Gr 78 6
HOUSE OF COMMONS, May 1, 1946
The Prime Minister (Rt. Hon. Clement Attlee): I desire to make a
statement in regard to the publication of the Palestine Report.
His Majesty's Government desire to express their appreciation for the
care and trouble which the Committee have devoted to the preparation of
the Report. They hope that it will prove to be a notable contribution to the
solution of the problems of Palestine and of the Jews in Europe, both of
which they have so much at heart. His Majesty's Government received
the Report only last week. His Majesty's Government and the United
States Government jointly appointed the Committee, and the Report is
addressed to both Governments. His Majesty's Government are now study-
ing it and will consult with the Government of the United States as soon
The Report must be considered as a whole in all its implications. Its
execution would entail very heavy immediate and long-term commitments.
His Majesty's Government wish to be satisfied that they will not be called
upon to implement a policy, which would involve them singlehanded in
such commitments, and in the course of joint examination they will wish
to ascertain to what extent the Government of the United States would be
prepared to share the resulting additional military and financial responsi-
The Report recommends that 100,000 certificates for the admission of
Jews to Palestine should be authorized immediately, and awarded so far as
possible in 1946, and that actual immigration should be pushed forward
as rapidly as conditions permit. The practical difficulties involved in the
immediate reception and absorption of so large a number would obviously
be very great. It is clear, from the facts presented in the Report regarding
the illegal armies maintained in Palestine and their recent activities, that it
would not be possible for the Government of Palestine to admit so large
a body of immigrants unless and until these formations have been disbanded
and their arms surrendered. As the Report points out, private armies
constitute a danger to the peace of the world and ought not to exist. Jews
and Arabs in Palestine alike must disarm immediately. The Committee
have drawn attention to the failure of the Jewish Agency to co-operate in
dealing with this evil, and have expressed the view that the Agency should
at once resume active and responsible co-operation with the mandatory
power. His Majesty's Government regard it as essential that the Agency
should take a positive part in the suppression of these activities. They hope
that both Jewish and Arab leaders will give counsels of patience and
restraint. His Majesty's Government recognize that decisions must be taken
as soon as possible, but meanwhile the House will understand that I am
unable to make any further statement.
The Leader of the Opposition (Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill): Are we
rightly understanding that His Majesty's Government will now immediately
British Speeches of the Day [MN. ATTEE]
enter into discussions with the Government of the United States as to the
joint action necessary to do justice to this very important and far-reaching
Report? Is that so?
The Prime Minister: Yes, Sir.
[House of Commons Debates)
BRITAIN, EGYPT AND THE SUEZ CANAL
HOUSE OF COMMONS, May 7, 8 and 24 [Extracts]
The Prime Minister (Rt. Hon. Clement Attlee): I think that the House
would wish to be informed of an announcement which has been made in
Cairo by the British treaty delegation on the subject of the negotiations
now in progress:
"It is the considered policy of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom
to consolidate their alliance with Egypt as one between two equal nations having
interests in common. In pursuance of this policy, negotiations have begun in an
atmosphere of cordiality and goodwill. The Government of the United Kingdom
have proposed the withdrawal of all British naval, military and air forces from
Egyptian territory, and to settle in negotiation the stages and date of completion
of this withdrawal, and the arrangements to be made by the Egyptian Government
to make possible mutual assistance in time of war or imminent threat of war in
accordance with the alliance."
Rt. Hon. Anthony Eden (Conservative): I do not think that the right
hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister will be surprised that the statement
which he made to the House this afternoon in respect to the Egyptian
negotiations has caused us grave concern, and that we should have sought
the earliest Parliamentary opportunity to obtain further information from
the Government and to explain to the House the reasons for our
anxiety. . .
Let me first make it plain that we are in full agreement with the first
two sentences of the statement which the right hon. Gentleman read out
this afternoon, that is to say, if I may quote them:
"It is the considered policy of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom
to consolidate their alliance with Egypt as one between two equal nations having
interests in common."
That is our view also, and we also agree that
"In pursuance of this policy"-
we trust this latter part is true, although we do not know-
"negotiations have begun in an atmosphere of cordiality and goodwill."
To that there is no objection. It is only to the third sentence that we have
anxiety which I propose to express.
THE REASON FOR PRESENCE OF BRITISH TROOPS
To understand why we are concerned I would invite the House to recall
certain facts. What has been the reason, since the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty
Britain, Egypt and the Sues Canal
of Alliance, of 1936, for the presence of British troops in Egypt? They are
not an army of occupation. That was, as a matter of fact, agreed in the
Treaty of 1936. I think it is accepted everywhere. They are there as the
result of a joint agreement between the Allies for the defense of the Suez
Canal. Let me read to the House Article 8 of the Treaty which is the rele-
vant Article. It says this:
"In view of the fact that the Suez Canal, whilst being an integral part of Egypt,
is a universal means of communication as also an essential means of communication
between the different parts of the British Empire, His Majesty the King of Egypt,
until such time as the High Contracting Parties agree that the Egyptian Army is in
a position to ensure by its own resources the liberty and entire security of the
navigation of the Canal, authorizes His Majesty The King and Emperor to station
Forces in Egyptian territory in the vicinity of the Canal, in the zones specified in
the Annex to this Article."
Finally, at the end of the same paragraph, are these words:
"The presence of these Forces shall not constitute in any manner an occupation,
and will in no way prejudice the sovereign rights of Egypt."
That is the Treaty position, accepted by us, accepted by the Egyptian
Government and people and accepted by all parties in this House; and, I
must say that on countless occasions Egyptian statesmen have told me how
they thought that was a true basis for the relations of our two countries.
My first point on this announcement at this time is that it gives the
impression, by the manner in which the withdrawal of our troops at this
time is referred to, that their purpose there is something other than merely
what it is, the defense of the Canal itself. Is it common ground between
us, I would ask the Government, that our troops in Egypt are there for one
purpose and one only, the defense of Canal and its security, which has
hitherto been regarded as a vital factor in the security of the British Em-
pire? I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will be surprised that we
should be astonished that, at the very opening of negotiations, he should
propose the withdrawal of our troops, without any explanation as to how
the purpose for which they are there, and for which they have been there
since 1936, is to be fulfilled when they are withdrawn. That purpose for
which they are there, I repeat, is not purely, as the right hon. Gentleman
knows, a British one but an Imperial one, an Anglo-Egyptian one, and, I
would add, a world one.
I come to the first question I would ask the right hon. Gentleman: Have
the Government satisfied themselves that the defense of the Canal can be
effectively carried out without the stationing of an Anglo-Egyptian force,
and without the availability of air and naval bases in Egypt in the vicinity
of the Canal? If so, if there is such a plan, if the Government are satisfied
that strategically the Canal can be secured without the facilities in Egypt
and without the presence of these troops in the Canal zone, will they tell
us, and will they tell us what that plan is? If there is not a plan for ensur-
ing the security of the Canal, or any other plan, how, may I ask, in the
light of the statement they have just made, do they propose to carry out
what is still their obligation under the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty and ensure
the security of the Canal?
British Speeches of the Day [MR. EDEN]
Let me ask another question. Article 8, which I have just read to the
House, embodies an agreement between the two Governments, authorizing
them to station forces in the vicinity of the Canal on Egyptian territory
in certain specified zones-I quote again from the Article-
"until such time as the High Contracting Parties agree that the Egyptian Army is
in a position to ensure by its own resources the liberty and entire security of navi-
gation of the Canal."
Are the Government in the position that they consider that that time has
now arrived? Have they been advised, for instance, by the Chiefs of Staff,
that the Egyptian Armies are now in a position to carry out that task? If
so, then again there would be grounds which could be explained to the
world for this decision. If not, if the Government do not feel that the
Egyptian Arny is at present in a position to discharge that task, the state-
ment which the right hon. Gentleman made this afternoon seems to me to
run directly counter to the terms of the Treaty to which the two Govern-
ments agreed in 1936, which this House accepted and which places on the
two nations jointly the obligation to defend the Canal.
EGYPTIAN NATIONAL OPINION
Let me say at once that I understand-I have no doubt that it has had
an influence in the step which has been taken-the fact that there is an
Egyptian national opinion which no doubt, before the negotiations, during
and afterwards, will make itself definitely felt. I should not have been at
all surprised if the Government had thought it right to make it plain at
this moment that they did not propose, for instance, to maintain Forces in
Cairo itself. I could have understood that, and, in the circumstances, it
might have been a wise declaration to make. I do not know whether I
make myself plain to the House. I say that this is quite a different propo-
sition which the right hon. Gentleman has put before us today. The issue
of security of the Canal is still a matter which concerns us and cannot be
ignored or prejudged, however strong Nationalist feeling may be. The
Prime Minister's statement can only appear to the world to prejudge it
before negotiations have taken place at all. On the score of Egyptian
national opinion I have one or two other things to say. I must pay tribute
to the help and collaboration we received from all Egyptian Governments
of whatever party, whether the Wafd or the Nahas Pasha Party, in the very
bad days before El Alamein. We received help from them during the war in
accordance with the terms of the Treaty. However those Governments were
composed they did that; but, after all, our own contribution to Egypt was
not altogether negligible.
Suppose, I ask our Egyptian friends, that Mussolini and Hitler had suc-
ceeded in their plans; what opportunity would there be for Egyptian nation-
alist aspirations to find expression? One has only to read the story of
Europe under Hitler's rule, and, let me add, the story of the Senussi under
Mussolini's rule, to understand the fate of conquered people under those
rules. So I say that while we have obligations to Egypt which I would be
the first to recognize, it is not unreasonable to say that, however intent
national feeling about the presence of foreign troops on Egyptian soil today
may be, it should take some account of recent history. The truth is-and
Britain, Egypt and the Suez Canal
I must say I thought this truth was as well understood in Egypt as it is here
-that the interests of our two countries are as one. It may be unwelcome
to Egyptian national sentiment to see British troops moving about Cairo.
That is unwelcome and could be met. But what have the right hon. Gen-
tleman and the Government done? So far as we can see from the statement
made today, before the negotiations have got under way, they make a
declaration of withdrawal which, unless some new strategical discovery has
been made, makes the new agreement which the right hon. Gentleman will
conclude quite worthless-[AN HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] I will tell the hon.
Gentleman. So far as we have been able to judge up to. date, from the
advice we have had, the presence of some troops in Egypt, not necessarily in
Cairo, is called for for the effective defense of the Canal. That is set out
in the Treaty of 1936.
I have never heard it challenged. I have never heard any Egyptian states-
man I have spoken to object to troops in Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman
knows the service of Alexandria as a naval base for us during the war. I
have never heard any Egyptian statesman say the presence of British troops
in Egypt is unthinkable. I have heard them say, "We do not like your
troops in Cairo; we would like them out of the Citadel." That is a con-
cession that might well have been made, but the concession the right hon.
Gentleman has made seems to me to make it physically impossible for the
Government to come to an arrangement now which will enable us to carry
out our obligation unless, as a result of this, he thinks the Egyptians them-
selves will later on come and say, "We welcome your gesture, but you can
keep your troops in the Canal zone for our joint defense." I do not believe
that in a matter of this issue that was the correct method of setting about
THE INTERESTS OF THE DOMINIONS
I must ask the right hon. Gentleman one more question. This is not
a matter in which our own country alone is concerned. The Treaty of
1936 made it very plain that the Canal is an essential means of communi-
cation between the different parts of the Empire. Can the right hon. Gen-
tleman assure us tonight that the Dominion Governments were consulted
before this announcement was made and that they agreed to its terms and
to its timing? I need not remind the House that Australia, New Zealand
and South Africa all made matchless contributions in blood and effort-
[AN HON. MEMBER: "And India"]-for the defense of the Canal. I have
chosen particularly the self-governing Dominions who are in conference
here in London. Of course, the contribution of India was also magnificent.
