February 27, 1945
THE PRIME MINISTER (MR. CHURCHILL): I beg to move,
"That this House approves the declaration of joint policy agreed to by the three great Powers at the Crimea Conference and, in particular, welcomes their determination to maintain unity of action not only in achieving the final defeat of the common enemy but, thereafter, in peace as in war."
MR. ARTHUR GREENWOOD (Wakefield): Before my right hon. Friend proceeds to address the House, may I ask him whether it would be for his convenience to have an interval during his speech?
THE PRIME MINISTER: I hope that if I flag, or falter by the way, the House will be so kind as to give me its indulgence, in having a break about one o'clock. I have a good deal of ground to cover.
The recent Conference of the three Powers in the Crimea faced realities and difficulties in so exceptional a manner that the result constituted an act of State, on which Parliament should formally express their opinion. His Majesty's Government feel they have the right to know where they stand with the House of Commons. A strong expression of support by the House will strengthen our position among our Allies. The intimate and sensitive connections between the Executive Government and the House of Commons will, thereby, also be made plain, thus showing the liveliness of our democratic institutions, and the subordination of Ministers to Parliamentary authority. The House will not shrink from its duty of pronouncing. We live in a time when equality of decision is required from all who take part in our public affairs. In this way also, the firm and tenacious character of the present Parliament, and, generally, of our Parliamentary institutions, emerging as they do fortified from the storms of the war, will be made manifest. We have, therefore, thought it right and necessary to place a positive Motion on the Paper, in support of which I should like to submit some facts and arguments to the House at the opening of this three days' Debate.
The difficulties of bringing about a Conference of the three heads of the Governments of the principal Allies are only too obvious. The fact that, in spite of all modern methods of communication, fourteen months elapsed between Teheran and Yalta is a measure of those difficulties. It is well known that His Majesty's Government greatly desired a triple meeting in the Autumn. We rejoiced when, at last, Yalta was fixed. On the way there, the British and United States delegations met at Malta to discuss the wide range of our joint military and political affairs. The combined Chiefs of Staff of the two countries were for three days in conference upon the great operations now developing on the Western Front, and upon the war plans against Japan, which it was appropriate for us to discuss together. The Foreign Secretary, accompanied by high officials and assistants some of whom unhappily perished on the way, also met Mr. Stettinius there. On the morning of 2nd February the cruiser which bore the President steamed majestically into the battle-scarred harbour. A plenary meeting of the combined Chiefs of Staff was held in the afternoon, at which the President and I approved the proposals which had been so carefully worked out in the preceding days for carrying our joint war effort to the highest pitch, and for the shaping and timing of the military operations. Meanwhile the Minister of War Transport and the American authorities concerned, had been labouring on a vessel all to themselves at the problem of shipping, which govern our affairs at present and which affect the movement and the reserves of oil, food, munitions and troops. On all these matters, complete agreement was reached-very difficult and complicated matters-like making an international Bradshaw in which the times of all the express trains may have to be varied, if half a dozen unforeseen contingencies arise. No hard-and-fast agreements were made on any political issues. These, naturally, were to form the subject of the triple conference, and they were carefully kept open for the full meeting.
The reason why shipping is so tight at present is that the peak period of the war in Europe has been prolonged for a good many months beyond what was hoped for last Autumn, and, meanwhile, the peak period against Japan has been brought forward by the American victories in the Pacific. Thus, instead of one peak period fading out or dovetailing into the other, there is an overlap, or double peak period, in the two wars which we are waging together on opposite sides of the globe. Although for a couple of years past our joint losses by U-boats have ceased to be an appreciable factor in our main business, and although the shipbuilding output of the United States flows on gigantically, and although the Allies have to-day, far more shipping than they ever had at any time previously during the war, we are, in fact, more hard-pressed by shipping shortage than ever before. The same double peak of war effort, of course, affects all our preparations for the turn-over to peace, including housing, and the much-needed supplies for civilians. All these facts call for the most strenuous and searching economy on the military side, where indulgence or miscalculation, or extravagance of any kind, is a grave injury to the common cause. They also lamentably hamper our power to provide for the dire needs of the liberated territories. I am not prepared to have this island cut below its minimum safety reserves of food and oil, except in cases where sure and speedy replacement can be made. Subject to this, we shall do everything in our power to help the liberated countries. It is easy to see the rigorous character of the discussions which Lord Leathers-who is highly competent in these matters and is admitted to be a magnificent authority on all this aspect, and who holds it all in his head, has conducted on our behalf, and we may be satisfied to-day with the fair and friendly distribution of burden and hardship which has been agreed upon between Great Britain and the United States over the whole inter-allied shipping pool.
There was the diplomatic conference proceeding on one cruiser; there was the military discussion proceeding on another, and the discussions on shipping going forward on a third vessel. Then, at the end, the President arrived, and the results were submitted to him and to me. I kept in touch with what was going on, and we jointly approved all these matters, on which action was immediately taken.
After that, we all flew safely from Malta to the airfield in the Crimea, and motored over the mountains-about which very alarming accounts had been given, but these proved to be greatly exaggerated-until we found shelter on the southern shore of the Crimea. This is protected by the mountains and forms a beautiful Black Sea Riviera, where there still remain undestroyed by the Nazis, a few villas and palaces of the vanished-Imperial and aristocratic régime. By extreme exertions and every form of thoughtfulness and ingenuity, our Russian hosts had restored these dwellings to good order, and had provided for our accommodation and comfort in the true style of Russian hospitality. In the background were the precipices and the mountains; beyond them, the devastated fields and shattered dwellings of the Crimea, across which twice the armies have surged in deadly combat. Here on this shore, we laboured for nine days and grappled with many problems of war and policy while friendship grew.
