the strongest possible hand," and we could say to the present Government in Athens, "Unless you agree we will withdraw from the country and let you"—if I may use a vulgar expression—"stew in your own juice." I think that under these circumstances agreement could be reached between the parties and the election carried on fairly and squarely under the supervision of the American Army. This tragedy was within an ace of happening in Belgium. It might easily happen in France, Yugoslavia, and, possibly, even in Czechoslovakia. Action taken on these lines will do much to discourage that, because if to the tragedy of war there is to be added the super-tragedy of civil war, and nations, after having been liberated from four or more years of Nazi tyranny, are at once to proceed to cut their own throats, it is a poor outlook for the future of Europe. It is for that reason that I ask the House to reject the Amendment.
Like my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment and, I am sure, like many hon. Members on the other side of the House, I feel the most intense regret that this poignant situation has arisen in a country which has been so long and so closely endeared to us by ties of mutual respect and by traditional sharing of the love of freedom. Indeed, it was from Greece originally that we learnt the very meaning of freedom and democracy. It is tragic that this situation has arisen. None the less, we must, I am afraid, put the blame for the situation firmly on the shoulders of the British Government. It is tragic that we should be returning to Greece now, not as Byrons but, in the opinion of many of the Greek people, as bullies, or as the accomplices of bullies.
I thought that the Prime Minister's speech was very ingenious, very evasive, and in many parts very unsound. I entirely agree with him, of course, in disapproving anything which could be called swindle-democracy; but I think that our definitions of that phrase would probably differ somewhat. At any rate, I do not think that the Prime Minister, despite the great length of his remarks, which ranged over the whole of Europe, as they were perfectly entitled to do, at any point answered the substantial and detailed indictment made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland). Early in his speech he rode away from that by saying that the hon. Baronet had gone into a great deal of detail and these matters were very complicated, and so on, and he returned to Greece at the end of his speech. I agree that the hon. Baronet did go into great detail, but I think the detailed evidence, so far as it can be ascertained, is extremely important and should be probed thoroughly, and that on both sides of the House we should make a genuine attempt to sort out the facts from the tangle of prejudice which has surrounded them. One point with which the Prime Minister did not deal was the hon. Baronet's very serious allegation about the leaflet that was dropped on a particular date. I hope the Foreign Secretary will fill up some of the gaps in the Prime Minister's apologia.
There are one or two aspects of this tragic situation on which I should like to say a few words. One is about what one may call the feeling in the country about it. There is a disposition in some quarters, I think on both sides of the House, to say that people in the country are not interested in foreign affairs, that they are interested in housing and other domestic matters of great urgency, but are not really concerned with what happens in far-off countries, of which, as Mr. Chamberlain once put it disastrously, we know nothing. I should not altogether agree with that. I believe that in the last year or two people have begun to take a far deeper interest in foreign affairs than they did in the years before the war. Again and again from rather unexpected quarters, in quite remote country places, and among people in whom you would not expect to find it, I have found an interest in broad issues of foreign affairs, such as the Darlan incident, and I believe that this Greek crisis is another occasion on which large sections of the people are profoundly anxious and deeply stirred. No doubt that has been contributed to by the Press. Wide sections of the Press—not only the strictly Left Wing Press—have taken up a critical attitude towards the Government on this matter. I do not think that even the Prime Minister would accuse, for instance, "The Daily Mail" or "The Daily Sketch" of being Bolshevist rags, but both of them have printed, in one case in the form of an editorial and in the other in the form of a very long letter from Mr. Compton Mackenzie, sharp and stern criticisms of the Government's attitude towards the Greek situation. All this, no doubt, has contributed towards the building-up in these last few days of some anxiety in the public mind, which is now beginning to reflect itself in the letters and telegrams that we are getting. Some of the telegrams are to a certain extent organised, so to speak, but one can usually, after some experience of one's correspondence, discriminate between the organised "pressure-group" type of telegram or letter and the genuine, spontaneous one.
Now I want to say a little about the feeling in Greece itself, about which, I suppose, all of us have to speak at second-hand and rather speculatively. One can only assess the probabilities as they appear to one personally. One very important fact, which I do not think has been mentioned so far, but which seems to me to have a bearing on the allegation that E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. represent only a tiny minority of the Greek people and, indeed, behave tyrannously towards large sections of the workers and peasants—one important fact which seems to offset that allegation is this: that a year ago, or perhaps more, during the German occupation, E.A.M. was able to organise what was, with the possible exception of Holland, and, on a smaller scale, Luxembourg, the most successful of all the general strikes in occupied territory against the German labour deportations. The fact that E.A.M. was able to organise a pretty successful general strike against the tremendously strongly armed power of the German occupation surely does not suggest that E.A.M. commands an inconsiderable proportion of the respect of the Greek people. [Interruption.] That is the danger, of course—that this policy that we are adopting of backing what I consider the wrong horse, though no doubt the Prime Minister considers it the right horse, is driving them to the same kind of extremes against us. It is a bitter situation. None of us can know really what is in the mind of the Greek people at this moment, but I can well understand that they are acutely anxious and distressed by what may seem to them the possibility that, having thrown out the Nazi-German occupation, they are now going to be plunged by their supposed Ally into another kind of tyranny, not less brutal perhaps because native, of the kind which they learned to know so well in the years during which General Metaxas was in control.
I visited Greece on a number of occasions during the Metaxas régime, and I can certainly confirm what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), that the Metaxas tyranny was hardly less abominable and bloody than that of Mussolini. I saw it at work in detail, and at least one friend of my own, a Liberal journalist, not a Left-Winger, was foully driven to his death in one of Metaxas' concentration camps. That seems to make nonsense of the Prime Minister's implication—I do not think he actually said it—that Greece was accustomed before the German occupation to something in the nature of a mild, democratic, constitutional régime, or that Greece would be entitled to expect such a régime if the same people who were in power before, or groups like them, were to take power again. It is necessary to mention that General Metaxas was supported throughout his régime, and buttressed in power, by the King of the Hellenes. I will say no more about that, but, in view of the Prime Minister's predilection for the King of the Hellenes, which has been publicly made known again and again, it is obvious that the Greek people might well fear that some similar régime might once more be inaugurated there.
The expression "civil war" has been used repeatedly in the last few days, in print and in speeches. I do not know whether the condition of affairs in Greece amounts to civil war. I think it is, perhaps, an illustration of the development of the true character of this war—in my view and that of many other Members—as an international civil war and not a purely national war, as it appears to some hon. Members opposite; but whether this situation can truly be described as civil war I do not know. All that I would say is that, if it is civil war, the responsibility for provoking it lies partly with the Right-Wing and Royalist groups in Athens and partly with His Majesty's Government. I hope that it is not civil war, and I do not think that it is: to my mind it is war between the bulk of the Greek population on one side and a few quislings and Royalists on the other, backed up by British bayonets.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple referred to an Athens radio broadcast of 3rd December. There was another broadcast a few days earlier, also extremely interesting, to which no reference has been made. It was on 27th November that M. Papandreou himself issued a statment on the air in which he openly accused the Right-wing groups and Royalists of attempting to provoke civil war. If, as I am credibly informed, M. Papandreou made that broadcast, I would be grateful if the Foreign Secretary would tell us what bearing it has, in his view, on the situation, and what the sequel to it was.
There is one extract that I should like to read from one of the dispatches of "The Times" correspondent, who has been already referred to, because I think that it is obviously, on internal evidence, an honest and truthful description and a rather vivid picture of the background in Athens at present. On 7th December "The Times" eye-witness correspondent in Athens wrote:
A disgraceful feature of the war that is now raging is the activity of Right Wing elements, such as the notorious 'X' organisation, who were always accused by the Left of being collaborators with the enemy. Wearing Union Jacks prominently on their persons, they are looting and, in the guise of helping the British, paying off old scores. The Athenian police are maintaining their reputation. At least two British casualties were caused by wild shooting by policemen, many of whom spent the entire morning sitting on roofs with rifles and machine-guns and just shooting—at anything or nothing.
That gives a picture of a deplorable situation, and I am afraid that the situation has not been noticeably improved by the Prime Minister's speech, which seemed to me to be concerned more with immediate House of Commons tactics than with truth and justice for the Greek people.
The Prime Minister challenged the House. He said that, of course, if we wanted to and if we disagreed with him on this, we could dismiss him. Of course, he will not be dismissed by this largely servile House; it is really quite an unworthy piece of blackmail on his part to throw out that sort of challenge. He also said, "We know where we are going in Europe." I do not know whether he is going the same way as hon. Members on this side of this House or not, but I think that he is going against world opinion, even if he gets the overwhelming majority that he expects in this House to-day. He is going against much American opinion, presumably against Russian opinion, and against the opinion of large sections of the British Press and the Press in other countries. In my humble submission, he is also going against the opinion of large sections of people in this country and of the overwhelming majority of the Greek people. I hope he will not pursue these courses with what I can only call Gadarene obstinacy.
When the captains and the kings have departed and their enthusiastic supporters have also disappeared, we make audiences of our competitors. It behoves us, therefore, to be conciliatory. This is an issue about which men of courage and conviction must necessarily differ; there is not perhaps the possibility of compromise. It is, therefore, not possible to be uncontroversial. In such circumstances it is, I think, justifiable and useful to dwell for a moment on sentiments which, I believe, will be shared by the whole House with deep conviction. This is an unhappy day for this country and for Greece. From my childhood upwards I was taught to have a particular reverence for Greece, its glorious sunlit land, its brilliant, gay people, who have suffered so much and so deeply, and for so long, whose language speaks to us in accents more commanding and perhaps of more subtle and penetrating emotion than any vehicle of human expression before, and even including, the maturity of the English tongue.
In the years of this war Greece lit, or rather relit, the flame of admiration in the hearts of freedom-loving people by their resistance to the Italian tyrant in the true tradition of Salamis and Marathon. To have taken part in the liberation of Greece was a bright honour even in the annals of the English people, and it is a matter of profound grief that in that liberation there should be this blemish which must be a source of sorrow to both our peoples. Nor can we pass from this occasion without remembering those British casualties who have died at the hands of people whom they had hoped and believed were their friends. I say this, which I am sure will be echoed in many hearts which do not agree with the point of view I am about to put forward, that all of us hope and pray that this suffering and loss will never cause a permanent rift in the happy and long friendship which has existed between England and Greece. It is a matter of profound suffering to many of us who love Greece that once again the same evil which has over 2,500 years inhibited the full development and glory of the Greek genius—internal strife—should once again have marred an occasion which should have been one of unmixed rejoicing.
Having said that, I am bound to say that in this dispute I take up my stand unequivocally, sadly, but without the smallest qualification, in full support of what the Prime Minister has said. I hope that the House will not, if I may use a vulgarism, bog itself down in a discussion of the actual facts of this particular incident. If we were to do so it would be obvious that, for reasons which must occur to many minds, we should be unlikely to arrive at a completely just estimate of what has happened. I should like to quote from documents which have been put into my hands. I do not say that I can assure the House that they are true, but they illustrate the complexity of the position and the difficulty of forming judgment at an early stage of a dispute where deep feelings and antagonisms are aroused. The first is a letter to a Member of this House by an officer who desires to remain anonymous, but who is known to me personally as a man of honour and whose political views do not coincide with my own:
As a debate on Greece is apparently imminent I should like you and any of your friends to hear some precise information about the antecedents. Nearly every British liaison officer in Greece has been aware for at least a year whither our policy on arming E.L.A.S. (E.A.M.) was leading us. These gentlemen have made it perfectly obvious that they have intended to use the arms with which we supplied them to seize political power. On many occasions they have refused to attack the Germans when requested to by us, the reason being that they wanted to conserve their arms and ammunition. E.D.E.S. (Colonel Zervas) on the other hand never refused and the charge levelled against them by E.A.M. was that they were 'subservient to the British.'
In October, 1943, E.L.A.S. actually attacked E.D.E.S. forces in the rear while they were defending the road to Vourgareliow (in the Eperius) an E.D.E.S. stronghold 600 feet high and thus enabled the Germans to reach the village. (The Germans would not have succeeded but for this E.L.A.S. treachery) which they burnt down after seizing all the E.D.E.S. stores (which of course was just what E.L.A.S. wanted).