Do they agree with what has been said and done? I can understand the
right hon. Gentleman's desire, and I do not quarrel with it, to try to bring
about a favorable atmosphere for his negotiations, but the whole purpose
of negotiations is to secure the future defense of what is an Anglo-Egyptian
interest-the security of the Canal. But the right hon. Gentleman and the
Government have determined on some other means of defending the Canal.
If these means have been approved by our Chiefs of Staff and by the Gov-
ernments of the Dominions, the House ought to be told. I am bound to
say that if that is the answer I shall be so much gratified that we shall con-
British Speeches of the Day [Mi. EDEN)
gratulate ourselves on having provided the occasion for the right hon. Gen-
tleman to give the information, but if there is no alternative proposal, we
cannot but condemn an act which appears to place in jeopardy an essential
artery of our imperial life at the very outset of the negotiations.
I should myself have been very ready to do anything I could to meet
Egyptian opinion so long as such action did not prejudice not only Egyptian
obligations but our obligations under the Treaty to defend the Canal, which
is also, let me add, our Imperial duty. People sometimes speak as though
there was something anti-Egyptian in, for instance, the stationing of British
troops in some part of Egypt to defend the Canal. That is not so. The
defense of the Canal is an Anglo-Egyptian interest. The Anglo-Egyptian
Treaty, I submit to the right hon. Gentleman, has stood the test of time
and the still sterner test of war. I have heard innumerable tributes to it
paid by Egyptian statesmen of all parties. I regret that, so far as I can
judge from the right hon. Gentleman's statement today, the fundamental
principles of that Treaty appear to have been thrown over without any
substitute being provided in the interests of this country, of Egypt and of
The Prime Minister: His Majesty's Government are as concerned as any-
one else with the security of the communications of the British Common-
wealth and Empire, with the security of the Canal, and with the best pos-
sible relations with Egypt and the continuance of our alliance with that
country; and it is precisely for that reason that we are making the approach
that We are making. Let me record briefly a little bit more of the history
of our relations with the Egyptian people. They have sometimes been
good; sometimes not so good. I can recall the course of those relations
over a good many years in this House. I remember very well the efforts
that were made to try and get an agreement when Mr. Arthur Henderson
was Foreign Secretary, and that nearly succeeded in 1929. A difficult period
followed after that.
The right hon. Gentleman was successful in 1936 in obtaining the exist-
ing Treaty to which he has referred. Conditions in 1936 were different
from conditions in 1929. The world was already becoming clouded with
aggression. Mussolini was on the move. The right hon. Gentleman there-
fore-I am not trying to run down in the least what he did-would agree
that the position was more favorable at that time. This Treaty did open,
as the right hon. Gentleman has stated, with the statement that military
occupation of Egypt was at an end. That statement came after a great
many years that we had been in Egypt. We had said we were going long
ago and we had not gone, and one must remember that those things do
remain in the minds of the Egyptian people. The provision then was for
the protection of the Canal zone and the stationing of troops there, and the
evacuation of our troops from Cairo.
MUTUAL CONFIDENCE BASED ON INDEPENDENCE
As the right hon. Gentleman has rightly said, the presence of foreign
troops in a capital does offend national sentiment. As a matter of fact the
Britain, Egypt and the Sues Canal
condition for building barracks in the Canal zone was not carried out.
The war came and our troops had to be in Egypt, we had to be in Cairo,
we had to build up great installations, and we are still in Cairo. I entirely
agree with the right hon. Gentleman that troops from this country, from
India, and from the Dominions rendered a great service to Egypt in saving
her from the aggression of Mussolini and Hitler. That is quite true, and
it should be in the minds of all Egyptians, but it does not alter the fact
that there is a continued presence of troops in Cairo, and elsewhere in
Egypt, which does affect Egyptian nationalist sentiment, and it is perfectly
That is the fact, and that is where suspicion comes in, that although we
have said we shall be going, we have not been able to go. It is quite true
that the war intervened and we could not do it. The fact remains that
there is that suspicion, which we want to dissipate-the idea which is strong
in Egyptian minds still that we want to occupy that country. We are
seeking for a treaty of friendship, a treaty of alliance, and the strength of
a treaty of alliance does not rest on standing out on the terms of some
written document, but on the feelings of real friendship which you can
have among the peoples. . .
We are proposing this, first of all, because in the preliminary exchanges
of views which have taken place between the British and Egyptian nego-
tiators, and on the basis of the advice which we have received from all
those who are in a position to give us advice, or very well qualified by long
knowledge of Egypt-all the advice given to us has convinced us that in
order that the alliance should continue with the same mutual confidence
and success as in the past, it is essential to take as the departure the com-
plete freedom and independence of Egypt.
But, and here is the point, Egyptians do not consider that that freedom
is theirs as long as foreign troops are retained, even by a treaty, on Egyptian
soil. That is the state of mind that we find in Egypt, and we are satisfied
that our proposal to the Egyptian Government really offers us the best
means of getting agreement with them on the facilities which we shall need
on Egyptian soil to make the alliance a reality, and to enable us in case
of emergency to come effectively to Egypt's assistance. We wish, in fact,
to treat Egypt in every way as an ally and as an equal, whose interests are
identical with our own, and we want to have Egyptians and ourselves having
complete mutual confidence.
It is our intention that in the new alliance the principle of joint respon-
sibility in the event of war or emergency for the defense of Egypt, the
defense of the Canal, should be upheld. After all, the defense of Egyptian
soil is, first and foremost, an Egyptian responsibility, but it is the duty of
His Majesty's Government, as an ally of Egypt, to come to Egypt's assistance
in the exercise of this responsibility and to have the facilities that will
enable it to do so. That was, as a matter of fact, the position that the 1936
Treaty contemplated, that in a period of years the Egyptian Forces them.
selves would be able to defend the area, and our retention in the Canal
zone of troops was until Egypt could defend herself.
British Speeches of the Day [MB. ATTLEE]
THE DEFENSE OF THE CANAL
I am perfectly alive to the fact that under conditions of modern warfare
we can only carry out our obligations if we have been put in a position
by the Egyptian Government to bring our Forces into action in the area
without loss of time in an emergency-
Mr. Churchill: Before fighting begins.
The Prime Minister: Yes, certainly. What we are endeavoring to work
out with the Egyptians is how we can best get those facilities; how, and in
what time, it will be possible to withdraw our troops and get rid of the
very large installations that we have there; and how, with them, we can
arrange to carry out our obligations for the defense of the Canal. I entirely
agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said about our responsibility
in this matter, and we are trying to arrange the best possible way of fulfill-
ing our responsibilities. That can only be done with the hearty goodwill
of the Egyptian people, and in this matter the period of the withdrawal
of our Forces will be a matter to be worked out by experts. It depends on
physical and administrative factors.
The future arrangements by which we shall come to the help of Egypt
again will have to be worked out, but I am certain that this is the best
approach. That is the advice we have received. [AN HON. MEMBER: "From
whom?"] I was not intending to give a list. My right hon. Friend the
Secretary of State for Air is accompanied by both civilians and soldiers with
great experience of these problems. We have discussed this matter with
the Chiefs of Staff who are, naturally, supporting this step. We have dis-
cussed it with the Dominion Prime Ministers [An HON. MEMBER: "Did
they agree?"] They agreed that this was the best method of approach.
After weighing all the factors as to what was the best way in which we
could come to an agreement with Egypt in this matter, they have agreed
that this is the best way of approach. Fortunately we had the Dominion
Prime Ministers' representatives over here, and we have discussed with
them, perfectly clearly, why we are doing this, what we are doing, and what
is our endeavor.
Our endeavor is to deal with this matter as between equal, sovereign
States, working out things together for our mutual advantage, and not
standing on the letter of any treaty, though if the whole matter breaks
down, there is still, of course, the 1936 Treaty. But we are trying to get
a revision which will be mutually satisfactory to all of us, and I am con-
vinced that we cannot hope to make a successful treaty unless we enter
into it in the right atmosphere. All the evidence we get is that a clear
declaration to clear up doubts as to our position was the right way of
approach, I hope this is going to be as successful as the approach made by
the right hon. Gentleman in 1936.
THE EXTENT OF DOMINIONS AGREEMENT
Mr. Eden: May I put one question? I was not sure whether I heard the
right hon. Gentleman aright. I asked whether the timing, method and
wording, were agreed with the Dominions?
Britain, Egypt and the Suez Canal
The Prime Minister: Yes, I brought this draft before the Dominion Prime
Ministers and discussed it with them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Did they agree?"]
Well, I did not come to this House to-[HoN. MEMBERS: "Ohl"]-His
Majesty's Government take full responsibility. I discussed it with the
Dominion representatives very fully. They agreed that this was the best
method of approach.
Mr. Churchill: I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not leave us in any
doubt about this point as to the Dominions. He has assured us they were
consulted, and no doubt there were discussions, but is it the fact that they
were consulted before the decision was taken, or was the decision taken
and they were just told of the decision?
The Prime Minister: Of course they were consulted before the decision.
Mr. Churchill indicated dissent.
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. He
was not there. He was not there when we discussed this. We decided on
this draft and considered that it was the right line of approach, and nat-
urally we brought it before the Dominions representatives, but I am not
attempting to shelter myself by putting responsibility on others. I am
saying they were fully consulted. . .
REVERSION TO THE TREATY OF 1936
Mr. Churchill: It is a very serious thing to begin a negotiation of this
character with the statement that you are proposing to give away the main
point. I cannot conceive that that is good diplomacy. The Government
will say, "Oh, it must be judged by the results whether it is good diplomacy
or not," but still that remains: you begin by proposing not merely to move
the troops from Cairo-on that we could have easily agreed-but to remove
them altogether out of Egypt. Then His Majesty's Government propose to
have a long negotiation to see what effective measures can be taken for
the defense of the Canal zone, and the Prime Minister-if I understood him
rightly because I have not seen the text of his speech, I only heard it-said
that if the Canal zone is not effectively protected as a result of the nego-
tiations, we shall revert to the Treaty of 1936. Is that so? Have I rightly
interpreted him in that matter?
The Prime Minister: What I said was that obviously if negotiations -break
down, the original Treaty still stands. ...
Mr. Churchill: . I am greatly relieved to hear the Prime Minister's
statement that if you do not get effective defense of the Canal zone, the
1936 Treaty operates again. I do not know that the Egyptians will be so
relieved to hear that statement. It seems to me that we have suffered very
much indeed from this curious method of what is called "approach." The
word "approach" really means "departure"-a good way of expressing it.
THE QUESTION OF STAFF AND DOMINIONS AGREEMENT
We, therefore, find ourselves forced to part company in this external
matter. There are only two other points to which I wish to refer, because
the whole case was admirably epitomized by my right hon. Friend the Mem-
British Speeches of the Day [MB. CHUtCHILL]
ber for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). There is the question of
the Chiefs of Staff and their opinion. The right hon. Gentleman said that
they entirely agreed with the approach. Naturally we do not know what
took place in these discussions, but I can quite see that it was a very foolish
question to put to the Chiefs of Staff. They are not the judges of the diplo-
matic methods of approach. If the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of
the House, who is to reply, were to say that the Chiefs of Staff expressed the
opinion that it was possible to keep the Canal open without having troops
in the Canal zone, I am bound to say it would have a very decisive effect
on my mind. But one can always put questions to military men which are
of a political character and to which they find it difficult to give an answer.
If we look back on the history of the Irish ports, I think it was in 1937,
the Chiefs of Staff were consulted but the form of question put to them
was one to which they could only give an affirmative answer. I hope the
Leader of the House will tell us definitely if the Chiefs of Staff believed
that there is a method of keeping the Canal open without having British
soldiers in the Canal zone? If he can say that, I must say I bow-under
all reserves-to the opinion of the Chiefs of Staff.
