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Bulgaria

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th November 1946.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Pearson.]

6.24 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Mack Mr John Mack , Newcastle-under-Lyme

The subject I wish to raise tonight is that of Bulgaria, particularly its relationship with this country, and also insofar as there is any likelihood in the near future, that certain developments there might affect the peace of the Balkans, and the peace of Europe on the Greek-Bulgarian frontier. Some hon. Members will remember that in April last year I had the unique experience and privilege of visiting Bulgaria after a very arduous and difficult journey. To my amazement, and surprise, I was received with what can fairly be described as a tumultuous welcome by the people of that country. It is true that I went in my capacity as a private Member. I had never previously visited that country, and I found that the welcome on all sides was stupendous. In some cases tens of thousands, and in other cases hundreds of thousands, gathered in the streets of the towns to greet the first Member of this House who had visited their country since the war.

I gathered that they were anxious for friendship, and my impression of the Bulgarians was that they were a kind-hearted, extremely hard-working and sincere nation, animated by a desire, above all things, to get into closer contact with the democracies of the West. They are a Slav people, and might almost be called kinsmen of the Russians. They speak a language which is very similar to Russian. In point of fact, the Russian language is derived from the Bulgarian Cyrillic alphabet. In 1878, after having been under the domination of the Ottoman Empire, they were freed by Russia. Therefore, it is very natural and understandable from the ethnographic, geographic, cultural and economic points of view, that Bulgaria should have a very close association with its big brother Russia. At the same time, the Bulgarians made it very clear to me, this did not debar them from the closest possible ties with Great Britain. They stated that, unfortunately, owing to misunderstandings which had crept up—artificial misunderstandings in many cases—it was more and more difficult to get together. I discovered that the prestige of Britain was high in spite of the last war, during part of which Bulgaria had been a satellite enemy country. Every effort of mine was directed to make the prestige of Britain as high as possible. I asked them, as they were anxious for friendship, if they had adverse criticism of our country, not to direct it against any party and they acceded to that request. When I went round Bulgaria and Rumania crowds, which aggregated to 3 million in the various towns and cities, gave me what could properly be described as the greatest greeting ever given any visitor to that part of the world.

I was amazed by one thing—and I put this to the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—that the Foreign Office should necessarily accept the reports which come from Bulgaria from some of our representatives. I am not speaking unkindly, or in any way discourteously, of our representative in Bulgaria. I got on excellently with him, and invited him, or a member of his staff, to all Press conferences at which I spoke, and kept in close touch with him in every action I took. He congratulated me on the manner in which I did the job. Nevertheless, although he is entitled to his political opinions, I am amazed that we have representatives in Bulgaria, and countries like that, who do not understand the fundamental principles and conditions of the countries in which they are working. The reports we receive from them are, in most cases, accepted by the Foreign Office. May I remind the Under-Secretary of State that not long ago, half a dozen or so hon. Members of this House, who could certainly not be accused of being crypto-Communists or even Left Wing, went to Poland, and submitted a unanimous report? I wonder if that report was given any credence whatever. I am rather inclined to believe that the only reports which are accepted are reports from ambassadors, and not reports by hon. Members of the House of Commons who visit these countries. Therefore, whatever possibility there may be of a better understanding between Bulgaria and this country is being vitiated and rendered more difficult by the type of reports which are being received here and which, I am afraid—I am open to correction—are being accepted by our Foreign Office.

Recently there have been elections in Bulgaria—on 27th October—and it might be well if the House knew something about the figures. There are in Bulgaria at present 4,558,000 electors, of whom 4,205,000 voted on 27th October. There are two bodies, as it were, which are opposed to each other. One is what is known as the Fatherland Front, an organisation comprising, first, the Workers' Party, or Communists, the Social Democrats, who roughly correspond to the Labour Party, the Agrarians, who obviously deal more particularly with peasant problems, the Zveno Party, who may be said to represent the professional classes,, and the Radicals, who are insignificant and more to the Right. Between them these parties polled 2,980,000 votes, of which the Communists received 2,262,000, the Agrarians 559,000, the Social Democrats 78,000, the Zveno Party 76,000 and the Radicals a mere 8,000.

The opposition, and here I can speak from personal experience, were given every opportunity to hold meetings in every part of the country. They were given the utmost latitude of the Press, and I may say that some of their articles attacking the Government were far more vitriolic than Opposition Press articles in this country. They were far more personal, and attributed to the leaders of the Fatherland Front, Georges Dimitrov in particular, motives which would be considered hitting below the belt in Britain. The Opposition polled between them 1,225,000 votes, and had the allocation of 101 seats in the new National Assembly, whereas the total number of seats gained by the Fatherland Front in its entirety numbered 346. There have been all sorts of things said in our Press about these elections. Our Press looked with meticulous care into Bulgaria, and discovered that knitted underwear was being given by Government supporters to potential voters to induce them to vote for Government candidates. I never saw much knitted underwear in Bulgaria before the elections, and I would be surprised to discover much of it now. The Bulgarians are poor, and have to struggle to obtain the elementary needs of life, and cannot afford these luxuries. Votes have been bought and sold in Britain for a glass of beer, let alone knitted underwear, and for people to talk sanctimoniously about the Bulgarian elections being undermined by methods of this kind, shows that they are divorced from realities.

I talked with Dimitrov, acclaimed as the bravest man in all the world, hero of the Reichstag trial. Whatever one thinks about his politics, here is a man of great courage and character, a warm-hearted individual. I shall not easily forget—if the House will bear with me in making this observation—the welcome I got. He embraced me, gave me two bristly bearded kisses, which I warmly returned with interest, to the acclamations of the crowd. There was another interesting, and perhaps amusing, incident. Bulgaria is the land of roses; people are greeted with roses. I found myself garlanded with a bouquet of roses of every description, too heavy for me to carry. That is an indication of the warm-hearted way in which these people greeted me.

