Orders of the Day — German Populations (Expulsion)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5 November 1945.

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7.9 p.m.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

I make no apology for returning once more to the very important subject which I raised about three weeks ago on the Adjournment—I put a further question about it to the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs today—the question of the mass expulsions from Central Europe into Eastern Germany, occupied Germany. I regret to say that His Majesty's Government still have no information which they are able to give me. I will begin by recapitulating what has happened. This matter was first raised on 10th October because of the reports that were prevalent throughout the daily Press that 4,500,000 Germans, from Poland, Czechoslovakia and from Hungary, were to be forcibly expelled, starting at a rate of 30,000 per day from 15th October, and going on throughout the winter months—and that, despite the very strong recommendation of the Potsdam Conference that deportations and expulsions should cease, until they could be carried out in a humane manner, and certainly until there had been a report from the Allied Commission as to the number which it was possible for the various zones in Germany to accept, and provide with reasonably proper accommodation.

This was followed by a full day's Debate on 26th October, when the matter was referred to by a number of speakers. The Foreign Secretary hardly touched upon it at all in his speech, and the right hon. Gentleman who wound up the Debate did not refer to it but dealt only with the food situation and the possibility of bringing more food to the starving people. The third occasion is today. I asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in view of the fact that the Allied Commission had not yet reported on the rate at which expelled Germans could be received into occupied Germany, what action he had taken with the Governments of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary on the decisions to expel 4,500,000 Germans at the rate of 30,000 a day, commencing on 15th October. The Under-Secretary replied' that His Majesty's Government had no official knowledge.

What are His Majesty's representatives doing overseas? I should have thought that on important matters of this kind inquiries could be made of Ambassadors. We have an Ambassador in Moscow and one in Warsaw. I do not know what the position is in Prague, but I think we have an Ambassador there too. Yet weeks elapse and His Majesty's Government have no official information. I am not blaming the Under-Secretary for not being able to give me a more explicit answer today—I understand some of the difficulties—but I revert to the whole sense of the speech that I endeavoured to make on 10th October, namely, that the terrible things that are happening in Europe today are just those very things which the people of this country thought they were fighting to prevent. Therefore, it is of the most vital necessity that whenever we get the opportunity in this House we should raise the issue, not only in order to press for information but to press His Majesty's Government to take the quickest possible action to stop this villainy. I did not have time oh the last occasion to develop the case in the way I wished. Some hon. Members may say that is very fortunate; I do not know. The matter to which I now wish to refer was touched upon by the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) in the Debate on 26th October. I refer to the expulsions from Czechoslovakia. She said then that it appeared that these expulsions had stopped. I was not there to contradict her, nor do I wish to contradict her, but my information is entirely to the contrary, and as recently as the middle of last month these expulsions were continuing.

Photo of Miss Eleanor Rathbone Miss Eleanor Rathbone , Combined English Universities

I think what I said was that it was believed they had been mitigated, but that large numbers were still going across—not being expelled but being forced to flee, practically, by the harshness of the treatment meted out to them.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

I am obliged to the hon. Lady. The point I wish to emphasise today apropos the situation in Czechoslovakia is that many of these people who are now being expelled are anti-Nazi. As I said on that occasion, they are being shifted from an anti-Nazi camp in many cases to a Czech slave camp. Worst of all is a feature which has never been ventilated in this House. Towns are swept up at short notice. A serving officer, who shall be nameless but whose name I will gladly give to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, himself visited the country and told me precisely what goes on. He said people get knowledge of the next area to be forcibly evacuated. Then what he described as the thieves' train leaves Prague every day, containing individuals carrying empty suit cases, and proceeds to the place which is to be forcibly evacuated by the police or military. The village is surrounded and everybody is told to get out at short notice, often in 20 minutes. Young men are marched off literally into slavery. Women, children and old men are herded into camps to start with and are then told to march to the West and carry what they can. Then the thieves descend on the township, take the belongings of these people and return to Prague.

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

The hon. Gentleman referred to some nameless officer. What steps have been taken to verify the statements which he made?

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

I cannot take any more steps, because I cannot go to Prague.

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

That means that the hon. Member is accepting the statement and broadcasting it in this House, obviously with evil consequences.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

I have reason to know that this man knows what he is talking about, because he and his family happen to be among the victims. He happens to be an anti-Nazi Sudeten German.

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

What proof is there of that?

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

I have told the House where my information comes from, and surely that is sufficient. My hon. Friend may not like it, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. These people are being driven in a most inhumane manner across the face of Europe. All the evidence is in support of what I am saying now.

Photo of Miss Eleanor Rathbone Miss Eleanor Rathbone , Combined English Universities

The evidence comes from several other sources besides the officer referred to.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

The great thing is to try to remain unprejudiced. This is a matter of humanity. I do not care who the people are. I did not fight in this war and I did not have very much to do with it. I was not a soldier, but I do not believe that any soldier fought this war to see women and children herded across Europe like a lot of cattle, and I do not think any fighting soldier would stand it. I mind much more about what they think than any other group or society in this country. It is not only in Czechoslovakia; it is not only in a Westerly direction. Seven hundred thousand Hungarians are also being forcibly ejected from Austria. Then I notice tonight a headline in the evening paper, "Refugees' plight desperate." Six hundred thousand Germans are to be forcibly ejected from the Russian-occupied zone of Germany to create more chaos in British-occupied Germany, without warning of any kind whatever. I cannot verify the facts, any more than my hon. Friend who interrupted me just now. I can only do my best within my limited means to inform the House of what I hear, and I think my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will bear me out when I say I do not leave him alone very much, and anything that comes to me I pass on to him.

It is apparently a fact, according to the latest news that we have, that the 4,500,000 expulsions to which I have referred are to continue, and yet His Majesty's Government do not seem to know anything about it. There is going to be the most appalling chaos in the British zone. It was pointed out on 26th October how the British zone had been well organised and there was a limited amount of food available, but that it would be impossible to deal with any more evacuations of a serious order, and if these teeming hundreds of thousands are to come flowing in there is not the slightest chance of being able to deal with the starvation situation in our own zone in the coming winter months. I want to appeal to His Majesty's Government to make the strongest possible representations to the Governments of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Russia to stop these deportations, or expulsions, or whatever you call them, now. It is no use saying that Russia does not influence the situation.