Then there is the question of the Dominion Prime Ministers. Egypt
owes us a great debt. Since the days of Cromer we have done our best to
shield her from all the storms which beat about the world. We have done
a great deal, though not nearly as much as we ought to have done, to force
forward the lot of the fellaheen and the masses of the people. We have
been hampered by our respect for the authority of the Egyptian potentates
and assemblies and by not wanting to interfere too much in the affairs of
the country. But it is a shocking thing how little progress there has been
among the great masses of Egyptian fellaheen. I have been mixed up in
this Egyptian affair in one way or another for 50 years, and I felt it a most
painful blow when the right hon. Gentleman tossed out in five sentences
of admirable terseness that all the Forces were to be withdrawn from Egypt.
It was most painful. The debt we owe to Egypt is 400 million and that,
I suppose, will be the most tangible link between the two countries, the
payment of that debt. But the debt which Egypt owes to us is that in two
world convulsions she has been effectively defended by Great Britain and
not only by this island. The Australians and New Zealanders and South
Africans have shed their blood freely to prevent Cairo and Alexandria being
looted and ravished, ground down and subjugated, by Italian and German
When the Government say that the Dominions are consulted, I wonder
very much whether the word "consulted" has been defined with sufficient
accuracy for us to base ourselves upon it. Dominion Premiers, or their
representatives, are in London. The Prime Minister says they have been
consulted. I agree with him in saying that he is responsible. He says, "I
take the responsibility." That is quite true, but as to the degree of con-
sultation, I do not know. The Chiefs of Staff, in my view, were asked a
question which was a political question and gave an answer which did not
touch reality. The Dominion PrimeMinisters were not consulted in the
sense of participating in a discussion which would shape the policy of the
Britain, Egypt and the Suez Canal
Government. They were told what the policy of the Government was
after His Majesty's Ministers have, in the proper exercise of their respon-
sibility, arrived at their own conclusion. I am only putting that issue. But
if ever there was a question on which the Ministers of South Africa, of
Australia, of Canada and of New Zealand should be taken right into the
councils of His Majesty's Government it was this question of the handling
of the position in Egypt.
I fear that we cannot leave the matter in mere Debate. We are bound
to mark our protest and misgivings at this early stage by a vote. I earnestly
hope that this effort of ours to give significance to our proceedings, to make
people realize the deadly slope on to which we are getting, not only in
Egypt, but in many other countries at the present time, this effort to call
a halt, to enlist the keen, patriotic, energetic spirit of men I know on that
Bench-this can only be done if, at this stage, and much to our regret, we
record by vote, a definite disagreement on an external matter with His
"TIME MARCHES ON"
The Lord President of the Council (Rt. Hon. H. Morrison): It is my
business to try to give an objective statement of the facts, not to seek to be
unduly provocative on this occasion-hon. Members opposite will be glad
to know that that is my intention-and to put the facts as we see them-
hon. Gentlemen opposite may agree with them or not-before the House.
What I think the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition a
little forgets is that 1946 in that part of the world is not 1936, and it is
not 1929. It may be awkward. The world has a habit of moving on. We
hope it is moving forward; sometimes it may be moving backward. As the
film title says, "Time marches on." We cannot help it ....
As we all know, these negotiations are taking place 10 years after
1936 ... The Treaty was dated 1936. As was contemplated, they could
reopen the discussion in 10 years' time. That is the present period. I do
not suppose any of us would have chosen this particular moment for the
reopening of this discussion, but the Egyptian Government is exercising its
rights of discussion under the Treaty and I do not think His Majesty's
Government could in any way resist that right of discussion.
The Egyptian Government in the opening of these discussions sought
three things. I want the House to follow this sequence of items that would
be discussed. They were, (a) A decision in principle that there should be
military evacuation, withdrawal, from Egypt; (b) Discussions on the
ways and means and the timing of the withdrawal; and (c) The question
of the future of the alliance, including how military aid could be forth-
coming, a question which will, of course, in itself raise all sorts of military
considerations. So these are the three items which have to be discussed
and about which negotiations are taking place-(a) withdrawal, (b) discus-
sion of ways and means and the timing, and (c) the future circumstances
and conditions of a military alliance. Today, stage (a) in these discussions
British Speeches of the Day [MR. H. MOmRsoN]
has been reached, with the result that was announced by my right hon.
Friend the Prime Minister this afternoon. Stages (b) and (c) are to follow
forthwith. It has been asked why we have to deal with and complete stage
(a) in the way announced by the Prime Minister today before entering on
the discussions in relation to stages (b) and (c). The answer is that we
were advised to move along the lines announced by my right hon. Friend
by all our people on the spot-by the mission itself, led by the Secretary of
State for Air and including the military, as well as the civil, elements of
that mission; second, the diplomatic people on the spot; and, thirdly, the
military people on the spot. They all thought it right that we should pro-
ceed, in the first instance, as announced by the Prime Minister. In those
circumstances, this was the conclusion that was impressed upon us and as
to which we were advised, and it was the conclusion to which we came-
that, without an acceptance of the principle of withdrawal, it was clear
that we could get no effective or favorable progress in the negotiations. . .
We were advised, indeed, by all the people on the spot, and this is
confirmed by the hon. Gentleman opposite that this was necessary in order
to get effective and useful negotiations, because this principle of withdrawal
from what they regard as occupation of their soil by a foreign Power was
strongly insisted upon, not only by the Egyptian Government and by the
Egyptian Parliament, but also, as far as we can judge, by the Egyptian
people. We did not manufacture that situation. There it is, and this is
the year-1946-in which we have to face that situation. The right hon.
Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington said that-I think
I am right-he had never known an Egyptian statesman who had demanded
the complete withdrawal of British troops from Egypt; withdrawal from
Cairo to the Canal zone, yes, but not complete withdrawal. I think that is
the right version of what the right hon. Gentleman said. I must say it is
curious that he should have missed publication of a Note by the Egyptian
Government, which was published in The Times of 31st January. This
official Note of the Egyptian Government said:
"The presence of foreign troops on our soil in peacetime, even if sustained in
distant areas, is still wounding to national dignity."
They recorded their objections. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman
was not accurate in that respect at any rate. This note was received at the
end of 1945, by His Majesty's Government and was as I say published in
The Times of 31st January 1946. Supposing we had said to the Egyptian
Government, "We will give no undertakings as to the withdrawal of British
Forces from Egyptian soil. We refuse. Let the negotiations go on,
but we refuse to accept that principle." If we had said that, the
negotiations would not have gone on, and then we would have
had to face certain consequences. First, there would have been a sharp
antagonism on the part of the Egyptian Government and Parliament, al-
most certain disturbance and riot and possibly even revolution. In those
circumstances the Egyptian Government would almost certainly have said
to us, first, that the Egyptian police and military either could not or might
not be relied upon to deal with civil disturbance among the population of
Egypt if it arose; secondly, if it did arise, that the British and their Forces
Britain, Egypt and the Suez Canal
would, in all probabality, be attacked, and, thirdly, that it would be for
the British to defend themselves.
If we had got to that point it would have meant that we should have
been in a position of active military operations in Egypt and, logically,
getting on the road to the military occupation of the country. I do not
think that we should have had the sympathy of our friends in the civilized
world, or that it would have commended the assent of the people of our
country. . .
Therefore, with our advisers in Egypt and at home, we reluctantly
agreed to the course announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
[HON. MEMBERS: "Reluctantly?"] We did not rush to get out of Egypt, but
we had to face facts. I was about to say that we agreed to the course
announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, first, because, in
the circumstances which I have indicated, it was right in principle to take
that course and, secondly, because it was expedient with a view to getting
the best agreement possible with our Egyptian Allies in the common in-
terest. That is the defense, in conjunction with what my right hon. Friend
the Prime Minister said of His Majesty's Government, and I invite the full
support of the House.
The Prime Minister: I should like, with your permission, Mr. Speaker,
to make the following statement: In the course of yesterday's Debate on
Egypt, I was asked whether the Dominion Governments were consulted
before the announcement was made in Cairo, and whether they agreed to
its terms and timing. I replied that they were fully consulted, and that
they agreed that this was the best method of approach, though I made it
clear that the responsibility for the decision rested entirely with His Majes-
ty's Government here.
I am anxious that there should be no misunderstanding on this point
and I should like to take this opportunity of making clear the nature and
purpose of our consultation with the Dominions on matters of this kind.
It is our practice and our duty, as members of the British Commonwealth,
to keep other members of the Commonwealth fully and continuously informed
of all matters which we are called upon to decide, but which may affect
Commonwealth interests. The object is to give them an opportunity of
expressing their views in confidence, if they so desire. These views are
taken fully into account, but the decision must be ours, and the other
Governments are not asked, and would not wish, to share the responsibility
for it. Dominion Governments follow the same practice. This course was
followed with regard to these negotiations with Egypt. The Dominion
Governments were kept fully informed by telegram and, in addition, we
took the opportunity of personal discussion with the Australian, New
Zealand and South African Ministers now in London. I hope that this
general statement will be a guide to the House as to the nature of Common-
wealth consultation in such matters, and will indicate the difficulty in
British Speeches of the Day (MB. ATTLEE]
which His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are placed if
pressed to disclose the views expressed by Dominion Governments in such
So much for general principles. I wish now to deal with one particular
remark which I made yesterday. I said that the Dominions had "agreed"
to our method of approach to the revision of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty.
I think the word, "agreed," may have given a wrong impression. There
was full information and discussion. The Dominion Ministers were not
called upon to express agreement in a matter which was one of United
Kingdom responsibility, but they realized that the line of approach had to
be decided by the United Kingdom in the light of the conditions and of
the advice given to them by their civil and military advisers on the spot.
This statement, I may add, is made after consultation with the Dominion
Ministers now in London, and has their full agreement.
Mr. Eden: While I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for making
this statement, and while I do not want in any way to challenge the doctrine
he has laid down, as to the method of general Dominion consultation, I
would like to ask him a question in order to make sure that I am clear
about the present position. Do I understand that while the Egyptian situ-
ation was fully discussed with the Dominion Governments, they did not
commit themselves in any way in support of the action announced yesterday
by His Majesty's Government?
The Prime Minister: Yes, Sir, I was endeavoring to make that perfectly
clear. I should apologize to the House. I was led away in the course of the
Debate to say more than I should have said. The fact is that in these
consultations there is no endeavor to come to a decision. The last thing
in the world I should like to do would be either to embarrass my colleagues
from the Dominions, or put upon them any responsibility which this Gov-
ernment must take.
Mr. Eden: There is no dispute between us as to the importance of the
Canal zone as an artery of our Imperial life . a question of the use of
the canal in war. It is that the Canal zone lies in a unique strategic posi-
tion, being, for all practical purposes, the junction of three continents. It
is that which creates its significance, from the strategic point of view. As
I read the recent Egyptian demand, and some of the statements made in
this country, I have regarded as entirely unjustified, suggestions that the
1936 Treaty in some way inflicted humiliation upon Egypt, or was in some
way derogatory to Egyptian sovereign status. That was certainly not
thought by any one at the time. It was not thought by anyone in this
House, and it was not thought by any Egyptian citizen. In fact, they all
said the contrary. Not only did they say it then, but I shall show in a
moment that they have said it many times since. So far as this House
is concerned, the Treaty received unanimous assent, and the right hon.
Gentleman the present Chancellor (Mr. Dalton), in following me at the
Britain, Egypt and the Suez Canal
time, used words about the Treaty which I must say expressed my view
then as they expressed his, and express my view now. He said:
"We hope that this Treaty will close for ever an old chapter in Anglo-Egyptian
relations which was marked by misunderstandings on both sides from time to time
and by certain apparent conflicts of purpose. We hope that that chapter is closed
and that this Treaty is going to open a new chapter based on mutual respect, sincere
co-operation and abiding friendship, not merely between governments, but between
the British and Egyptian peoples themselves." ...