E.L.A.S. are avowedly anti-British and one of their junior leaders in a rash moment told me they were determined Great Britain should have no influence whatever in Greece if they could help it. In fact at east one British officer was shot dead by E.L.A.S. in 1943 (they said it was an accident) and I know of three others who were arrested, disarmed and humiliated—I can give names—all this because we had suspended supplies to them after the Vourgareliow incident above referred to. The tortures on peasants who refused to
supply mules and food by E.L.A.S. have been beyond description and there was a real reign of terror in the mountains which is why the Germans were able to form their security battalions.
I do not want to coax any identification out of my hon. Friend, but could he say whether his friend who wrote that letter was a liaison officer with E.D.E.S.—because the sympathies of liaison officers usually tend towards the groups to which they are accredited? A very different story would, I believe, be told by the famous Brigadier "Eddie."
It is not any discourtesy to the hon. Gentleman to say that I do not know the answer to his question. The letter was not addressed to me, but the gentleman has been known to me personally for a great number of years. I am quoting these allegations, not because I desire to commit myself to one view or another of the facts, but only to impress on the House the danger of forming a definite opinion one way or the other at a relatively early stage of this incident when there are such strongly conflicting views expressed.
In view of the fact that the hon. Gentleman is reading this, not necessarily because he believes it to be true, but to show the complexity of the situation and how difficult it is to understand what is happening, why are British arms being directed against one particular section?
If I can induce the hon. Gentleman to be patient with me, I hope to satisfy him on that point. There are other facts. Here is a document which was put into my hands by a responsible English journalist this morning. It says:
All information that has reached London has more than confirmed the fact that E.A.M., instead of resisting the enemy, concentrated its activities mainly towards gaining control of the country by force and liquidating its opponents. One need only mention the massacre at Meligala (3,000 victims, the Greek Member of Parliament Mr. Boutos skinned alive), the slaughter of Salonika, and so on.
I omitted it because it is an allegation against the Communist Party which is neither here nor there. Having said that it is extremely dangerous to bog ourselves down in an inquisition into the facts during this Debate, perhaps the House will forgive me if I make one other point. We are asked about the disarming of the various organisations. I hope that they are all disarmed on both sides, because I believe that if this country stands for anything it stands against the use of private armies. But I do hope that if there has not been complete disarming—as to which I express no opinion but hope to hear the opinion of the Government—it will not be used as an argument for retaining the arms in the hands of any particular faction, but only as an argument for disarming those factions which remain with arms in their hands.
The question I wanted to ask the hon. Member was whether he thought that, by incorporating one faction into the regular army, equal justice was done between the two parties?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for showing such an interest in my speech, but it does rather illustrate the very point which I was seeking to make, the danger of getting ourselves bogged down in individual discussions of the facts. We want to get our principles right, and to give the Government a clear mandate on matters of principle. I wanted to say what I hope a great number of people outside my own party will agree with, that those who have pressed this Amendment to-day are really not understanding, as they think they are, the real nature of the situation in Europe with which this country is increasingly confronted as the nations become liberated. We are in the presence here, in an exaggerated degree, of a phenomenon which is common to the end of all wars, the breakdown of law and order as such, and a growing disregard, on more sides than one, of the regard for human decency which is the basis of civilised life. I believe that it is the mission of this country, the United States of America and Russia to re-establish in Europe a regard for the authority of law, and a respect for human personality as such. I am aware that there are hon. Members opposite who always accuse the Conservative Party of using law and order as a sort of decoy, in order to attract members of the Left into their ranks, but I beg Members of the great constitutional party which sits opposite to me in this House not to take so facile a view on this occasion. They seek to seize—if I may use the expression—by constitutional methods power in this country. We seek to stop them by constitutional methods. Unless there exists in both parties a real respect for the machinery and panoply of authority of the State as such, and unless each party is prepared to defend that with its life, if need be, democracy and Parliamentary government are certain to come to an end. I make an appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, my political opponents in this land, to join with me in seeking to support the Government in re-establishing a respect for law and authority all over Europe, which alone can be the basis of the proper activities of Left and Right alike.
I quite appreciate the appropriateness of the hon. Member's interruption but I want to keep the House as little as possible. Let us try to consider the situation, not necessarily in Greece but in any country, into which the Allied Armies happen to move, whether into Belgium, Czechoslovakia or any of the other countries. When the Germans go back, they break everything which is capable of being broken, and they steal everything which is capable of being stolen. Roads and bridges are mined railway tracks are torn up and from the electric power stations the transformers are taken. There is no gas, no telephone and no telegraph. Into the country, besides our Armies, moves a little group of men who have been outside their country for their political opinions perhaps for four or five years. They take up their residence in a hotel and try to establish law and order. That is the situation with which we were faced.
Then there is the population of the country. Some of them have remained quietly in their places, and some are tainted to an almost infinite variety of degrees, with collaboration with the occupying Power. Even the postman who delivers the letters would be one of those collaborators, I suppose. There are the resistance movements who taught, quite rightly, that their duty during the course of German occupation, was to make things as difficult as possible for the Germans and for the civil authority. They have been given tommy-guns and encouraged to make use of them. They have been given explosives, and encouraged to mine communications and bridges. They have been taught to indulge in black market operations, in order to interfere with the system of distribution. Somewhere among these people, into whose hands arms have come, must be others who are animated by motives quite different from those of the patriots. People who have studied the methods of our own special operations-executive know how absolutely certain it must be that in those resistance movements themselves, the Germans will have left behind men with the idea of fomenting civil strife. With whatever goodness of intention the great majority are inspired, some at least will have quite different intentions, and will exploit their fellows in the interests of disorder. That is the situation as I see it with which we are confronted in Europe to-day.
How are we to deal with it? There are three cardinal principles. The first is that so long as our troops are fighting the Germans, we will tolerate on our flanks, on our rear and on our lines of communication no breach of order at all. That we owe to our own men who are liberating the world. The second is that when actual conflict with the Germans has gone, and some sort of decency and order prevails, we should clear out and leave it to those countries concerned to manage their own affairs. Thirdly, we should preach the political gospel as we see it, that it is the ballot box and not the tommy-gun which is to determine the destiny of nations; that it is Parliament and not the general strike, not the demonstration; that it is the law court and not lynch law. We cannot, as the Germans would have done, compel other nations to accept that gospel, but it is one which I, for one, profoundly believe that we must preach.
We have been given certain arguments which I must say fill me with terror when I hear them spoken by hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is said that there are no Germans on the mainland of Greece, and that Greece is to be treated in a wholly different category to Belgium, even during the war. I implore the House of Commons not to accept that consideration. You cannot differentiate between one part of the front and another. You cannot accept the doctrine that we can have disorder and starvation in this place, and not disorder and starvation in another, just because it happens to embody a great port. That is the way to Bedlam and chaos. We cannot tolerate disorder in any part of Europe so long as the war with Germany is going on. I was glad to see in this morning's newspapers that Mr. Stettinius had cleared up what might have been a serious misunderstanding between this country and America. The great Allies are equal partners, and it ill-becomes them to engage in criticism of each other in public. I think hon. Members will agree with me that I was right on another occasion when I said we should not say things which were wounding about our Russian Allies. We must be equally jealous of our own good name and reputation. And I warn hon. Members opposite of this. If hon. Members of the party opposite seek to invoke the American Frankenstein, they will find that it is a creature which does not, on the whole, favour their opinions.
This country has fought and suffered a lot in the last five years. Some of us asked what we were fighting for. I always try not to define what other people were fighting for, but I knew what I thought I was fighting for when I was in the desert. I was fighting for law and decency in human affairs. I wanted to see the rule of law dominating the human race in their relations one to another, and between nation and nation. I wanted to see law administered from an open code, freely published and fairly arrived at to determine the conduct of man towards man; law courts, holding hearings in public, listening to evidence and arriving at their decisions impartially and on principle. I wanted to see the reign of law between nation and nation and to see law arrived at in a Parliament. I did not want caprice, tommy guns and disorder. I contrasted this rule of law for which I believe England, indeed all Britain and all our race are guided, with that system of the Nazis of arresting men without trial on charges that have never been defined, of using force to beat down the opposition, to compass the destruction of Parliament government, the disruption of the law courts and the principles of law upon which civilisation ultimately rests.
I believe we are fighting for our gospel and against this other. I am not now concerned, I ask the House to believe, as to the differences between Right and Left but as to the differences between right and wrong. I sincerely think that this country stands for something more than either Right or Left—for a system of ordered human society which will enable Right and Left to compose their differences by proper argument and voting instead of by resort to the street corner and the barricade and the machine gun. If this system in which I believe is not to prevail, much blood that will have been shed will have been shed in vain, and some of us may think it might have been well to leave the tyrant dominating the world in all the plenitude of his power.
With a great deal of what has been said by the hon. Member I could agree in theory, and with a certain amount of it I could agree in actual practice. His final sentence regarding the outcome of the war, and the question of whether, in the final analysis, it might have been better if the war had never taken place, drove me back to the statement, of which I was reminded the other day, made by the late Prime Minister, Mr. Neville Chamberlain, when he was challenged in regard to the development of Hitler's power in Europe and the Balkans. A Member of the Conservative Party asked him whether there could be anything worse than Hitler dominating the whole Continent, the Balkans and Central Europe. His answer was that there could be something worse, and it was if, at the end, civil war started throughout the whole of Europe.
He said, "You try that and let me know whether it is worse than the first position." I look with abhorrence on the developments that have taken place for a considerable period of time in relation to the advancing and receding of armies on the Continent—in the Balkans and in Central Europe—and I wonder whether we may get to that fearful position. Let us be in no doubt about this: What happens in this country after this war depends upon what is happening now in those areas. If civil war should develop and extend throughout those areas, then there would be hunger and unemployment, the destruction of raw materials, the elimination of factories and mines and workshops and of every opportunity for men in those areas to produce something of a useful character. That would have its effect upon the prosperity of this nation, and of every human being within this country. Therefore, I am sure there is no Member in this House, or responsible person in any part of the country, but looks with abhorrence upon the developments in those areas at the present time, areas that have been ravaged by dissension and strife and massacre.
On the other hand, we want to be sure that a policy is being pursued by our Government, and especially by the Prime Minister, that is attempting not to sow the seeds of discord and extend civil war, but to bring peace and order and prosperity into those areas where to-day the struggle is taking place. The Prime Minister had, as a responsible politician in this country, one very successful achievement in his earlier days. I remember him saying, regarding Russia, after we had fought them, and after he had pursued a policy, or encouraged it, of civil war in Russia, when we were calling off the dogs of war: "These people are more dangerous at war than they are at peace, because they undermine the loyalty of your own troops when you are fighting them." Therefore I wonder whether the Prime Minister, as a successful counter-revolutionary of that day, is not going to repeat on the Continent the policy and the programme that he carried out at the end of the last war, and achieve many successful revolutions in those areas by the extent of the forces he uses at this moment.
Let there be no doubt in the mind of any hon. Member in this House where I stand. I do not accept that every man with a gun is a progressive. I do not think that every man who gets command of a tommy gun has idealism at the back of his mind and is only using his weapons in order to achieve some tremendous change in the way of a new order of society. Neither do I think those who are generally employed against them are in the same position. I am always in this difficulty, because between two armies—if you like of thuggery—there are a large number of decent people drawn in by both sides, and therefore the position gets to the stage in which a large number of people, as in British politics to-day, say "A plague on both your houses. We have no time for any of you," and sit back and refuse to do anything in the struggle. That is happening in other parts of the world.
The Prime Minister said to-day he enjoyed the placing of arms in the hands of people and the killing of Germans. You cannot go on encouraging people to kill human beings and then refuse to accept responsibility for your policy of killing. If you base your philosophy on force instead of reason and moral grounds then you cannot blame the other fellow if he begins to do a little bit on his own. I remember that it was said—I say this only in a jocular way—that in the troubles that took place in the revolutionary period of Russia, a man was asked "Ivan, are you going down to the public execution to-night?" He replied "No." When asked the reason he said, "I have a private murder of my own." If you put a weapon in the hands of an individual and say that it is right to kill, some men may say, "We will kill the landlords," "We will kill the financiers," "We will kill our employer of labour, because he has been our natural enemy in life." Therefore if you inculcate this idea of removing individuals and taking human life you are on the high road to building your whole policy on brute force, and you cannot be in a position to condemn if the policy so miscarries that the man with the weapon kills with it not your enemy but his enemy, in the process of developments.