I asked this particular officer about it. I said, "This may be all boloney, what you are telling me. It may be all a one-sided story. It may be simply put about to discredit certain things that are going on there. What evidence have you that Russia can stop it if she wants to?" His answer was, "Precisely this. I can give you the name"—which he did and which I will gladly pass on to the Minister, but I will certainly not mention it in public—"of the owner of a factory"—in the town which he mentioned—"who was a well-known Nazi, and because he is working for the Russians nobody dares to interfere with him at all." I submit that if the Russian Government really put their foot down they could stop these abominations absolutely at once. But even that is not enough. As my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities said just now, it is no use stopping the expulsions unless proper protection is afforded to the people who are eventually doomed to expulsion but are left behind for the time being. Their situation may become absolutely impossible and it is absolutely necessary that proper protection should be afforded by their Governments.

Thirdly—and I say this to a Government whose head is a man whom we protected here throughout the war—the Czechoslovak Government ought to release the slaves at once and let the yon.

men get back to their families, if they can find them, and do what they can to help the situation during the coming winter.

I want to say just this in conclusion. I am the first to recognise that there is not much hope of permanent peace in Europe unless we and the Russians find a way of getting along together. I believe that, absolutely emphatically, but that means co-operation. You cannot have co-operation in a one-track way. Co-operation must come from that side as well. The Russians will find themselves, unless they are careful, in this appalling position, that the huge amount of good will that has been built up in this country for Russia will disappear to nothing almost overnight because of all these terrible things which are going on in Europe. I do, therefore, implore the Russians, if I can appeal to them through this House, to take such steps as they can now to stop this villainy and the awful suffering and torture which will ensue for so many human beings, unless it is stopped before the winter months.

7.23 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

I am very glad that the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) has raised this matter once again, and that he has spoken in such very moving terms. We all recognise his sincerity in this matter. I think all of us are sincere about it. I recognise also that the Under-Secretary of State has had a rather rough evening. He has had a heavy time for an Under-Secretary in having to reply to two Debates in rapid succession. He acquitted himself well last time; and I am sure he will do so on this occasion. The point I really want to put to him is this. I cannot understand why he should have to get up repeatedly from that Front Bench, as he did at Question time, and say that His Majesty's Government—the phrase is his own—have no official information about these deportations. If His Majesty's Government have no official information, they ought to have it. We have a pretty shrewd idea of what is going on; and His Majesty's Government have far better representation abroad than we have.

I hope the Under-Secretary will contradict me if I am wrong, but I think these deportations have started again at a rate 'of between 20,000 and 30,000 a day now. I am further informed—and I would like my hon. Friend to answer this if it is not true—that our military authorities in the British zone in Germany have been told already by His Majesty's Government that they will probably have to accept another 4,000,000 deportees from Central and Eastern Europe this winter. If this is the case, it will be massacre on a very big scale. The hon. Gentleman opposite asked for authorities. I will give him one authority. Yesterday I met one of the most distinguished of the foreign correspondents of the United States. I will gladly give his name to any hon. Member afterwards who may wish to have it, but I do not want to give publicity to it in this House. He has spent the last three months in all the occupied zones in Germany and Austria, except the Russian one—in the British, the American and the French—and he has been a good deal in Berlin. I asked him whether large scale deportations were taking place, and he said they were, both from Poland and from Czechoslovakia. He further said there was no question that they were being carried out in direct contradiction of the agreement made at Potsdam that the deportations were to be made over a period, and in a humane manner.

As hon. Members will agree, I am not in the habit of dishing out sob-stuff to this House. I do not believe that it does any good; but this informant told me one story based on his own personal experience a few days ago, which made a very great impression on my mind. I am going to tell his story now. He was in the An halter Station in Berlin, where he saw a very great number of refugees, all very hungry and miserable. There was one old woman over 70 years of age sitting in a corner with a resigned expression on her face. She was reading a Bible. He went over and sat down beside her and asked where she had come from. She said from the far Eastern district of Silesia. She said she had been given 10 minutes' notice to get out of her house; and that all her men folk were dead. They had been killed in one way or another. She had just had time to pick up a few trinkets, such as one or two clocks and watches and a gold ornament. When she got to the frontier and was examined by the Russian guards, all these valuables were taken from her. and her sole remaining possession in the world was the Bible which she was reading.

My American correspondent said, "Where are you going to now?" And she just looked up and said: "I haven't the faintest idea." My friend said, and I will use his own words: "The final ironical touch is that when I looked over her shoulder, I found that the passage she was reading in the Bible was the Sermon on the Mount." That is a true story, from firsthand evidence; and I give it only as an example of thousands of cases all over Central and Eastern Europe at the moment. I am not certain of very much in this sanguinary world of ours; but I am certain that the people who fought this war did not fight it in order to murder by means of starvation the bulk of the people of Central and Eastern Europe. To put it on the lowest ground, it will not pay us; for famine and pestilence go hand in hand.

I do not want to attack any other country, and least of all the Soviet Union. I am on the record as having fought in this House and outside it for Anglo-Soviet friendship for the last 20 years; but there is no use blinking the fact that Russia could put a stop to this horrible business if she chose during the next few difficult months. To be quite objective, there is another side to the picture as well. It is also a fact that the great food-producing countries of the world are eating far too much to-day in a starving world; more, in fact, than is good for them, as I can testify from personal experience. The per capita consumption of food in the United States of America is, at this moment, substantially above what it was in 1939; and this is with half the population of Europe on the brink of starvation. The same is true of the other food-producing countries, including those of South America.

It will be asked, What practical steps can we take? Before I sit down I would like to indicate one or two. First of all, I echo the plea of the hon. Member for Ipswich that we should bring the strongest pressure of which we are capable upon the Soviet Government to suspend these deportations during the winter months; and also to allow us to have a look behind that iron curtain that has fallen across Europe from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic. Unless and until that happens suspicion must continue in Europe, and as long as suspicion remains there can be no improvement in the present disastrous international situation.

My second point is that we should, at the same time, bring the strongest possible pressure, accompanied by a full statement of the facts, upon the United States and the other great food-producing countries of the world, to release more food for Europe in its present agony. The third thing I would suggest is that we should revive the Red Cross in Germany. Hon. Members may not realise that it has been abolished. Yet it is the only German organisation capable of bringing relief to these deported people. The ground on which it was liquidated—and here again I quote my American correspondent friend as the authority—is that it was once under the control of the Nazis. As every organisation in the last five or six years and before was under the control of the Nazis, that is not a very good ground for abolishing it. Provided we remove all Nazi influence in the organisation, there is a great deal to be said for our reviving it to carry out essential relief work in Germany during the next few critical months.