I have seen a criticism in this country that France was not invited to participate in the Conference at Yalta. The first principle of British policy in Western Europe is a strong France, and a strong French army. It was, however, felt by all three Great Powers assembled in the Crimea that, while they are responsible for bearing to an overwhelming degree the main brunt and burden of the conduct of the war and the policy intimately connected with the operations, they could not allow any restrictions to be placed upon their right to meet together as they deemed necessary, in order that they may effectively discharge their duties to the common cause. This view, of course, does not exclude meetings on the highest level to which other Powers will be invited.
France may however find many reasons for contentment with the Crimea decisions. Under these decisions France is to be invited to take over a zone of occupation in Germany, which we will immediately proceed to delimit with her, and to sit on the Allied Control Commission in Germany, which regulates the whole affairs of that country after the unconditional surrender has been obtained. France is to be invited to join the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and China in sponsoring the invitations to the San Francisco Conference, which has been arranged for 25th April this year. She is invited to join the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union in operating the procedure laid down in the Declaration on Liberated Europe. She is also a member of the European Advisory Commission, to whom most important tasks have been relegated, including advice to the Governments upon most important matters connected with the treatment of Germany. This Commission, with French assistance, has already completed in great detail all the terms upon which unconditional surrender will be received and accepted. Everything is provided for in that sphere. If we were confronted to-morrow with a collapse of the German power, there is nothing that has not been foreseen and arranged beforehand by this important European Advisory Commission consisting of Mr. Winant, Ambassador Gusef, and Sir William Strang, of the Foreign Office.
MR. BELLENGER (Bassetlaw): Does that apply to occupation only?
THE PRIME MINISTER: No, it applies to what I have said-to the arrangements for the occupation as far as they can be foreseen, and also it is to advise us on various matters connected with Germany apart from the actual taking over by our military authorities. All these arrangements show clearly the importance of the role which France is called upon to play in the settlement of Europe, and how fully it is recognised that she must be intimately associated with the other great Powers in this task. In order to give further explanations of the proceedings of the Conference, we invited M. Bidault, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, to visit London at the earliest opportunity. He was good enough to come, and during the last few days, we have had the pleasure of a series of clarifying talks with him, in which he has been able to become fully informed of the whole position, and to express in the most effective manner the views and wishes of France upon it.
On world organisation, there is little that I can say beyond what is contained in the Report of the Conference, and, of course, in the earlier reports which emanated from Dumbarton Oaks. At the Crimea, the three Great Powers agreed on a solution of the difficult question of voting procedure, to which no answer had been found at Dumbarton Oaks. Agreement on this vital matter has enabled us to take the next step forward in the setting up of the new world organisation, and the arrangements are in hand for the issue of invitations to the United Nations Conference which, as I have said, will meet in a couple of months at San Francisco. I wish I could give to the House full particulars of the solution of this question of the voting procedure, to which representatives of the three Great Powers, formerly in disagreement, have now whole-heartedly agreed. We thought it right, however, that we should consult both France and China, and should endeavour to secure their acceptance before the formula was published. For the moment, therefore, I can only deal with the matter in general terms.
Here is the difficulty which has to be faced. It is on the Great Powers that the chief burden of maintaining peace and security will fall. The new world organisation must take into account this special responsibility of the Great Powers, and must be so framed as not to compromise their unity, or their capacity for effective action if it is called for at short notice. At the same time, the world organisation cannot be based upon a dictatorship of the Great Powers. It is their duty to serve the world and not to rule it. We trust the voting procedure on which we agreed at Yalta meets these two essential points and provides a system which is fair and acceptable, having regard to the evident difficulties, which will meet anyone who gives prolonged thought to the subject.
The Conference at San Francisco will bring together, upon the invitation of the United States, Great Britain, the British Commonwealth, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the provisional Government of the French Republic and the Republic of China, all those members of the United Nations who have declared war on Germany or Japan by 1st March, 1945, and who have signed the United Nations Conference declaration. Many are declaring war or have done so since Yalta, and their action should be treated with respect and satisfaction by those who have borne the burden and heat of the day. Our future will be consolidated and enriched by the participation of these Powers who, together with the founder members, will take the opening steps to form the World Organisation to which it is hoped that ultimately and in due course all States will belong. It is to this strongly-armed body that we look to prevent wars of aggression, or the preparation for such wars, and to enable disputes between States, both great and small, to be adjusted by peaceful and lawful means, by persuasion, by the pressure of public opinion, by legal method and eventually by another category of method which constitutes the principle of this new organisation.
The former League of Nations, so hardly used and found to be inadequate for the tasks it attempted, will be replaced by a far stronger body in which the United States will play a vitally important part. It will embody much of the structure and characteristics of its predecessor. All the work that was done in the past, all the experience that has been gathered by the working of the League of Nations, will not be cast away, but the new body will differ from it in the essential point that it will not shrink from establishing its will against the evil-doer, or evil-planner, in good time and by force of arms. This organisation, which is capable of continuous progress and development, is at any rate appropriate to the phase into which the world will enter after our present enemies have been beaten down, and we may have good hopes, and, more than hopes, a resolute determination that it will shield humanity from a third renewal of its agonies. We have all been made aware in the interval between the two world wars of the weaknesses of international bodies, whose work is seriously complicated by the misfortune which occurred in the building of the Tower of Babel. Taught by bitter experience we hope now to make the world conscious of the strength of the new instrument and of the protection which it will be able to afford to all who wish to dwell in peace within their habitations.
This new world structure will, from the outset and in all parts of its work, be aided to the utmost by the ordinary channels of friendly diplomatic intercourse, which it in no way supersedes. For our part, we are determined to do all in our power to ensure the success of the Conference. On such an occasion it is clearly right that the two leading parties in His Majesty's Government and in the British nation, should be represented and all parties bound for the future in these decisions. I am glad to inform the House that His Majesty's chief representatives at this Conference will be my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and the Lord President of the Council, the leader of the Labour Party. I am most anxious that this principle should be established even in what are perhaps the closing stages of this memorable coalition. I am anxious that all parties should be united in this new instrument, so that these supreme affairs shall be, in Mr. Gladstone's words, "high and dry above the ebb and flow of party politics." I confess that I have not verified that quotation, and I ask for all indulgence if I should be proved to have made any slip.