In connection with Greece we are told by the Prime Minister that there was an attempt at revolutionary upheaval in that country. Let me say before I go further that I would very much rather have seen in this House, not only at this stage, a condemnation of what is taking place in Greece, because that is not the beginning of it. There is Poland, there is Yugoslavia, there is Finland. The policy of a successful, if you like, forceful revolution by the placing of a 2 per cent. political support into a position of 100 per cent. domination has been going on, and as I see it there is a struggle to-day between both sides as to the elimination of their opponents from the sphere of influence and the placing in power of Governments and interests that suit the particular countries which are engaged in war. Therefore we see this extension going on, and while we wink at one instance Russia and America wink at the other. If anyone thinks we are engaged in an idealistic struggle in any of these countries he needs, not a political speech or lecture but a mental examination—if he thinks we are so idealistic that we are trying to sort out all the difficulties of the world and give all the people the order and peace and quiet and the opportunity they desire.
You have armed the guerrillas. You have got arms to them in the various countries. You have said, "Kill, kill, kill," because the arms were given for that purpose. Having given these arms you praise the efforts of the guerrillas in the Press and on the wireless. You bring the guerrilla leaders to the microphone to tell the story of how they wiped out machine-gun nests, and threw bombs into the houses of Germans and others, and how they successfully carried out these missions. You have given them the opportunity for that propaganda. Then you come along afterwards and say "You have done very well. We will take these tommy guns, these revolvers, these rifles and bayonets and hand grenades, because they are very dangerous weapons. They could kill the wrong people." Therefore we begin to disarm them in Greece. This was an attempt to disarm a nation of people who had suffered a great deal in the war. Many guerrillas are genuine. Many have only come out of their hiding during the period of the war and put themselves at the head of guerrilla bands, and want to be accepted as heroes. They come along and you want to disarm them. They have a natural suspicion, because you are not dealing with a constitutional Government and authority in Greece who have been elected previous to the war, as in other States. You are dealing with a country where Nazi rule operated under General Metaxas and the Greek King, and you are conveying the impression to the Greek people that under the guise of the disarming of the guerrilla bands you are going to foist this unwanted and discredited monarch, and also the old unwanted and discredited politicians, on to the backs of the people of Greece again, with the old totalitarian discipline which formerly prevailed. Naturally in those circumstances you are faced with a different position than is the case in a country like France, which had a large number of Deputies in various areas, alive and able to take over the reins of Government.
The Prime Minister has said to-day that he praised Mussolini, and that the Mussolini régime was the right Government for the people of Italy in 1926 and 1928. He makes no apology for the praise and backing he gave. If you are prepared to back Hitler at one stage and Mussolini at another, and then meet them in mortal combat when they are crossing your sphere of influence, you cannot complain if you have to act this way to dislodge them from the battlements you have built for them. From the time he fought Peter the painter at Sydney Street with his small army at that time, and the larger army in the Great War, or whether dealing with the miners or railwaymen or the Greek insurgents the Prime Minister is happy in every struggle. A. G. Gardiner said of him: "Life is too short for him. He cannot see enough. He wants to go to the fair to see every two-headed man. He wants to see every fish-tailed woman. He wants to shy at every cocoanut. He wants to be in the fair and of the fair, moving on from one stall to another in order to enjoy life to the full."
The Prime Minister has that kink in his nature. He loves wars. We have seen it in this House. Thus we see him saying that Count Sforza will not do because he is a dishonourable man. Badoglio will do, although he helped to gas Abyssinians, took the oath of allegiance to Mussolini, and took filthy Fascist lucre from the coffers of Fascist Rome. Like the rat he was he turned against his master when he saw him going down on the sinking ship. Mussolini and Count Sforza cannot be accepted, but Badoglio goes back to Rome, and finds a revolution in the minds of the people, as the Conservatives of this country will discover when they go to the poll, if they meet a courageous Labour Party. The people have gone right away from the old position of 1939 to the position of the present day. There is Prince Umberto, with whom the Prime Minister dined in Rome. He is an honourable man in the eyes of the Prime Minister. It is only the Socialists and the Radicals of those countries with whom he refuses to associate. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Tito?"] So far as Marshal Tito is concerned, he knows where he is going. That is more than a large number of the Tory supporters of the Government in this House know. They are only prepared to follow the "Fuehrer" whatever road he takes, and back him in the Lobby, whether he is right or whether he is wrong. In my estimation the Prime Minister is a public menace.
It is time that the people of this country realised that they are being taken for a ride in this war, to a world that will sink into poverty, distress, unemployment, and civil war. I have said that in this House before. I have said that this is not the only country that is following that path. I genuinely fear the use of arms, not physically—that does not enter into it—but I have a mental and a moral fear of the force that is being used in the world to-day. I say that, no matter what criticism may be made from some sources, because I have inquired into these things carefully. I saw the morgue in Barcelona, where 1,486 people were picked up in the streets in a few months, not during the civil war, but after the Government there had come into power. Some of these people had had their heads kicked in; a large number had bullets in their backs. Many people can put a bullet into a man's back more quickly than into his face. Large numbers of these people were picked up unrecognisable. Whether these things are done by the Right or the Left, I see the use of such force as a thing to be feared. It shows the futility of the struggle which took place beforehand.
Therefore, I condemn the use of British soldiers in Greece. It is a shocking thing that men who were conscripted for fighting the Nazi gang in Berlin should now be used to shoot down workers and peasants in the streets of Athens, even though some of those people may be misguided, while a large number are genuine in the struggle. I deplore the use of these men. I foresee the development of that struggle which is going on among the great Powers to-day, and the danger that it will break up in a sea of argument and dissension. If President Roosevelt, the Prime Minister, and Marshal Stalin would each give an undertaking to the peoples of the world that they would call off all their ideological ambitions in each country and allow these countries, when they are placed in the sun, to find their feet unaided, I am sure that these struggles would end, and prosperity ensue. I do not divorce the struggles in Yugoslavia and Poland from the struggle in Greece. Both sides are playing the same game. We have moved into Italy and Greece because of the encroachment of the Red Army and the setting up of centres of influence by Stalin. Stalin, as well as President Roosevelt and the Prime Minister, is engaged in that struggle for interests which are not those of the common people of that country. If these three joint signatories got away from the deceit, the lies, and the double-dealing, and came out into the open, and allowed the peoples of the world to select their own rulers, there would be no need for guerrillas, no need for underground movements. The peoples of the world make mistakes, but if they are left alone they are able to set up decent Governments in every part of the world.
I am sure that I speak for Members in every part of the House when I say that, not for the first time, we have had from the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern)—if he will not be embarrassed by my saying so—a most sincere speech. But the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have been telling us for the last 25 years that the whole world wants pacifism, that the workers will not fight in wars; and everything that has happened has proved, not the insincerity of the hon. Gentleman's point of view, but how remote it is from actualities in the world to-day. In view of the fact that those of us who are ex-Ministers are, by long- standing practice of the House, given preference, we should not abuse that preference by speaking a long time, and therefore I shall not speak for long. But it cannot be of much value to have been in office if, when you are out of office, you do not try to make a debating speech, and to deal with points that have been made by other Members. I want, therefore, in the very short speech I am going to make, to deal with one or two of the points made by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. The hon. Gentleman, who is not here, made a very eloquent speech, obviously a very sincere speech. He began by saying that we were confronted in Belgium—and I suppose he applied that to other countries—with a worn-out Government. I do not know what he means by "worn-out." No Government, in the circumstances of Europe to-day, can be a freshly-selected Government. It is utterly impossible to hold ordinary elections in Europe. Even if they were held under the protection of British bayonets, there is no guarantee that they would reflect the opinions of the people. Let us be sensible, whether we are on the Right or on the Left. Do not let us suggest that ordinary democracy can operate.
One of the most admirable parts of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was that in which he made it quite clear from the start that this is not a question of the British Government's policy only, but of the policy of the Allied Governments. Surely our policy must be, in the absence of an election, to have a suitable Government, made up of men and women who have not collaborated, who are not of one party alone, and who command universal respect. I do not think that my friends of the Socialist Party would differ from me when I say that to suggest that such a Government is predominantly Right or Left is, using the word in its Parliamentary sense, wholly impertinent. What business have Tories to say that such a Government is too much Left? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am very glad to hear that assent, because the whole trend of the complaint of some people is that these Governments are not sufficiently Left to suit their point of view. What right has any Member to say that in a country which has been liberated by British arms and blood, he can support only a Conservative or a Socialist Government, as the
case may be? The political colour of such a Government is not our business. When such a Government is in existence, whether it is a Government of the Right or of the Left, and when disorder o
Hon. Gentlemen may say, "No, we have been writers in the newspapers, we have been writers under various cognomens, 'William Hickey' and others, and we know much more about the position than the Prime Minister does. We know that it is a Government of the wicked Right. We are in touch with the Left, and they never use tommy-guns, only arguments." That is the issue to be decided in the Division Lobby.
I hope my hon. Friend does not, because, if he said that what I said was true, I should suppose that it was not. I turn to another statement made by the mover of the Amendment. My hon. Friend said—and he was very honest, if I may say so, and I think we all agree about that—that, in this Government, there was a firm Communist core. I am sorry not to see my hon. Friend in the House. He did not develop that point very much, but he said that there was a firm Communist core. I lay it down as a general proposition that I do not believe anybody will dispute that, in Europe to-day, the principal feature of the situation is this. Everybody on the Left says that everybody on the Right is a collaborationist or collaborator, and everybody on the Right says that everybody on the Left is a Communist. Surprising as it may seem to the hon. Member who represents the Communist Party in the House, and to some of my hon. Friends behind me—to whom I would like to say that
Nor is this a purely British phenomenon. In America it has dissolved itself and its ghost appears inclined to enter upon an alliance with American capitalism. In several countries of Europe, it shows signs of support and working with some curious forces. Not that I would be at all surprised at a change. Our own British party—if it is our own and British"—
the speaker is referring to the Communist Party—
might at any time suffer a change of heart and go back to bloody revolution.
Those are the words of the Home Secretary last Sunday. Hon. Gentlemen on this side can hardly complain if the petite bourgeoisie on the Continent are slightly suspicious of the Communist Party. After all, this has a great deal to do with my hon. Friends, because their own leader used those words. [Interruption.] An hon. Gentleman says "What has it to do with us?" It has everything to do with us. It is the whole subject matter of this Debate. It is the question whether we should support or not——
My hon. Friend is wholly mistaken. What I was looking round for were resounding cheers, when I quoted from the Home Secretary. To turn to a far more serious aspect of the case, you cannot really blame people on the Continent of Europe, after the appalling time they have been through and the atrocities that have been committed—even people who may not be reactionary, in the sense in which it is used by hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House—you can hardly complain, I say, if ordinary men and women, with no political views, simply say, "For God's sake, give us a stable Government, houses, food, shelter and work." That is what they are asking for on the Continent and the only way they can get it is through the support by the Allied Forces of the appropriate Government in the country.
I have no objection whatever—few Tories have—to the Amendment put down officially by the Labour Party. I entirely agree, as I understand the Amendment, that we should, as far as possible, avoid interfering in Continental affairs. Nothing is more certain that neither this nor any other Government would hold office for a moment, with the assent of the people, if it allowed British soldiers to be shot in the back because there was no stable Government in the country, and that is the whole question at issue.
Though the hon. Gentleman himself disclaimed any desire to associate himself with the phrase, the mover of the Amendment mentioned that, in some quarters, our very distinguished representative in Athens was looked upon as the evil genius of Greece. My hon. Friend said that this had been said in certain quarters. All I can say is that to say that about a distinguished Ambassador is a filthy and disgraceful libel, and I was very glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman did not associate himself with it. In regard to the King of the Hellenes, nothing is cheaper, under the guise of Parliamentary perfection, knowing that the Royal Head of a State, who has been through what he has gone through, is incapable of bringing an action in the courts—nothing is cheaper than libelling him. By all means, especially if you are a pacifist and have never fought, describe him as a man of no valour or intelligence. I speak with emotion on this, because the King of the Hellenes is a personal friend of mine, and I repudiate, on his behalf, the charges that have been brought against him, and I say that, in this war, he has shown himself to be a patriotic leader of his people.