Finally, I would suggest that we might do something to reduce the swollen garrisons now in occupation of Central Europe. Hon. Members were no doubt, shocked, as I was, to read that there are practically 1,000,000 Allied troops occupying Austria. Such a spectacle is obscene, like a lot of flies battening on a carcase. Everybody knows that in the present condition of Europe all that is required for effective military occupation is an adequate Air Force, and a number of strong but comparatively small mobile mechanised columns that can be moved quickly from place to place. That is the way Germany held down Europe for five years. There is no reason whatsoever for having these vast numbers of troops, who ought to be back in this country building houses, battened on to these unfortunate people, particularly the Austrian people. What have they done to deserve to have one man for every three of their male population to hold them down, when they have never made the slightest attempt to rise?

We in this country should do everything that lies in our power to alleviate the situation. I am opposed to any reduction in our basic rations here, because I agree with the Minister of Food that we are literally down to the bone; and I am not prepared even to save women and chil- dren from death by starvation at the expense of the health of the people of this country. But beyond this let us do all we can. Let us give everything that lies in our power to give. On this issue I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich that we have to standup for what we know in our hearts to be right, and against what we know to be wrong, even if it means standing up to the whole of the rest of the world. This country has done it before; and it must do it again. We shall never regret it. Because not only is this a moral issue; but in a final analysis, it is a fight for the survival of what remains of European civilisation and of all those Christian values—kindness, toleration, mercy—which, through many dark periods, have sustained that civilisation for over 2,000 years.

7.34 p.m.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I have only one or two things to add to the admirable account we have heard from the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). As one of the Members who has actually seen at least a small fragment of what is going on in Germany, I feel that I am entitled to detain this House for a short time. It is no good denying what is going on. Nobody who has been to Berlin and stood on a Berlin railway station, who has seen people lying in the station and who knew enough German to ask them how long they had been there, where they had come from and what had happened to them, can possibly question that an appalling tragedy is happening in Germany. It would be a terrible thing if hon. Members were to attempt to deny certain facts because they felt strongly for and were in sympathy with certain countries, or on the other hand to bolster up certain facts because they disliked a certain country. I hope that in any discussion we have on this subject we may remember this problem concerns the fate of millions of human beings, mostly women and children. It is indeed a sad fact that of the refugees who reach the British zone, practically all are women and children. No adult males seem to survive and come to our side. If we are going to deal with this human tragedy, it will not be by partisanship and by any propaganda which looks as if it does not appreciate the problems of our Allies.

There was so much with which I agreed in the speech of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen, that I think that he will allow me to make one point of criticism. It is a vast over-simplification to say that the Russian Government should overnight reverse this policy. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made it clear in his speech last week that things have got to the present crisis through ill in the past; but it is through an ill which this House connived at at the outset. We should never forget that this House and our friends on the other side of the Atlantic agreed to those major changes of Germany's Eastern frontiers which are the basic cause of all that has happened afterwards.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

We did not all agree. I certainly did not.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I said that this House agreed. We have to remember that, if we agreed to that, as we did, it is not fair to state suddenly today that only one side agreed to that particular arrangement. I think it may be possible, and I pray that it may be, to arrange for these expulsions to be carried out more humanely than they are at present, but it would be fantastic for anyone who knows the temper of the Polish or Czech people to prevent these expulsions taking place in the end. Not one of the witnesses I have seen, neither Sudeten German, nor Czech, nor Slovak, nor Russian, nor Polish, but agreed with the fact, and the brutal fact, that these expulsions will take place from these territories. The problem is, how can we so organise it that millions of people do not die while they are being expelled. It is essential to see that problem fairly in order that we should not whip up a wave of emotion which can have no possible effect except to intensify the hatred in Eastern Europe. We must take enormous care not to do that in discussing the matter. It has been the fact that the wrong type of emotional appeal on this subject has had nothing but the wrong effect in Eastern Europe.

There is, however, one other thing which needs to be said today. We must understand the other reason for this major catastrophe. It is also something for which we have a partial responsibility. Why is it that the nations of Eastern Europe are behaving in this manner, utterly inhumanely and ruthlessly, to the German population? It is out of a great and overwhelming fear, a fear of this country and the United States. It is literally true that the atomic bomb is more responsible than any other single factor for these refugees from Eastern Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia. If this demoniacal fear had not entered into the hearts of the people of Eastern Europe, they would not have felt that it was essential to create this broad glacis by sweeping hundreds of miles of territory bare of population in order to protect themselves from this menace which they believe is coming from here.

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

Is it not a fact that the existence of the atomic bomb has never yet reached the peoples to which the hon. Member refers, because it has never been broadcast from Moscow?

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

Russian policy is not dictated by the vast majority of the people, but by one or two people who know the details.

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

But the hon. Member said all those people.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I said the terror that had pervaded that area. I will change it, and say that the terror that has pervaded the Kremlin and certain elements there is largely responsible. I would add that those who go to Eastern Europe have seen this universal fear, have found there also a belief—a wholly wrong belief—in the aggressive intention of the Western Powers to launch a war against Bolshevism. That belief is extremely widespread and very little propaganda is being done by this country to counteract it.

I think it is essential that this House, in dealing with the refugee problem, should try to understand the major factor which lies behind it. That major factor is fear, fear, insecurity and suspicion between the Western and Eastern Allies. Nothing which we can do by minor reliefs—and I hope everything possible will be done—will avail to prevent the starvation of millions of people. There is only one thing which would prevent this disaster and that is a united policy for Germany as between the Russian Government, the American Government, the British Government and the French Government. That unified policy is what I feel we in this House should concentrate on. In conclusion I would say that we shall never get that unified policy for Germany as long as the insecurity created by the atomic bomb, and the fear of the West, hang over the minds of the rulers of Eastern Europe.

7.52 p.m.

Photo of Miss Eleanor Rathbone Miss Eleanor Rathbone , Combined English Universities

I had not intended to speak tonight and I will not keep the House long, as I do not want to repeat anything I said in the Debate a week last Friday or anything that has been said by previous speakers tonight, who have put the general case so excellently. I want to do nothing except to ask two or three factual questions which I hope the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who I understand is going to reply, will be able to answer.

