Orders of the Day — Germany and Austria

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th August 1947.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Arthur Molson Mr Arthur Molson , High Peak 12:00 am, 4th August 1947

Since the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is here, perhaps I might repeat, apropos this matter, that my right hon. Friend recommended a number of extremely important matters, such as to recognise de facto that partition does exist between the Russian and the Western zones. As far as I am aware, up to the present time the Foreign Secretary has always refused to recognise that any such division exists.. Again, my right hon. Friend referred to such matters as the end of denazification, the prevention of the influx of further refugees, and the reconstitution of S.H.A.E.F. It would have been for the general convenience of the House if the Government had seen fit, since they have a number of Ministers associated with the Foreign Office, to let one of these Ministers answer some of the points raised by my right hon. Friend, instead of waiting until the concluding speech in the Debate. On the other hand, I welcome the fact that the Foreign Secretary is to speak. Most of the earlier Debates upon Germany led to nothing conclusive, because the Minister replying was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who was not a Cabinet Minister; he could not deal with matters of policy, and was able to answer us on each occasion only by saying that this, that and the other thing had been laid down in the Potsdam Agreement—he was, of course, at that time under a directive to carry out the Potsdam Agreement.

Since the Foreign Secretary has become responsible for our administration in Germany, I am glad to notice that matters affecting policy have crept into his speeches. He dealt with this matter at some length in the last speech he made upon this subject, but again, unfortunately, his main speech on that occasion was the last in the Debate. He said then that those matters which he had not been able to deal with, he would be glad to deal with by correspondence, and I availed myself of his courtesy in that regard, asking him for elucidation on one or two points. While I am greatly obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the care and courtesy he always shows in dealing with matters raised in correspondence, it hardly forms part of our Parliamentary discussions when questions can only be raised in correspondence after a Debate is over.

I have now another criticism to make, that in the steps the right hon. Gentleman has taken he has been a little too tender towards the feelings of our three Allies. I was surprised when he told "me that the "Supplementary Principles governing the treatment of Germany," which he referred to in his speech on 15th May, and which he had laid before the Moscow Conference, still remain his long-term policy for Germany. That was a very good opening gambit with Mr. Molotov when he went to Moscow, but since Mr. Molotov has treated his Supplementary Principles in the way that he treats most of the right hon. Gentleman's proposals, I should have thought that these proposals might now be taken to have fallen to the ground. I do not see why this country should continue to be bound by them, when, in fact, they have been rejected by our Russian Allies.

I come next to the matter of the quadripartite machinery. This was a clumsy expedient to give effect to the assumption and principle of the Potsdam Agreement, that Germany should be treated as a single economic unit. The right hon. Gentleman is on record as having said several times that Russia has declined to treat Germany as a single economic unit. Therefore, the very reason for this clumsy expedient has now come to an end. One day I attended a meeting of the Coordinating Committee, and almost every matter was obstructed by the Russians. We were even refused permission to allow letters written in Danish, which we were able to censor in Danish, to be sent by Danish-speaking people from Germany into Denmark, on the grounds that the Russians had no Danish-speaking censors. It was because of the refusal of the Russians to treat Germany as a single economic whole, that the Anglo-American zones were fused for economic purposes. I should now like to urge most strongly, on the lines of my right hon. Friend, that a great effort should be made to bring in the French zone.

Even before the Marshall offer was made, it was already apparent that there was need for a revision of the Level of Industry Plan. It was necessary for three reasons. In the first place, it was necessary for the survival of Western Germany. In the second place, it was necessary if Britain and the United States were to obtain repayment of the vast sums they have advanced since the end of the war to keep the head of Western Germany above water. It has been calculated by the "Economist" that if Western Germany is even to pay its way, it will be necessary for exports from Western Germany to be increased to 65 per cent. above the prewar level. In the third place, it is necessary for the recovery of Western Europe that there should be an increase in the level of industry permitted to Western Germany. Although these things were all abundantly clear before the Marshall offer was made, it has surely become a matter of extreme urgency now that the Marshall offer has been made; if it were desirable before that France and the French zones should be brought in with the other two zones, surely it has now become an essential part of the response which Western Europe must make to the Marshall invitation.

If we are to obtain substantial assistance from the United States in order to re-equip and revive Western Europe, then manifestly Western Europe must first make the fullest possible use of its own resources. The Foreign Secretary was abundantly right when he refused to be associated with Mr. Molotov's idea, that every country should ask for just what they wanted and then a common list of all the mendicants should be given to the United States. The Foreign Secretary said that, on the contrary, there must be intergration of Western European industry, and Western Europe must try to set its house in order. Surely, as the hon. Member for West Coventry (Mr. Edel-man) said, there is the greatest possible opportunity for a revival of the industry of Europe as a whole, if you integrate the industries of Belgium and Luxemburg, of Lorraine and the Saar. Those, I believe, are the lines on which we should go, and that is a solution both for Western Germany and for Western Europe, and I believe it gives us the best answer we can give to the Marshall offer.

A word should be said here about the attitude of France in this matter. France is faced with an economic crisis at least as grave as our own and at least as pressing. Of recent years it has come to be true of France what used to be said of Austria, that although France's position is desperate, it is not serious. I regret that at the present time, when it is so manifestly necessary for all the resources of Germany to be integrated with those of the other countries of Western Europe, if Western Europe as a whole is to be an economic unit capable of paying its own way, there should be so little co-operation on the part of France. For example, if one looks at the Monnet Plan, almost the only reference to foreign industry of any kind is a repetition of the claims that coal from the Ruhr must be made available to assist the industry of France.

There is, of course, a great difference at present between the capacity of Germany to produce under the Level of Industry Plan and what is in fact being produced. Germany is allowed to produce 7.5 million tons of steel a year and is only producing 3 million tons. There are three main causes of that—hunger, destruction and hopelessness. That hopelessness is largely due to reparations. So long as the Germans feel that there is hanging over them a danger of the Allies coming down, dismantling their equipment, and removing it as reparations to foreign countries, you cannot expect cither the workers or the employers there to throw themselves wholeheartedly into increasing production. I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend say—I think it was the first time it has been said from the front Opposition Bench—that the idea of recovering reparations from Western Germany must now, in general, be abandoned. Western Germany today has a greatly increased population as compared with the war, a very large proportion of her industry has been destroyed. So if there is to be that increase in productivity which alone can enable her to maintain her own people, to repay what has been advanced by Britain and the United States of America in the last two years, and to give the people of Germany a reasonable prospect of a better standard of living in the future, then there will have to be an end to the idea of reparations.

I cannot exaggerate the depressing and deterrent effect of such reparations, for I saw it, last summer, when I, with some hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, watched the dismantling of the Hüttenwerke steel works and their removal to foreign countries. I do not object to the removal of that small category of industrial equipment which is not capable of being used for any peaceful purpose, although I would say that Russia is the last country to which I would like to see a war-making capacity being transferred. So far as the industry of Western Germany as a whole is concerned, I believe that our attitude should be that the sky is the limit. I believe that to be the only basis upon which there can be a revival of Western Germany, a survival of Western Europe, and I believe that should be made the basis upon which Europe as a whole will answer the Marshall offer. With the financial and economic assistance of the United States of America, and with the close integration of the industry of Western Europe as a whole, there should be a reasonable hope that Europe can yet revive and pay its way.