The Crimea Conference finds the Allies more closely united than ever before, both in the military and in the political sphere. Let Germany recognise that it is futile to hope for division among the Allies and that nothing can avert her utter defeat. Further resistance will only be the cause of needless suffering. The Allies are resolved that Germany shall be totally disarmed, that Nazism and militarism in Germany shall be destroyed, that war criminals shall be justly and swiftly punished, that all German industry capable of military production shall be eliminated or controlled, and that Germany shall make compensation in kind to the utmost of her ability for damage done to Allied Nations. On the other hand, it is not the purpose of the Allies to destroy the people of Germany, or leave them without the necessary means of subsistence. Our policy is not revenge; it is to take such measures as may be necessary to secure the future peace and safety of the world. There will be a place one day for Germans in the comity of nations, but only when all traces of Nazism and militarism have been effectively and finally extirpated.
On the general plan, there is complete agreement. As to the measures to give effect to it, much still remains to be done. The plans for the Allied Control Commission will come into operation immediately on the defeat of Germany; indeed, they are far advanced, advanced, as I have said, to the point where they could be instantly made effective. On the longer-term measures, there are many points of great importance on which detailed plans have yet to be worked out between the Allies. It would be a great mistake to suppose that questions of this kind can be thrashed out, and solutions found for all the many intractable and complex problems involved, while the Armies are still on the march. To hurry and press matters of this kind might well be to risk causing disunity between the Allies. Many of these matters must await the time when the leaders of the Allies, freed from the burden of the direction of the war, can turn their whole or main attention to the making of a wise and far-seeing peace which will, I trust, become a foundation greatly facilitating the work of the World Organisation.
I now come to the most difficult and agitating part of the statement which-I have to make to the House-the question of Poland. For more than a year past and since the tide of war has turned so strongly against Germany, the Polish problem has been divided into two main issues-the frontiers of Poland and the freedom of Poland.
The House is well aware from the speeches I have made to them that the freedom, independence, integrity and sovereignty of Poland have always seemed to His Majesty's Government more important than the actual frontiers. To establish a free Polish nation with a good home to live in, has always far outweighed, in my mind, the actual tracing of the frontier line, or whether these boundaries should be shifted on both sides of Poland further to the west. The Russian claim, first advanced at Teheran in November, 1943, has always been unchanged for the Curzon Line in the east, and the Russian offer has always been that ample compensation should be gained for Poland at the expense of Germany in the north and in the west. All these matters are tolerably well-known now. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary explained in detail last December the story of the Curzon Line. I have never concealed from the House, that, personally, I think the Russian claim is just and right. If I champion this frontier for Russia, it is not because I bow to force. It is because I believe it is the fairest division of territory that can, in all the circumstances be made between the two countries whose history has been so chequered and intermingled.
The Curzon Line was drawn in 1919 by an expert Commission, of which one of our most distinguished foreign representatives of those days, Sir Eyre Crowe, was a member. It was drawn at a time when Russia had few friends among the Allies. In fact, I may say that she was extremely unpopular. One cannot feel that either the circumstances or the personalities concerned, would have given undue favour to Soviet Russia. They just tried to find out what was the right and proper line to draw. The British Government in those days approved this Line including, of course, the exclusion of Lvov from Poland. Apart from all that has happened since, I cannot conceive that we should not regard it as a well-informed and fair proposal.
There are two things to be remembered in justice to our great Ally. I can look back to August, 1914, when Germany first declared war against Russia under the Tsar. In those days, the Russian frontiers on the west were far more spacious than those for which Russia is now asking after all her sufferings and victories. The Tsarist frontiers included all Finland and the whole of the vast Warsaw salient stretching to within sixty miles of Breslau. Russia is, in fact, accepting a frontier which over immense distances is 200 or 300 miles further to the east than what was Russian territory and had been Russian territory for many generations under the Tsarist regime. Marshal Stalin told me one day that Lenin objected to the Curzon Line because Bialystok and the region round it were taken from Russia. Marshal Stalin and the modern Soviet Government make no such claim and freely agree with the view taken by the Allied Commission of 1919 that the Bialystok region should go to Poland because of the Polish population predominating there.
We speak of the Curzon Line. A line is not a frontier. A frontier has to be surveyed and traced on the ground and not merely cut in on a map by a pencil and ruler. When my right hon. Friend and I were at Moscow in October Marshal Stalin made this point to me, and at that time he said that there might be deviations of eight to ten kilometres in either direction in order to follow the courses of streams and hills or the actual sites of particular villages. It seems to me that this was an eminently sensible way of looking at the problem. However, when we met at Yalta the Russian proposal was changed. It was made clear that all such minor alterations would be at the expense of Russia and not at the expense of Poland in order that the Poles might have their minds set at rest once and for all and there would be no further discussion about that part of the business. We welcomed this Soviet proposal. One must regard these thirty years or more of strife, turmoil and suffering in Europe as part of one story. I have lived through the whole story since 1911 when I was sent to the Admiralty to prepare the Fleet for an impending German war. In its main essentials it seems to me to be one story of a thirty years' war, or more than a thirty years' war, in which British, Russians, Americans and French have struggled to their utmost to resist German aggression at a cost most grievous to all of them, but to none more frightful than to the Russian people, whose country has twice been ravaged over vast areas and whose blood has been poured out in tens of millions of lives in a common cause now reaching final accomplishment.
There is a second reason which appeals to me apart from this sense of continuity which I personally feel. But for the prodigious exertions and sacrifices of Russia, Poland was doomed to utter destruction at the hands of the Germans. Not only Poland as a State and as a nation, but the Poles as a race were doomed by Hitler to be destroyed or reduced to a servile station. Three and a half million Polish Jews are said to have been actually slaughtered. It is certain that enormous numbers have perished in one of the most horrifying acts of cruelty, probably the most horrifying act of cruelty, which has ever darkened the passage of man on the earth. When the Germans had clearly avowed their intention of making the Poles a subject and lower grade race under the Herrenvolk, suddenly, by a superb effort of military force and skill, the Russian Armies, in little more than three weeks, since, in fact, we spoke on these matters here, have advanced from the Vistula to the Oder, driving the Germans in ruin before them and freeing the whole of Poland from the awful cruelty and oppression under which the Poles were writhing.