I think it is time that we knew a little bit more of the Government's story as to what is happening. Only in this morning's paper it was stated that the following statements were made on the authority of a high officer of the British Control Commission: first, that over 4,000,000 refugees were likely to cross into the British zone during the next few weeks; second, that up to 500,000 were already waiting on a particular bit of the frontier in readiness to cross; third, that the Russians have ordered that all within a certain assigned part of the Russian zone must leave it tomorrow if they originally came from one of the Western zones; fourth, that large numbers—two or three thousand—refugees are similarly crossing daily from the American zone into the British zone, although the American zone is much better provided than ours with food and is less congested, and much more adequately provided with rolling stock which might have been of great assistance to our people in handling those refugees whom they cannot prevent from crossing; and last—and this I think was alluded to last Friday—similar sudden incursions are beginning from Hungary into Austria, indicating that the German situation may be repeated. It is already pretty bad in Austria, and it is likely to become worse.

The question I want to ask is: Are these facts confirmed by knowledge at the disposal of the Foreign Office? If they cannot answer as to whether these things are true, why cannot they? They have not only the Minister and Ambassadors, to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) referred, but the British Control Commission. Why cannot they find out from their own Military Government on the spot? They ought to be able to tell us whether these things are true. Secondly, I want to know, if they have reason to believe that they are true, what actually have they done or are they intending to do immediately to try to stop these floods of new immigrants or, so long as they cannot stop them, what are they going to do to prevent the people who are coming into our zone from starving to death? We know the various steps suggested by my right hon. Friend the Junior Burgess for Oxford (Sir A. Salter) who opened the last Debate. He said that this wholesale starvation was unnecessary and that it could be stopped because the supplies were available.

It is however true that most of the specific steps he suggested were relatively long-term measures, the greater production of coal in the Ruhr and a number of things that would take a long time, but there was one thing he mentioned which would not presumably take very long. That is to secure the release of some of the stocks that are held in Europe by the military authorities, stocks of food, clothing and motor transport which are already on the Continent and which they could lay their hands on quickly. If this immigration into our zone cannot be stopped, therefore, is anything being done to see that the people do not starve, either by releasing the stocks already in our possession or by trying to secure more supplies, especially from those nearby countries like Denmark and Sweden which are believed to have large quantities of food and other supplies ready, and who are willing to sell them? Surely it is possible, in face of this frightful necessity to prevent the starvation of millions of people, to get hold at any rate of those nearby stocks—those already held in the Army reserves and those which can be bought from such countries as Sweden and Denmark. We want to know from the Foreign Office, first, how far do they confirm the facts we have reported, and second, if they do confirm them, what are they doing to deal with the situation either by trying to stop the immigration or by relieving the appalling distress which will otherwise undoubtedly result?

7.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Hudson Mr James Hudson , Ealing West

I feel that hon. Members on this side of the House can scarcely hold their peace on this matter without putting in grave peril all that they stand for. I am deeply grateful to the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) in that he has found it possible to raise this subject again. I realise, of course, that we had a Debate in the House quite recently on the general question, but the situation facing us in Europe today, with the problem of 4,500,000 additional persons moving into our zone, is really a sufficient challenge in itself to keep Debates going in this House until that problem is faced and dealt with. Our complaint today—at any rate, my complaint—is that the Government seem not to know what the situation really is. One hon. Member on these benches has protested that we quote authorities that we cannot authenticate. It may be that we do, but I heard two gentlemen in a Committee Room in this House, as many other Members heard them, only a few days ago; one was a leading member of the Friends' Ambulance Unit, a man with considerable legal training who knew how to present a case without over colouring it, and the other was associated with the military judicial functions that have been practised in Berlin, and they stated the actual facts as they saw them. A good number of hon. Members of every party were present when those statements were made, and they were appalled by the story that was told.

It has been said that it is no good introducing "sobstuff" into this House, although the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) did it with great success, and was well listened to, in his statement about the poor woman with her Bible. But there is this problem of 4,250,000 people, almost entirely working people. Let hon. Members who belong to the Labour Party remember that. The better-off people have been able to shift for themselves. Those great queues in the side-street just beyond the Anhalter station in Berlin were working people; they stood there not for one day, but for anything up to five days, waiting their turn for the little piece of bread that was issued to them as a half-day's ration, and then they must be moved somewhere else to endure another five days of the same treatment. That is a situation that no great country such as ours can hear of without reacting. It is because I believe that we have a Foreign Secretary who can react to such a situation that I make my plea tonight. The other day I heard my right hon. Friend describe what apparently he saw by accident. This, again, adds point to my complaint that the Foreign Office cannot tell us in detail what is happening. When the Foreign Secretary was in Berlin he saw a drifting crowd, as he said, going one way hopelessly and hungry, and another drifting crowd going the other way, equally hopelessly and hungry, and he was moved to think of the awful consequences of conducting war in the way that we have felt compelled to conduct it during the last four years. As I listened to my right hon. Friend, I felt that George Lansburyhad come to life again in his words. I am certain that if the Foreign Office would get to know the facts, and not simply state, as they have done, that they do not know, they would be in a better position to approach the House and in a better position to approach Russia.

I am not one of those who seek in this Debate to cast any sort of censure upon Russia. I agree with the hon. Member who said that the situation that now faces us will have to be shared in common and that the responsibility for it will have to be taken in common by us all. As the hon. Member said, we have responsibility with Russia for the wrong division and the wrong fixing of boundaries out of which this thing has arisen. We are equally responsible for that zoning of Europe into different parts, and where a problem develops which is an integral problem, all of us have responsibility for it. That zoning ought never to have been tried; since it has been tried, we are not in a position to throw the blame upon Russia for the situation which has arisen. I agree, too, with the hon. Member's references to the atomic bomb and the responsibility of what is taking place in that field for the action of Russia. After all, it was not Russia that tried the atomic bomb. It was ourselves and the Americans. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) told the House that he and the American President had taken it on their conscience; it was not Russia that Jet loose this disastrously destructive process upon the world; and now, with the American President holding the secret for some future purpose, it is no wonder the Russians are sus- picious and no wonder they do not listen to us when we make human appeals about the suffering that faces them and us in Europe. Therefore, I make my address tonight not to the Russians but to ourselves.

I beg the Government to recognise that this issue is one of the most vital that faces them. If they cannot find some vital remedy, some alleviation of the sorrows and struggles through which the common people of Europe, the work-people of Europe, are passing, I feel that the gravest reflection and punishment will fall upon us all. I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving us the opportunity to keep alive this issue in the House, I support what has been said by other hon. Members, and I beg the Government to treat this issue as one of the very gravest moment.

7.56 p.m.