The elections were held on 27th October. I do not intend to say that they were absolutely immaculate, or that on no occasion was it possible for some misdirection, difficulty or misunderstanding to occur. I do say, sincerely and honestly, that in my opinion, as far as one could reasonably hope to judge—and I went where I wanted to go, and spoke to everyone to whom I wanted to speak, particularly the opposition—I saw no indication, on the part of the Government, of any desire to obstruct, impede, or to prevent legitimate opposition. I used the word "legitimate" advisedly. One finds in countries like that all kinds of oppositions, who use the cloak of democracy to undermine the State. Bulgaria admittedly fought on the side of Germany, but let us not forget her history. For five hundred years that country has suffered grievously at the hands of Turkey. In 1878 she gained her freedom for the first time. Her people are a race of peasants, naturally talented, gifted and hospitable. Without being guilty of exaggeration, I say that I have yet to see a more lovable, courageous or sincere people. They have made mistakes, which they readily admit, and I admire a man who admits his faults. That they have been the playthings of their ersatz German-imported monarchs they freely admit—"Foxy Ferdinand"—now aged, I believe, 87, and hiding somewhere in Austria—whose machinations are familiar to all students of history; then his son Boris, an ignominious weak creature who followed the policy of his father; and later King Simeon, a child aged nine, now in Egypt as a result of the proclamation of a republic in Bulgaria a little while ago, but who would otherwise normally have succeeded. The Bulgarian people are determined to sever themselves from any corrupt monarchy, and any contact they might have had with the Germans and their supporters, who were prevalent in the court.

To the everlasting glory of Bulgaria, whatever may have been its mistakes, on 9th September, 1944, a historic day in Bulgarian history, the Bulgarians fought with great valour in the cause of the Allies. They lost well over 30,000 of their men, killed, for the Allied cause. No one who knows them, and who was with them at that time, can deny them a meed of praise for the valorous part they played at that time. Yet we in this country are afraid to come into contact with them, for one reason or other which I cannot tell.

I do not know what goes on in the Foreign Office. I have never, in this House, said an unkind work personally about the Foreign Secretary. I have great respect for him, though I sometimes disagree with him. I try, to the best of my ability, to give him loyal support, but he is obviously overworked and under-informed. If he has to depend for his information on certain people whom we have in other parts of the world, heaven help the Foreign Secretary in carrying out a policy of peace and reconstruction in the Balkans. There is always the old bogy of Russia to trot out; that Russia is out to secure domination by territorial depredations in that part of the world. I spoke to the Russian chairman of the Allied Control Commission, and said to him, sincerely and honestly, that we in this country were anxious for friendship, not only with Russia, but with all the people of the Balkans; that we wanted a fair and square deal; that we have no aggressive intent; that we go there to do trade. He said that so far as he was concerned—and this was later confirmed by members of the Bulgarian Government—there was no objection to British people coming in and playing a useful part. But Dimitrov made it clear that the Bulgarians earn a primitive living scraping the barren soil—much of the country is mountainous and barren—in order to secure the elementary needs of life, and that they cannot be expected to pay reparations. Indeed they will not.

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition spoke of Bulgaria as a country which must "work its passage." He must remember it is no longer possible, in these difficult times, to extract the last ounce out of a country which is weakened not only by internecine strife but by the war, and Bulgaria by its subsequent heroic actions and sacrifices has fully vindicated its good name and should take an honoured place among the nations of the new democratic world. I would be very happy—and I say this not at all in modesty—to give ten minutes of my time to the Foreign Secretary and the Under- Secretary in order to teach them more about the Balkans than ever they will learn from textbooks or from distorted and twisted reports. I like a man who is efficient. The reason I say that is because I am conscious only too well of my own inefficiency in certain respects. If we do a thing, we should do it with all our heart and soul, and all our might. The present Press attacks between one country and another in which all kinds of suspicions are hurled alleging the bad intentions of other countries, have the result that whatever prospect there is of making peace in the Balkans becomes more and more difficult each day. Britain wants peace badly. We want Bulgarian tobacco, timber, attar of roses, fruit and fruit pulp, and hides and skins. We want these things which the Bulgarians can let us have, and we in turn must export our machinery' to them. They need our machinery, and by using that, and other products of this country, they can help not only our export trade, but the building up of their own country, and, thus establish once and for all the friendship which we are all seeking.

I want to say a few words upon the hypocritical and mealy-mouthed phrase which is used too often about "free and unfettered elections." I have never heard more humbug spoken about free and unfettered elections than is being spoken today. I ask my hon. Friend, who has rendered me every courtesy, and for whom I have considerable regard—he knows that and he will not misinterpret my remarks—whether this country proposes to interfere in Poland because Poland may have a Communist majority. Are we prepared at this very hour to render still more difficult the relationship between this country and France, merely because yesterday's election has shown that the Communists are now the largest single party? Are we to go to Czechoslovakia and say, "You have a Communist-controlled Government, and, therefore' we can have no relationship"? Of course, we are not going to do that. Other Governments may be Communist or Conservative, Liberal or Radical, nondescripts or anything they like, as far as I am concerned, so long as they are prepared to enter into friendly relationship with this country, and honour their obligations to us, just as we honour ours to them.

I turn to a situation which has developed on the Grecian side. Whatever I have to say is not said with the intention of being discourteous to the Greeks. I believe hon. Members have great respect for the fighting qualities of the Greeks, their great contribution to the arts and the yeoman part they played in the last war. I took the opportunity of speaking at great length to M. Tsaldaris, the Greek Prime Minister, recently. I told him that he would be ill advised to pursue the truculent propaganda which is being adopted in connection with the claims of Greece for what they call euphemistically "A rectification of their frontiers." I asked him what he meant by that and he said, "We want certain strategic heights which control the Plain of Plovdin in Eastern Roumelia." I said, "Have you not got enough?" And he replied, "Three times we have been invaded by these Bulgarians—in 1912–13, in 1916, and again in 1941. We are taking no chances." He admitted that he also had certain designs for land in Northern Epirus, which corresponds geographically with Southern Albania, and which would take in the town of Koritza. He also admitted that there were difficulties in connection with 'Yugoslavia. I suggested to him that he would be ill advised to pursue those claims, because the Bulgarians will not worry very much about it. They are anxious for peace. Bulgaria had peace with all its neighbours. They had a very commendable peace with Rumania after the return of the Dobruja. They were on terms of excellent relationship with Yugoslavia and Albania. They were even on good terms of friendship with Turkey, and their only difficulty was caused by Greece who had gained very considerably territorially in the last 50 years. Yet because Greece is largely a maritime country and has a friendly relationship with this country, M. Tsaldaris felt it would only be right and proper that they should take these heights in order to control the plains and thus prevent what he thought possibly might be a further Bulgarian attack.

There is no possibility of an attack on the part of Bulgaria against Greece. I shudder to think what the consequences of such an attack might be. Just imagine the situation with Russian forces dominant in that part of the world, and with a war of attrition, or whatever hon. Members may like to call such a war, with Bulgaria on one side and Greece on the other and in which Russia would take one part and we would take the other. It might be an extreme cataclysm the consequences of which no one could foretell. In the interests of peace and human decency, I say we in this country must not support any claims on the part of Greece for certain areas, be they never so small, which would tend to exacerbate the situation between those countries. The men who are building houses in this country today are not building houses to be blown to atoms in two years' time. They are building houses for peace. The people in this country can only be made to work if they believe that our foreign relationships are being ordered in that direction.