SOME EGYPTIAN OPINIONS
Let me add this on that subject. Throughout the time that I was For-
eign Secretary, on many occasions during the war when I went to Egypt I
naturally discussed Anglo-Egyptian relations with Egyptian statesmen of all
kinds. It is quite true that, once or twice, references were made in those
conversations to the fact that, in due course, a revision-of this Treaty would
have to come about, and I have never disputed that. Indeed, it is provided
for in the terms of the Treaty itself. But never was language used to me
to indicate that the existing Treaty was in any way derogatory to Egyptian
sovereignty. . .
Since the speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer from which I have
quoted, and which was made at a time when I was in Egypt in 1940, a
Wafdist paper-and I mention the Wafd because it is, of course, very
important in connection with these negotiations and the future of Egypt-
has used words which I would like to quote to the Committee. I apologize
for referring to myself, but I cannot help it because it is a quotation from
the paper. It says that I was
"one of the most important factors which helped to clear the situation and adjust
the account in the interest of Egypt and the restoration of her complete sovereignty."
That, again, is a reference to the 1936 Treaty showing that, at that time,
the Wafd did not consider it injured their sovereignty at all. Another
paper, "El Ahram," the paper with, perhaps, the widest circulation in
Egypt-although it is not for me to show how a wide circulation and
influence do not necessarily go hand in hand, said:
"The war has rather provided many links which emphasize the benefits of this
alliance which tend to strengthen it in the interest of both parties. This is what
Sis said and believed by every one of the delegates of both States who signed the
Treaty of 1986." ...
It is no doubt true that Egyptian public opinion, like public opinion here,
perhaps, has changed in a measure since 1940, but both Egypt and ourselves
should beware of transient emotions if they run counter to fundamental
truths which are really in the interests of the two countries. I cannot
resist the conviction that, if the Government, after the conclusion of hostil-
ities with Japan, had taken early steps to remove our troops from the great
cities to the Canal zone, and had made it plain, at the same time, that they
were prepared to negotiate a revision of the Treaty with a united front in
Egypt, as we negotiated in 1936-I can only express an opinion-we should
have been spared these extreme demands which have now been made, the
realization of which, I am convinced, is neither in the interest of Egypt or
Let me now say-because one must be fair about these difficulties where
British Speeches of the Day [MR. EDEN)
one knows they exist-that I know something of the technical difficulties in
realizing the program which I have suggested. I know something of the
extent to which staffs have been built up in Cairo, and the amount of
accumulated headquarters of various kinds which have been built up there,
and I have no doubt that it was extremely difficult, immediately after the
Japanese war, to make those arrangements. Still, I repeat that had those
difficulties been overcome, and had the troops been removed, we would
not have been faced with the demands with which we are now confronted.
Let me say this about the 1936 Treaty. I feel strongly about this, because
I maintain that the Treaty embodied a fundamental truth both for Egypt
and for the British Empire. The security of the Canal zone is, at one and
the same time, an Egyptian interest and a British Imperial interest. There-
fore, I cannot accept the argument that British troops or Air Forces in the
area of the Canal zone, remote from the large centers of Egyptian popu-
lation, can really be regarded as a derogation of Egyptian sovereignty.
There are parallels in other parts of the world. The United States con-
tinue to use bases in British territory, in the West Indies, at this time.
None of us regard that as derogatory to our national status. . .
A PLAN FOR THE CANAL'S DEFENSE?
Can that broad Imperial interest-the Anglo-Egyptian interest in the
Canal zone-be secured except by the presence of an Anglo-Egyptian Force
in the Canal zone? That is a strategic question to which a strategic answer
is required. I am no expert to give an answer to that. All I can say is
that I know of no such plan. If there be such a plan, I think we should
know it. I do not mean that the Government should divulge details of the
plan publicly if that would be against the Imperial interest, but, at any
rate, everything possible should be told us of the plan, and, at least, we
should be told that there is a plan, if there is one. So far we do not even
know that there is one. Here, perhaps I may be allowed to utter a warning,
which it is easier for me to give without the responsibilities of Ministerial
Office than it might be for the right hon. Gentleman on the opposite Bench.
It may be thought that if the necessary preparations can only be made in
advance, the actual movement of Forces can wait the sounding of the hour
of menace. That may be strategically sound-I am not qualified to pro-
nounce, although I have doubts about it-but I am quite sure that it is
politically unsound and even politically very dangerous. What happens?
When tension grows and peril menaces, it is not fair to put too much strain
on a small country by saying at that very hour, "You must agree that danger
threatens and you must let us come, publicly before the world, into your
country in order to share with you the averting of that danger."
It is difficult for any country to agree to that, and if anybody doubts it
they have only to look at the experience before this war, not as far away as
the Middle East, but here in Western Europe. . .
THAT ALL EGYPTIAN PARTIES SHOULD APPROVE REVISION
I cannot believe the anxiety of the average Egyptian is about troops and
establishments he does not see in the Canal zone. It is about the troops
Britain, Egypt and the Suez Canal
he does see, as the hon. Gentleman said just now, and the staff cars he sees
driving about the capital city, with all that it means. Secondly, I would
make it plain to the Egyptian Government that, if a revisiorrof this Treaty
is to be agreed tipon, it is in the interests of both countries that it should
be negotiated, accepted and signed, as-was the Treaty of 1936, by all parties
in Egypt. I think that is important. Otherwise, we shall be in danger of
making some arrangement which has no finality. I say that, not in any
criticism of the authority of the present Egyptian Government. I say it
because, if I remember aright-no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will
check it-in 1935, before we began our negotiations, it was Sidky Pasha him-
self, who was not then in the Government, who first made the statement that
the Treaty should be negotiated by a united Egypt and that all the parties
in Egypt should come in. . .
Thirdly, I would make it plain-as I think it has already been made
plain, if I understood the Prime Minister aright the other day-that any
new agreement must, in the terms of the 1936 Treaty itself, provide for the
continuation of the Anglo-Egyptian alliance. Above all, if I may make this
appeal, I think the Government should do everything in their power to get
this discussion back into its true perspective. This is not an issue of the
British Empire against Egypt, nor is it an issue of rival national interests.
It is a question of how these two countries, whose friendship has been tried
and tested in war, can give expression in the revision of a Treaty to the
reality, namely, that each has need of the other. . .
Mr. Churchill: ,I come to the timetable of the recent Egyptian story. We
must get the timetable right. Chronology is the secret of the matter. In
1936 a Treaty was made by which the British were to withdraw from Cairo
and Alexandria to the Canal. The Egyptian Government were to build a
barracks and installations in the Canal zone, and when they were built the
British were to leave Cairo and Alexandria and repair to them. We should
certainly have carried out that undertaking as and when it fell due, but later,
long before the barracks were built or our time for removal to the Canal
zone arrived, war burst on the world, and Egypt was soon threatened by an
Italian invasion for which an army of nearly a quarter of a million troops
had been moved steadily forward on the North African coast towards the
Egyptian frontier. As we now know, it was to be included in Mussolini's
African Empire. Naturally, it was not possible for the Egyptian Govern-
ment to build the barracks and installations during the war, nor could any-
body expect that the British troops would voluntarily withdraw to the
Canal zone in the years of war. If they had done so, Cairo would have been
sacked by the Germans and the Italians and the Delta would have been
No one can suggest for a moment that we have not kept our word. No
one can reproach the Egyptian Government with not having built the bar-
racks. There is no grounds whatever for what the Prime Minister the other
night, I am sorry to say, called suspicion on the part of the Egyptians. The
only sentiment that the Egyptians should permit themselves upon this war
British Speeches of the Day [MR. CHURCHILL)
interlude is not suspicion but gratitude. . However, the war has ended.
Nearly all the Italians and Germans who ventured into Africa were de-
stroyed or captured at a medium stage in the struggle. Egypt remained
intact, enriched, securely defended. None of her troops were involved
except in keeping internal order and for anti-aircraft defense. She was
saved by the Armies of the British Empire from all the horrors which have
racked the whole of Europe and large parts of Asia. And at the end we are
assured that a large money debt is due from this country to Egypt for the
supplies we purchased locally to feed the armies which were successfully
defending the soil of the Delta. No, I repeat, gratitude, not suspicion, is
the only sentiment becoming to the Government of Egypt.
There is however one practical step which should have been taken by
us.... The withdrawal of the troops from Cairo and Alexandria ought to
have been completed many months ago. It would have been a wise act of
policy and of efficient administration. It would have been entirely in the
spirit, and going far beyond the letter, of the Treaty of 1936....
An opportunity was lost. But even greater issues are now before us.
I would first examine the military aspect on which many speakers have
delivered themselves. His Majesty's Government have made it clear after
considering any military advice they have received, that they regard it as
vitally important that the Suez Canal should be defended. .
When we talk about defending the Suez Canal, I presume the Govern-
ment mean that it should be kept open. ... I assert that it is impossible to
keep it open, unless British personnel are permanently stationed in the
Canal zone. There may be. doubts about our ability to keep it open in the
air age, even if we have garrisons and fighter aircraft in that zone. But at
any rate without that personnel there is no chance of keeping it open what.
ever. I do not believe that any military advice by the responsible Chiefs
of' Staff would challenge this assertion. If I am to be told that the Chiefs of
Staff say that the Canal can be left open without any permanent garrison
and air forces in the Canal zone, I treat their opinions with the utmost
respect, but put on record that I am utterly unconvinced. But we do not
know what questions were put to the Chiefs of Staff or what political data
they were called upon to report.
In the case of the Irish ports,,in the Spring of 1938, absolutely wrong
political data in my opinion, were put before the Chiefs of Staff-another
set of Chiefs of Staff-and they gave advice which nearly brought us to our
ruin. [Laughter.] I have heard all this mocking laughter before in the time
.of a former Government. I remember being once alone in the House, pro-
testing against the cession of the Southern Irish ports. I remember the
looks of incredulity, the mockery, derision and laughter I. had to encounter
on every side, when I said that Mr. de Valera might declare Ireland neutral.
We are seeing exactly the same sort of thing happening today, although I
am not so much alone as I used to be. I would hardly have believed it
possible that such things could happen twice in a lifetime.
Let me make it perfectly clear that our position is that His Majesty's
Government have no right to claim the approval of the Chiefs of Staff for
any policy without informing the House of the precise questions upon
Britain, Egypt and the Sues Canal
which their advice was obtained .. Even if the Canal were blocked by
aerial bombardment, as it might be if our fighter air force were overcome,
or if a lucky shot or several lucky shots fell home, there is always the means
of transhipment across the Isthmus of Suez. With our fleet and air power
properly disposed, this can be assured. Under proper air protection in the
Suez Canal zone, and with naval command of the Eastern Mediterranean,
our troops could be disembarked at Suez and could re-embark at Red Sea
ports. But if the overland route across the Isthmus is to be available, with
the necessary installations and air bases, it is necessary to have British, and
we hope, of course, Egyptian air and ground forces in effective control of
the Canal zone. Without that, failure is inevitable.
THE IDEA OF AN ESTABLISHMENT IN PALESTINE
Let me now examine the other alternatives which are suggested. I have,
of course, no official information on these matters. I rely upon the public
organs and the general discussion that goes on in this country, and upon my
own knowledge which I have acquired of these subjects in the not too dis-
tant past. It is widely said that we should establish ourselves in Palestine.
. . The British troops who will in time of war defend the Canal, and the
Isthmus of Suez, will be maintained, on this hypothesis, in camps or bar-
racks in Southern Palestine. From there they will be able to fly in or will
move in by motorized transport as soon as a state of emergency is reached.