I have little more to say. This is a serious matter, as the Prime Minister said, from the point of view of the Government. It would seem that there is a difference of opinion on how this war should be fought or how it should be concluded. I myself have already suggested that the great majority of the people in Europe, in the liberated countries, are not so much supporting an ideological war as a war to win peace, security and the right to vote for any Government they like; in fact, for what the Prime Minister described. It is clear to us that some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House—and they are not confined to back-benchers—believe that, unless we are fighting an ideological war in the full sense of the term, we ought not to be fighting at all. I say, without prejudice, that, if that be so, the sooner this Government comes to an end and we have an election the better. Let us go to the country and put this question: "Are you fighting for the existence of Great Britain against the most horrible menace with which it has ever been faced, in the shape of Germany and Japan, or do you want the Government to be carried on to support one side or another, in every civil war in Europe?" If that is the question, there is no doubt who will be returned, and it will not be my hon. Friends on this side.
The "News Chronicle" is very indignant and bitter to-day at what it regards as a betrayal of British interests, and it makes a personal attack on the Prime Minister. Let the "News Chronicle" have its way; let there be this Leftist front, that it says is possible and desirable, of the Communist and various parties, and perhaps the Socialist Party, though I hope some members of the Socialist Party would be too sensible to allow themselves to be associated with such a state of affairs. Let us have an election on those issues.
The hon. Member has stated a most fatuous inaccuracy. There are not many things which the hon. Member knows, but he does know that what he has just said is utterly devoid of truth. If the great and acknowledged leader of our country is to be challenged in this Debate, or in any other Debate, on the lines on which he has been challenged to-day, the sooner that challenge is taken to the country and to the electors of the country, the sooner we shall see whether a party largely composed of conscientious objectors is going to pledge the country to having its sons killed in an ideological war.
The Noble Lord has excelled himself this afternoon in virulent, and, I would really say, un-Parliamentary abuse. We on this side are only too delighted and too ready to accept his challenge. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is the hon. Member speaking as a conscientious objector?"] I am not speaking as a conscientious objector, I am happy to say, having worn uniform. The Noble Lord asked what right any Member in this House has to dictate the policy of foreign Governments and say whether it should be to the Right or to the Left. That is exactly what we on this side are saying. We want to know what right the Prime Minister has to say that the Government of France, of Belgium, of Italy, of Greece or of any other country should be Right or should be Left. We say that it should be left to the people to decide.
This case in Greece is not an isolated one. It is the culmination of a continuous policy which has gone on through many years. It is a policy which has passed through Darlan, through Victor Emanuel, through Badoglio and even, do not let it be forgotten, through Mihailovitch backed by the Noble Lord. To-day it is not respectable, and he has transferred his affections to Marshal Tito. But we do not forget that Mihailovitch was his friend at one time. In spite of this, the Prime Minister has, I would almost call it, the effrontery—if I might be allowed to use such a word—to say that the war is becoming steadily less and less ideological. Sitting on these benches and looking across to the other side, it is very difficult to believe that to-day. When the Prime Minister supports M. Papandreou it is not ideological but simply the normal case, but if this party supports anybody else, it is ideological and political. I think it was the Dutch Prime Minister, Mr. Gerbrandy, a very able man, who said:
The resistance movement must have a say in the formation of this new Parliament"—
that is the Dutch Parliament—
I am not sure that the old parties will return.
I hope that the Prime Minister will note that.
The whole spirit of the population has changed.
That is what we maintain here. The spirit of Greece has changed from that of the old days to which the Prime Minister is looking back, and to which he is hoping that the whole of Europe will return.
Why have we taken this action? Is it due to pressure from our Allies, from the United States of America? It would seem by correspondence that has passed recently, that that could hardly be so, and I do not believe that the Prime Minister would say that it was due to pressure from Russia that we are to-day supporting M. Papandreou. It is due to no pressure but simply to the will of the Prime Minister and the National Government.
I shall be told that this is a National Government, and that there is such a thing as the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility, and that the whole Government must take full responsibility for that. I cannot help reminding hon. Members that during all these years the Conservative Party have taken good care to see that the portfolio of Foreign Affairs has remained firmly in their hands. Whatever re-shuffling there has been, that has never altered. There may be Cabinet responsibilities, and we know that the Minister in charge of a Department is primarily responsible for that Department. Not long ago, the Home Secretary came down to the House to apologise for an error which his Department had made. He did not say that that was a matter for which all have joint responsibility. He said "I am Home Secretary and it is my responsibility," and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will follow his example.
I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should take that line considering the importance that he himself attached to it. Does this square with the previous policy in Greece in recent months and recent years? I submit that it does not. I have taken the trouble to investigate some of the European practices applied to the Greeks and I will quote one:
Such has been the effort of the Germans and Bulgarians since the beginning of 1942. To break the people's morale by terror and physical suffering, to shatter the resistance movement by dividing the people and eventually to dissipate the national forces by a civil war. This last is indeed the supreme ambition of the Germans, and the formation of the security battalions was a step towards the realisation of this ambition"—
the security battalion which the Prime Minister to-day has compared to the Home Guard in this country, an insult to a fine body of men. The security battalion was the only resistance, so I am given to understand, which our troops met when they arrived at Patras. It is the security battalion of Greece, the security battalion of Papandreou, and that is the body which the Prime Minister compared with the Home Guard.
I ask whether broadcasts of the character I have described would lead the Greeks to accept men of the character that we now see to-day supported on the part of His Majesty's Government. I think they would not. I come to another point. Some of us have rather longer memories than others. To hon. Members opposite the days of 1937 and the Spanish civil war mean nothing at all, but to many of us they mean a great deal. What was the attitude of the Foreign Secretary in those days? I shall be told that the Foreign Secretary resigned on account of a difference with his own Government, on the question of the Spanish civil war.
In that case, the Foreign Secretary can take full responsibility for the Government's attitude during the Spanish civil war. What did he say? On 29th October, 1936, he said:
… our purpose in this"—
that is the agreement for non-intervention—
was not to help one side or another but to prevent civil war … from involving the whole of Europe …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1936; Vol. 316, c. 42 and 43.]
Now there was no reference in that to any support of a legal Government. There was no reference to any need to support the legal Government against insurgents. Why? What is the difference to-day? The principal difference is that in Greece to-day it is a Government of the Right and that then the legal Government in Spain was a Government of the Left. That is the principal difference.
May I put this question to the hon. Gentleman? Surely there is all the difference in the world between a country where there are large numbers of British troops for a legitimate purpose, and a country where there were no British forces at all?
That the Prime Minister is a Socialist? [HON. MEMBERS: "The Prime Minister of Greece."] I understand that. As to our own Prime Minister, that is rather another matter in which I prefer not to get involved now. As regards the Prime Minister of Greece, I would say that the whole shift of politics in Greece, so far as I can see, is Right of ours, and I believe a Socialist here is something very considerably to the Right there. Let us take the case of the old and venerable leader of the Liberal Party in Greece about whom we have heard. I would suggest that he is very considerably to the Right of his opposite number in this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which one?"] But I am told, to come to a more serious argument, that our troops are now in Greece and that this is done for their protection. In the first place I think we must remind ourselves, as other hon. Members have done, that, whether our troops are in Greece or not, the Germans are not there. The Germans are in the islands but they are not on the mainland, so that it is not, at any rate, a front line. That is not the only point. The point is whether, by doing this, we are in fact helping our troops in Greece, or whether we are not. I would submit that we are not helping them. Our job, if we did it properly, would be to disarm the Forces of both sides. That is what we should do equally. I submit that to disarm the troops of one side and to maintain the troops of the other side will not be of any assistance whatever to our troops, and that is the policy which His Majesty's Government are pursuing to-day.
There are some people who say that the whole of this question is academic. "What," they ask, "does Greece matter to the British people? What do they care?" I believe I am correct in saying—though I stand to be corrected by him if he is here—that the Noble Lord said that what the British people, and all the people of Europe, were really interested in, was in getting security, in getting houses, in getting a good solid existence, or words to that effect. I am sure they do want to get houses—certainly they do—I am sure they want to get security, but are we going to say that our people to-day are so very far behind the men who welcomed Garibaldi and Kosciousco in the days gone by, that they take no interest at all in any movement for freedom on the Continent. [An HON. MEMBER: "Freedom?"] I do not believe it. I believe they are just as interested to-day in the preservation of freedom on the Continent, just as interested to keep reaction out of the Continent as they were in those days.
I come last to the question of our own troops there. I would ask hon. Members to remember that millions of men to-day are now in the Forces, both conscripts and volunteers; that some of those men are to-day fighting out in Greece, not against Germans but against Greeks, against men who may have the very same ideas that they have themselves. What will be their feelings? What would be the feelings of a British soldier to-day lying wounded in hospital, maybe with his leg shot off as a result of the actions in Athens? What will be the feelings of a mother who hears that her son has been killed, not in fighting Germans but in fighting the Greeks? I would submit that those feelings are not such as would lend themselves to one of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister's famous perorations, and that they would be left out. I think that while our troops will undoubtedly do what they are told—undoubtedly they will obey; of course they will, of course they will fire upon whom they are told to fire upon—I think it is submitting them to a terrible strain, and I hope that the Government, realising the strain they are placing upon these troops, will find it possible to alter their policy. I believe that this policy will do nothing whatever to help win the war, but it may do a very great deal towards shattering the foundation of peace that all of us hope to build.
I am sure we have all been grateful to the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. J. Dugdale) for having managed with his usual deftness and calm to still what was becoming a rather heated atmosphere in this Chamber. If we are to discuss this topic with profit to the country at large, I think we must seek, as far as we can, to approach it in an objective and not in a party spirit. Really, if we start——
As the hon. Gentleman is apparently referring to me, may I intervene? Since the Prime Minister—of whom he and I are common supporters—was fiercely attacked by hon. Gentlemen on this side, surely he will agree that I was entitled to reply to this attack with heat and indignation?
The Noble Lord has, I think, misinterpreted me. I was referring to Members of all parties. In discussing foreign policy, it is very difficult for this or any other Assembly not to fall into the habit of imputing motives to their opponents which have never occurred to their opponents, and of making accusations, which are useful and telling in ordinary political controversy but which do give to a bewildered public a rather false impression of the real situation. I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich has said—and I am glad he said it, especially from those benches—about the general sympathy felt in this House, not only with the men who have to fire at their Allies in circumstances which they do not comprehend, and for purposes which are quite obscure to them, in the streets of Athens but still more for the women whose sons and lovers are being exposed to hazards whence no tears will win them, in a matter which they completely fail to understand. I think it is the duty of this House to seek, as far as possible, to elucidate and not to confuse the issue, to clarify and not to disturb the waters, and to try and see—and goodness knows it is difficult enough—whether we can get down to some more simple definition of what the problem really is.
I have heard such extraordinarily false nomenclature going about in this Debate that I have been left agape. I never thought I should live to hear my old friend Papandreou—who has always reminded me to a very large extent of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick Lawrence)—called a Fascist and a reactionary. Still less did I ever dream—and my ears are still drumming with the excitement of having heard it—of such an elderly peacock as Count Sforza being described as a proletarian martyr. Really, it is too absurd. It has been suggested in this Debate that, in some queer way, there has been intervention on our part on behalf of Royalists in Greece, against the Republican cause. It is nothing like that. To make such suggestions is to confuse the issue, and with it the minds of men and women who are naturally puzzled and very unhappy; those who make such a suggestion are doing an evil thing. It is clouding the issue to attribute to the Front Bench controversies and policies which are not in the minds of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary.
It has been stated quite openly that in regard to the monarchy issue there will be a plebiscite. Until that takes place the issue does not arise. Therefore, do not let there be any talk about there being intervention on behalf of the monarchy or, above all, any attack on King George personally——
Is it not the case that the disturbances in Greece have arisen because the Royalist troops have retained their arms, while E.L.A.S. troops have given up their arms?