The present boundary between Bulgaria and Greece starts somewhere near Adrianople and goes for 486 kilometres—a distance of well over 300 miles—to Toumba, which is near the Yugoslav boundary. Three of the main rivers of Bulgaria flow into the Aegean Sea. They are the Struma and the Mesta and the Maritza. For a long time there has been controversy and considerable discussion about the fact that Bulgaria seeks to find an outlet in the Aegean. The natural port is Kavalla, because that port serves the main Bulgarian routes which converge in Western Thrace towards the Aegean. There is another port, Dedeagatch, which at one time was likely to be considerable and about which in 1923, and again in 1935, the Greeks were prepared to make a very slight compromise. The fact remains that although Western Thrace had a predominantly Bulgarian majority—which was proved by various investigations in 1920 and later—that land has been torn away from them, largely as a result of the association of King Constantine in 1916 with the Kaiser and certain Greek politicians. Venizelos, the venerable statesman of Greece, in 1912 said Greece had no pretensions to Western Thrace and to an outlet in the Aegean Sea and although he was determined to deny them Salonika, which abuts on the Aegean Sea, the territory east of Salonika, including Kavalla, should be ceded to Bulgaria. This struggle has gone on between the two countries for a long time.

I do not want to overstate my case. I am not denying, that, in the past, Bulgaria has suffered from having bad politicians. I do not say there has not been a certain amount of aggression. But the Bulgarian people have never sought to crush the Greeks, to brutalise them, nor to bring them under subjection. I would say to my hon. Friend that, whatever view he may have in this direction, many people in this country, and certainly many of us on these Benches, would resist any encroachment that might be made—and I hope it never will be made—by the Greeks on what is purely Bulgarian territory. I could have gone on much further, but I do not want to protract this Debate unduly.

Now, a few words about the Bulgarian future. One of the tragedies of this world is ignorance. When people get to know each other they find many points of interest in common. I only wish that more hon. Members would try to get to know more about the Bulgarian people. I have been called "the friend of Bulgaria," and I am very proud to be a friend of Bulgaria, and will continue to be the friend of that country, so long as its people stand for decency and human rights. The Government of that country, since 1944, have given the people a very measurable degree of freedom. I was able to see the opposition leaders, and to watch demonstrations taking place against the Government, at which opposition speakers were able to give free expression to their criticism in language much stronger than would have been used in this country, and, on all sides, I saw no indication whatever that people were repressed merely because of their political opinions.

In that country, we have heard of the case of a Minister, an ex-Socialist, who was sentenced to five years' imprisonment on an allegation that he was a member of a democratic Socialist Party—that, because he had enough courage to express his views, he was clapped in gaol. I investigated this case, and found that this had nothing to do with the case. The fact that he was a member of a Socialist Party or claimed democratic leanings was beside the point. He was charged with participating in a campaign which sought to undermine the loyalty of the army and the integrity of the State—a very different thing indeed, which would not be countenanced in this country. These rumours which reach Britain must be examined before being accepted. Indeed, I would be very happy to go there, as an experiment, at my own expense, in order to prove to the Foreign Secretary and my hon. Friend that I can solve any of the difficulties standing in the way of peace between Bulgaria and this country. In Heaven's name, how long are we in this country going to have all these forms of hatred and misunderstanding between one country and another? We fought this war for the brotherhood of human beings. We fought this war in order to establish the democratic ideals to which we have always been attached. Surely, in Bulgaria, we shall find those very ideals, although they have not got 700 years of democratic teaching behind them, as we have in this country? They have only recently emancipated themselves, and I say that they have done a magnificent job of work. To their everlasting credit, they arrested their Fascists, set up their people's courts, and tried and shot not merely the minor Fascists, but even an ex-Prime Minister of their country, and all those who had associated themselves with the Germans during the German campaign.

When I was there, it was amazing to me to discover that the Bulgarians pointed with pride to the fact that there was no racial discrimination in their country. Theirs is the only country on the continent of Europe, so far as I understand, which has never persecuted its Jewish minority of 47,000 people. They even hid them from the Germans in spite of the fact that the Germans overran their country. I think that every shade of political opinion can be drawn together into the fundamental democratic instincts of the people of that country, and, therefore, I ask my hon. Friend to shake the hands of the Bulgarians in friendship, so that the relationship between that country and ours may be brought much closer. In doing that, I believe that he will not only be doing a great job for our own loved country, but also for the principles of democracy to which we have all paid service from time to time in this House.

6.56 p.m.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

I am sure that other hon. Members are extremely grateful to the hon. Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack) for raising the subject of Bulgaria. There are not many of us, I imagine, who have had actual physical experience of that country. Those of us who have had such experience have always come back, I think, with feelings of friendliness and gratitude similar to those of the hon. Gentleman, in view of the welcome and reception which we received. I must, however, take the hon. Gentleman to task for some of the things he said about his experiences in Bulgaria. I do not know how long the hon. Gentleman was in the country, and I understand that his recent visit was his only visit. I must declare my own experiences in that country. I served two years in Bulgaria, Greece and Rumania and lived at Sofia as my headquarters. I also found the Bulgarians in 1932 and 1935 extremely friendly as a whole, and I would suggest to the hon. Gentleman that it is not only now that Bulgarians have wanted to be friendly with Britain. There could not have been a more friendly country to Britain in those days, but they were not only friendly towards Britain but friendly to other countries as well. The officers of the Bulgarian army were sent to Germany for their training, while the lawyers and the professional men went to Paris. and a large number of teachers and others came to Britain for their training. They all had a very important occidental viewpoint, and there are many of us who regretted—and said so in the last Parliament—that Bulgaria, for the second time in the second world war backed the wrong horse.

I have no experience of the present Government of Bulgaria, but I have had experience of other Governments, and I know that, when the Government in Bulgaria changes, probably as a result of an election, not only does the Government and the Sobranje change and go out, but all the busmen, the tram drivers, the railway porters and every official go out too. Whenever one party goes out and another comes in, a wholesale change of State employees takes place. From my contacts in Bulgaria, I have a feeling that the old friendly spirit of the inter-war years does not exist today. I am staggered to hear the hon. Gentleman describe Bulgaria as a bare, barren country. What about the valley of the Danube, which contains the richest corn lands in Europe?