Here I have to speak of Palestine as a place of arms outside Egyptian ter-
ritory, for British Forces which have to re-enter Egypt, at or before the
moment of crisis. It is even said that our troops are already moving off in
this direction, or that plans have been made to move them as fast as
The consequence on the Palestine position of such a decision must not
be overlooked. I am in entire agreement with the policy of the Govern-
ment in trying to enlist American aid and cooperation in solving, or at any
rate in dealing with the Jewish-Arab quarrel in Palestine. My views on
this question are well known. I am for a Jewish national home in Palestine,
with immigration up to the full absorptive capacity. I am also convinced
that we cannot carry this out unless we have the help and active collabora-
tiofi of the United States. Only by the action of our two Powers together
can the objects to which we are pledged, and which the President of the
United States evidently desires, be attained. I admire the Report of the
Anglo-American Commission; but I think it is too much to put on Britain
alone, single-handed, weakened as she is by her efforts in the war. It is too
much for her alone to have to carry out this policy to which we are pledged
and which the United States desire. I was most hopeful that the report of
the Anglo-American Commission, and the manifest interest of the United
States, and the declaration of President Truman about the acceptance of
100,000 Jews immediately in Palestine, would lead to cooperation between
the two countries ....
But from the moment when Britain is going to use Palestine as a jump-
ing off ground to re-enter Egypt, and defend the Canal and the Isthmus, it
seems to me that quite a different question is raised, and I fear that the hope
British Speeches of the Day [Mi. CHURCHILL]
of gaining the aid of the United States on the Palestine question, the
Arab-Jew question in Palestine, will. be seriously prejudiced. If they refuse,
far and away the best hope of a solution being reached by the two great
English-speaking Powers on the Palestine difficulty, in a manner which
would be respected both by Jews and Arabs, all that vanishes and we shall
find ourselves left alone in Palestine, from which we derive no advantage of
any kind other than that of keeping our pledged word, and we shall have
to carry on alone a wearing dispute either with the Jews or with the Arabs,
or possibly with both. In any case we shall incur the increasing hostility
and criticism of both these powerful forces, and, of course, of all the side-
line. spectators in all the various countries.
It seems that by using Palestine as a jumping-off ground for the reoccu-
pation of the Canal zone in time of an emergency we will impair the pros-
pects of American aid, and will leave ourselves with the most thankless,
profitless and unfortunate task that can be imagined. That is my first
THE IDEA OF AN ESTABLISHMENT IN CYRENAICA
I turn westward. It is also said, and here again I rely upon nothing but
what I read in the different public prints, we may obtain the trusteeship of
Cyrenaica, where powerful air bases can be established, so that another
jumping-off ground may be established there. This also seems to me a dan-
gerous and unwise alternative. First, we throw away our grand position of
seeking nothing for ourselves except honor, nothing out of the late
war, after all our prodigious exertions, except to see that our duty is done
as best we can, and is thoroughly and consistently maintained. We become
immediately an interested party, seeking new bases in lands which were
not ours, and in which we had no treaty rights before the. war began, and
we shall be immediately represented-and I do not need to indicate some of
the quarters from which we shall be immediately represented-as a greedy,
grasping nation, playing at power politics and demanding territories
formerly owned by others for the sake of our own designs upon Egypt. We
may be quite sure that, if we seek to build a new strategic position in
Cyrenaica, in relation to the Suez Canal and Isthmus, Russia will renew or
reinforce her demand for bases in the Eastern Mediterranean. Upon this
argument, we should enter under every disadvantage, and I do not believe
that we should succeed in gaining our desires without paying an inordinate
price. Therefore, I say that, both to the East and to the West of the Canal,
these alternatives for jumping-off grounds would involve us in endless diffi-
culty and vexation, that we shall come down from our high position as a
Power not seeking any advantage from the war, that we shall encourage or
condone all the appetites of other countries, and pay very dearly for any
accommodation that we might obtain.
WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN IN AN EMERGENCY
I go further and submit to the Committee, in extension of this argu-
ment, that, whether we establish our jumping-off grounds in Palestine or
Cyrenaica, or both, and whatever price we paid for them, they will not be
Britain, Egypt and the Suez- Canal
of any effective use in time of emergency for the purpose of defending the
Canal or the Isthmus of Suez and keeping them open. Let us try to foresee
what will happen if tension grows at any time in future and an emergency
arises. My right hon. Friend very fittingly referred to this matter this
morning. We shall then be in dispute with some other great Power. That
makes the emergency, and the moment will come when the military advisers
will say, "We ought to reoccupy the military installations, camps and air-
fields in the Canal zone. We ought immediately to move in from our bases
to the East or to the West of Egypt." What might be the behavior of the
Egyptian Government at such a juncture? We all know of the great sym-
pathy there is when a small country is in so terrible a situation as that.
No doubt we shall be told that there would be a treaty of alliance, but I
cannot feel that, under such dire pressures, it would be of any avail. The
great Power with whom we shall be in dispute would, of course, say to the
Egyptian Government: "We should regard any movement into the Canal
zone of British Forces as an unfriendly act." Can anyone suppose that the
Egyptian Government, confronted with this situation and not desiring
anyhow to have British troops or Air Forces in the Canal zone, will not
refuse permission for us to re-enter. And what then? They will say, "We
do not agree that a state of emergency has arisen. We do not agree that a
state of international emergency"-to quote the words of the Treaty of
Alliance-"has arisen, and we deny your right to decide upon the fact con-
trary to us."
Meanwhile, the days will be slipping very quickly by. If such an atti-
tude were adopted and there were no British personnel in the Canal zone,
the Egyptians, or any ill-disposed persons, would be able to put out of
action all the installations, radar equipment, airfields and so on, long before
we could get there, and the mere threat that they would do so, and had
perhaps prepared the necessary measures to do so, would render our
attempt to enter futile even before it was made. Can one imagine the
British Government in such a situation, when the dread issue of peace or
war in a renewed world struggle may be hanging in the balance, forcing
the issue, whether Egypt agreed or not? ...
This is not a question of the mobilization of our own Forces; it is a
positive act, an act which will be widely regarded and denounced as an
act of aggression, as an act destroying the last hopes of peace. There are
always hopes of peace which it is a terrible thing to trample on and ex-
tinguish. Therefore, I say, we shall purchase our jumping-off grounds,
either in Palestine or Cyrenaica, or both, only at the greatest detriment to
our political position and policy among the nations. And when we have
lavished our money upon them, they will prove useless in the hour of need.
The United Nations organization might well be called upon to prohibit
the incursion of the British into Egypt. This would certainly be the case
if the Egyptian Government stated that, in their view, the emergency did
not warrantthe action. Therefore, both alternatives, costly as they will be,
will be utterly futile. Now it appears that the Egyptian Government
"There must be no return until Egypt declares war."
British Speeches of the Day [Mn CtVhICHILL
That is what I read only yesterday in the newspapers from Cairo ...
The more I think of these alternative devices, the more I feel that the
surest resting place at this time would be the 1936 Treaty and that we
should rest there for the next five or six years in the hope that U.N.O.,
meanwhile, will grow up, and gather a great world army which will put so
many of these strategic dangers, nightmares and calculations back into the
limbo of the vanished past. So much for the military aspect; I hope it may
Sbe carefully considered by the House.
THE DIPLOMATIC PROCEDURE EMPLOYED
I now .come to the diplomatic procedure. The right hon. Gentleman
the foreign Secretary has been working night and day in Paris. The posi-
tion which has been adopted by the Government is that, first, they will
evacuate Egypt, and, secondly, they will defend the Canal. This is a com-
plete and total contradiction in terms. Then we are told that, in order to
start on the negotiations in goodwill we had, "reluctantly," to say-that
Was the Lord President's remark-we will evacuate Egypt and that the
second stage will be to examine how the Canal and Isthmus can be de-
fended without British troops, and if it is clearly proved that anyone can
see that anything of this kind is possible, the negotiations will break down
and we shall revert to the Treaty of 1936.
I cannot imagine a more lamentable and, indeed, disingenuous pro-
cedure. We promise something as a prelude to the negotiations in order to
give them a good start, but, in fact, we concede the whole point at issue,
subject to conditions which cannot be obtained and, then, a little later on
as the discussions proceed, we shall either have to accept some pure sham,
or the negotiations will break down. Then, indeed, we shall be reproached
with having excited hopes which could never be realized and with having
endeavored to procure Egypt's goodwill at the onset, when all along we
knew we could not possibly give them what we had promised. That is not
the way to deal with any people, least of all is it the way to deal with an
Oriental people. I do not believe in tantalizing diplomacy, holding out
hopes which fall because of the inherent difficulties in the path of the
The course which the Government have been pursuing seems to me to
be marked with the utmost unwisdom. A perfectly sensible and straight-
forward course was open. The Government of Egypt had the right to raise
the question of the revision of the Treaty at the tenth year. They have
done so. His Majesty's Government could then have replied, "We will
certainly discuss the matter with you, but you should first of all tell us
exactly what it is that you propose and how the essential matters of the
defense of the Canal and Isthmus of Suez are to be provided for." The
Egyptian Government would next, in due course, have put forward their
plan. We could then have said, "We will discuss this plan with the Do-
minions, and especially with those Dominions who have in two wars exerted
themselves in your defense, and the graves of whose soldiers in scores of
thousands lie in the desert." We ought to have approached this grave issue
as a united Commonwealth and Empire . .
Britain, Egypt and the Suez Canal
After all, in the 1914-1918 war and in this last war-especially and over-
whelmingly in the last war-the defense of these large interests has been
very largely entrusted to the Australians, New Zealanders and South
Africans. Without their aid we could not have succeeded in protecting
Egypt. It is a strange thing to call upon brave soldiers to travel thousands
of miles across the ocean to fight for great strategic objectives, all well-
defined and fully declared, and then to turn round immediately afterwards,
and discredit altogether those strategic objectives-or apparently do so-for
which so many men, at our request and under our leadership, have come
so far to give their lives, Apart from the interests of Britain, apart from the
danger to Imperial communications in the Eastern Mediterranean, I say
a shock has been given to the British self-governing Commonwealth, and
their confidence in the guidance and leadership of the mother country
has been painfully and injuriously affected by the apparent casting away of
those interests which we have hitherto declared to them were vital . .
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Rt. Hon. Ernest Bevin):,
This problem of Egypt is a very difficult one to deal with, and I would
remind the Committee that it is not the only international problem left on
the plate as a result of the war for the Government to deal with. It has to
be looked at in relation to many other great difficulties that we are
grappling with at the present moment. The right hon. Gentlemen said, if
I may put it in the colloquial phrase, "You must not as it were funk an
issue because it involves trouble and difficulty of decision." That is what
I have done. I have had to consider-and I am not going behind anybody's
back, or saying that I came to this decision reluctantly. I came to this de-
cision and advised the Cabinet with my eyes open and with deliberation,
and I stand upon it. Neither was it affected by my being in Paris or any-
thing of the kind. This was a deliberate policy come tq after careful
The easiest decision to take is to use force, as against relying on moral-
ity. When you have 100,000 troops in a country, or nearly 200,000, it is
very easy to say that those troops can keep order and you can do this, that,
and the other thing, but I say that that is a grave abuse of the 1936 Treaty
and of the numbers that were affected in the 1936 Treaty.
In fact, one of the difficulties associated with this business, as has been
rightly said, is the number of troops in Cairo and in Alexandria. I am
asked why, at the end of the Japanese War, did we not reduce? I would
like to say that what puzzles me is this: Why, after we won the Italian
battle, and got into Italy, when the right hon. Gentleman was Minister of
Defense did he not reduce and begin to move these troops out of Cairo and
Alexandria, and begin to clear Egypt at once? ...
In the Egyptian difficulty, the problem that has arisen has been the
right to revise in 1946. Why was this reference to revision put in the
Treaty? What was there to revise? The only essential clause that remained,
assuming the war was over, was that about the troops in the Canal zone.
Read the Treaty as carefully as you like, there is a right to be readmitted,
British Speeches of the Day [MR. BEVIN)
there is a right of joint defense; and there is the maintenance of the
installations, and so on. That is the main principle.
