Orders of the Day — Greece (Situation)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th April 1948.

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The Minister of State (Mr. McNeil):

I almost hesitate to intervene in the Debate between my two hon. Friends. However I must say to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack) that it simply is not good enough to get up time after time and say that there is no evidence of Bulgarian intervention in Greece. Indee4, I am not sure that my hon. Friend's friends in Bulgaria will altogether approve of this line of action. I think that it may embarrass them seriously. I think that they may be in trouble with their political masters; and so may he. There are at least four reports published under the signature of the United Nations organisation, witnessed by reputable technicians, which have pointed to intervention from Bulgarian territory and from the other northern territories.

But there will be an excellent chance for my hon. Friend to prove his bona fides as a democrat in the very near future. His Majesty's Government hope to see the Bulgarian Government demonstrate that they have nothing to hide in the zone to which the hon. Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) referred, which should he, by this time, demilitarised under an agreement to which the Bul- garian Government are a party. So far, we have not had any assurance from the Bulgarian Government that we shall be permitted to proceed to make that inspection, as we are entitled to do. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, in confirmation of his democratic attitude, will publicly plead in this House, as he alone can plead with the Bulgarian Government to make sure that this which is our right, and which is the obligation of the Bulgarian Government, should be fulfilled.

I am tempted to be irrelevant on another subject which has intervened, the subject raised by my hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn). He referred to the resolution which, I am led to understand, some hon. Members from this side of the House have signed and sent to Signor Nenni and his associates who are fighting the Italian election in common association with the Communist Party. I am sure that the House know that my party—I am not talking of the Government—have already declared themselves for the Socialist democratic forces in Italy which are headed by Signor Saragat and Signor Lombardo. Our only hope is that on Sunday the Italian people will be left free to exercise their rights as citizens to declare by which Government they want to be led in a democratic way.

That, of course, is what the hon. Gentleman opposite asked for in this Debate. My hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton is quite right in reminding anyone who opposes him that the present Government in Athens is, at any rate, a Government elected under international supervision and more representative of the people, so far as we know, than any other Government in the Balkans. At any rate, there is no other Government which can say that their elections were conducted under international supervision.

I think, that, in addition to the point about the demilitarisation of the Bulgarian frontier, two other points were made. I apologise for not having dealt with them fully, although I acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman gave me notice of the matters he would speak about, but I thought it proper to deal first with the other points which intervened. The first of the hon. Gentleman's points concerns what we can hope for from the activities of the United Nations Commission. I think it is quite true that it would be within the power of the Commission to summon a Special Assembly to consider this report or reports. I have not seen the latest report, but I have seen Press accounts, and have spoken to people who have seen the reports, and, undoubtedly, they will offer evidence of continued intervention, not only of a logistical kind, but also of serious intervention directed against the Greek Government. This intervention is bringing much continued misery to the Greek people, who want nothing more than to be left alone to get on with the rebuilding of their country and the cultivation of their fields. It is, however, in our view, very doubtful if a good purpose will be served by seeking any emergency measures inside the United Nations until they have completed their reports. I understand that they hope to do that by the end of May or by some time in June. They will then be able to decide what action they want taken on their reports.

The other point is the suggestion that Britain and America and other interested countries might make available forces to try to seal the northern frontier. I confess I am surprised to hear that the distance is 12,000 miles.