Photo of Mr John Mack Mr John Mack , Newcastle-under-Lyme

I am quite sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows a great deal about this subject, but I would say that, on the whole, the greater part of the country is mountainous and uncultivable. It is true that the valleys are cultivable, but they are not the major portion of the country.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

There are two mountain ranges—the central Balkan range and the Rhodope range—and, between the two, lie the two valleys. It is about fifty-fifty, but, even so, the mountain valleys of Bulgaria are cultivated and contain some of the finest vineyards in that part of the world. I am sure that the Minister will give us all the recent facts about it, but I do feel that, when we start to debate Bulgaria, we should get a proper background to our Debate.

I am also sorry that the hon. Gentleman said what he did about the late King Boris. Britain never had a better friend in Bulgaria than King Boris, and it was only because of the ill judgment of the Government, or the fortunes of war, that Boris found himself on the other side. It is pretty generally accepted that Boris was by no means a friend of the Germans and, in fact, was murdered by them. During the inter-war years Boris visited this country on several occasions, and whenever any of our naval units or private people visited Bulgaria they were always well received. During my period in Bulgaria. quite a number of hon. Members from this House visited the country and were always received by King Boris. It is only right, therefore, that I should be allowed to correct, to a certain extent, the background of the monarchy. Bulgaria sided with the wrong side again, and I am certain that there is no one in Bulgaria today who does not regret that she did so. Boris saw the strong German aggression, on the one side, and wondered what Britain was going to do to help him. He thought he would be swallowed up by the Germans and decided that he had better join the other side. He had not been taught that, in the end, he was going to lose.

There is one point upon which the hon. Gentleman did not touch and which I think ought to be mentioned when we discuss Bulgaria, Greece or Yugoslavia. It is the Macedonian question which, after all, is generally at the bottom of all these troubles. I have seen a man step from a tramcar, level a gun and shoot a fellow Bulgarian dead at a range of five yards. Ostensibly, they were two perfectly peaceful Bulgarians, but, on investigation, the shooting was found to be due to a Macedonian feud. There was also a case in which a hospital nurse in Sofia went inside to one of her patients and shot him dead. She had been instructed by the Macedonian caucus there which was the cause of the trouble. The Macedonian element in the Bulgarian make-up is responsible for most of the trouble, and from it come most of the agitators.

I would like to take up the hon. Gentleman on the question of the reports sent in by our own representatives. I happen to know the present representative, and I cannot believe that he would send in anything except that which he honestly knew to be the circumstances of the case.

Photo of Mr John Mack Mr John Mack , Newcastle-under-Lyme

I am not questioning the honour or integrity of our representative, but I am very seriously questioning his judgment and capacity to present what I call an unbiased and objective report.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

I have never known a man more determined to get down to the ordinary people of the country in which he is serving than our present representative. I also had the highest regard for our previous representatives there. I served under one of them who rendered exemplary service in Bulgaria and whose reports were full of knowledge and information of every kind which enabled our commercial authorities in this country very considerably to enlarge our trade with Bulgaria. I strongly deprecate, without a very definite knowledge of all the facts, accusing our representative there of not being fundamentally able to render proper reports of what is going on in the country. I am unable to speak of the present set-up in Bulgaria because I have not visited the country recently. I only intervened in this Debate to try to correct, to a slight extent, the background of this discussion.

7.7 p.m.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Gateshead

I also have been in Bulgaria, and that is my excuse for intervening in this Debate. I want, first of all, to plead that Bulgaro-Greek relations, either frontiers or any other aspect of those relations, should not be considered in terms of the Balkan wars of 1912–13 instead of in terms of the United Nations organisation and 1946. I was surprised and disappointed to observe from the Press that, at the Peace Conference, His Majesty's Government were backing the Greek Government's claim to a new strategic frontier and pleading for this claim in terms of the security of Greece. Even the League of Nations, weak as it was, was quite able to stop a Bulgaro-Greek conflict within 24 hours, and for a Labour Government to argue in favour of the necessity of establishing strategic frontiers between two Balkan countries, when we are supposed to base our policy on the United Nations organisation and on the organisation of collective security, seems to me a very deplorable example of the abyss between our statements and our actions in the matter of foreign policy. I would plead very strongly that the Government should make it clear that, in discussing Balkan affairs and the relations between Greece and Bulgaria, they will think and act in terms of the United Nations organisation, and not base their security concepts on the idea of these two Balkan States fighting out a duel in a world of armed anarchy.

The second plea I would make is that the relations of these two States should not be considered in terms of relations between an enemy country and an Allied country. The present Government and the present army in Bulgaria have, I believe, a better record of resistance and fighting on our side during the late war than that of the present Government and army command in Greece. In any case, the Bulgarian army did not do any fighting on the side of Germany, but did some effective fighting on ours and suffered many casualties. I believe that the Bulgarians have a stronger claim than the Italians to be considered as co-belligerents, apart from the fact that we have now reached the stage where we all realise that, if we are going to make peace effectively, we had better drop the hatred and prejudice arising out of wartime alignments and look at these matters from the point of view of their international merits.

On that question, I would press the point that we should look at the problem of Western Thrace, not in terms of Greco-Bulgarian relations, but in terms of the interests of the Balkans, particularly the economic interests. From an economic point of view, Western Thrace is a strip of land which Greece has acquired and that cuts off not only Bulgaria but the whole Balkan Hinterland from the Aegean. That is a great economic disadvantage, not only to Bulgaria, but also to the trade of Yugoslavia and Rumania.

Photo of Mr Francis Noel-Baker Mr Francis Noel-Baker , Brentford and Chiswick

The hon. Gentleman probably knows more about the background of this question than I do, but is it not a fact that, during the period between the wars, when the Yugoslavs enjoyed free port facilities in Salonika, there was a perfect flow of Yugoslav trade down the Aegean and back? The hon. Gentleman will also remember that the great Greek Liberal statesman, M. Venizelos, also offered the Bulgarian Government similar facilities in the port of Dedeagach, now called Alexandroupolis. Therefore, whether this strip of land on the North coast of the Aegean, which now contains an overwhelmingly Greek population, is under Greek or Bulgarian sovereignty does not affect the economic situation.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Gateshead

My hon. Friend has anticipated something that I was about to say. I do not agree that the facilities offered by the Greek Government were adequate, but I was going to make a plea for the consideration of the question of Western Thrace primarily from the point of view of international economic relations. After all, if U.N.O, is capable of treating Trieste on an international basis because of its economic importance to the whole hinterland of Central Europe, I suggest that the ports of Salonika, Kavalla and Alexandroupolis—Dedeagach —should also come under some kind of United Nations regime, with internationally guaranteed access to the sea to and from the hinterland. How far that arrangement should go, whether it should imply any political and administrative responsibilities, or whether there should be merely an overriding guarantee, I do not know. Those are matters of detail. But I would press on my hon. Friend who is to reply the point that Western Thrace presents not only a question of national and historic grievances, but is primarily a question of economic importance to the whole of the Balkans, and we should try to use our influence, again in terms of the United Nations organisation, to make sure that there is adequate and internationally guaranteed economic access from the hinterland through Western Thrace to the ports of Kavalla and Dedeagach. Why should we not put Salonika under some similar regime, in the interests of Greece as well as of the other countries concerned?