When was this Treaty made? I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the
Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) will agree with me in
this, that it was about or just after the time of the Italian-Ethiopian War,
and when the black shadow of war was hanging over the world, with
Hitler arising, and when everybody knew or, at least, ought to have known
that there was a danger of a world war. It was natural at that moment
for the concession for troops to be retained in Egypt to be given. The
Treaty was made for 20 years, but the right hon. Gentleman and the Gov-
ernment of the day agreed to a revision in ten years. I can only conclude
that there was an assumption that if the black cloud of war passed and the
situation changed it was the right of the parties to review the situation.
That is a fair deduction, and that is what has happened. Then came the
desire for revision.
MAKING THE U. N. WORK
In the meantime, two rather interesting events have developed. One
has not been mentioned, and that is the development of the United Nations
organization, in which all these countries, great and small, feel that they
have a hew status. Indeed, here in London, and in New York more recently,
the United Nations organization have expressed this new feeling. Countries
,assume that through that organization there is to be a new era of regional
defense, and that their great salvation lies in that, rather than in supporting
solely one State. They may be disappointed as time goes on, but that is
what is in their minds. Every State which I have had to deal with as
Foreign Secretary has really pinned its faith on that basis.
The first thing that has to be considered is on what basis must the
Egyptian Treaty be revised. There is a demand for the withdrawal of
foreign troops from their soil. I have to have regard to the fact that it is
not a very popular thing now in international affairs to maintain troops
on other people's soil; it has become out of fashion, and I think that that
is i good thing. I have, therefore, either to follow what this House has
agreed and make the United Nations organization work, or go one worse
and rely solely on our own manpower and ability-there is no halfway
house. Therefore, seeing this feeling, I recommended to my colleagues that
they should begin the negotiations by making a proposal to do what we
promised to do from the first day when we went into Egypt, namely, to
withdraw and evacuate our troops, or in other words to have an exodus.
Then we would proceed from that basis to decide what shall be substituted
for the troops. If nothing can be substituted to protect this great artery,
it is quite true that the Treaty must stand. Egypt could only denounce it,
and this would place her in a very difficult situation. I have tried in this
business, as an act of good faith, to begin the negotiations by making the
proposals ourselves, without waiting to be forced or for disorders in the
streets or to have it dragged out of us. That is the basis and that is the.
beginning, and having made that proposal both Egypt and ourselves now
face a new situation.
Britain, Egypt and the Suez Canal
DEALING WITH THE GOVERNMENT IN OFFICE
I know that with all the agitation which has gone on in Egypt things
are extremely difficult, but I am not going to weary or be impatient, nor
break down negotiations at the first disappointment. I have been too long
an old negotiator in this country. If I walked out simply because someone
did not agree with me, there would be nothing but trouble. I do not do
things that way. Perhaps we may have an apparent rebuff, but do not
forget that any country which has been occupied by another's Forces has an
inferiority complex. One of the great things which we have to achieve in
that country is to get over the inferiority complex, and not make them claim
that they are equal, but make them equal. That brings me to the point,
why I did not deem that all the parties in Egypt should be in the negotia-
tions. Some time ago the Government made a declaration that they would
not interfere with Egypt's internal affairs. When we made that declaration,
we meant it. . Rightly or wrongly, I took the line that I would rather
say to the people of Egypt: "You appoint the people we are to negotiate
with. It is not for me to question. But if your Parliament do not endorse
them, or there is a failing, then the responsibility rests on your people. I
have not determined or appointed." That is the principle which I think
I must follow. . .
THE STATE OF THE FELLAHEEN
The next point was the method of handling. I have said quite clearly
that the Canal must be defended. For years we have promised to train the
Egyptian Army, and it is alleged that we have not adequately done it. That
is a matter which I am going into very carefully, because if we have prom-
ised to produce an Egyptian Army of an efficient character, then we ought
to carry out our promises. Our relations with Egypt, unfortunately, rest
on a very narrow basis. We have never gained the gratitude and thankful-
ness of the masses of the people in Egypt. We have added, as a result of
our connection with Egypt, very great wealth to the country, but it has
never flowed down to the fellaheen. The result is that it has been an
extremely narrow circle with whom we have dealt. . .
One hon. Member mentioned the United States. Leaving strategy on
one side, I hope to get the co-operation of the United States through the
Rockefeller Foundation and other organizations to grapple with the prob-
lems in the Middle East and try to see whether we cannot make the con-
nections which we have go right down through to the working people. The
surest foundation for friendship between two countries is an understanding
and appreciation of the efforts by the working people of the country to help
those of the other. That is far better than to rest on narrow circles either
for military or for other purposes.
"WE CANNOT LIVE ON THE PAST"
The Committee will realize that I am terrifically handicapped today,
because we are right in the middle of the negotiations, and I am not going
to say one word that will prejudice them. I do not think I ought to be
asked. I am not going to be perturbed because the Prime Minister of
British Speeehes of the Day [MRa BvMIN]
Egypt or his Committee may take this line today, and our negotiators
another tomorrow. But I do deprecate it, when the Government have
appointed some one like Lord Stansgate, that there should be reflection
upon him as a light weight. I think it is better for a friend to go to Egypt
than a gentleman with spurs. . I recognize, like everybody else, that in
the early days the work of Lord Cromer and others was such that it has
redounded to the advantage of us all, but we cannot live on the past.
Here is a new age, and we are trying to meet it with advice on education,
social services, health, training and all the rest of it.
FRIENDSHIP AS A BASIS
I announced to this House some time ago that, notwithstanding the
breakup of the Middle East Supply Center at the end of the war, I had
recreated something with a view to trying to get exports, assistance, trade,
and everything going effectively in that area. Circumstances may not have
been such as to allow it to produce the best results owing to political diffi-
culties at the present moment. But one has to look a little wider. One
hon. Member referred to the effect over the whole Arab area of dealing
with Egypt. I have given lots of consideration to that. I believe sincerely
there is only one way to hold the association of the Arab countries with us
and that is on the basis of friendship. I do not think mere force can do
it. The friendship spreads through the Muslim world right down to India.
I suggest, with all respect, and despite all the criticism of this Government,
that our prestige is higher through the Muslim world now than it has
been for many years because of this decision we have taken to trust them.
I am prepared to trust rather than to shoot. I do not think the Poona
mentality suits today.
Therefore, the attitude towards the Arabs and such people depends
entirely upon our approach. In this approach to Egypt we have had in
mind the very great success that has come to some of the best of our ambas-
sadors who have handled other Arab territories in a similar spirit. Hon.
Members will appreciate that in Iraq and other Arab territories, a change
of approach made a tremendous amount of difference. I do not hide behind
the advice of the man on the spot. I think it would be mean for any Minister
to say, "The man on the spot advised me to do this, so I did it." One must
come to one's own conclusion whatever the man on the spot says. There-
fore, I am not going to play that card, except to say that I did go out of
my way to take the opinion of expert advisers, ex-ambassadors, military
people, and many others, some expressing views one way and some another.
I weighed all their views in the balance before coming to the conclusion
to make these proposals.
THE CHIEFS OF STAFF
We are asked what we did with the Chiefs of Staff. I agree with the
hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden) that no one has
a right to come to the House and say, "The Chiefs of Staff did this, that or
the other." It is for them to carry out the Government's decision. I should
not hide behind that. There were differences of opinion, but then those
Britain, Egypt and the Sue, Canal
differences of opinion must be weighed by the Cabinet of the day, and in
the end one must make one's political decision and accept responsibility
In this case it is perfectly obvious that any Foreign Minister who neglec-
ted to study all the complications that were likely to arise, would not be
doing his duty. I am not going to say that there was any unanimous
opinion. The difficulties were pointed out-if you go this way, that might
happen; if you do that, then the other-all were weighed in the balance.
They were then weighed against, I will not say the great prize, but the
great hope I have of seeing the Middle East working together as a whole-
not merely Egypt-in a great comradeship with the United Kingdom and
the rest of the Commonwealth, and ultimately woven into the regional
defense as provided for within the United Nations. One is in a difficulty
because the Military Committee is at work under the United Nations. I
understand they have not made must progress yet. On the other hand,
there is the aspiration and urge from all these people.
There is one thing on which I will give the Committee an assurance.
I will be no party to leaving a vacuum. There must not be a vacuum. If
the Egyptian Government try to force a situation in which there is a
vacuum-meaning that we have gone and that there is nothing there for
security instead, regional defense or other organization-to that I can never
agree. But I have offered in the name of His Majesty's Government a new
basis of approach, in which I believe. Perhaps partnership is the wrong
term, but it is a joint effort for mutual defense not only in the interests of
Great Britain and her Commonwealth, but in the interests ultimately of the
contribution to what I hope will yet become a United Nations defense for
the security of the world. . Therefore, we took the decision. Certainly
I was under no delusion that if we got away from imposition, or got rid of
the obligation implied on one country in the Treaty, and got on to a basis
of a willingness to withdraw and agreed to pursue it later, we would really
be performing a great human task.
DEFENSE, NOT OFFENSE
Then there is the question: Must we always keep in mind that another
great enemy like Germany is coming up? Is it defense, or is it offense
which must actuate our consideration? I must confess, and I hope I am
right in this, I do not bring myself to study offense as a primary motive.
Defense is the main consideration, having regard to the development of the
United Nations organization. This principle is running through the whole
of our policy. It is said that we ought to be ready, if disorders occur, to
step in and insist on keeping order. A lot of mischief can be done under
the term, "keeping order." If we have 150,000 or 200,000 troops in an area
where we should only really have 10,000, and exasperate the people, "keep-
ing order" is not quite the right description of our action. We could not
move troops out quickly. After the war with Japan we were faced with
an overwhelming problem of demobilization in the Far East, as well as the
Near East, and in Europe, and it became more difficult to move them just
at that time than earlier. We could not move the whole of this great
British Speeches of the Day [MR. BEVIN]
mechanism which has been built up largely for administration in the-time
at our disposal, and we had to have regard to these circumstances.
CONSULTATION WITH THE DOMINIONS
I want to turn to the question of consultation with the Dominions. The
right hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) seemed to assume
that somehow Great Britain was responsible in some way, because there
was no united Commonwealth defense. I assure him that the problem of
the Commonwealth defense has been discussed over and over again. But,
is it within the power of this House and His Majesty's Government of the
United Kingdom to tell Australia, Canada and South Africa that they must
contribute to a common object and supply manpower for a particular purpose
in peacetime? We cannot do it in wartime. They are their own masters.
Rt. Hon. Sir. A. Salter (Independent): I regretted there was not a more
effective form of consultation. I suggested there was a contribution this
country could make, although it was limited, and that the Dominions could
contribute quite as much as this country.
Mr. Bevin: I cannot go into all the matters affecting the Prime Ministers
of the Dominions. They have their own problems. But this problem of
defense is so vital to us that we do not fieglect opportunities of discussing
it with the Dominions. With regard to this question of consultation, I
personally reported on the subject to certain of the Prime Ministers who
happened to be here. But I have never yet understood that, even in rela-
tion to the 1936 Treaty, the Dominions committed themselves to it in any
way. I can find no trace that the Dominions in 1936 became a party to the
Treaty. It was sent round. They raised no objection to it. I do not even
find in the records that they endorsed it. I am open to correction on that
point if I am wrong. All of us who have served in Government know
Dominion procedure. As Foreign Secretary I have done what I can to send
to the Dominions almost every document that has arisen, and have urged
them to express their opinions over and over again. In this case the matter
was discussed openly. We did not ask for a decision, and in relation to
matters of this kind I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite if they can remember,
in any Dominion Conference, that on a specific act such as a Treaty, or the
termination of a Treaty, or a change in a Treaty, the Dominions have ever
been asked to take the decision? What they have been asked for is their
opinion, and the United Kingdom Government have then come to their
conclusion when those opinions have been obtained. That is what we have
done in this case. We are not tied by them and they are not tied by us.
Therefore, I say that a mountain is being made out of a molehill.
I can only conclude by saying that when this problem, like many other
problems surging through the world at the present time, is claiming settle-
ment, it is a terrific anxiety to know whether one is taking just the right
step, and what its reaction will be on something else in this close-knit world.