Photo of Mr Cecil Poole Mr Cecil Poole , Lichfield

The only reason I presume to intervene in the Debate is that I have fairly recently been a senior administrative officer in Germany, and it is possible, therefore, that I look on this problem rather more through the eyes of the Control Commission and the military authorities than as a politician. I want to consider it more statistically than has been done—quite rightly—in the rather sentimental approach which other hon. Members have made to it. To treat this problem as a statistical problem is the only way to solve it.

But before one can even discuss the matter, there is one fundamental answer which the Government must give, and I very much doubt whether the Under-Secretary can give it tonight; in fact, I do not even ask him to give it tonight. We have got to make a decision now as to what is to be our attitude towards the quadripartite control in Germany. All the areas from which the refugees are coming are Russian-controlled, and it is no good thinking that we can make approaches to other Governments asking them to mitigate or alter the number of people that are sent. We must get Russian agreement on the quadripartite Commission in order to get the thing put into effect. We have got to face the fact that quadripartite control in Germany, due not only to disagreement between ourselves and the Russians but between all four parties, is at the moment tottering, and it is the policy of the Control Com- mission at this moment that it is to be kept going at all costs, not so much for the sake of a solution in Germany, where the problem might be able to be solved under zone arrangements, but for the sake of the whole future of the world.

These facts are well known in the Control Commission, and that is one of the reasons I join in pressing the Government to make a statement and to give authoritative figures. We have the whole of the British Intelligence Service, which told us exactly what was happening all through the war. In one operation after another we had the finest intelligence as to what the enemy was going to do. We knew exactly. I assure the House that we know now a very great deal of what is going on. I cannot believe that the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary will want to ask me to tell him where he can get the information. I know it quite well, and he knows it better than I do. The reason I urge the Government to make a full statement is that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen lack information. They get up and make statements, in all sincerity, that are not altogether quite true. I have heard made tonight statements which are not in accordance with the facts, but which it is very difficult for me to refute, and these statements cause great difficulty to the people who are running the Control Commission in Germany and keeping the quadripartite policy going. Therefore, before we can discuss the question of stopping the influx of refugees, that is the first matter that must be considered.

The second point I want to raise is the question of getting the Russians to agree to stop the refugees coming. There is no doubt that many of them are being expelled, but I also believe that many of the Germans coming out of those areas are coming out because they are frightened of the consequences if they stay. A great many of them are being moved by the Russian Government, but a great many are coming voluntarily because they are frightened of what will happen if they stay there.

Although a statement was made by an hon. Member opposite the other day that conditions in the Russian zone were better than those in the British, I doubt whether the Government could confirm whether that was true or not. The British zone is probably the most pleasant to live in, and large numbers are comfortable. I know from my own experience that moving refugees in small numbers and under ideal conditions, with an extremely efficient military machine, is a most difficult and heart-breaking performance. I have seen Dutch refugees being moved out of France, and refugees in Italy and Sicily, and it is a most heartrending performance even on that minor scale. The Russians have not the administrative machinery either to move large numbers of refugees efficiently and humanely or the military control or efficiency to stop them from moving. I do not believe that we could do it ourselves, and I know it is a fact that the Russians cannot do it. It is not a question of saying to the Russian Government, "Stop this mass movement of refugees which you have started"; it is the whole trend of large numbers of people moving which cannot be stopped at such short notice as that. The Government could make a protest to the Russian Government, and what would be the reply?

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggest that the announcement that another 4,500,000 are to be removed could not be reversed, and surely if it is to go on it will accentuate the difficulties?

Photo of Mr Cecil Poole Mr Cecil Poole , Lichfield

I say most emphatically that it cannot be reversed. I am sorry; I thought the hon. Member meant, Could they be turned round and sent back? They could be stopped. I think I am right in saying that 1,750,000 refugees have so far been received into the British zone out of the 2,000,000 they were expecting, and arrangements for 2,000,000 were made. I saw the arrangements that were made and they were the best that could be made. They are expecting a total of 4,000,000 during the winter. Arrangements have been made for 4,000,000 to be received in the British zone. Here is a question which an hon. Gentleman has answered. The whole question of feeding the people depends upon the import of wheat into Germany. We want a categorical assurance that the wheat that was allocated to Germany and has been the subject of a great deal of negotiation is in fact going to Germany, or is it going to other places? For every 1,000,000 refugees who come into the British zone, 4,000 tons of wheat a week are required, and if you increase the numbers you have to increase the import of wheat. There is great concern in many quarters—because we have not the information—lest wheat destined for Germany has been held up, and the statement made that there would be no rationing of bread in this country does not lead us to believe that more will go to Germany

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

Is the hon. and gallant Member stating categorically to the House that 4,000,000 more refugees are coming to the British zone this winter—4,000,000 more or 4,000,000 altogether?

Photo of Mr Cecil Poole Mr Cecil Poole , Lichfield

Four million altogether are expected by the Control Commission, who are doing their best to make arrangements to receive them, but they will be of the slenderest nature despite the fact that we have perhaps the most efficient administrative machine. The last point I would urge on Members of the House is not to rely too much on the personal experiences of people whom they meet, or upon hon. or right hon. Members who pay visits to Germany and the British zone or upon journalists, or upon refugees who come out, because that is most disastrous. The Chief of Staff of the Control Commission said to me the other day that he wished that Members of this House did not always want to go to Berlin, because they saw conditions there which are so very much worse than in the rest of Germany. The last thing he wanted was to prevent them from seeing conditions in Berlin, but he did not want them to think those conditions were the same all over the British zone.

It is important that this should be faced as a statistical problem. It is, as Field Marshal Montgomery called it, "the Battle of Winter" and should be faced in exactly the same way as any military operation, and so far from dealing with it in sentiment, that must be cut to the minimum. It is for that reason that I urge the Government to make a statement and to give the maximum number of facts which are available, so that hon. Members do not say things which are perhaps quite true but which embarrass the military authorities.

8.6 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Proctor Mr William Proctor , Eccles

I rise to address the House for the first time on a subject on which I think there is considerable unanimity of opinion. My mind goes back to what I think was the greatest fact of modern history, and that is the formation of the Soviet Union. Ever since the Soviet Union came into existence it has been obsessed with one thought, and that is, that at some time or another it would have to face an attack from the other nations of the world. Unfortunately, there was very strong evidence upon which that thought was based and, more unfortunately still, that attack did in fact come about. The Soviet Union faced the whole forces of Europe, organised under the Nazi power, and those forces were hurled at the Soviet Union. We in this country watched with a kind of breathless admiration the tremendous struggle which the Soviet Union put up, in a military sense, at that time. We saw armies retire across a vast continent, and we saw her people and her rulers, faced with the most terrible choice that ever confronted rulers or people, put into operation the policy of the scorched earth.