The final point I wish to make concerns the question of democracy and our attitude to the present regime in Bulgaria. With regard to Bulgaria, as in the case of most of the other liberated and ex-enemy countries in that part of the world, we have an overriding joint obligation with the U.S.S.R. and the United States of America to help the people in those countries to establish a democratic regime and put an end to the remnants of Fascism. The best way in which we can help Bulgaria to establish a democratic regime is not by having a nerve war of notes with the Bulgarian Government, but by trying to reach a common policy with the Soviet Union in the Balkans and Central Europe. I am saying this not only as my own personal opinion, but I am glad to be able to quote to this effect the leaders of the opposition in Bulgaria with whom I discussed this matter. They were so insistent that I should quote them that I have pleasure it-doing so now. I spoke with Dr. Mushanov, a fine old gentleman, the leader of the Democratic Party. He had a very good record in the resistance activities against the prewar Fascist dictatorship in Bulgaria. I also spoke with the able young opposition agrarian leader, Dr. Petkov. They told me that I should not only quote them but that I should also speak in the name of Mr. Lulchev, the Social democratic leader. But as I did not have this from his own lips, and as I want to be very careful about this, I am not invoking Mr. Lulchev's name. I will repeat what Dr. Mushanov and Dr. Petkov asked me to say, namely, that it only Great Britain and the Soviet Union had a common policy in the Balkans and Central Europe, that would be their salvation. That is how they put it, and they showed strong feeling in this matter.

I understand why they feel like this, because so long as the relationships between the great Powers are based on conflict, rivalry and disagreement, none of these questions can be discussed on their merits by the peoples concerned. Obviously, this bears hard on the oppositions in these countries who want to have particularly friendly relations with the Western countries, and who are accused of being enemies of their own countries and of running the errands of the Western Powers, who are suspected of having ex- ternally inspired or encouraged political motives for opposing the regimes in those countries. The only way to put a stop to that is to try to work out with the Soviet Union, on the basis of our common obligations, some kind of common policy. After all, we have common obligations, not only arising from the Teheran and Potsdam Agreements but from the Anglo-Soviet alliance which pledges us to be partners in the economic reconstruction and political reorganisation of Europe. We can only act on those common obligations and discover a common purpose with the Soviet Union if we face the fact that it is impossible for democracy to be developed in these liberated countries except through the success of their present programmes of semi-Socialist economic reconstruction. On those programmes the oppositions as well as the regimes are agreed. In Bulgaria in particular, Mr. Petkov and Dr. Mushanov were very emphatic in saying that they agreed with the Government's reconstruction policy, its home policy, and also its foreign policy of close friendship with the Soviet Union, just as in Poland Mr. Miko-lajczyk and his party agree with the economic programme of their government.

It would help a great deal in revealing possibilities of agreement in discussion if we made it clear that we realised the connection between successful economic reconstruction on the present semi-Socialist lines and the development of democracy and freedom as we understand it. Although the situation in Bulgaria and the other liberated countries is a great advance towards democracy, in terms of their own past, and in terms of what they have come out of during the war, nevertheless, it falls far short of what we understand by democracy and of what they are capable of developing into if they are given proper encouragement and help.

We have to face the fact that the Socialist economic reconstruction which is going on in these countries is impossible on an anti-Communist basis. If we are prepared to help these regimes in their Socialist reconstruction, and be friends with them, we must face the necessity, however distasteful it may be to some members of the Government, for working with the Communist parties. We need not advance very far in this respect. We need only go as far as "The Times," which, on 6th March this year, in an interesting leading article, referring to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition at Fulton, said that the Leader of the Opposition in depicting Communism and Western democracy as irreconcilable enemies, was indulging in a counsel of despair, because both Western democracy and Communism had a good deal to learn from each other. There were in Europe regimes, which were intermediate between the two, and such regimes were more suitable in the present situation to the conditions of those countries than our Western parliamentary democracy. Moreover, this question would be settled not by ideological conflicts, but by the nations in solving the problems of social organisation. If we could have a declaration on those lines, that the Government appreciate the fundamental importance of the success of these new regimes in their programmes of economic reconstruction, and the importance of agreement between ourselves and the Soviet Union as providing an international basis and background against which democracy and tolerance can develop in these countries, I believe this Debate will have been extremely useful. I would press my hon. Friend to say that we will recognise the Bulgarian Government, that we will try to devise a common policy with our Ally, the Soviet Union, on the basis of our alliance with that country, not only for Bulgaria, but for all those countries; and that we will take the view which is set forth in the Labour Party's own policy on which they won the General Election, that Socialism is a fundamental necessity for reconstruction and for the spread of political freedom and democracy in Europe.

7.20 p.m.

Photo of Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe , Windsor

I only intervene in this Debate for a very few minutes, because like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) I, too, was fortunate enough to visit Bulgaria during the Recess. However, unlike the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme my tour was less triumphant. I, too, was received with great courtesy by Mr. George Dimitrov, but not with flowers. It was perhaps unfortunate that the official from the Bulgarian Foreign Office who accompanied me on that occasion as interpreter should have left his identity card behind. When we arrived at the great man's villa we were obliged to wait for quite a long time before this official was able to establish his own identity in front of the two gunmen who were standing on guard by the gate. I must say, frankly, I am unable to share the hon. Member's views in extolling either the present Bulgarian Government or the conditions which exist in Bulgaria today. My own point of view is just as sincere as that of the hon. Gentleman opposite.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme referred to the part played by the Bulgarian Army at the end of the war on the Allied side. It is quite true that for roughly the last seven months of the war the Bulgarian Army did fight and suffer severe casualties on the Allied side under Russian direction. However, if we are going to distribute bouquets to those who took part in that battle in Eastern Europe, perhaps when the Under-Secretary of State comes to reply he will tell the House what has been the fate of General Stanchev, who commanded the Second Bulgarian Army and who, if my information is correct, is now under house arrest. It seems a curious reward to be arrested, having commanded the Second Bulgarian Army in operations against the Germans.