In this case I had the choice of going to my colleagues and recommending
force when the disturbance was in progress or offering friendship, which I
thought would re-echo through the Arab world. I chose friendship.
[House of Commons Debates]
A UNION OF INDIA
RT. HON. LORD PETHICK-LAWRENCE, Secretary of State for India
Broadcast from New Delhi, May 16,1946. The words which I shall speak
to you are concerned with the future of a great people, the people of India.
There is a passionate desire in the hearts of Indians, expressed by the
leaders of all their political parties, for independence. His Majesty's Gov-
ernment and the British people as a whole are fully ready to approve this
independence, whether within or without the British Commonwealth, and
hope that out of it will spring a lasting and friendly association between
our two peoples on a footing of complete equality.
Nearly two months ago, I, as Secretary of State for India, and my two
Cabinet colleagues, Sir Stafford Cripps and Mr. Alexander, were sent out
by His Majesty's Government to India to assist the Viceroy in setting up
in India the machinery by which Indians can devise their own constitution.
We were at once confronted with a major obstacle: the two principal par-
ties, the Moslem League who won the great majority of the Moslem seats
in the recent elections, and the Congress, who won the majority of all the
others, were opposed to one another as to the kind of machinery to be set
up. The Moslem League claimed that British India should be divided
into two completely separate sovereign states and refused, to take part in
constitution-making unless this claim was conceded in advance. Congress
insisted on one single united India.
During our stay in India we have tried by every means to secure such
an accommodation between the parties as would enable constitution-making
to succeed. Recently we were able to bring them together at Simla in a
conference with ourselves, but, though both sides were prepared to make
substantial concessions, it was not found possible to reach complete agree-
ment. We have therefore been compelled ourselves to seek a solution
which, by securing the main objects of both parties, shall enable constitu-
tion-making machinery to be brought into immediate operation.
PROPOSED ALTERNATIVE TO PAKISTAN
While we. recognize the reality of the fear of the Moslem League that in
a purely unitary India their community, with its own culture and way of
life, might become submerged in the majority Hindu rule, we do not
accept the setting up of a separate Moslem sovereign state as a solution of
the communal problem. Pakistan, as the Moslem League would call their
state, would not consist solely of Moslems: it would contain a substantial
minority of other communities which would average over 40 per cent and
in certain wide areas would even constitute a majority, as, for instance,'in
the city of Calcutta where the Moslems form less than one-third of the
Moreover, the complete separation of Pakistan from the rest of India
would, in our view, gravely endanger the defense of the whole country by
splitting the army into two and by preventing that defense in depth which
is essential in modern war. We therefore do not suggest the adoption of
British Speeches of the Day [LORD PETHICK-LAWRENCE}
Our own recommendations contemplate a constitution of three tiers, at
the top of which would be the Union of India, with an executive and legis-
lature empowered to deal with the essential subjects of external affairs,
defense and communications, and the finance necessary for these services.
At the bottom would be the Provinces, which would have, apart from the
subjects I have just named, complete autonomy. But we contemplate
further that the Provinces will wish to unite together in groups to carry
out, in common, services covering a wider area than that of a single
Province, and these groups may have, if they wish, legislatures and execu-
tives which, in that event, will be intermediate between those of the Prov-
inces and those of the Union.
On this basis, which makes it possible for the Moslems to secure the
advantages of a Pakistan without incurring the dangers inherent in the
division of India, we invite Indians of all parties to take part in framing
a constitution. The Viceroy will accordingly summon to New Delhi repre-
sentatives of British India, who will be elected by the members of the
provincial legislatures in such a way that as nearly as possible for each one
million of the population there will be one representative and that the
proportion between the representatives of the main communities will be
on the same basis. After a preliminary meeting in common, these repre-
sentatives of the Provinces will divide themselves up into three sections,
the composition of which is laid down, and which, if the Provinces ulti-
mately agree, will become the three groups. These sections will decide
upon provincial and group matters. Subsequently, they will reunite to
decide upon the constitution for the Union. After the first elections under
the new constitution, the Provinces will be free to opt out of the group into
which they have been provisionally placed.
We appreciate that this machinery does not, of itself, give any effective
representation to other than the principal minorities, and we are therefore
providing for a special committee to be set up in which the minorities will
play a full part. The business of this committee will be to formulate funda-
mental and minority rights and to recommend their inclusion in the consti-
tution at the appropriate level.
So far, I have said nothing about the Indian States, which comprise a
third of the area of India and contain about one-quarter of the whole popu-
lation. These States at present are each separately governed and have indi-
vidual relationships with the British Crown. There is general recognition
that when British India attains independence the position of these States
cannot remain unaffected, and it is anticipated that they will wish to take
part in the constitution-making process and be represented in the All-India
Union. It does not, however, lie within our province to decide these
matters in advance, as they will have to be the subject of negotiation with
the States before action can be taken.
AN INTERIM GOVERNMENT
During the making of the constitution the administration must be car-
ried on, and we attach, therefore, the greatest importance to the setting up
at once of an interim government having the support of the major political
A Union of India
parties. The Viceroy has already started discussions to this end and he
hopes to bring them shortly to a successful issue. During the interim period
the British Government, recognizing the significance of the changes in the
Government of India, will give the fullest measure of co-operation to the
government so formed in the accomplishment of its tasks of administration
and in bringing about as rapid and smooth a transition as possible.
The essence of statecraft is to envisage the probable course of future
events, but no statesman can be wise enough to frame a constitution which
will adequately meet all the requirements of an unknown future. We may
be confident, therefore, that the Indians on whom falls the responsibility
of creating the initial constitution will give it a reasonable flexibility and
will make provision for it to be revised and amended as required from
time to time.
In this short talk you will not expect me to go into further details
regarding our proposals, which you can read in the statement which has
been released for publication this evening. But in conclusion I repeat and
emphasize what is to me the fundamental issue: the future of India and
how that future is inaugurated are matters of vital importance, not only
to India herself but to the whole world. If a great new sovereign state
can come into being in a spirit of mutual goodwill, both within and without
India, that in itself will be an outstanding contribution to world stability.
The Government and the people of Britain are not only willing, they are
anxious, to play their full part in achieving this result, but the constitution
f6r India has to be framed by Indians and worked by Indians when they
have brought it into being. We have appreciated to the full the difficulties
which confront them in embarking on this task. We have done and we
will continue to do all that lies in our power to help them to overcome
these difficulties. But the responsibility and the opportunity are theirs, and
in their fulfillment of it we wish them Godspeed.
BURMA LEGISLATURE BILL
HOUSE OF LORDS, May 21, 1946
The Postmaster-General (The Earl of Listowel): My Lords, I have
one regret this afternoon in moving this Bill. I am sorry that my
noble Friend the Secretary of State for India and Burma is not able to
introduce this Bill himself, as I know that the progress of Burma on the
road to self-government lies just as near to his heart as the similar advance
on the part of India. As your Lordships very generously acknowledged
last week, the conduct of negotiations on which the future of India depends
makes my noble Friend's absence from this House inevitable. As I am
sure all of your Lordships will agree, he must clearly stay where he is most
needed while these negotiations continue.
This Bill marks a further step in the growth of self-government in
Burma. I would like to remind your Lordships that according to a policy
British Speeches of the Day [EARL OF LISTOWEL)
laid down by the wartime Coalition Government, and therefore accepted
by all major political parties, Burma was to pass through three stages
between the end of the main campaign against the Japanese and the
achievement of complete self-rule. The first stage of military administra-
tion, under Lord Louis Mountbatten, finished for most of Burma on Octo-
ber 16, 1945, and the responsibility of South-East Asia Command finally
ceased on January 1 of this year, when the southern districts of Burma were
transferred to the civilian authorities. The Governor was then able to
announce the restoration of civil government to the whole of Burma.
THE ELECTION OF A LEGISLATURE
The return of the Governor to Rangoon, and the re-establishment of
the civil government, marked the second stage in the political recovery of
Burma after the long setback it has suffered during the war. But at the
present stage preparations must be made, with the utmost speed, for the
third and last lap of the journey to self-government. These preparations
will enable the present period of direct rule by the Governor to be termi-
nated, as soon as possible, in favor of a responsible Government chosen by
a popularly elected Legislature. When a Ministerial Government has been
-restored in Burma, a constitution-making body, as described in the White
Paper, will be summoned, so that the Burmese people can devise for them-
selves a constitution that will make them just as free in the management
of their own affairs as any of the great self-governing Dominions.
This Bill is one of the indispensable preliminaries to the transition from
the present phase of direct rule by the Governor to the establishment of a
Ministerial Government responsible for all its actions and decisions to the
Legislature. Parliamentary Government cannot be restored in Burma,
however, before a General Election. There can be no General Election
until the names of all the voters have been inscribed on the electoral rolls;
and these electoral rolls cannot be compiled by the administration until
the qualifications which confer the right to vote have been laid down by
Statute. The main purpose of the present Bill is to establish a new fran-
chise for Burma, so that the preparation of the electoral rolls can go forward
without any unnecessary delay. His Majesty's Government are anxious
that a General Election should be held in Burma at the earliest practicable
moment, and if our program, which includes the early passage of this
Bill into law, is realized in accordance with the timetable we have in mind,
a Legislature will have been elected in Burma, and a Ministry formed,
before June of next year.
THE TERMS OF THE FRANCHISE
Now, my Lords, let me say a word or two about the terms of the pro-
posed new franchise for the general constituencies in Burma, and about how
they compare with the type of suffrage under the Act which governed the
last General Election held before the war. The really striking change in
the present proposals is the degree to which they widen the franchise,
extending it in a truly democratic fashion to almost every adult member
of the population. The Act of 1935 prescribed a modest property quali-
Burma Legislature Bill
fiction for men. In the case of women, there was an additional qualifica-
tion based on literacy. Clause 2 of this Bill sweeps away these limitations
to fullblown democracy, without any distinctions of wealth, by proposing to
give universal.adult franchise at the age of 21. The numerical effect of
this alteration will be almost to treble the total electorate by increasing its
size from about 2,500,000 to about 6,750,000. The voting age has .been
raised by three years, as compared with the 1935 Act, but both the Governor
and his Legislative Council have taken the view that a sense of respon-
sibility is not usually reached much earlier-a view which I think most of
us would share-and that in practice, owing to the -property qualification
demanded before the war, few Burmans have in the past cast a vote before
attaining their twenty-first birthday. Another illustration of the attitude
found in Burma is that the devout Burman who wishes to join.the Buddhist
order is not allowed to complete his novitiate and be ordained as a monk
before he is twenty. This suggests that tradition, as well as -the bulk of
public opinion, would regard twenty-one as a reasonable age for the full
exercise of citizenship.
Another interesting innovation in this measure is the exact equality it
would bring about between the two sexes. Your Lordships will remember
that Burma is among those advanced countries where women are free to
do as men do and are not debarred by social custom from any business or
other activity which men pursue for a living. It is surely right that the equal
status of Burmese women in economic and social matters should now be
extended to politics, and that there should no longer be an old-fashioned
and quite unwarranted discrimination in favor of the male.
There is one important class of persons deliberately excluded from the
new franchise, namely Buddhist monks and nuns. I think a word of expla-
nation is due about this, if only to prevent anyone from supposing that we
are discriminating against the national religion of Burma. i As your Lord-
ships are aware, Buddhism is a religion of renunciation and abnegation of
self, which teaches men to change the objects of their desire rather than
the political institutions or social conditions under which they live. Bud-
dhist monks are therefore expressly prohibited by the rules of their Order
from taking any part in secular disputes. The Sangha Council, which
directs the affairs of the Order, has itself declared against the inclusion of
monks and nuns in the new suffrage. They are not being deprived by this
Bill of any right they have exercised in the past, for their lack of personal
property, which is part of their discipline, has excluded them in practice
from exercising the old franchise that was in force before the war.