In supporting the Russian claim to the Curzon Line, I repudiate and repulse any suggestion that we are making a questionable compromise or yielding to force or fear, and I assert with the utmost conviction the broad justice of the policy upon which, for the first time, all the three great Allies have now taken their stand. Moreover, the three Powers have now agreed that Poland shall receive substantial accessions of territory both in the north and in the west. In the north she will certainly receive, in the place of a precarious Corridor, the great city of Danzig, the greater part of East Prussia west and south of Koenigsberg and a long, wide sea front on the Baltic. In the west she will receive the important industrial province of Upper Silesia and, in addition, such other territories to the east of the Oder as it may be decided at the peace settlement to detach from Germany after the views of a broadly based Polish Government have been ascertained.
Thus, it seems to me that this talk of cutting half of Poland off is very misleading. In fact, the part which is to be east of the Curzon Line cannot in any case be measured by its size. It includes the enormous, dismal region of the Pripet Marshes, which Poland held between the two wars, and it exchanges for that the far more fruitful, and developed land in the west, from which a very large portion of the German population has already departed. We need not fear that the task of holding these new lines will be too heavy for Poland, or that it will bring about another German revenge or that it will, to use a conventional phrase, sow the seeds of future wars. We intend to take steps far more drastic and effective than those which followed the last war, because we know much more about this business, so as to render all offensive action by Germany utterly impossible for generations to come.
Finally, under the world organization of nations great and small, victors and vanquished will be secured against aggression by indisputable law and by overwhelming international force. The published Crimea Agreement is not a ready-made plan, imposed by the Great Powers on the Polish people. It sets out the agreed views of the three major Allies on the means whereby their common desire to see established a strong, free, independent Poland, may be fulfilled in co-operation with the Poles themselves, and whereby a Polish Government which all the United Nations can recognise, may be set up in Poland. This has become for the first time a possibility now that practically the whole country has been liberated by the Soviet Army. The fulfilment of the plan will depend upon the willingness of all sections of democratic Polish opinion in Poland or abroad to work together in giving it effect. The plan should be studied as a whole, and with the main common objective always in view. The three Powers are agreed that acceptance by the Poles of the provisions on the Eastern Frontiers and, so far as can now be ascertained on the Western Frontiers, is an essential condition of the establishment and future welfare and security of a strong, independent, homogeneous Polish State.
The proposals on frontiers are in complete accordance, as the House will remember, with the views expressed by me in Parliament on behalf of His Majesty's Government many times during the past year. I ventured to make pronouncements upon this subject at a time when a great measure of agreement was not expressed by the other important parties to the affair. The Eastern frontier must be settled now, if the new Polish administration is to be able to carry on its work in its own territory, and to do this in amity with the Russians and behind their fighting fronts. The Western frontiers, which will involve a substantial accession of German territory to Poland, cannot be fixed except as part of the whole German settlement until after the Allies have occupied German territory and after a fully representative Polish Government has been able to make its wishes known. It would be a great mistake to press Poland to take a larger portion of these lands than is considered by her and by her friends and Allies to be within her compass to man, to develop, and, with the aid of the Allies and the world organisation, to maintain.
I have now dealt with the frontiers of Poland. I must say I think it is a case which I can outline with great confidence to the House. An impartial line traced long ago by a British commission in which Britain took a leading part; the moderation with which the Russians have strictly confined themselves to that line; the enormous sacrifices they have made and the sufferings they have undergone; the contributions they have made to our present victory; the great interest, the vital interest, which Poland has in having complete agreement with her powerful neighbour to the east-when you consider all those matters and the way they have been put forward, the temperate, patient manner in which they have been put forward and discussed, I say that I have rarely seen a case in this House which I could commend with more confidence to the good sense of Members of all sides.
But even more important than the frontiers of Poland, within the limits now disclosed, is the freedom of Poland. The home of the Poles is settled. Are they to be masters in their own house? Are they to be free, as we in Britain and the United States or France are free? Is their sovereignty and their independence to be untrammelled, or are they to become a mere projection of the Soviet State, forced against their will, by an armed minority, to adopt a Communist or totalitarian system? Well, I am putting the case in all its bluntness. It is a touchstone far more sensitive and vital than the drawing of frontier lines. Where does Poland stand? Where do we all stand on this?
Most solemn declarations have been made by Marshal Stalin and the Soviet Union that the sovereign independence of Poland is to be maintained, and this decision is now joined in both by Great Britain and the United States. Here also, the world organisation will in due course assume a measure of responsibility. The Poles will have their future in their own hands, with the single limitation that they must honestly follow, in harmony with their Allies, a policy friendly to Russia. That is surely reasonable-[Interruption].
The procedure which the three Great Powers have unitedly adopted to achieve this vital aim is set forth in unmistakable terms in the Crimea declaration. The agreement provides for consultation, with a view to the establishment in Poland of a new Polish Provisional Government of National Unity, with which the three major Powers can all enter into diplomatic relations, instead of some recognising one Polish Government and the rest another, a situation which, if it had survived the Yalta Conference, would have proclaimed to the world disunity and confusion. We had to settle it, and we settled it there. No binding restrictions have been imposed upon the scope and method of those consultations. His Majesty's Government intend to do all in their power to ensure that they shall be as wide as possible and that representative Poles of all democratic parties are given full freedom to come and make their views known. Arrangements for this are now being made in Moscow by the Commission of three, comprising M. Molotov, and Mr. Harriman and Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, representing the United States and Great Britain respectively. It will be for the Poles themselves, with such assistance as the Allies are able to give them, to agree upon the composition and constitution of the new Polish Government of National Unity. Thereafter, His Majesty's Government, through their representative in Poland, will use all their influence to ensure that the free elections to which the new Polish Government will be pledged shall be fairly carried out under all proper democratic safeguards.