Those who stood up against and fought that menace and who, fortunately for us, succeeded are the same people to whom we are appealing tonight and it is not much use our talking sobstuff. I am very much impressed myself by the story the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) gave us and by all the horrible stories that come out of Europe, but unless we can remove from the minds of the Russians the thought that there will be another attack upon them, I do not think we can settle this great problem that we have before us tonight. Do not let us delude ourselves. It is not a European problem. This problem does not concern only the 4,500,000 or 5,000,000 we are talking about. This problem concerns the whole world, and the future of civilisation depends upon how we deal with it. I was much impressed myself when I read of the terrible sufferings of the people in Holland, and when one looks down through Europe and round into the Balkans, the picture is really terrible indeed. I implore this House not to think of this problem as only a problem of Eastern Europe, but to think of it as a problem of European civilisation as a whole. If we do that, I believe we can do something grand, something great and something wonderful today, but the sands of time are running out for us. We should not have any doubt whatever about that.

Looking at the world—and it is a very fascinating thing to look at it as a whole, and it is the way we have got to look at it if we are going to settle this problem—we find that humanity can be moved to great feats of organisation in three ways. First of all, on a basis of war. It is most painfully easy to organise the whole world on the basis of war, and, when one thinks of the magnificent organisation that the United Nations brought into existence just before D-Day—the most marvellous organisation that the world has ever seen—and when we put on the other side the organisation which the Germans and the Japanese had, we realise that we had a world that was completely organised for war. If we put into this problem as much effort as was put into that problem, we shall be able to settle it in three days. A few months of organisation now on the basis of the war organisation might easily save Europe at the present time.

The second basis upon which we can organise the world is the basis of trade. We have our different opinions as to the basis on which trade should be organised—by private or public enterprise. It is not as easy a basis upon which to organise the world as the basis of war, but I believe it can be done, though it will take longer and be more difficult. The third basis upon which humanity can be moved is that of a great human appeal to charity, and I believe that what is wrong with the world today, is that we are trying to move from war organisation to trade organisation without that cushion of humanity which is so necessary when passing from one to the other.

We have heard from some hon. Members that it is a very bad thing to send Members of Parliament to Yugoslavia to have a look round and see what are the conditions so far as the conduct of the Elections is concerned. I was myself, if I may digress for a moment, very much amused to find hon. Members on the other side suggesting that we should have Government control of our movements when going outside this country. I thought that was a very dangerous thing, and I thought the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) had done a little bit of private enterprise when he arranged that visit, that almost commended itself to hon. Members opposite. I believe that this House as a whole should send representatives to Europe to make a quick investigation of the whole of the conditions there, and that we should then appeal, in the name of the House of Commons, to the whole world to come to the rescue of Europe in what is the greatest humanitarian problem that has confronted us for a generation. I believe that if we did that we could solve the problem. Are we, in this generation, so much more puny than the people who have gone before us?

After the last war we had, associated with the name of Hoover, an enormous organisation for the relief of Europe. In the days of the great Russian famine we had, associated with the name of Dr. Nansen, a marvellous world-wide organisation that went to the assistance of those who were tortured in that terrible time. I think myself that, if this House and the Government did bestir themselves, there is a wealth of human feeling throughout the world to which we could appeal. I was much impressed by the statement by the Senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) the other evening, when he showed us that there is in existence in the world today all the necessary things for saving European and world civilisation. All that we need to do is to organise the good will and good feeling of the world, and I believe we can accomplish the task by that means.

It has been said that the whole question of the atomic bomb revolves around this matter. The whole question, in my belief, is one of good feeling, comradeship and trust amongst the nations. Can we rise to that great height? If we gave the Russians all the secrets of all the infernal weapons that exist in the world, I do not believe that we should be taking the necessary steps to achieve world confidence. The only way to get world confidence is to set up an international organisation that will really be a police force for the world, and I believe that that should be our policy, and that we should propose to the rest of the world, as quickly as possible, that all these weapons should be placed under that international authority, and, in that way, build up the confidence of the world so that we should be able to carry out this our policy. I think myself that we should, from this House and from this country, make a tremendous effort to save European civilisation. I think that we, in the British House of Commons, are especially placed in a position in which our voices would be listened to, because I believe that, on this great issue, we can be absolutely united, and that, by saving Europe, we shall set the example that will save ourselves as well as civilisation.

8.17 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams , Croydon South

I congratulate the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) on his magnificent speech. Of all the speeches to which I have listened in this House, it is the one which has moved me most. I would like to do more; I would like to carry on from where the hon. Member left off, because I think he has got at the truth of this matter. I do not consider that this is merely a matter of economics; it is a matter of idealism in appealing to the world. We know very well, from what that great expert the Senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) has told us, that the food is there and that it is just a matter of getting it to the people who want it.

We are now faced with one of the great tragedies of history. There is no doubt that a great drama is unfolding itself before our eyes—a tragic drama—and we are told that there is a great problem to be solved in Europe this winter. There has always been a problem after every war, but man has not always solved it as we are trying to solve it now. Right from the early days of history trouble has arisen from the relationship of the conqueror to the conquered persons in the territory occupied. In the early days, it is true, there was very little mercy and very little humanity, but, with the coming of the ideals of Christianity and, particularly, of the principles of chivalry, after a time, more humane practices began to steal through the barbarism of war.

The great commanders, through the course of history, began to develop, among themselves, the usages of war, which, to some extent, softened its hardships, and, as time went on, these usages developed into the customs of warfare, until, finally, at the end of last century, the great nations met together, and, in 1907, at The Hague, a Convention was drawn up to deal with this very matter—a Convention which is still binding upon every nation which signed it, and every great nation did sign it. That Convention said in the Preamble that we could not possibly foresee every detail likely to arise in the future, but wherever they had not stipulated for it in express words in this Convention, the principles of humanity and the doctrines of human justice must prevail. I cannot remember the exact words but that was the effect of them.