The expression, "Royalist troops," is exactly the sort of expression that the hon. Member ought not to use in this connection. There is a Royal Hellenic Army, or the Greek Army, in which there were certain mutineers, who were, naturally, weeded out. The remainder were formed into a strong unit which fought at Rimini with the utmost courage and efficiency. Naturally, when Greece was liberated the Greek Army was brought back to Greece, like the French Army was brought back to France, and to call it "Royalist" is absurd. I do not know what its opinions are, but if you are loyal to your Government it does not necessarily mean you will vote on one side or the other. An enormous number of people in the British Forces are Communists, but they are loyal. It cannot be said that because they obey the instructions of the War Cabinet, they are not loyal. I think it would be wiser to approach this problem as such problems always ought to be approached, not as having been just an episode, still less as having been a deliberately intentional policy, but in the light of that vital factor in all international affairs, a factor so frequently and dangerously ignored by historians—the factor of the chain of circumstances.
I do not think anybody would deny that it was a right decision to send British troops into Greece in order to help in liberating that country, and especially to form bases at Salonika and Piraeus and from those to operate against the Germans in Crete, in the Dodecanese and in the islands at the mouth of the Dardanelles; in order not merely to establish a firm base North of the German occupied area, but to bring food to the population, which was actually starving. Nobody would deny that it was a good thing to send in troops. I do not think many would deny that having sent in British troops it would be a difficult thing not to send in Greek units which were operating in the Rimini area. I do think, however, that a very grave error was made in the first link of the chain of circumstances. I think we all probably regret it now. We handed over to the Papandreou Government the control of the situation too soon. We ought to have maintained military occupation for probably six weeks longer until food had come in, and people had recovered their nerves. I think that was a grave error. We have British troops in Athens, quite rightly; there is the Papandreou Government in power, I think riskily, possibly foolishly, and possibly optimistically, but morally quite rightly. The Papandreou Government was as representative, under the circumstances, as anything could be. It contained leaders from every party. To represent the Papandreou Government as reactionary is quite grotesque.
The hon. Member for West Bromwich was extremely ingenious when he said that the Right Wing in Greece was more to the Left than our Right Wing and the Left Wing more to the Right. I can asure him, having known M. Sophoulis for over 25 years, that he is like, in character and charm, the right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), who speaks for the Liberal Party. But among the great attributes which have impressed the personality of the right hon. Baronet on this House that of his comparative youth is not shared by M. Sophoulis, who is 82 years old. To say that at this age M. Sophoulis possessed the physical and moral energy to ride on such a whirlwind, to control such a storm, is not sensible, and is not helping public thought. It is merely adding to public confusion. It is not that we intervened forcibly too soon, but a day too late. I think we ought to have stopped the police firing on that crowd by force. I know our officers dashed across to try to stop them, but we should have brought up our tanks, because the firing continued. Then we would have been on much better ground than now. Because of the chain of circumstances, natural hesitations, and natural distaste for using British troops in a friendly country in an internal dispute, we hesitated until we had to intervene, and then we intervened on the wrong foot. That often happens. It is a common occurrence.
Three times have we been forced to intervene in Greek national affairs by force, against the wishes of this country and against the desires of their Government. It nearly happened four times. It happened the first time at Navarino, when the Duke of Wellington stood up in another place and referred to that battle as "this most regrettable transaction." it nearly happened the second time over Don Pacifico, when Lord Palmerston, the most disastrous Foreign Minister England has ever had, desired to show off in the face of Europe and blockaded the Piraeus and exposed Greece to humiliation to gain a cheap triumph for himself.
It happened at a very unfortunate time in the last war when we landed troops at the time of the Venizelos-Constantine dispute and when our men were fired on in the Stadium and in the Zappeion gardens as to-day. On each of those occasions the Greeks forgot all about it. They do not bear much resentment against us about Don Pacifico and they have completely forgotten about the incident when we landed marines during the Constantine troubles. The Greeks have immense qualities. They are perhaps the most charming race in the world. They have one quality which I have never met in any other country. It is most extraordinary—unique. They have gratitude. From the mere fact that 120 years ago Lord Byron went to Missolonghi and died there of rheumatic fever, whatever we do, they always forgive us and are always on our side. They may be Greek Communists, but I do not mind what they are. Communism is not a Greek trait. If they were purple Communists and the Foreign Secretary went there, the whole place would be covered with Union Jacks. They have the inherited attitude of liking towards the British people. So do not let us worry about that.
It is, of course, a horrible thing that people are being shot, as it seems, unnecessarily. I do not think it is going to last very long, I do not think, given the chain of circumstances, that it was avoidable. Given the fact that it was due to no definite intention beforehand but only to a most unfortunate chain of circumstances, I do not think it is fair to talk of it as an avoidable error or as a blunder, still less as an evil act of policy devised by the reactionaries on the Front Bench there against the suffering, deserving, noble friends of democracy. It is a nasty business which has just happened; and which may well develop. I believe that if the Government—I hope they will—should send out a civilian Minister of high standing and great character, or possibly someone like our Ambassador in Cairo, anyhow a new mind with an impressive personality, to knock all their heads together and say, "Shut up, stop fighting," the thing could be done. Over and over again in the Greek war of independence we banged people's heads together and forced them to agree; the Princes of Maina, the politicians of Tripolis. They hated it, but they did it. They are used to the English people coming in. They expect it. Our intervention is part of their history. We have always done it and we should do it this time. We should arrange an armistice and get it made clear to them and to our own people that, whoever is disarmed, everyone must be disarmed. We cannot have that system under which we disarm E.L.A.S. and do not disarm the Right-wing organisations. All unofficial bodies must be disarmed, and I am sure that is the intention. Members on this side have been so busy trying to disprove accusations against them, just as the Prime Minister was too busy making jokes about the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) to give us an explanation of what has happened. I think it all very exaggerated, and I trust the House will take it that we shall be very vigilant to see that there is no delay in getting an armistice and imposing a settlement, which we have power to do, and that the settlement is fair to everyone and not only to one side.
Will the hon. Member deal with one link in the chain of circumstances? What is his explanation of the breach of the alleged agreement that all bands should be disarmed and not only those of the Left?
I am sure we are all grateful to the Prime Minister for his informative speech, with part of which I agree though not with all or even the major part of it. I agree with his remark that it is the desire of everyone that this tragedy should end. Like many others, I was rather shocked this morning and during the early afternoon by the attitude of the House and the cheers and counter-cheers that were going on, and my mind went back to the entirely different attitude of the House on 2nd September, 1939. Hon. Members seem to forget the purpose and the high idea that we had when we entered the war. [An HON. MEMBER: "Poland."] Not merely Poland. We entered the war with the high idea that every people and every nation was entitled to choose its own Government in its own way. The cynic might, of course, say that we entered it in defence of ourselves. The cynic is right, but we entered it for a much higher purpose. We entered it in defence of all peoples claiming the right to choose their own form of government and to throw out the oppressor and the aggressor, whoever he might be. At that time it was usual to talk of it, rightly, as a war of ideology. We were on the side of those who were seeking freedom and the enemy were on the side of the tyrants and oppressors. The hon. Member who spoke last suggested that motives are being attributed on one side and the other. Many tell me that, gradually, during the last two years, there has been a falling away from the high ideas and ideology that we had in September, 1939. This is another instance of that. It must be remembered that it was not merely the Government of the day, but the Members of this House and the people who desired the declaration of war which came on 3rd September, 1939. That was the high ideal which we kept in front of us. That faith was our hope during the grimmest times. It was that faith which was in us that sustained us, and it is my fear that that faith is being lost that made me sign and support this Amendment.
Certainly. I will tell the Noble Lady what the trend has been. That faith which I have spoken of upheld us during 1940 and 1941, and to a large extend through 1942. Then we were badly shaken when an approach was made to Admiral Darlan, who had refused to fight on the side of freedom and to give over the ships of France, but allowed other free men of France to fight and to die. We thought we were going to use Darlan. The reason given at that Box was that we did it in order to achieve victory quickly and to save lives. But all the lives could be saved if we gave up our faith. The Noble Lord said that what the people of Greece were requiring at the present moment was a stable Government which would keep peace. May I warn him that that kind of argument can be used by a dictatorship in favour of slavery.
I am sorry if I misquoted the Noble Lord, and I apologise. The part of his speech I was referring to was when he said that they desired a strong and stable Government above all things. It is against that very form of government that men everywhere will fight. There has been for a great many years, for at least two or three generations, a revolution going on throughout every country, a revolution in men's minds, a realisation by individual man of his own nobility. That is happening throughout the world. This war is really the grim but outward sign of the struggle which is going on between the tyrant and the man who thinks he is free to choose his own destiny. In Italy we are asked to say we will support a man who turned poison gas on the Abyssinians, and therefore murdered these people, the man who was called in by Mussolini when his other generals were failing against Albania and Greece; and now we are told that there has been such a change that we can afford, not only to shake hands with him, but support him as the true constitutional Government of Italy.
May I refer to another matter which the Prime Minister brought into his speech? Reference was made to Spain, and he said that all he had said with regard to Franco was that he disapproved of the making of clever and even funny cartoons of Franco. I have looked up that speech. It does not take four columns of HANSARD to utter that one sentence. It will be within the recollection of the House how it shocked us all deeply that Franco should be praised. May I read one or two sentences? In reference to Franco not attacking ships that were lying outside Gibraltar the Prime Minister said:
I must say that I shall always consider a service was rendered at this time by Spain, not only to the United Kingdom and to the British Empire and Commonwealth, but to the cause of the United Nations. …
I say we speak the same words to the Spaniards in the hour of our strength as we did in the hour of our weakness. I look forward to increasingly good relations with Spain."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th May, 1944; Vol. 400, c. 770 and 772.]
A hope? A hope to shake hands with a man whose hands are reeking with the warm blood of his own countrymen, thousands of whom are still in prison? Can we say that we are looking forward to good relations with such a man? It is that kind of trend which we stand strongly against.
Greece owes a deep debt of gratitude to this country, not only in this war, but in the last war. One hundred years ago we were on the side of men fighting for liberty in Greece. We risked our own position in North Africa, and the Middle East and the safety of our Army in order to go to the assistance of Greece in 1941. Even in defeat, when we had to withdraw from Greece and from Crete, we showed that nobility of character and that following up of an ideal which the world will never forget. That is what we have tried to do for Greece. Even when we withdrew we did not desert her but sent a number of our gallant young men back to the mainland and to Crete to inspire and guide them throughout the years of their sufferings. Then came our period of return. This is where I agree with the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson). We knew that there were rival factions in Greece. We knew of the trouble that had already arisen. We knew of the mutiny in the Fleet and of the troubles in Egypt. Nevertheless, when we landed there we took with us a Government which we brought in from the outside. I agree that we have made every effort to try and make that government as representative as possible.
We installed it. This is where I quarrel with the Prime Minister. His description this morning of democracy and of the meaning of democracy was perfect, and I hope that he will adways bear that in mind. Where I feel he made a mistake was when he was speaking of the Government that had been brought in by the Allied nations. It was not a Government of the people or chosen by the people. It was a Government which had been brought in by the Allied Armies, and the other people were told to obey.
That is not constitutional Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is?"] The definition given by the Prime Minister was that it was a Government freely elected and chosen by the people. A Government cannot be constitutional until it has been freely elected. When that Government came in, an effort was made to ensure that they represented all the factions. So long as that was so, there was some hope, and we could say that we were supporting the best Government in the circumstances. We should have said, instead of that: "We are going to take charge for the time being. Nobody can act as impartially as we can between all the parties, and, what is more, no one can give to other people that sense of impartiality that we can give." Instead of doing that, we tried to bolster up this composite Government. When the Government had decided to disarm everybody, some change occurred, and some of the members of this composite Government left. I should have said that was the moment when we should have declared that we could not support one faction against another, and that we should take charge until all were disarmed. We should have said: "We are anxious to help you. We have to feed you. We shall start you on the way to production, and we shall do our best for you. Until the time comes when you can vote freely, we shall take charge of the whole thing, rather than support one side."