Our two guiding principles in dealing with all these problems of the Continent and of liberated countries, have been clear: While the war is on, we give help to anyone who can kill a Hun; when the war is over we look to the solution of a free, unfettered, democratic election. Those are the two principles which this Coalition Government have applied, to the best of their ability, to the circumstances and situations in this entangled and infinitely varied development.
LORD DUNGLASS (Lanark): I am sorry to interrupt the Prime Minister, but this point is highly important. So much depends upon the interpretation of the words which the Prime Minister is now using. My only reason for interrupting him is to ask whether he can possibly develop this point a little more. For instance, is there going to be some kind of international supervision? His interpretation will make a great difference to many of us.
THE PRIME MINISTER: I should certainly like that, but we have to wait until the new Polish Government is set up and to see what are the proposals they make for the carrying out of these free, unfettered elections, to which they will be pledged and to which we are pledged by the responsibility we have assumed. But I have not finished. Perhaps some further words of comfort may come for my Noble Friend. I should be very sorry if I could not reassure him that the course we have adopted is simple, direct and trustworthy. The agreement does not affect the continued recognition by His Majesty's Government of the Polish Government in London. This will be maintained until such time as His Majesty's Government consider that a new Provisional Government has been properly formed in Poland, in accordance with the agreed provisions; nor does it involve the previous or immediate recognition by His Majesty's Government of the present Provisional Government which is now functioning in Poland. We are awaiting-[Interruption.] Let me remind the House and those who have undertaken what I regard as an honourable task, of being very careful that our affairs in Poland are regulated in accordance with the dignity and honour of this country-I have no quarrel with them at all, only a difference of opinion on the facts, which I hope to clear away. That is all that is between us.
Let me remind them that there would have been no Lublin Committee or Lublin Provisional Government in Poland if the Polish Government in London had accepted our faithful counsel given to them a year ago. They would have entered into Poland as its active Government, with the Liberating Armies of Russia. Even in October, when the Foreign Secretary and I toiled night and day in Moscow, M. Mikolajczyk could have gone from Moscow to Lublin with every assurance of Marshal Stalin's friendship, and become the Prime Minister of a more broadly constructed Government, which would now be seated at Warsaw, or wherever, in view of the ruin of Warsaw, the centre of Government is placed.
But these opportunities were cast aside. Meanwhile, the expulsion of the Germans from Poland has taken place, and of course the new Government, the Lublin Government, advanced with the victorious Russian Armies, who were received with great joy in very great areas in Poland. Many great cities changing hands without a shot fired, and with none of that terrible business of underground armies being shot by both sides, and so forth, which we feared so much, having actually taken place during the great forward advance. These opportunities were cast aside. The Russians, who are executing and preparing military operations on the largest scale against the heart of Germany have the right to have the communications of their armies protected by an orderly countryside, under a government acting in accordance with their needs.
It was not therefore possible, so far as recognition was concerned, to procure the dissolution of the Lublin Government as well as of the London Government simultaneously, and start from a swept table. To do that would be to endanger the success of the Russian offensive, and consequently to prolong the war, with increased loss of Russian, British and American blood. The House should read carefully again and again, those Members who have doubts, the words and the terms of the Declaration, every word of which was the subject of the most profound and searching attention by the Heads of the three Governments, and by the Foreign Secretaries and all their experts.
How will this Declaration be carried out? How will phrases like
"Free and unfettered elections on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot"
be interpreted? Will the "new" Government be "properly" constituted, with a fair representation of the Polish people, as far as can be made practicable at the moment, and as soon as possible? Will the elections be free and unfettered? Will the candidates of all democratic parties be able to present themselves to the electors, and to conduct their campaigns? What are democratic parties? People always take different views. Even in our own country there has been from time to time an effort by one party or the other to claim that they are the true democratic party, and the rest are either Bolsheviks or Tory landlords. What are democratic parties? Obviously this is capable of being settled. Will the election be what we should say was fair and free in this country, making some allowance for the great confusion and disorder which prevails?
MR. GALLACHER (Fife, West): Will there be any caucuses?
THE PRIME MINISTER: One cannot entirely avoid some nucleus of party inspiration being formed, even in this country, and no doubt sometimes very able Members find themselves a little out of joint with the party arrangements. But there are a great number of parties in Poland. We have agreed that all those that are democratic parties-not Nazi or Fascist parties or parties of collaborators with the enemy-all these will be able to take their part.
These are questions upon which we have the clearest views, in accordance with the principles of the Declaration on liberated Europe, to which all three Governments have duly subscribed. It is on that basis that the Moscow Commission of three was intended to work, and it is on that basis it has already begun to work.
The impression I brought back from the Crimea, and from all my other contacts, is that Marshal Stalin and the Soviet leaders wish to live in honourable friendship and equality with the Western democracies. I feel also that their word is their bond. I know of no Government which stands to its obligations, even in its own despite, more solidly than the Russian Soviet Government. I decline absolutely to embark here on a discussion about Russian good faith. It is quite evident that these matters touch the whole future of the world. Sombre indeed would be the fortunes of mankind if some awful schism arose between the Western democracies and the Russian Soviet Union, if all the future world organisation were rent asunder, and if new cataclysms of inconceivable violence destroyed all that is left of the treasures and liberties of mankind.
Finally, on this subject, His Majesty's Government recognise that the large forces of Polish troops, soldiers, sailors and airmen, now fighting gallantly, as they have fought during the whole war, under British command, owe allegiance to the Polish Government in London. We have every confidence that once the new Government, more fully representative of the will of the Polish people than either the present Government in London or the Provisional Administration in Poland, has been established, and recognised by the Great Powers, means will be found of overcoming these formal difficulties in the wider interest of Poland. Above all, His Majesty's Government are resolved that as many as possible of the Polish troops shall be enabled to return in due course to Poland, of their own free will, and under every safeguard, to play their part in the future life of their country.