My impression, from the few weeks I spent in Bulgaria, was that most of the freedoms as we understand them have been assailed by legislation during the last 18 months. It is quite true that a group of the Zveno, the Social-Democrat and the Agrarian parties are represented in the Bulgarian Government. But what the hon. Member did not mention was that the bulk of those three parties was driven into opposition by the Communists because they wished to avoid smirching their own good names by continuing to participate in a Government whose direction was, in their opinion—and in my view quite rightly—tending towards dictatorship rather than towards democracy. We must also remember that the recent elections, which took place on 27th October, were conducted under the shadow of the law for the Defence of the Peoples Powers. Under that law, as the hon. Member opposite no doubt knows, it is a crime to make any speech or statement which could create mistrust in the existing Government; and how anybody belonging to the Opposition is expected to fight an election campaign with that law in operation I really do not know. I wonder how the hon. Member would have conducted his own Election campaign with such success at the last Election had a similar law been in operation in this country.

Photo of Mr John Mack Mr John Mack , Newcastle-under-Lyme

Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman seriously suggest that in fact the Opposition were gagged and were not allowed to present their policy and their criticism of the Government in the recent election of 27th October?

Photo of Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe , Windsor

Yes, I certainly suggest that.

Photo of Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe , Windsor

What actually happened was that in the preceding months Opposition papers were suppressed at intervals, many editors were arrested, and many of the would-be candidates were in concentration camps. In the last foreign affairs Debate which we had in this House the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State told the House in his winding-up speech that a member of the Bulgarian Government had admitted that there were something in the neighbourhood of 40,000 political prisoners in concentration camps in Bulgaria. That statement was made from that Box in the winding-up speech of the foreign affairs Debate. Moreover, according to Press reports, although the actual discrimination against the Opposition parties was relaxed—even hon. Gentlemen opposite can hardly accuse the Opposition of being Fascists—two or three days before polling day, to give the outward appearance of free elections, the conduct of the elections was still very irregular. It was widely reported in a number of newspapers that, for example, road blocks were manned by the militia in order to prevent the Opposition leaders from visiting their own constituencies in country districts. The Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Mr. Georgiev himself, assured me, in an interview I had with him, that broadcasting facilities would be available to the Opposition during the election campaign. When the Under-Secretary of State replies to this Adjournment Debate will he tell us what broadcasting facilities were made available to the Opposition? According to my information they were offered a 10-minutes' broadcast on the eve of the poll. If that is not open discrimination then, Mr. Speaker, the English language has lost its original meaning.

Unlike the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme I do not wish to join in an attack upon British representatives overseas who are unable to defend themselves. I prefer to agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) in paying tribute, not only to the British political representative in Bulgaria but also to the officers and other ranks of the British Mission in Sofia, who are doing a first class job under extremely difficult circumstances. It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen opposite to say that the British political representative is misinformed, and that his reports are biased. Is a biased report a report which does not accept the theory that truth is the monopoly of the Communist Party? Whether or not His Majesty's political representative is fulfilling his functions to the satisfaction of His Majesty's Government can only be judged in the light of whether or not he is carrying out the instructions which he has been given. I am perfectly certain that those instructions have been in the past, and will be in the future, faithfully carried out. If not, it is for the Under-Secretary of State to say so. I think it should be noted in the House that both the political and the military representatives are undertaking a task under extremely trying conditions. Their only means of access to the outside world is by air. That is the way the mail comes. Whether he be a diplomat or in the Services, it is by means of the mail that he is kept in contact with his relations at home. The Sofia airfield is closed at intervals, and at very irregular and uncertain intervals, by the Russian chairman of the Control Commission. No one can say whether tomorrow, the next day or next week a given aircraft carrying mails can arrive. In the winter months, when flying conditions are very difficult, our representatives in Sofia have been marooned for as long as six weeks. I submit to the House that by their conduct they have worthily upheld the good name of our country. They have protested—and there is little more they could do—under instructions from the Foreign Office, against what seemed to most fair-minded men, to be a reign of terror. Unless we wish to disregard completely the ideals of human liberty, which we thought worth while defending in the war, I once again urge the Under-Secretary of State, if we have to sign a Peace Treaty with Bulgaria, and to recognise the Government with whom we sign it, to make it quite clear that the signing of that treaty does not mean approval, either of the methods by which that Government came into power or of the methods by which it seeks to maintain itself in office.

7.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Francis Noel-Baker Mr Francis Noel-Baker , Brentford and Chiswick

The House has heard a fairly full discussion, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has a number of points to which to reply. Therefore, I confine my remarks to one or two sentences. As I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack), and also the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum), I began to wonder which of the two nations it was, Greece or Bulgaria, that fought on the Allied side during the war. There was one particular section of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme on which I would like to comment very briefly. When he was talking about Greek claims against Bulgaria, and repudiating the right of the Greeks to seek protection by moving their frontier a few kilometres further North—after having been invaded three times, as he himself admitted, in the last 25 years—and having disposed of the case of the Greeks, as he- thought, he then went on to refer to the claims of the Bulgarian Government against Greece; and I felt that, at this point, some protest must be voiced in this House. He mentioned the fact that in the year 1912 the great Greek Liberal statesman, Venizelos, said that, in certain conditions, he might be prepared to agree to territorial arrangements which would leave part of the Aegean coast in the hands of the Bulgarians. But that was after Bulgaria had only once invaded Greece. Two more treacherous invasions have since taken place, and I do ask the Under-Secretary to say, with as much clarity and firmness as he can, that, in any negotiations that have taken place, or that may take place, for a peace settlement with the Bulgarian Government His Majesty's Government, at any rate, consider claims against Greece by Bulgaria as outrageous, preposterous and wholly unacceptable.

7.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

The Debate has covered a lot of ground, and I am sure we are grateful to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack) for raising it tonight. I should like to begin, without delay, by saying, quite straight out, that we cannot admit his criticisms of His Majesty's Government's representative in Sofia. The general subject of promotion and recruitment has often been discussed quite recently in this House. There is no need for me to go into that. As far as the case of our representation in Sofia is concerned, as has been said, our policy in Bulgaria is a matter for His Majesty's Government, quite definitely, and though the hon. Member, I know, is opposed to the policy in Bulgaria, he cannot visit the sins of the Government upon our representative in Sofia. As far as the objectivity of his reports go, no specific instance of documentation was produced, and it is hard to reply to this accusation. I can only say that we are satisfied with the information that we have been getting from Sofia. In these circumstances, since, as it happens, we shall very shortly be in a position to announce the transfer of our representative I should like to make it very clear that this does not indicate any lack of confidence in his work in Sofia. In this connection, too, I should like to point out, with reference to my hon. Friend's suggestion that he himself should go for six months to Sofia, that it has no relevance to that suggestion either.