How far have we got? We now see that, so far from the principles of humanity prevailing, millions of people for whom the Allies are responsible are likely to die, and from the worst of all deaths, from starvation, from cold and from disease. This seems to me to show that so far from the world progressing, as we had all hoped it would progress, it is going back, far back from the middle ages right into the dark ages of mankind. We now see tonight the result of neglecting this principle, namely, that it is the duty of the Occupying Power to look after and to safeguard the private individuals living in occupied territory. We see now that large numbers were driven out of occupied Poland, of Czechoslovakia, of Hungary, and were sent into the Russian zone. That zone cannot now feed them, and our zone is anticipating a large influx of these persons. We, too, cannot feed them under the present conditions, and so the fate of these unfortunate people is in the balance, and the fate of the persons in our zone is in the balance because the area to which they are sending them—our zone—is in itself in a very precarious position.

When we rushed to the Elbe and to the Baltic ports last April, large tracts of country were left practically without any government at all. A few British officers, three or four, would be running a territory as large an an English county. Owing to the order of General Eisenhower we removed from office all persons who had any affiliation's with the Nazis. That was a very wide category, including people who in this country would be regarded as in the A.R.P. I am not grumbling at that; I am merely stating it as a fact. The result was that administration practically ceased to exist except on a purely community level—a little township here and there. In addition, in their retreat the Germans had blown up most of the bridges, both railway and road bridges, and thus there were no communications whatsoever for the civilian population. That position is getting much better, but I cannot see how it will stand the influx of another 2,000,000 people this winter.

In Berlin itself the position is very serious. I do not depend on casual informants; my informants are from Berlin—the legal, police and the other departments in Berlin—and I have a fairly good knowledge of what is going on there day by day. The food position is very serious. In our zone, in some of the districts in Berlin, they are not getting anything like what they are reputed to be getting. Unfortunately, I feel quite confident that some of that food is going into the black market. Indeed, an inquiry was held recently to discover where the food which was supposed to be supplied to the in habitants had gone and why it had not reached them. Perhaps, in due course, the Foreign Secretary will let us know the result of that inquiry.

So that on all accounts we can see that Europe this winter faces a most terrible position. I would like to put it for a moment from the point of view of the ordinary soldier. We have become so used to hearing about mass disaster that, to a certain extent, our feelings have become insulated against these various horrors, but when you see them on the spot, then a very different picture is left in the mind. I do not think any hon. Member would see what I have seen in Berlin and not feel affected. I do not think any hon. Member of this House would see little boys hungry, ill, tired, crying in the rain; would see women lying at the side of the road obviously in the last extreme of pain and exhaustion; would see these milling crowds of refugees, and have some of them come up to you and ask you to help, saying they are in the last extreme of exhaustion, while you know that you can do nothing for them—I do not think anyone would experience this and not be affected.

That is the position that faces the soldier. It is all very well for people in this country to harden their hearts; he cannot harden his heart, he is in the middle of it, and, as one who was only a fortnight ago a soldier, I say that that position must be ended. I agree with the hon. Member for Eccles that it is the bounden duty of His Majesty's Government, of the Russian Government, and of the American Government to put an end to it; otherwise we shall have no hope for humanity, because this is a matter well within our resources.

8.27 p.m.

Photo of Sir Arthur Salter Sir Arthur Salter , Oxford University

I do not propose to add either to the arguments or to the proposals that have been made in this Debate. I could scarcely add to the strength of the case that has been put before the Government this evening. I would only ask the Government to consider what has been said, reinforced as it is by the Debate which took place on 26th October, and by the previous Adjournment Debate, and have in mind also the Motion signed so very largely and so very influentially by hon. Members from all over the House. I would ask them to go over those Debates and that Motion and consider whether some of the proposals there cannot be adopted or, where they are being adopted, whether more cannot be done and done more quickly.

I want especially to call the attention of the Government to the fact that almost every hon. Member who has spoken tonight has said, "First of all we want more information on this very important matter." If the Government have not got the information, the yought to get it, and they ought to give it to us as quickly as possible. But I want to go a little beyond the urgent information that is directly relevant to this matter of the expulsion of the Germans. Looking at the distress of Europe as a whole and the problem of this winter, I want to repeat the appeal I made to the Government on 26th October—that they will provide in a White Paper, or other suitable document, a summary in graphic form, not voluminous but comprehensive, of the main information that is in their hands as to the conditions in different parts of Europe and of the resources that are available in the world. I am quite sure there are things that we can still do. I am still more sure that there are things that can be done on a much wider scale by countries with ampler resources, and I am sure there is a great fund of good will that has not been fully utilised.

If such a paper as I have in mind were prepared and published with the authority of the Government, there would be many in this country and in the Press of the United States who would draw upon this information and do what otherwise cannot be done; they would bring to the surface, develop and make a real factor in action, the unutilised, the deep treasures of public good will on the other side of the Atlantic as well as this side. I made this appeal on 26th October, and the answer was first, "No." I repeated the appeal later in the evening, and the answer was then, "We will think again." I sincerely ask the Government to see whether they cannot produce a picture—for which the information does exist—which I think would be invaluable in helping this country and America to deal with the problems which confront us.

8.30 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. McNeil):

I first of all want to add my congratulations to those which have already been offered to my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) for his moving and praiseworthy speech. It has just occurred to me, Mr. Speaker, that I should have first asked your leave to speak again in this Debate. I hope I may have the leave of the House. Having said that, I want to ask the indulgence of the House—akhough it is rare from this Box—because I did not know until I came into the Chamber, that this subject was to be raised. I am not in the least complaining; indeed, I am in the debt of my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) for giving the House another opportunity to discuss a matter which moves him so much, and for giving the Government another opportunity for considering what the House has to offer towards a solution of this problem.

I am obviously ill-prepared, but I will attempt to address myself to the various questions which have been put to me. Perhaps the House will bear with me if my answers are in general terms, but I do not happen to have the exact figures now for which they ask. The hon. and gallant Member for Oswestry (Colonel Poole) dealt in a rather more detailed fashion with the figures which have now become common usage in the Press, and to which my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich first drew our attention. Let me say, without qualification, that there is no agreement, to which His Majesty's Government are a party, upon this figure of 4,000,000 or 4,500,000. It is pointless to appeal to us for more precise informa- tion about this agreement, because this agreement does not exist.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

I did not attempt to say that there was agreement; I asked whether His Majesty's Government have any information on the decision taken by the three Governments to expel a further 4,500,000?