In any event, His Majesty's Government will never forget the debt they owe to the Polish troops who have served them so valiantly, and for all those who have fought under our command I earnestly hope it may be possible to offer the citizenship and freedom of the British Empire, if they so desire. I am not able to make a declaration on that subject to-day because all matters affecting citizenship require to be discussed between this country and the Dominions, and that takes time. But so far as we are concerned we should think it an honour to have such faithful and valiant warriors dwelling among us as if they were men of our own blood.
I think I might remind my right hon. Friend that I have indicated I might ask for special indulgence, and this would appear to be a convenient moment.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: The Sitting will now be suspended until 2.15 p.m.
THE PRIME MINISTER: The brief interval which has separated us, enables me to carry the House to altogether different fields. We leave the Crimean shores, and travel southwards to warmer climes, in which also we find many matters where British interests are important, and where we are involved. President Roosevelt invited the Emperor of Ethiopia, King Farouk of Egypt, and the King of Saudi Arabia to meet him at Ismailia before sailing for home, and conferences upon his cruiser were accordingly arranged by him. I myself took leave of the President on the 15th of this month in Alexandria Harbour, after long and most agreeable talks about the state of our affairs in the light of the Crimea Conference, and also talks about our special business in the Far East, in which, as the Japanese are aware, we both take some interest.
We also spoke of our joint occupation of Italy and of our policy there. Upon this, the House is aware, there was a great deal of misunderstanding in large sections of the American Press some weeks ago. During our recent talks I repeatedly asked both the President and Mr. Stettinius to state whether there are any, and if so what, complaints by the United States Government against us for any steps we have taken in Italy, or have not taken in Italy; and I received categorical assurances that there are none. Moreover, I must place it on record that when I visited Italy in August last I made a series of proposals to His Majesty's Government, of which I informed the President, for mitigating the severity of the Allied occupation in Italy, and generally for alleviating the hard lot of the Italian people. These matters were discussed at our second Quebec Conference, and it was at Hyde Park, the President's private country home, that he and I drafted the declaration of 28th September, which was, and is, intended to make a very definite mitigation in the attitude of the victorious Powers towards the Italian people, and to show our desire to help them in due course to resume their place among the leading nations of Europe. Last Saturday the right hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Harold Macmillan), who is acting President of the Allied Commission, and Admiral Stone of the United States Navy, who is its Chief Commissioner, were received by the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary of Italy, and announced to them the new measures decided upon in favour of the Italian Government, in fulfillment of this September declaration.
As I myself have taken the lead in bringing these proposals forward and eventually securing their adoption, I am not prepared to accept suggestions from any quarter-although we suffered injury and ill-usage at Italy's hands in the days of Mussolini's power-that Great Britain has fallen behind other victorious Powers in taking a generous view towards Italy, or that we nourish any design of "power politics" which involved Italy. The sentence I used was that we had no need of Italy for any of our designs, and that was wrested from its context, but, as a matter of fact, it was a mere reply which I was bound to make to suggestions in some quarters of the United States Press, that we were embarking on some power politics-whatever they may be-in the Mediterranean. I am glad to say that the facts I am now setting forth have been explicitly accepted by the United States, or at any rate in all responsible quarters, and that this view was thoroughly endorsed by the President and Mr. Stettinius, and I have received quite definite assurances that no complaints of any kind were or are preferred against us, which would call for any reply on my part, such as would certainly be forthcoming.
Our two nations can, therefore, proceed on their joint task in Italy-which in future will be burdened with many new complications and difficulties in the closest confidence and unity. We look forward to Italy's return under a truly democratic regime to the community of industrious and peace-loving nations. In her efforts to help herself, Italy can count upon British good will, upon Allied good will. She can count also on such material aid as is at our disposal, and she will continually receive her fair share. I said some time ago that Italy would have to work her passage home. She has some way to go yet, but it would be less than. just if I did not pay a tribute to the invaluable services, the full tale of which cannot yet be told, of Italian men and women in the Armed Forces. on the seas, in the countryside, and behind the enemy lines in the North, which are being rendered steadily and steadfastly to the common cause. New difficulties may be cast upon us when the great districts in the North are cleared and when the problem of feeding the great masses for whom we shall then become responsible is thrown upon us and upon the provisional Italian Government, which Government may itself be called upon to undergo changes as a consequence of the greatly increased constituency for which it will become responsible, through the liberation of the Northern districts.
My right hon. Friend and I thought it would be becoming, as well as convenient and agreeable, that we should also see the two rulers who had made long journeys to Egypt at the President's invitation, and that we should pass in friendly review with them, the many matters in which we have common concern. It was our duty also to pay our respects to King Farouk of Egypt, and we thought it right to seek a talk with President Shukri of Syria, in order to calm things down as much as possible in the Levant. It should not, however, be supposed that anything in the nature of a general conference on Middle East affairs took place. The mere fact that the Regent of Iraq and the Emir Abdulla of Transjordania were not on the spot should make this perfectly clear. Any conference would naturally include authorities of that sort. There was no question of shaping new policy for the Middle East, but rather of making those friendly personal contacts by which public business between various States is often helped. I must at once express our grief and horror at the assassination of the Egyptian Prime Minister, Ahmed Maher Pasha, with whom my right hon. Friend had a long and cordial interview only a few days, almost hours, before he fell a victim to foul play. His death is a serious loss to his King and to his country. The sympathy of Great Britain for the widow and family of the late Prime Minister of Egypt has, of course, been expressed, not only in telegrams from the Foreign Office, but also by various personal visits of our Ambassador, Lord Killearn, and I am sure the House will associate itself with these expressions. There is little doubt that security measures in Egypt require considerable tightening, and above all that the execution of justice upon men proved guilty of political murder should be swift and exemplary.