What has happened is only another instance of the trend which is apparent towards supporting some authority which has not been popularly elected. The danger is that the Government which is put in, and which is not chosen by the will of the people, will have an unfair advantage, when the moment comes to take the wishes of the people. That is what must happen in other cases where Governments are occupying a dominant position. Everyone in this House, whatever his views, desires sincerely that this tragedy should end—no shooting on either side, and certainly no shooting against us, or against the men who were prepared during all these years to die rather than be the slaves of Germany. Now our guns have been turned against men who have been fighting for freedom. Is there not some way of calling an end to this business, and of declaring our faith, as we did in September, 1940, and our belief in the individuality of every man and his right to choose his own form of government?
We have had a rather varied Debate and a somewhat excessive exhibition of temper on occasions. I hope I may succeed in averting any further scenes of that kind. Whether I do or not, I imagine, depends to some extent on what I say. The situation which we are discussing to-day, relating to Greece, is a very sad occasion. It is terrible to think that this should have happened. Reference has been made to the bonds of friendship between this country and Greece. For centuries, Greece earned the gratitude of the civilised peoples of the world. She made an enormous contribution to our civilisation, to the direction of our thought and our moral standards. She was a small nation, and like many small nations, she was swept into the war. She has defended herself as we know with great bravery and has borne terrible suffering. When the last of the British troops had left the mainland, she continued stubbornly to fight on at all costs against the enemy in the most difficult circumstances, in the firm belief that, one day, rightousness and justice would prevail again, and Greece would be free.
But—and this is the real misfortune—now that Greece has been liberated, and a Greek Government is re-established on Greek soil, new miseries face the people and new problems face the Allied Nations. There are divisions among the Greeks themselves. We have heard a great deal about it. We have heard much about it from the Prime Minister this morning. There are, obviously, misunderstandings between this country and Greece. There is very deep apprehension among the people of this country, and it is growing hour by hour, as regards the situation at this moment and the possible future course of events. Greece has been liberated and yet we find ourselves now engaged in military, naval and air operations—all three Fighting Services—against Greek people who, after British help had been withdrawn, fought on so doggedly alone. "The Times" correspondent in Athens reported in that paper yesterday:
War has been going on in Athens since last night, a horrible, difficult kind of war, in which British and Greeks have been killed.
He goes on to say:
It is horrible warfare, because it has been, in the main, fought between British troops and their Greek friends and is as repugnant to the one as to the other.
This situation must bring great comfort to the Nazis, who are now eagerly searching
for such divisions as may appear in the united front of the Allied Nations. I have no doubt that Goebbels will make the most of it and will misinterpret it, and in some neutral countries our name will not be honoured, because of German propaganda.
We must sympathise with the Greeks. My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) pointed out that nearly eight years ago now, the Greek Constitution was abandoned, at the time when the Metaxas dictatorship was imposed on the people of Greece. Four of these years have been years of war. During the whole of these eight years they have never enjoyed the existence of representative institutions. They have been robbed of every shred of influence over their own lives, and since the war broke out, in addition to the deprivation of their freedom, they have suffered all the agonies of invasion and Nazi tyranny and the greatest hardship. Since the Metaxas dictatorship was established, democratic ideas on the mainland of Greece and in the Greek islands have developed. Democratic views have been strengthened and this has intensified, as is quite inevitable in any country, the difference between the Left and the Right.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. Nicolson) in a very instructive speech, with a good deal of which I agree, pointed out how confused was the political situation in Greece. That, I think, is obvious. It is far more complicated than the Prime Minister made out this morning. As I gathered from the Prime Minister, there are really two sets of people in Greece—E.A.M. and extreme Communists—I never knew any other kind myself if you got under the skin—and E.D.E.S., who apparently are God's own little gentlemen. All the tyrannous elements, all the bloodthirsty elements in Greece, are to be found in E.A.M., and the right hon. Gentleman divided the sheep from the goats so easily. I am only sorry he has not been present this afternoon to hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester. That issue has been put simply, I think it has been put quite correctly and wisely, by my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester. It was only the other day that the Prime Minister made a statement, which he did not quite repeat to-day, though he came pretty near to it. He said this morning that one uses words perhaps, if they are not prepared, which are a little
excessive. This is what he wrote with his own hand and read out himself on Tuesday, when dealing with the question of the disturbances in Athens and the desire of His Majesty's Government to aid the Greeks. He said:
we cannot do so, if the tommy-guns which were provided for use against the Germans are now used in an attempt to impose a Communistic dictatorship without th people being able to express their wishes,"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th December, 1944; Vol. 406, c. 357–8.]
I am not a Communist, or a supporter of dictatorship, whether from the Left or Right. As I understand it, E.A.M. is rather a mixed bag. It contains people like my right hon. Friend who speaks for the Liberal Party, and so mild that I should have thought the Secretary of State for Air would find it difficult to have them in his ranks, though no doubt that element of the Liberal Party which is steadily marching towards the Tory fold might accept them. It would be a sad thing if the Prime Minister, who is so averse from controversy, should appear to be fomenting ideological differences inside his own Government. That is the Prime Minister's own problem and not mine.
The Prime Minister also, by implication, tried to give the impression to the House that those for whom I speak regard armed insurrection as an instrument of policy. I would defy him to find any such statement in any speech, or any writing, by any Member of my party. We have, indeed, repudiated the use of force as a method of attaining political power, and after the bitter experiences of the war, I see no change in the policy that my party is likely to adopt. That is why I do not feel happy about the Amendment which is under discussion now, because it would seem that we were desiring to keep armed certain sections, and to disarm others. I will say something about the disarming of these people in a moment, but I want this House to understand that any idea of arming one set of people against another set of people, or of private armies, is most repugnant to my party. In the circumstances, therefore, I propose to ask my hon. Friends not to vote for the Amendment.
There is another Amendment on the Paper which there will be no time to discuss, which puts what we thought was the real problem, and a problem to which I
do not think the Prime Minister directed his mind, or anyhow not sufficiently. It is:
But humbly regret the situation that has arisen in Greece and, whilst being opposed to a dictatorshp of any section, urges upon His Majesty's Government that it should endeavour to secure at the earliest practicable moment the setting up of a National Government in that country representative of all sections of the people who have resisted the Fascist and Nazi invaders until such time as a General Election can be held.
I do not want to dwell on the past; I do not want to go into the details of past events. What is vital for this country is to find a way out of this difficulty into which we have been plunged. I know it will not be easy. But this country will not continue to tolerate a war between British soldiers and Greek people. Parents of this country with sons out there, are not going to sit silent while their kith and kin are being killed by Greek people. On the other hand, many British soldiers will be sad at heart if called upon to take part in a battle in a square, where women and children might well be slaughtered. Therefore, we must find some way out of this difficulty. I am not defending E.A.M. It may well be there are turbulent elements inside it. My right hon. Friend would not be in that, of course, although according to the hon. Member for West Leicester, he is typical of one of the sections in E.A.M. There may be most unruly elements within the ranks of E.A.M. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) was I understand compared to Papandreou. But it is clear that this fighting must be stopped. It is discreditable that it should go on. It shows that Greek democracy is still a somewhat tender plant. After the agonies of the past years, one can perfectly understand the reasons for that.
Would it not be possible to get the complete disarming of all bands? The British Government have assumed authority, and we could not take it away from them, even if we wished to do so—and I think it would be wrong to do so. The British Government, in my view, ought to take every step to secure the disarming of every armed element in Greece, to whatever section of Greek opinion they belong. [An HON. MEMBER: "Including the Greek Government?"] Perhaps my hon. Friend will listen to my argument: I do not like being interrupted, though some people seem to enjoy it. It is unfortunate that, in fact, the Prime Minister has created the impression that we are backing the Right in Greece, as against the Left. I am not arguing whether that is true or not: I am merely saying that that is undoubtedly the impression which has been created. If you could make a clean sweep of these bands of armed people, armed with British arms, the Greek Government would be perfectly entitled to establish their own armed force, on either a voluntary or a conscripted basis. Nobody could deny them that right. But mere disarming is not sufficient. The Government will have to take a hand in further events, quite clearly.
It does not seem to me to be practicable, at this stage of uncertainty in the continuance of the life of their Government, to leave the matter where it is. There is a responsibility on His Majesty's Government to get together all those various sections of opinion, with a view to completing and honouring an understanding with regard to the disarming of armed bands. I would support very strongly the view of the hon. Member for West Leicester. He said that a Minister of high standing ought to go to Greece from here. This is a job to be handled on the spot; obviously it cannot be handled from Whitehall. It is a big human problem, and will need a man with a big heart and a big mind. It that could be done, I think it would aid Parliament. If we could get a new Government established, if we could get the people of Greece fed and clothed and happy in their lives—or as happy as we can make them now—the way would be paved for the fulfilment of the policy of His Majesty's Government, that the people of Greece should be free to choose their own rulers. That ought not to be unduly delayed. I see the difficulties in the way of a general election at present; but I also feel that, while these formidable forces are surging to the surface, we may continue to have deplorable disorders, whereas Greece may well settle down if she has a Government freely chosen by her own people, after a general election. I hope that that is the policy His Majesty's Government will accept. I believe that Britain's honour is at stake, that Britain's dignity is at stake, that Britain's humanitarianism is at stake in this. If any steps can be taken now, to stop this war between brothers who have bled on the same field, those steps should be taken without delay.
I think each of us who has listened to this Debate must have felt a sense of melancholy, almost of tragedy, brooding over our proceedings. Whatever view we take as to the inevitability or otherwise of the events which have recently happened in Greece, every Member of this House must feel deeply the thought that there should be conflict now raging in Athens, in a land which means so much to every one of us. And if every Member feels that, I perhaps, not unnaturally, feel it more than most, for it is only a few weeks ago I was in Athens, and heard the cheers of the vast Greek populace, addressed in friendship to Britain, a welcome addressed to our own soldiers. I was one afternoon in Greece, where it so happened that a battalion of the regiment to which I still belong was stationed, and I heard from them that never had they experienced so much friendliness as greeted them in that country. It is a tragedy, however we look at it, that out of all this, these happenings should arise. I propose to try to give some account of how and why these happenings have come about, and what is the position of His Majesty's Government in regard to them. But I would like to say, at the outset, that it is a message from this House that we deplore these events, and that our feelings go out to our own Forces who are called upon to deal with them.
I am not going to be led away by the hon. Gentleman. What are the charges? The first charge which the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) put forward is that, as victory is approaching, British policy is inclined to support worn-out regimes against more popular forces. My right hon. Friend dealt this morning at length, and, I think the House will agree, faithfully, with those charges so far as concerns Belgium and Italy. I do not propose to say anything more about either of those two countries, but simply to concentrate what I have to say on the situation in Greece. The hon. Gentleman concluded his appeal by asking the Government immediately to put an end to all this fratricidal strife. I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I really hope to show how that was precisely our purpose at every stage in the policy we have pursued, not only in these last days in Athens, but for many, may I add, weary months of attempting to secure Greek unity before the Greek Government went back. I will tell the House how we tried to follow that through.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), who, in a very remarkable speech, if I may say so, spoke of the honour it was for Britain to take part in the liberation of Greece. I think that is true; but I repeat that our purpose is to enable the Greek people to express their own will and their own decision. We must though insist that that expression must be through the ballot box, and not by the bomb. How have we tried to follow that course out? The first question I am asked—and it is a prefectly reasonable question—is, do the present Greek Government—or shall we say the Greek Government up to a week ago—represent the people of Greece? Have they a basis of popular support? How in the world can that be finally ascertained except by a method which is familiar to all of us—the ballot box—and how could that have been practicable in Greece in the last few years since the German occupation? The Government were perfectly conscious at one time that the Greek Government in Cairo was not wholly representative of the Greek people, and that is why we sought to bring out representatives of the various parties in order to make that Government representative. We brought out a number of persons from Greece, including, among others, the present Prime Minister of Greece—about whom a word hereafter—and, as a result of these representatives, including those of E.A.M. and the Communist Party, having been brought out, eventually a conference was held at the Lebanon among the Greeks themselves. They arrived at an agreement and a Government was set up.