The subject of the Greek claims has been discussed at some length by different speakers. I am sure that no hon. Member of this House—though some got near to it tonight, I think—says, of the claims of all the Allies against our enemies, that they are wrong in principle. Why, then, if France and Yugoslavia and Soviet Russia and Poland can make their claims on enemy countries—why should Greece, alone, be excluded?

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Gateshead

Surely, the nature of the claim has something to do with it, and making a strategic claim in the world of 1946 seems to me to be an undesirable claim in principle.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

Greek strategic claims are not the only strategic claims that have been made—and satisfied—since the war ended. I cannot see, myself, that there is any reason for discriminating against our Ally, Greece, in this way. As has been said, at Bulgaria's hands she has been invaded three times quite recently, and in the last war she suffered heavily at Bulgaria's hands. It is true—I am glad to say it—that in the closing stages of the war the Bulgarian Army fought with remarkable bravery against the Germans, but we must not forget that the great bulk of Bulgaria's war effort was directed against Greece, and that under the Bulgarian Fascist occupation the Greek people suffered oppression and persecution. Against this background, and bearing in mind, also, that of the belligerent countries in Europe Bulgaria was the least war devastated, I see no reason why, in justice, Greece should not put this claim forward. She believes that the claims she put forward at the Paris Conference would very substantially have increased the security of Thrace and Macedonia. In the form in which they were presented they were rejected by the Conference, with less, I think, than sufficient consideration. The claims have been reduced, and are now being considered by the Council of Foreign Ministers, and I myself, and His Majesty's Government, say that Greece has every right to put these claims forward.

I felt more sympathy for the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) when he talked about Socialist reconstruction measures in Bulgaria. It is early yet to see the effect of the measures they have put into effect already, but it is always a cheering sight to us Socialists to see capitalism going in any part of the world, and few tears will, I think, be shed over Bulgarian capitalism on our side of the House. On the question of democracy, however, I shall have something to say later. I think that the hon. Member's approach was a little naive, if I may say so, on this point. But I shall return to it in a moment. On the subject of the elections, not only my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, but also my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme were, in my view, wholly mistaken. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme actually described the elections in Bulgaria as "not absolutely immaculate"—surely, a world's record in understatement. Not absolutely immaculate!

Photo of Mr John Mack Mr John Mack , Newcastle-under-Lyme

May I just correct a possible' misunderstanding? I do not for a moment suggest that an election in Bulgaria or anywhere else is necessarily immaculate in every respect. But that remark can be applied to elections in this country, and, if I make that concession, I am not for a moment admitting that it was not an election on a fair and reasonable basis.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

Well, my standards and the hon. Member's, of what is an immaculate election, clearly differ. But I will describe them, and show what information we have received about them. So far as I can follow it, polling day passed off peacefully and the voting conditions were broadly satisfactory. But it does seem very doubtful, indeed, whether the results of the election truly reflect the wishes of the Bulgarian people. During months and weeks before the elections the Bulgarian Government used every possible means of pressure and persuasion to get the results they wanted. It was not a matter of the distribution of knitted underwear—the hon. Member for New-castle-under-Lyme referred to the distribution of knitted underwear—as a method by which the Bulgarian Government faked the elections. I should be ashamed to give that reason for opposing the Bulgarian elections. I am going to give another and much more effective explanation. The truth is that during weeks and months before the election, Opposition leaders were thrown into concentration camps. That is a fact, and because it is said by a Conservative, that is no excuse for Socialists to ignore it. That is a fact.

Photo of Mr John Mack Mr John Mack , Newcastle-under-Lyme

Perhaps my hon. Friend might be a little more clear on that. He says "Opposition leaders." That might imply practically all of them. Will he give names, more details and the reasons?

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

Yes, but I cannot do it as quickly as my hon. Friend expects me to. Further, Opposition meetings were either banned, in many cases, or broken up if they took place. Opposition candidates were in many cases beaten up. The latest reports which we have had—they have not yet been substantiated, and I give them under reserve—suggest that in this period 95 Opposition organisers were arrested,. 102 people were beaten up in different incidents, 45 meetings were broken up, and 16 Opposition members were killed, mainly by beating up behind closed doors. Again, I say that these reports have not been substantiated, but they are being investigated, because there may be an element of exaggeration in them. But what we know for sure of conditions in Bulgaria makes it all too probable that some proportion of these reports is true. A further lamentable fact was that little or no attempt was made by the security forces to find and punish the offenders.

My hon.-Friend mentioned the freedom of the Press, and I agree with him that it is possible in Sofia to find newspapers with very outright attacks on the Government, but a good deal of administrative interference prevents the circulation of those newspapers outside Sofia. Nevertheless, I do not deny that some expression of opinion is possible in Bulgarian Opposition newspapers. However, it needs courage to fight elections as an Opposition leader in Bulgaria, there is no question about that, and it needs courage even to vote for the Opposition in a Bulgarian election. Rightly or wrongly, there must have been many Bulgarian voters at the election who felt that to vote against the Government was possibly dangerous and almost certainly useless, so we must accept with reserve the result of these elections.

Photo of Mr John Mack Mr John Mack , Newcastle-under-Lyme

May I put one point? I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman unduly, but he is making a series of statements with nothing to substantiate them except these reports, which in some cases have not been confirmed. Why is he so quick to accept reports from a representative in Bulgaria and to refute the witness of people like myself and my hon. Friends who have been there and have seen for themselves, and who are Members of his own party and of the same political faith as himself?

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

All that is between my hon. Friend and myself is the speed with which I tell my story.

Photo of Mr John Mack Mr John Mack , Newcastle-under-Lyme

It is not speed that matters.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

May I give a concrete illustration which will show straight away what I mean? The hon. Member for Gateshead referred to Mr. Lulchev, the leader of the Democratic Party. I believe he paid a tribute to him. What has happened to Mr. Lulchev since the election? Immediately after the election he and some 20 of his supporters were arrested and put in prison. Does that satisfy the hon. Member?