The Egyptian Government have, we feel, acted rightly and wisely in deciding to declare war on Germany and Japan, and to sign the United Nations Declaration. We did not press the Egyptian Government at any time to come into the war, and indeed upon more than one occasion in the past our advice has been to the contrary. There were evident advantages in sparing the populous and famous city of Cairo from wholesale bombardment, and we have been content with the attitude of Egypt as a co-belligerent. Egyptian troops have, during the war, played an important part. They have maintained order throughout the Delta, they have guarded many strong-points and depots, and, in all kinds of ways, they have been of assistance to our war effort, which has once again proved successful in shielding the fertile lands of the Delta from the shock of the foreign invader. We have had every facility from Egypt, under our Treaty of Alliance, and successive Egyptian Prime Ministers and Governments have given us support in the manner which we deemed to be the most effective. Egypt is an Associated Power, and she should take her rightful place as a future member of the world organisation and as one of its founders, when the occasion is reached at San Francisco at the end of April.
We are also very glad to welcome Turkey into the ranks of the United Nations. Turkey declared herself most firmly on our side by the Treaty of Alliance in 1939, at a time when the gathering dangers were only too apparent. As I explained to the House on a former occasion. Turkey became conscious of unexpected military weakness after the war had started in earnest on account of the influence-the decisive influence-of new weapons with which she was quite unprovided and which we were not in a position to supply. As these weapons exercise a decisive effect on the modern battlefield, the Turks felt that they could no longer confide their safety to their renowned infantry and to the artillery of the last war. We did not, therefore, for a long time press them for a Turkish declaration of war. It was not until after the Tehran Conference that we considered that the moment had come, when Turkey could enter the struggle without grave imprudence. The Turkish Government did not feel able to do so at that time, but they have aided us in various ways which it would not be profitable to recount, and we have never had the slightest doubt where their hearts lay. They, also, will be welcomed by Great Britain into the ranks of the United Nations, and I do not consider that the ties renewed between our two countries after the miserable disasters of the last war have been in any way impaired.
I was greatly interested in meeting King Ibn Saud, the famous ruler of Saudi Arabia. I had the honour of entertaining this most remarkable man to luncheon in the Fayoum Oasis, and of expressing to him the thanks of Great Britain for his steadfast unswerving and unflinching loyalty to our country and the common cause, which never shone more brightly than in the darkest days and in the hours of mortal peril. His aid will be needed at the close of the war in reaching a solution of the problem of the Arab world and of the Jewish people in Palestine. I have hopes that, when the war is over, good arrangements can be made for securing the peace and progress of the Arab world, and, generally of the Middle East, and that Great Britain and the United States, which is taking an increasing interest in these regions, will be able to play a valuable part in proving that well known maxim of the old Free Trader "All legitimate interests are in harmony." [Laughter.] I knew that would give pleasure to the right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris). My right hon. Friend enjoys these reminiscences of by-gone controversies, or comparatively by-gone controversies.
My discussions with the Emperor of Ethiopia raised no serious difficulties, because an agreement for the next two years had already been reached, as the result of the Mission to Ethiopia which Lord De La Warr had just completed with much patience and address. It was a satisfaction for me to see for the first time in the flesh Haile Selassie, that historical figure who pleaded the cause of his country amid the storms of the League of Nations, who was the first victim of Mussolini's lust for power and conquest, and who was also the first to be restored to his ancient throne by the heavy exertions of our British and Indian armies in the far off days of 1940 and 1941.
Finally, we had the pleasure of a long discussion with President Shukri of Syria, in which we did our utmost to enjoin a friendly attitude towards the French and to encourage negotiations for a suitable settlement with the French, affecting not only Syria but also the Lebanon. I must make clear, once and for all, the position of His Majesty's Government in respect of Syria and the Lebanon, and in relation to our French allies. That position is governed by the statements made in 1941, in which the independence of these Levant states was definitely declared by Great Britain and France. At that time, and ever since, His Majesty's Government have made it clear that they would never seek to supplant French influence by British influence in the Levant states. We are determined also to respect the independence of these States and to use our best endeavours to preserve a special position for France in view of the many cultural and historic connections, which France has so long established with Syria. We hope that it may be possible for the French to preserve that special position. We trust that these States will be firmly established by the authority of the world organisation, and that French privilege will also be recognised.
However, I must make it clear that it is not for us alone to defend by force either Syrian or Lebanese independence or French privilege. We seek both, and we do not believe that they are incompatible. Too much must not be placed, therefore, upon the shoulders of Great Britain alone. We have to take note of the fact that Russia and the United States have recognised and favour Syrian and Lebanese independence, but do not favour any special position for any other foreign country. All these and many other matters affecting the Middle East are fitting and necessary subjects for the Peace Conference, at which we must resolutely strive for final settlements of lasting peace between all the States and races comprised in the Middle East, and in the Eastern basin of the Mediterranean.
On the way back from the Crimea, to say "good-bye" to the President at Alexandria, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I stopped in Athens. I must say that from my point of view this was the high spot of the whole journey. I could not help recalling the grim conditions of our visit only seven weeks before, when the cannon were firing close at hand, and bullets continually struck the walls and people were killed and wounded in the streets not far away. The contrast between these violent scenes and the really rapturous welcome we received from vast crowds of delighted citizens was one of the most vivid, impressive and agreeable experiences of my life. Peace reigned over the beautiful, immortal city. Its citizens were wild with joy. His Beatitude the Archbishop was seated in the Regency, firmly grasping the reigns of power. Together we drove through the crowded streets, lined by the first installment of the new national Greek Army, until I found myself called upon to address what was, incomparably, the largest and most enthusiastic gathering that, in a very long experience of such demonstrations, I have ever seen. There is no subject in my recollection on which the policy of His Majesty's Government has received more complete vindication than in regard to Greece, nor has there been any on which greater prejudice and misrepresentation has been poured out against them in the United States-[Interruption]-not without some assistance from these shores. All this was done with a gay, and, as I said, a wanton disregard of the ill-effects produced on the spot, and the encouragement given to the resistance of the terrorists in Greece. I am sure we rescued Athens from a horrible fate. I believe that the Greek people will long acclaim our action, both military and political. Peace without vengeance has been achieved. A great mass of arms has been surrendered. Most of the prisoners and hostages have been restored. The great work of bringing in food supplies has resumed its former activity. Public order and security are so established that U.N.R.R.A. is about to resume its functions. The popularity of British troops and of those who have guided the course of policy, such as Mr. Leeper and General Scobie, is unbounded in these regions, and their conduct continues to receive the approbation of His Majesty's Coalition Government.