Sir. McNeil:

The answer is, still, "No." Let me, as fully as I can, indicate from where the figure of 4,500,000 was probably derived. We did agree to accept 1,750,000. I was asked if we had had that number. I cannot tell, and I say most pointedly to the hon. and gallant Member for Oswestry there are two reasons why it is impossible to give precise figures. One is that, as we all know, the movement of these people is so irregular. Second, even if it were continuous we have not the man-power on the spot to make accurate counts. Naturally, we have to make some assumption, we have to try and arrive at a figure upon which we might plan, and I want to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich that privately, unilaterally, we have planned against 4,000,000, that is 1,750,000 plus the expectation, at a later date, that there might be another 2,000,000. But we have never been informed that there would be that number of people deported. We have never taken part in any conversations and discussed that figure. It is completely a planning figure.

The hon. and gallant Member for Oswestry again dealt in some detail with a matter which concerns the House, as did my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). It is not true that wheat designed for our zone has been stopped. It is, of course, true that not all the wheat is directly under our control, but I can say without qualification, or any attempt to evade—although I have not the exact figures—that His Majesty's Government have made desperate efforts to secure what wheat lay within our control, and that that wheat is now actually moving towards the people within our zone. We have been able to provide, subject again, to weather conditions, additional potatoes. We are providing certain preventive foods, which we have earmarked for children. We are, of course, aware that no solution can be found for this food question unless countries with ampler resources make their contribution.

I had better make it plain that although we are, with desperation, doing all we can, it would be misleading the House if I pretended for a second that the resources we have under our control are, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, adequate. They are not, but they are all we have. They have been obtained only by strain and some sacrifice by our own people.

I would like to tell my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) that we have not lost sight of the possibility of producing a White Paper that might meet the purpose he has in mind. Without detracting from my admiration for the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles, perhaps I might address a word to my hon. Friend the Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. H. Hudson), and my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). This is a most complex problem. I do not pretend that I know all the causes, and I am certain that no one in His Majesty's Government would, but I am afraid it is dangerous to try to argue that the basic cause is the atom bomb.

Photo of Mr William Proctor Mr William Proctor , Eccles

As the hon. Gentleman is associating me with that remark, I would say that I never intended to convey that impression, and it will be interesting to see in Hansard exactly what I did say. I did not intend to suggest that the atom bomb was the basic problem.

Mr. McNeil:

It would be inexcusable for me to attribute something to a maiden speech which was not said, and I beg the pardon of the House, but I am very surprised that I so completely misunderstood my hon. Friend. At any rate, I did not misrepresent the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry. This problem occurred six months before the atom bomb was used. I know some people will support me when I say that, who will not support me when I say that the attack is not exclusively, or wholly, against our Soviet Ally. The people with whom we have the main difficulty here are the Poles, and, to a minor extent, the Czechs and the Hungarians. Perhaps, too, I might be permitted to reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich on the question of the Czechoslovak camps. We have had a report from our Ambassador at Prague on these camps, and I would make it plain that they are far from desirable, and that I am sure the Czech Government would be the last people to claim that they were, but there has been a steady improvement in these camps, and I think it proper that His Majesty's Government should acknowledge that here.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

Can His Majesty's Government possibly approve of slave camps, however well conducted?

Mr. McNeil:

I am sure I did not say we approved. I said that I thought, in this tense and complex situation, we ought to admit that our information from Czechoslovakia persuaded us that there have been improvements and that the Government in control of these camps had the intention to improve their conditions. I think I ought to repeat that our information is still unofficial and not precise. The Press report, to which two hon. Members referred, is substantially the same as the report we have from the Berlin Radio. One of the points made in the report was that people who had not been domiciled in Brandenburg were being asked to leave. I think the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) said as from tomorrow, but I am not sure of the date. I should make it plain that, in fact, it was agreed at Potsdam that the people should be moved into the zone which was normally their domicile, that is to say, the people who had fled into Brandenburg for one reason or another, mainly because of bombing in our own area, should be moved back to their homes, and we are partners to that decision.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

In "an orderly and humane manner."

Mr. McNeil:

The movement was to take place on a reciprocal basis of one for one. There has been no agreement upon the date, and, of course, as my hon. Friend said, there was the overriding proviso that all movements of that kind should take place in an orderly and humane manner. In addition, there was agreement that it should be stopped until the report had been received, which we have not yet received. I think there is little to add except, again, to insist that there is no problem which concerns His Majesty's Government more than this.

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

May I ask a question about the liquidation of the German Red Cross? Could the hon. Gentleman say anything about that?

Mr. McNeil:

Yes, and I am indebted to the hon. Gentleman for raising the point. Again I am speaking without a brief, but I am certain I am right. It is true that, legally, for reasons which I hope my hon. Friend will not press me to give, the Red Cross has come to an end in that area. His Majesty's Government will not lose sight of this in its representation, but I ought to add that our information leads us to believe, whatever its legal status is, that in many areas the Red Cross is working most effectively in a local manner, as my hon. Friend and I would expect the Red Cross to work. His Majesty's Government are in no danger of thinking of this problem as some part of a political jig-saw. I have admitted that we lack precise information but we have from day to day a stream of information about the misery, the suffering and the hopelessness of these people. As my right hon. Friend said, we will continue to think of these people as human souls, and whatever methods we can command, we shall use in an effort to ease their position.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

May I again ask the hon. Gentleman a question, which both the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) and I, myself, have already put to him? Will His Majesty's Government make representations to the Governments mentioned on the Order Paper today in regard to their decision, announced by the Press, to expel a further 4,500,000 people at the rate of 30,000 a day commencing on 15th October this year?

Photo of Miss Eleanor Rathbone Miss Eleanor Rathbone , Combined English Universities

I have one further question to ask the hon. Gentleman. Will he deal with the point, which I have never heard suggested before today, that large numbers of people were also seeping in from the American zone into ours, although the American zone was far better able to feed them? Does he know anything about that?

Mr. McNeil:

I have absolutely no information that there is any ascertainable movement from the American zone. I make it plain that there must be, and, indeed, there is, movement of people in tens and twenties across the boundaries of the various zones, but we have no information which would lead us to conclude that there is any appreciable, much less a substantial, movement from the American zone to ours. Then there was the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich. We cannot make representations upon an agreement or decision which we do not know exists. We have no reports of them except the reports which are in the Press, and which my hon. Friend has put before the House.

Photo of Mr Ivor Thomas Mr Ivor Thomas , The Wrekin

May I put a question to the Minister, as to whether there is any effective channel of information through the Allied military control?

Mr. McNeil:

We have our channels of information. I have explained, very briefly, how confused is the situation. I am sure no one who has listened to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, or to any Member of the House who has been there, would expect us to have reliable and accurate reports of the situation. Indeed, if we could have reliable and accurate reports, the situation would not exist.