Photo of Mr John Mack Mr John Mack , Newcastle-under-Lyme

It does not prove anything. It is only a statement that he is in prison.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

He was immediately arrested after the election, in which he fought, under the Law for the Defence of the People's Power, which has been passed by the Bulgarian Fatherland Front Government. This law is based on measures passed by the prewar Fascist Government of Bulgaria, and part of Article 7 of this law reads: Whoever spreads calumnious statements likely to create mistrust in the Government in general— I repeat: —likely to create mistrust in the Government in general or in any of its organs or to cause disturbances in the community by means of printed publications or artistic materials shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than three months and a fine of 5,000 to 50,000 leva. The same punishment shall be applied to anyone who expresses opinions or spreads rumours about facts and circumstances which might tend to harm good relations with a friendly State or with its rulers or to compromise the prestige of such a State or its rulers. That is Article 7 of the law for the Defence of the People's Power passed by the Fatherland Front Government. M. Lulchev was arrested under the last part of this section. He was arrested on two counts, first, that he sent to the Second International for publication of an exposition of the state of affairs in Bulgaria which contained—here I quote: incorrect estimates and statements undermining the authority of the Government. That was one count, and the second was that he joined in distributing a document falsely alleged to be a speech by Mr. Byrnes. These charges are wholly frivolous, and I say that it is one of the first principles of a Social Democratic foreign policy that we should refuse to countenance the persecution of Social Democrats in this way. I say that His Majesty's Government are right to use what influence they have to stop this oppression taking place against perfectly respectable Social Democrat leaders to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead actually paid a tribute.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Gateshead

I beg my hon. Friend's pardon, but I cannot let that pass. I-paid a tribute to M. Mushanov and M. Petkov, but rather pointedly did not pay a tribute to M. Lulchev. I cannot say why; I had a private talk with him, but since my hon. Friend stresses the point, I must say that I am not surprised at all at what has happened to him.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

My hon. Friend should know, if he has visited Bulgaria, that the opposition Social Democrats are the true, genuine Social Democratic Party. In country after country Social Democrats are labeled "Fascists," "Fascist beasts" and "war criminals" by the hon. Member, and when they are persecuted he will not stand up for them.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Gateshead

I cannot accept that either, because I spoke also with the Social Democrats who are for the Government, and who represent the great majority of the Social Democratic Party. I have not used such terms anywhere as he has imputed to me. M. Lulchev belongs to the same brood as the Right wing German Social Democrats who handed their country over to Hitler.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

I would very much like to follow the hon. Member, and since he has mentioned Germany, may I point out that the policy of which I accuse him now, of not standing up for the Social Democrats, was precisely carried out in Berlin at the time of the fusion of the Social Democratic Party there? I say that His Majesty's Government are right, as a Social Democratic Government, to stand up for Social Democrats when they are persecuted in Europe, I do not mind where it takes place, whether in Bulgaria or in Berlin. I believe, too, that hon. Members behind me sympathise with that point of view. I say that these hon. Members should stand up and speak out for the persecuted Social Democrats in this world.

Photo of Mr John Mack Mr John Mack , Newcastle-under-Lyme

Would my hon. Friend give way for a moment? The majority of the Social Democrats in Bulgaria are supporting the Fatherland Front. The people to whom he refers, under the leadership of M. Lulchev, are the disciplined anti-Social Democrats who use the label. They represent definitely a minority of the Social Democratic Party. If he wants verification of that, I can supply him all the evidence from the papers of the organisation.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

The hon. Member has allowed his good nature to obscure for him the difference between a firm Social Democratic attitude to these things and an opportunist Communist attitude. [HON. MEMBERS; "Nonsense."] Yes, I think my hon. Friend must make that clear. I said that he was allowing his good nature to do this, and I am not casting any reflections on his motives in the matter, but I do believe it is essential for us on these benches to make this distinction clear.

It is clearly time to pass on from this point. I would like, if I may, to deal briefly with another criticism of our policy, which is passed on the theory that the Bulgarians are not ready for democracy, that somehow or other, in criticising the Bulgarian Government for what is going on there, we are taking a rather English or a rather maiden aunt line towards the realities of Bulgarian politics. It may be said, quite truthfully, that of course Bulgaria has not got the same degree of democratic political advancement as in this country or the United States. What is the implication of this argument which is used by the critics of the Government tonight? The implication is that the Bulgarian Government are trying to establish democracy in Bulgaria and are being hampered by the backwardness of the Bulgarian people. That is what the argument means.

Photo of Mr John Mack Mr John Mack , Newcastle-under-Lyme

That is the Under-Secretary's interpretation.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

What hon. Members have been saying is that it is absurd to expect Bulgaria and the Bulgarian Government to behave as though they- were a political democracy, that the conditions are worse in the Balkans and that you cannot blame the Government for them. On the contrary, I say that the facts are that the Bulgarian Government are not trying to establish political democracy in Bulgaria. Furthermore, they are not even trying to stamp out the acts of oppression which are taking place in Bulgaria, and worse, they are themselves responsible for many of these acts of oppression. To say that the backwardness of the Bulgarian people is responsible for the state of affairs in Bulgaria is surely a wholly hypocritical argument. The responsibility (for the state of affairs in Bulgaria is not due to the low political standards of the Bulgarian people, but due to the low political standards of the Bulgarian Government. That is the truth about that state of affairs, and not as hon. Members suggest.

I have covered a good deal of ground. There is the question of the arrest of General Stanchev. I share hon. Members' views about that. I am not well informed on this, but my information is that at this minute he is under arrest.

Photo of Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe , Windsor

Can the Under-Secretary tell the House under what charges he was originally arrested?

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

I am afraid that I cannot say, but perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will put down a Question on that. It is not our policy in Bulgaria, as so often alleged, to support reactionary capitalists, Fascists and anti-Soviet elements. All over the world, whatever we do, we shall be accused of that. No matter what we do, the Communist parties throughout the world will say that in fact we support these reactionary elements. On the contrary, we wish Bulgaria to remain on good terms with all her neighbours, including Soviet Russia. We wish her to break new ground. We want her to go ahead with constructive social democratic reforms. We want her to plan her way ahead towards better living standards for the Balkan people. Socialism never has been and never will be established on terror and oppression. What is more, no genuine working-class movement needs these weapons to keep itself in power. Only unrepresentative minorities need them, falsely claiming themselves to be progressive working-class movements, and catching innocents with their propaganda. No, Sir, we on this side belong to the largest and most successful Social Democratic party in the world, and we are in a position to judge of these things, and we take our stand on these principles. We say that we are not taking this line because we are capitalists, or because we are reactionary, Fascist, anti-Semitic, anti-Soviet or anything like that, but because we are both Socialists and Democrats, and because we believe that along this line the true welfare of the Balkan people can best be served.

Photo of Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe , Windsor

The Under-Secretary elaborated some admirable principles in his speech with which I am in complete agreement. He has escaped the main issue, namely, What are the Government going to do? Is it the intention to distinguish between recognition on the one hand and approval on the other? If not, by what other method can they register disapproval of the Bulgarian Government?

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

I have done my best, with these matters being discussed by the Council of Foreign Ministers, to give the policy of the Government as fully as I can, and I am afraid there is nothing more I can add.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Three Minutes to Eight o'Clock.