Now, unfortunately—as in my experience sometimes happens and not only in Greek politics—though the leaders agreed on a policy in the Lebanon, when the E.A.M. representatives got back to Greece they had not a little difficulty with their own followers. That is not unique in political life, and I certainly do not want to embarrass anybody by stressing it unduly. Such may be the proper expression of the popular will. After that slight hiatus, the ranks were closed again and, eventually, a Greek Government was formed at the end of August, the Lebanon Conference having been in May. Last August, a Greek Government was formed composed of all parties, including E.A.M. That is the Government which we recognise and which all our Allies recognise, and which eventually went into Greece. I want to draw the attention of the House to this, because the hon. Member for Broxtowe said that this is not a representative Government, but that it is an uneasy alliance and so on. I want to give the words used on the 15th September before this Government went back to Greece, by Professor Svolos, leader of the E.A.M. party, who called on M. Papandreou and assured him, in the name of all the E.A.M. Ministers that, whatever readjustments might have to be made when they got back to Athens, it was their desire that a Coalition Government, on the lines of the existing Government, should continue in office under M. Papandreou's presidency until elections could be held.
I stress that because it was M. Papandreou's original intention, as I know, to resign as soon as he returned to Greece. As the result, however, of representations from the E.A.M. Ministers in the Government, he decided, and I think rightly decided, to continue in office when they returned to Greece. So much for the "uneasy alliance" of the hon. Member for Broxtowe. Nor do I think that his aspersions were in any way representative of the union which had been arrived at. What is the present Greek Government? It is well worth looking at. It is a Government consisting of 22 Members—quite a large Cabinet for a relatively small country. I will give the parties to which its members belong. There are the Social Democrats. The Prime Minister himself is a Social Democrat, and I am advised that that party is slightly to the Left of the official Labour Party in this country. I am very careful to say that I am so advised. I cannot guarantee it. There are four Liberals—and they are to the Right of the Social Democrats. There is a Democratic Union Party and a Party called E.K.K.A. I hope I shall not be asked to describe them, because I do not know a great deal about them. They have each one representative. Then there is the National Union Party and the Agrarian Party, and, finally, the Popular Party, which, I am told, is one which may be said to be somewhere between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party in this country. That is the composition of this Government. There are 22 members of this Government, and this is the point I wish to emphasise. Of these 22, so far as I have been able to discover, every single one is a Republican.
Here, I want to kill the story that the present difficulties or troubles in Greece are something to do with the quarrel between Royalists and Republicans. That is really not so; it is a quite ludicrous over-simplification of the matter. When the seven E.A.M. Ministers walked out of this Cabinet, in circumstances which I shall shortly describe, they left behind the remainder, who are the Government to-day. They are Republicans and none of them is more dangerously reactionary than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith (Mr. Ernest Brown). I think that is a correct description of the Government, and I think the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Harold Nicolson) was justified in the admirable balance which he brought into these affairs. When the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) talks about a reactionary group, he is making a fantastic travesty of the facts. When he says this is a war between the people of Greece and a few Quislings, backed up by British bayonets. I cannot believe that he really thinks this is so. And, if he does, how does he explain that every known Greek party was in this Government, brought there from Greece at great trouble by us and at some risk to our people, to create a national front? What is the good of describing that Government, even after the E.A.M. Ministers walked out of it, as a reactionary group?
I do not know what the hon. Gentleman's experience of flirting is. I can assure him that His Majesty's Government in their many preoccupations with these tangled problems, have never thought of treating them in that way.
Let me now say a word about M. Papandreou himself, because we have been told by one or two speakers that this is a conflict between the democratic forces of E.A.M. and a reactionary Government—I think I am being fair—headed by M. Papandreou who wants a dictatorship. If anyone will read the past history of M. Papandreou, he can disprove that story for himself. Reference was also made by the hon. Member for Broxtowe to the events of 1936 and especially to the Metaxas dictatorship. Where was M. Papandreou after that? The hon. Member did not appear to have looked that up. M. Papandreou was, from that date, in exile because he was in opposition to the Metaxas dictatorship. This is the man who, we are told, has now become a Fascist himself. This is going a little bit too far, until it seems that everybody who disagrees with the views of our sole Communist representative in this House, has become a Fascist.
I am deeply relieved to find that everybody is agreed that M. Papandreou is not a Fascist. That, at any rate, is one step forward. But that he is surrounded by a number of other influences in the Cabinet; well, I have tried to describe these other influences. An hon. Gentleman spoke earlier about the Athens police and their Fascist tendencies. When I was in Athens nobody described them like that to me. I heard no such thing. Here was this Government composed of all the parties, including six or seven E.A.M. Ministers in the Government. They had been two months or so in Athens, and if there had been the least sign of such "Fascist tendencies," somebody in the Cabinet would have said, "This is a bad business. Let us have the police combed out." As far as I know no one said that. It is rather late that these charges should be made when we were never told that either by a single member of the Cabinet, neither by a Communist nor by anybody else.
That is not correct. Is it not the case that one of the serious troubles between E.A.M. and Papandreou and others was that they absolutely refused to comb the Fascists out of the police, and out of other administrative bodies?
I do not think so, and I am coming to the case of the differences in a moment. I want to be really fair in regard to the facts which happened when M. Papandreou returned to Athens. He laid down the policy of the Government in a speech on 18th October, a few days before I reached Athens, which was the subject of much public discussion. I will read one passage from this speech because it is important. He said this:
First, anxious to re-establish a Free Greek State, the Government will pursue the task of reorganising the country's armed forces on solely national and military criteria, as the National Conference at Lebanon laid down. Flags will be handed to the courageous fighters of our guerrilla forces, and their cadres will find a worthy place in the reorganised Greek Army. The basis of our national Army, as it has always been in the past and as it is for all free peoples, will be the regular call to the colours. The whole Greek people claim the right to defend the country. The known coup d' etat spirit of our armed forces shall be dissolved. It will be the rule and the practice that the army cannot be the master, but only the sovereign people whose will is expressed by the Government. The army shall be at the Government's order. It will be the rule and the practice that the army can belong to neither party nor a private individual. It belongs to the country alone and obeys the Government's orders only.
I must now tell this House of my own experiences during those few days in Athens. Among those who asked to see me—I did not ask to see them—were many leading representatives of the Communist Party in Greece. I ask M. Papandreou, as I thought it was only courteous to do so, whether it was in order that I should see them and he said, "Yes." I was glad, therefore, to see them at the British Embassy. What did they tell me? In the first place, they expressed their thanks for the help which the British Government had given to Greece during her time of trial under German rule, and for the supplies that were arriving, as a result of a great feat of organisation, in the Piraeus. I asked them—it was only shortly after this declaration from which
I have quoted was made—whether they were content with the Government, whether unity was established in the Government, and whether they had any complaints to make, and they told me just exactly what Professor Svolos himself had told M. Papandreou before agreement was reached, that they were perfectly content about the unity of the Government and the policy it was pursuing and completely loyal to M. Papandreou as Prime Minister. That was what I was told. I did not want to take any part in their politics, but after I had heard that declaration, I said that I trusted that unity in the Government would be maintained while we did all we could to support Greece with food and all the essentials of life. They replied that they were in agreement with that document that I have read out and which M. Papandreou said had been previously approved by all Ministers, and I hoped that the same agreement might be maintained.
I think it was 28th October. There is no catch about this. It is an account of what happened, and I think the House should know about it.
I pass from that to another matter which has been referred to, which is the arrival of the mountain brigade. That Greek brigade from Rimini arrived in Athens on 9th November. It has been represented by some speakers in the House as if that was some form of sinister Fascist organisation. That brigade received a welcome from the Greek people. One telegram that I saw described this welcome as only parallel to the greeting given to our troops on their arrival. What about the issues which have brought about this rift in the Greek Government? As to the discussion about the measures for disbanding the E.A.M. police and E.L.A.S. army, we knew quite well when I was in Athens that this was an issue which might cause a rift. In the discussions the E.A.M. Ministers had not, at first, said anything at all about the demobilisation of the Greek brigade. The plan for demobilisation, I must tell the House, was agreed to by the whole Government at this stage, including the E.A.M. Ministers. It was in two stages. On 1st December, the E.A.M. police which had been established in Athens and a number of other towns, was to be replaced by the National Guard, which is composed of men of the 1936 class, who had been called up. On 10th December, the guerillas were to be demobilised and replaced by a national Army formed by calling up three more classes and we had made arrangements when I was in Greece for the provision of 40,000 uniforms and equipment for this new national Army. That was the plan agreed to by everybody. Since then difficulties have begun to arise. On 30th November, a draft decree—I ask the House to note this—for the demobilisation of the guerillas had been drawn up at M. Papandreou's request by the E.A.M. Ministers themselves. They provided, in this draft decree—and this meets the point of an hon. Member who spoke earlier—that the mountain brigade and the Sacred Squadron were not to be demobilised and that E.L.A.S. was to retain one brigade of guerillas, and I think E.D.E.S. were to be given some small force.
These were the proposals of the E.A.M. Ministers themselves. That was the 30th November. At the last moment these were changed again. The E.A.M. Ministers insisted on the demobilisation of the Greek regular units instead of maintaining the agreement that the Greek Brigade should remain and the E.A.M. Brigade remain also. This changed the position. For they decided that the Greek Regular Brigade should be demobilised altogether. On this issue the other Greek Government Ministers all refused to agree. They were quite willing that an E.A.M. Brigade should remain if so desired. They made that concession to balance the Greek Regular Brigade but were not prepared to see demobilised this one regular Greek force—which many wished would go again into action against the Germans. It was on that that the split came, and it came within the Greek Government and it did not come on any move or instruction or advice from His Majesty's Government. Therefore, it is not, unhappily, true to say that agreement was ever reached about demobilisation. I have taken a great deal of trouble to check these facts and to watch them, and I feel quite confident that the account I am giving the House is as correct as can be given in these very difficult conditions.
So it happened that the next day, as the result of this failure to reach agreement on demobilisation, the E.A.M. police refused to hand over their arms in accordance with the Government's decision. Then it was that M. Papandreou circulated a decree enforcing the Government's decision. He circulated that decree and asked the Ministers to sign it. All the Ministers signed it except the E.A.M. Ministers, who resigned rather than sign it. Thus it was that the split came, and it was after that event that General Scobie issued his broadcast, to which reference has already been made.
I must refer to one other matter, which is the relation of these irregular armies to our own Command. Before ever Greece was liberated, before our troops went in, we knew that there would be this problem of these irregular armies. In point of fact it has not played, so far as General Zervas is concerned, any great part in events in Athens because General Zervas's forces are in Epirus, far away from the capital. All the same, care was taken to bring together the leaders of the two armies—General Zervas and General Sarafis, who is the commander-in-chief of E.L.A.S.—and they came to see General Wilson at his headquarters before the start of the liberation of Greece. Agreement was reached with these two generals and with the Greek Government, that all Greek Forces, including all guerillas—E.L.A.S. or E.D.E.S.—were to serve under the direct command of General Scobie as General Wilson's deputy. That was the agreement reached, and so I say again that this action of E.A.M. Ministers and the consequent action of E.L.A.S. was a breach of their own agreement with our military commanders, quite apart from the military issue altogether.
I will mention one other matter on which there has been a certain amount of talk in this Debate—the security battalion and the rôle they played. Whatever may have been the past of the security battalion, they do not enter into this business at all, because they are all disbanded and have been disbanded for some little time past. They have played no part in events, and they are not playing any part now, either in support of the British Forces or the Greek Forces in Athens.
I must now refer to the remarks made about our Ambassador in Athens, that he was inadequate and partisan. If any hon. Member of this House thinks that the present position of His Majesty's Ambassador in Greece is an easy one to discharge, he is welcome to that thought, but in actual fact, it is a matter of the utmost difficulty in a position like this for our Ambassador to maintain a fair and impartial position, and truly to represent the instructions which he receives from His Majesty's Government. It is the belief of the War Cabinet that Mr. Leeper has striven, most loyally and truly, to carry out those instructions. I could not accept any kind of strictures on him.