I should by no means lead the House to suppose that our difficulties are over. The Greek National Army has still to be formed, and to be effective to maintain impartial order. The Greek Budget has to be balanced in some way. The drachma has to be restrained within reasonable limits; the raw materials have to be provided to enable industries of various kinds to get to work in Athens, where there are considerably more than a million people. The sense of unity and responsibility has to grow stronger with the Greek people. And here I must remark that the future of Greece is in the Greek's own hands. The Greeks must not expect that the whole process of their restoration can be accomplished by British labours or American assistance. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary remained a day longer in Athens than I did, and he was at pains to bring home to the Greek authorities the fact that, now that political stability has been achieved, financial and economic problems must take first place, and that the burden and responsibility are upon the Greek nation and that they must, on no account, sit back and leave these tasks to foreigners.
I trust that these remarks will in no way detract from the great kindness and enthusiasm with which I was received a little while ago, but if my words should cause pain I am not entirely sorry for it. The intense political activity of the Greek mind must continue to give way to practical problems. As soon as possible they must reach that election, fair, free, unfettered, with secret ballot and on a basis of universal suffrage, to which everyone is looking forward, and which can alone regulate and adjust everything that has been done. I look forward to it with the greatest confidence. I particularly welcome the wish of the Greek Government that Russian, British and American observers shall be free, on the spot, to make sure that the will of the people finds complete and sincere expression. So much for that episode, upon which we have had several exciting and even momentarily heated Debates in recent times.
I thank the House very much for their courtesy and attention. I would refer, for a moment or two before sitting down, to the Conference as a whole, and in relation to the grave matters which I mentioned before the interval with which the House indulged me. It was the custom of the Conference at Yalta to hold its meetings of the three Heads of Governments and Foreign Secretaries late in the afternoon, and to sit for several hours each day. Here the main issues were deployed, and the measures both of agreement and of difference were clearly revealed. I remember particularly one moment when a prolonged silence fell upon our small body, maintained for two or three minutes. It was immediately found very convenient to remit the measures of agreement or of difference, wherever our discussion had carried us, to the morning meetings of the Foreign Secretaries. Each Foreign Secretary presided over these meetings in rotation. So excellent was the combined work of the Foreign Secretaries that our problems were returned to us nearly every day in time for the full meeting, in a form in which final agreement could be reached, and lasting decisions taken.
There was a proposal on the agenda for the institution during the present anxious period of regular meetings of the Foreign Secretaries, an improvement of the combined and collective work which has often been asked for here, in order to prevent avoidable divergence of views, and to concert the actions of the three Great Powers. This was to meet a felt want, and to serve to bridge the unavoidable gap in the meetings of the three Heads of Government. There was, however, no need to argue this matter at Yalta, because the work of the three Foreign Secretaries proved itself so invaluable, efficient and indispensable that its continuing collective activity was acclaimed by all. It is of course, only a temporary arrangement, appropriate to these times of special stress, when so heavy a military burden is resting on the three Great Powers. We may expect it eventually to merge in the larger and permanent organisation which will be set up at San Francisco, once that organisation is in full working order, and the Peace Conference has finished its labours. In the intervening period these meetings of the three Foreign Secretaries to whom, from time to time, the Foreign Secretaries of other countries may be added, will prove of undoubted advantage.
Here is the moment when the House should pay its tribute to the work of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I cannot describe to the House the aid and comfort he has been to me in all our difficulties. His hard life when quite young in the infantry in the last war, his constant self-preparation for the tasks which had fallen to him, his unequalled experience as a Minister at the Foreign Office, his knowledge of foreign affairs and their past history, his experience of conferences of all kinds, his breadth of view, his powers of exposition, his moral courage, have gained for him a position second to none among the Foreign Secretaries of the Grand Alliance. It is not only my own personal debt, but even more that of the House to him which I now acknowledge.
I suppose that during these last three winter months the human race all the world over has undergone more physical agony and misery than at any other period through which this planet has passed. In the Stone Age the numbers were fewer, and the primitive creatures, little removed from their animal origin, knew no better. We suffer more and we feel more. I must admit that in all this war I never felt so grave a sense of responsibility as I did at Yalta. In 1940 and 1941 when we in this island were all alone, and invasion was so near, the actual steps one ought to take and our attitude towards them seemed plain and simple. If a man is coming across the sea to kill you, you do everything in your power to make sure he dies before finishing his journey. That may be difficult, it may be painful, but at least it is simple. Now we are entering a world of imponderables, and at every stage occasions for self-questioning arise. It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.
I trust the House will feel that hope has been powerfully strengthened by our meeting in the Crimea. The ties that bind the three Great Powers together, and their mutual comprehension of each other, have grown. The United States has entered deeply and constructively into the life and salvation of Europe. We have all three set our hands to far-reaching engagements at once practical and solemn. United we have the unchallengeable power to lead the world to prosperity, freedom and happiness. The Great Powers must seek to serve and not to rule. Joined with other States, both large and small, we may found a world organisation which, armed with ample power, will guard the rights of all States, great or small, from aggression, or from the gathering of the means of aggression. I am sure that a fairer choice is open to mankind than they have known in recorded ages. The lights burn brighter and shine more broadly than before. Let us walk forward together.