Liberated Countries (Supplies)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28 March 1945.

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Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham and Worthing 12:00, 28 March 1945

The hon. Lady is the last person with whom I should wish to quarrel, but she must appreciate that I must be very careful what I say. If she thinks, she will see that there is only one way in which we can reduce the prisoner of war rations, and I am not prepared to advocate that course. If she has followed my argument, she will see why I am not prepared to argue that point. I do not think it is our duty. I regard the hon. Lady's interruption as friendly, but I do not think it is our duty. I would not like to advocate that course, for certain reasons, and because I do official work which brings me into communication with the United States. I call attention to the matter and suggest that it is a matter for the American Government to take up. I must, however, say that I have had from French people a somewhat unfortunate impression of what they regard as the high scale of living of U.S. Headquarters far behind the lines, compared with that of the civilian population around them. That is a thing which I think should be rigidly prevented, and I would like to say, now that we have got our forces into Germany, that the number of headquarters, both British and U.S., in the free countries should be kept as small as possible, and that they should be pushed, as quickly as possible, into enemy territory. I think that only those absolutely essential for clearing up remaining pockets of resistance should remain. We do not want to have what happened in the last war; a vast army located behind the lines, feeling a sense of great importance, and with people going round presumably on business, but in cars containing cases of wine and scent for their lady friends. I am told that that happened in the last war, but I have no personal knowledge of it. It is a serious point, which requires very serious consideration.

I only say this in conclusion. I put these facts, which I believe to be facts, before the House. I believe that, given the opportunity in the next few months, these three magnificent Allies of ours— France, Belgium and Holland—will rise in time to all their former greatness. I believe these countries cannot be destroyed, at any rate morally, but we can do immense mischief to them, and both the United States and the British Governments must be extremely careful in their economic and military policy in the next few months. I find myself in absolute agreement with words used by the "New Statesman" in a recent issue, because I think it puts the whole matter into a nutshell. It will be remembered that Hitler said—and let the House remember that he said it again and again to certain people, hon. Members of this House, who were unwise enough to go to see him before the war, and he has said it during the war: "You do not understand the German people. We would rather commit suicide than surrender, but, in our suicide, we will bring down all Europe and will leave Europe a devastated and starving area." Let us take care that, in our policy, we do not, quite involuntarily, ensure that a portion of that comes true, because if the results, or what are considered to be the needs, of waging war effectively in Germany involve the population of the free countries in strains and deprivations which they think are not necessary, it will have done a great deal to create that state of affairs. I conclude by quoting from the "New Statesman": It is just as essential to provide Europe with work, food and transport as it is to defeat the Nazis in the field.