There is somebody else on the scene to which reference must be made, and that is the veteran leader of the Greek Liberal Party, M. Sophoulis, who has been pictured from time to time in the Press and in speeches as a sort of deus ex machina. It has been made out that if only the British Government had not butted in, this man would long since have settled the problem so that all Greeks would be able to live happily together for ever after. I have nothing at all against this most respected Greek elder statesman, but I am bound to say this: that he, and I am sorry to say the other members of the Greek Liberal Party too, have frequently criticised M. Papandreou for making too many concessions to E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. The latter have retorted in the last day or two by issuing leaflets, in which they most violently attack this most venerable elder statesman, and say that in no circumstances whatever, would anything have induced them to serve under his leadership. I am bound to say that that leaflet does not surprise me in the very least, and I do not think that there was ever the slightest chance that M. Sophoulis could have formed a government including all the parties. All that would have happened would have been the additional confusion of all trying to do a little cabinet-making, amidst all the troubles then surging round Athens. I do hope I have said enough to show the House——
The hon. Gentleman must let me finish—I hope I have been able to show that the Government which we have been seeking to support in Greece is not a Right-Wing Government but that it is, so far as we could contrive to help it to make itself so, a Government of all the parties which, until a few days ago, was accepted as such by everybody. The mere withdrawal of one section—seven members out of 24—does not turn a representative Government into a dictatorship, any more than, let me say, the most melancholy departure of any part of the National Government from this bench would turn what was left into a dictatorship, supposing what was left had a majority of support in this House.
May I say a word more about the Greek brigade and the Sacred Squadron which seems to have dominated this Debate? We are told that the reason why E.A.M. had to leave the Government was because of the fear that this Greek brigade would dominate the proceedings if once E.A.M. were disarmed. I ask the House in all seriousness, could anybody accept that as being a real accusation? Supposing E.A.M. Ministers had remained in the Papandreou Government with all the authority of government, are we to be told that the mere existence of one Greek regular brigade, probably shortly to leave again for the battle front, was such a formidable thing that they could not dare to allow its existence to continue? That cannot be true if there were real popular support for the position which they said they held; it would be true though if the popular support had been greatly exaggerated. Are the Sacred Squadrons—there are two squadrons actually; one is at present in the Greek islands and the other is at Salonika—so terrifying to the E.A.M. Cabinet Ministers of Athens? We must be careful not to build up this imaginary military dictatorship where none exists at all. The truth is much nearer to what my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester said earlier, that maybe we are to blame for not intervening at an earlier stage than we did.
What about the present position? The House has perhaps read the account in "The Times" this morning, and there are three items in it, to which I would draw the attention of the House because they help me to answer the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood). They are these. First, the writer said:
The reception of our men when they rushed sometimes rather forcibly into Greek houses, trampled through bedrooms, dining rooms and kitchens, most of which are occupied … demonstrates popular feeling. Our men are welcomed as liberators, and people who have been terrorised for many months gladly point out where E.L.A.S. men may be concealed.
Now that would not happen if we were supporting a tyrannical dictatorship
against the will of the populace. I believe that to be a true account. Let me read two other items which give me, as I want to give the House, some hope—if I may have the hon. Gentlemen's attention—that we may yet get out of these troubles. The next item is this:
A general commanding 4,000 guerrillas in the Eleusis area"—
20 miles from Athens—actually some guerrillas which I happened to see myself—E.A.M. Forces—
refused to bring in his men to fight in Athens
to attempt to decide the issue there. There is, I think, a measure of encouragement in that—[Interruption]—I am sorry if I interrupt a little, but it would make it easier for me to be understood if my hon. Friends would listen——
This report is of importance and I want hon. Members who do not agree with the Government to listen to this extract:
Even General Sarafis himself … would have been ready to sign the order for disbanding the E.L.A.S. if it had not been for the fact that he was frankly afraid to do so.
I think that possibly that is true. I hope and believe, and it is the desire of His Majesty's Government, that this horrible strife will soon be ended, and that those who are engaged in it and are now attacking what is the only constitutional Government there is, will cease their activities. We do not say that this Government has to endure forever. We have never based ourselves on that case. We say that there are people in arms against the only constituted authority. It is the only Government there is. As soon as arms are laid down, and peace is restored, then it is our hope that at the earliest possible moment free elections may be held. I go further. I say to the House that His Majesty's Government are ready to play their part, if it is desired, and invite their Allies to join in playing their part, in doing all they can to insure that these elections should be freely held. That is all we desire. We do not want to impose a Government headed by Mr. X or Mr. Y on the Greek people. Why should we? We have plenty of anxieties and troubles of our own. But we do say that we have a responsibility to the Greek
people to let them declare their own will for themselves.
Why did we ever go there at all? An hon. Gentleman said, "It is not on our lines of communication," but the country was without any produce, and Germany had done all in her power to destroy it. The people in Greece would have starved. That is why we intervened, knowing full well the risks and the political disputes and passions of this war, and also the passions left over from the Metaxas régime. We knew all this would burst in our faces, but we thought it right to take the risk and responsibility. We repeat, order must be restored, and when order is restored let free elections be held. We desire to help in holding such elections, and we invite our Allies to help us in doing that. Let us not bring in questions about the Greek King playing this part or that. The King never sought, in these months, to play any part in these affairs, and whatever our views about Royalism or Republicanism I think we owe him some token of respect for the manner in which he has held back, and not sought to complicate what he knew was a difficult position in his own country.
We do not seek to dictate to Greece what her Government shall be. We do not seek to order the Greeks to have this, that or the other Government. All we wish to do is to ensure conditions in which food and supplies can reach the Greek people, because we know that if we do not they will starve. I believe that the great mass of them are not interested in E.A.M., E.L.A.S. or E.D.E.S. They are much more interested in getting something to eat, and their life restored again, and employment for their people. That is what we are trying to do. In the process we have become involved, against our will, in this internecine conflict. We beg and urge that those carrying it on shall lay down their arms. When arms are laid down it will be for the Greek people to decide on their Government, and they will do it with our help and good will, and once again, I hope, democracy will play its part in the land of its birth.
|Division No. 2.]||AYES.||[5.01 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir R. T. D.||Foster, W.||Parker, J.|
|Bartlett, C. V. O.||Frankel, D.||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Gallacher, W.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey, W.)|
|Bevan, A. (Ebbw Vale)||Hardie, Mrs. Agnes||Sloan, A.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hubbard, T. F.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hynd, J. B.||Stephen, C.|
|Cove, W. G.||McGovern, J.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Meryhill)||Mack, J. D.||Walkden, E. (Doncaster)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McNeil, H.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Mainwaring, W. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—|
|Dugdale, John (W. Bromwich)||Manning, C. A. G.||Mr. Barstow and Mr. Hugh|
|Adams, Major S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||De la Bère, R.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.|
|Agnew, Comdr. P. G.||Denville, Alfred||Jeffreys, General Sir G. D.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr'h)||Doland, G. F.||John, W.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Donner, Squadron-Leader P. W.||Johnstone, Rt. Hon. H. (Mid'sbro, W.)|
|Apsley, Lady||Douglas, F. C. R.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.|
|Astor, Viso'tess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Drewe, C.||Jaynson-Hicks, Lt.-Comdr. Hon. L. W.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Keatinge, Major E. M.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. (Kens'gton N.)||Keeling, E. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. H.||Eccles, D. M.||Keir, Mrs. Cazalet|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)|
|Beattie, F. (Cathcart)||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Kimball, Major L.|
|Beaumont, Maj. Hn. R. E. B. (P'tsm'th)||Elliot, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||King-Hail, Commander W. S. R.|
|Beech, Major F. W.||Ellis, Sir G.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Levy T.|
|Bernays, Captain R. H.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Linstead, H. N.|
|Berry, Hon. G. L. (Buckingham)||Etherton, Ralph||Llewellin, Col. Rt. Hon. J. J.|
|Beveridge, Sir W. H.||Evans, Col. Sir A. (Cardiff, S.)||Lloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrew, E.)|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Ladywood)|
|Bird, Sir R. E.||Everard, Sir W. Lindsay||Locker-Lampson, Commander O. S.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Findlay, Sir E.||Loftus, P. C.|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Fleming, Squadron-Loader E. L.||Longhurst, Captain H. C.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Foot, D. M.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Fox, Squadron-Leader Sir G. W. G.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Oliver|
|Boulton, Sir W. W.||Fraser, Lt.-Col. Sir Ian (Lonsdale)||Mabane, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Boyce, Sir, H. Leslie||Galbraith, Comdr. T. D.||McCallum, Major D.|
|Brabner, Comdr. R. A.||Gammans, Capt. L. D.||McCorquodale, Malcolm S.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G. Lloyd (P'b'ke)||Macdonald, Captain Peter (I. of W.)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. J. G. (H'dern's)||Gibbons, Lt.-Col. W. E.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Gledhill, G.||McKie, J. H.|
|Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Glyn, Sir R. G. C.||Maemillan, Rt. Hon. H. (Stockton)|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham)||Goldie, N. B.||Maitland, Sir A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Grant-Ferris, Wing-Commander R.||Mander, G. le M.|
|Bull, B. B.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Manningham-Buller, R. E.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M. (Altrincham)||Marlowe, Lt.-Col. A.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Grigg, Rt. Hon. Sir P. J. (Cardiff, E.)||Mathers, G.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Grimston, Hon. J. (St. Albans)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)||Mills, Colonel J. D. (New Forest)|
|Cadogan, Major Sir E.||Groves, T. E.||Mitchell, Colonel H. P.|
|Caine, G. R. Hall||Gunston, Major Sir D. W.||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Campbell, Dermot (Antrim)||Hall, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Aberdare)||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T. (Bromley)||Hall, W. G. (Come Valley)||Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)|
|Cary, R. A.||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Haslam, Henry||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Channon, H.||Helmore, Air Commodore W.||Morrison, Major J. G. (Salisbury)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Hely-Huichinson, M. R.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. (Ep'ing)||Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N.E.)||Mott-Radclyffe, Capt. C. E.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S.||Heneage, Lt.-Col. A. P.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Hepburn, Major P. G. T. Buchan||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C.||Herbert, Petty Officer A. P. (Oxford U.)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.)|
|Colegate, W. A.||Hicks, E. G.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hill, Prof. A. V.||Owen, Major Sir G.|
|Conant, Major R. J. E.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Cook, Lt.-Col. Sir T.R.A.M.(N'f'k, N.)||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hopkinson, A.||Petherick, M.|
|Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir Stafford||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Peto, Major B. A. J.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.||Hulbert, Wing Commander N. J.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Power, Sir J. C.|
|Davidson, Viscountess (H'm H'mst'd)||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Isaacs, G. A.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||James, Wing-Com. A. (Well'borough)||Purbrick, R|
|De Chair, S. S.||James, Admiral Sir W. (Ports'th, N.)||Pym, L. R.|
|Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.|
|Rankin, Sir R.||Smithers, Sir W.||Turton, R. H.|
|Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Reid, W. Allan (Derby||Southby, Comdr. Sir A. R. J.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Robertson, D. (Streatham)||Spearman, A. C. M.||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Robertson, Rt. Hon. Sir M. A. (M'ham)||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. Oliver||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Storey, S.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Stou[...]ton, Hon. J. J.||Waterhouse, Captain Rt. Hon. C.|
|Rothschild, J. A. de||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Watt, Brig. G. S. Harvie (Richmond)|
|Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (Northwich)||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)||Studholme, Major H. C.||Wells, Sir S. Richard|
|Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. (Oxford U.)||Suirdale, Colonel Viscount||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Summers, G. S.||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Sandys, E. D.||Sutcliffe, H.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Savory, Professor D. L.||Sykes, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. Sir F. H.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Schuster, Sir G. E.||Tate, Mrs. Mavis C.||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.|
|Selley, Sir H. R.||Taylor, Major C. S. (Eastbourne)||Wilmot, John|
|Shakespeare, Sir G. H.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'd'ton, S.)||Windsor, W.|
|Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)||Thomas, I. (Keighley)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Sidney, Major W. P.||Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Simmonds, Sir O. E.||Thorneycroft, Capt. G. E. P. (St'ff'd)||York, Major C.|
|Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A.||Thornton-Kemsley, Lt.-Col. C. N.||Young, Major A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. D.||Thurtle, E.|
|Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Touche, G. C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—|
|Smith, E. P. (Ashford)||Tree, A. R. L. F.||Mr. James Stuart and|