The only other point to which I think I should draw your Lordships'
attention (I want to be as brief as possible in view of the exceedingly inter-
esting and important debate to which we are all looking forward) is the
changed qualifications proposed for-members of the Senate in Clause 1.
The effect of this clause would be to halve the property qualification which
is at present the principal qualification required by candidates for any of
the seats in the Senate. The poverty of Burma, since the years of Japanese
occupation and the subsequent military operations on Burmese soil, has
become so general that few individuals would now be eligible as Senators
British Speeches of the Day [EARL OF LISTOWEL)
unless the old rules were revised. I should like, in conclusion, to put on
record a word or two of thanks to the Governor of Burma, to his Legislative
Council and to his officials for the speed-because the time factor is of
prime importance-and efficiency with which they have done the prepare.
tory work leading to these recommendations for a new and far more demo-
'cratic type of franchise in Burma. I beg to move that the Bill be now read
a second time.
[House of Lords Debates)
GERMANY AND AUSTRIA
HoUSE OF COMMONS, May ro, 1946 [EXTRACTS]
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Ilynd): Before at-
tempting to give the Committee a short review of the problems with which we
are faced in Germany and Austria, I think it might be useful if I were to say
a word about the responsibility of the Control Office in Germany and Austria
in this matter. The British Commander-in-Chief in Germany, apart from his
duties as head of the British Armed Forces of Occupation, has two main func-
tions. He is first the British member of the Allied Control Council for Ger-
many, and as such has the responsibility for representing to our Allies the
views of His Majesty's Government on questions affecting Germany as a whole.
Secondly, he is the Military Governor of the British zone in Germany, respon-
sible for the day-to-day administration of the zone. In both these capacities
the Commander-in-Chief, assisted by the British element of the Allied Control
Authority for Germany, is responsible to me as the member of the Government
with special responsibility for German affairs. Similar arrangements apply,
of course, to Austria.
Hon. Members will appreciate that the range of the problems involved on
which British policy must be defined is necessarily a vast and complex one.
First, there are large questions of foreign policy on which continuous touch
must be maintained with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for For-
eign Affairs. Second, there are questions of the relationship between the Con-
trol Commission and the British Army of the Rhine and British troops in
Austria on which my contact is with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of
State for War. Beyond this, there are questions affecting every aspect of Ger-
man life and economy, be it disarmament, food, de-Nazification, re-education,
or any other of the hundred facets of the problem. The work involved is,
therefore, immense. It is indeed no less than the fulfillment of the task to
which we set our hands in September, 1939. First, the'defeat of German
aggression and, second, the creation of conditions in which Germany might
become a peaceful and useful member of society instead of a menace to the
peace of the world ....
THE GOVERNMENT OF GERMANY: PliNCtPLES AND MTtIIOOS
The relations between the Four Powers in the occupation of Germany were
defined by an agreement signed by the Governments of the United Kihngdom
Germany and Austria
the United States, the U.S.S.R. and France on 1st May, 1945. Under this
Agreement the Four Powers each occupy and administer a separate zone of
Germany with the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of each Power
in supreme authority in his zone. Supreme authority for Germany as a whole,
therefore, rests with the Commanders-in-Chief of the Four Powers jointly in
their capacity as members of the Control Council, the supreme organ of con-
trol in Germany. The Allied Control Authority was actually established in
July 1945. Berlin is administered as a separate administrative unit under
the control of the Four Powers.
The work of the government in the British zone of Germany has already
been organized to some extent in regions in accordance with the Potsdam
"administration in Germany should be directed towards the decentralization of the
political structure and the development of local responsibility."
The corps commanders of the Rhine were formerly responsible for the work
of the Control Commission staffs in regions. Now to mark a further stage in
the development of regional government as well as in the process of civilianiza-
tion of control commission staffs, I have appointed four civil regional com-
missioners.... .The regional commissioners will be responsible to the Mili-
tary Governor of the zone. They will supervise and co-ordinate the activities
of the Control Commission staffs in the regions, and will supply an element of
leadership and cohesion previously provided by the Army Corps Commanders.
They will deal with German representative bodies and keep in touch with
German political trends. They are men of varied experience and wide knowl-
edge of affairs. I am considering the need for a fifth regional commissioner
in the city of Hamburg, which is dealt with as a separate entity within the
scheme of government in our zone.
GERMANY'S CONDITION AFTER SURRENDER
When Germany surrendered unconditionally in June, 1945, her economy
was completely disrupted. All communications in Western Germany had
virtually come to a standstill. Of the total of 7,590 miles of railway track in
the British zone only 656 miles were in operation. Roads were hopelessly
damaged by cratering, and innumerable road bridges were blown. The Rhine
was completely closed to traffic, being blocked by bridges which had been
blown and were lying in mid-stream. The intricate canal system was simi-
larly at a standstill. The almost complete destruction of transport facilities,
the tangled wreckage of factories, pit shafts and pithead installations, first
through the intensive Allied bombing and subsequently through the deliber-
ate demolition by the retreating German Armies, added to the scene of deso-
lation which had brought production and distribution of coal and the whole
iron and steel industry to a standstill, whilst there was a complete dearth of
young and middle-aged Germans available for work. Out of a total of some
5l/ million dwelling units more than 11/2 million had been destroyed or
required demolition and nearly 11/ million more were damaged. The health
of the population showed some alarming symptoms. The distribution of
food and water had been severely disrupted; sewers had been broken, medical
supplies destroyed; doctors and nurses were not to be found. Typhus tp-
British Speeches of the Day [MR. HYND]
peared in concentration camps and there was imminent danger of an out-
break of this and other epidemics, which might spread over the whole of
Germany and beyond.
Perhaps the most formidable problem, in terms of human suffering, was
presented by the displaced persons a new term coined to describe those
unfortunate multitudes who had been forcibly removed from their home
countries by the Germans for slave labor or for reasons of persecution. At
the end of the war there were over 2,000,000 of these persons in the British
zone of Germany and another 250,000 in Austria of some 40 nationalities,
most of them desperately anxious to get home at any price, without any
organization or leaders to direct them or any relief societies or workers to
help them. There was only the British administration the British military
government available. In addition, we had nearly 2,000,000 prisoners of
war or surrendered personnel on our hands, defeated men, expecting to be
disarmed, fed and sent home. Among these were men of numerous nation-
alities who had been conscripted into the German army, including Russians,
Poles, Yugoslavs, Italians and nearly every other conceivable nationality.
BREAKDOWN OF ADMINISTRATION
No form of German administration of any kind existed. The Nazi admin-
istrators, both local and national, had, with one accord, fled, often taking
their records with them or destroying them before they went. Offices had been
destroyed, and in the place of the vanished Nazis there was no one we could
use. There were no organized anti-Nazi elements in existence; the Nazi
teiror machine had worked only too well during those 13 years. No effective
underground or resistance movement had been able to develop and, in these
circumstances, bona fide anti-Nazis were not easily identifiable and those who
were, were often in no fit condition to assume the burden of administration....
What I am dealing with is, in effect, not a single Government Depart-
ment, but the whole range of Government Departments and of their activi-
ties in a country at least the size of England, with all the ramifications of local
government and all the complicated additional problems which exist in that
country. . .
In the conditions I have outlined, and with the absence of police, of law
courts, the lack of power and of transport and the utter helplessness of the
population, all these things added to the confusion with which our people
had to deal. In addition, there was the movement of populations within
Germany. Half of the population in our zone had been evacuated eastwards
during the war, owing to the bombing, and many of them were beginning to
drift back. Those who remained were stunned and cowed as the result of
the terrible experiences they had undergone in the last months of the war.
As I say, in this area of a foreign country rather larger than England, in con-
ditions which would certainly have tested the skill and experience of any
established administration in its own land, with all the machinery of estab-
lished government, police and public services at hand, some 2,000 British
officers and 3,000 men achieved, in my opinion, a miracle of organization in
the midst of chaos.
Germany and Austria
PROBLEMS FACING THE BRITISH FORCES
The contribution, especially in the initial period, which was borne directly
by the staffs and troops of the Rhine Army, and also of the Royal Navy and
Royal Air Force, deserve special mention. In addition to their more obvious
responsibilities in respect of the German armed forces, there had hardly been
a-single field of civil administration in which reliance had not been placed on
military resources, both of personnel and material the control of displaced
persons, the repair of signal communication and the rebuilding of road and
rail bridges, to mention only a few. The energy, patience, and resourcefulness
with which all these tasks were tackled are in the best tradition of our people
and reflect the highest credit on all concerned.
There were, therefore, a great number of tangled problems facing us if we
were to restore order in the British zone. We had to restore industry, at least
essential industry, and to do this we had to get the pits working. But the
majority of the technical men and of the men in high administrative positions
in the coal mines, as well as throughout industry, were almost inevitably Nazis,
some of them dangerous Nazis who had to be removed from their jobs at once.
This, of course, was done, but the inevitable result was a loss of discipline and
efficiency in the mines which not only reduced output, but began to threaten
the safety of working. We had to face the problem that a too hasty or too
extensive pressure on the de-Nazification policy might, in some instances,
easily have led to serious pit disasters. We had to set about the job of reor-
ganizing democratic institutions. For this purpose we wanted to restore the
free trade unions which had been destroyed by the Nazis. But, here again,
the whole of industry had been, and had to continue to be, in these conditions,
worked under a system of rigidly controlled wages and hours and conditions of
work which made it difficult to provide any real inspiration for the less en-
thusiastic trade unionist to associate himself with and to take any active part
in the work of his organization.
We desired to restore the freedom of the press, to clear away the pollution
of Goebbels' propaganda machine and to create in Germany a sound and
healthy public opinion. But Germany was an enemy country under quadri-
partite government, and there were many elements still in existence-and
there may still be quite a large number of them which, given freedom of
expression in these very difficult and complicated circumstances, would have
utilized the opportunity to create distrust among the Allies or to inflame pas-
sions which it is our intention to suppress. Therefore, a careful censorship
had to be maintained. We hoped to permit and encourage the free develop-
ment of political parties, but, again, until the means of preserving law and
order had been recreated, and until party leaders of responsibility had
emerged, we could not take the risk of the re-emergence of totalitarian groups
under the guise of democrats. These were some of our problems.
Now let me come a little nearer to the present stage. As was recognized by
the Potsdam Agreement, the removal of all traces of the Nazi party and of its
control over German political, intellectual and economic life must rank as one
British Speethes of the Day' [Mn. HYND]
of our major objectives. But the identification of the real Nazi is not always
a simple matter....
In dealing with the question of de-Nazification, therefore, we worked on
the basis of classifications. The most dangerous elements were arrested on a
prearranged scheme and put in internment. Other persons who were more
than nominal Nazis were removed and excluded from office. The property of
both of the above classes was blocked to prevent its being used to financekny
revival of the movement. It should be understood clearly that these classi-
fications and the treatment of them were decided, not unilaterally by the Brit-
ish element of the Control Council, but by the Control Council itself. They
were embodied in a directive to which all Four Powers agreed, and the measure
of success achieved can be shown by the fact that no major resistance move-
ment to Allied occupation has yet developed. To give some idea of the size
of this particular problem, by 31st March of this year, 812,747 cases had been
evaluated by public safety officers, and further cases are now being cleared at
the rate of between 90,000 and 100,000 per month. The number still requir-
ing evaluation is roughly estimated at 1,500,000 ....
ENCOURAGEMENT OF DEMOCRACY
The elimination of Nazis is, of course, only the negative side of the opera-
tion for the resuscitation of democratic ideas and institutions. Here, again, 13
years of Nazi terror have created very serious problems. There is a shortage
of responsible leaders of the right type. Nearly all the old democratic leaders
were liquidated by the Nazis. Many were murdered and many others spent
long years in concentration camps, and are now often old and broken men.
The younger leaders who have come to the fore since the surrender naturally
lack experience and training in administration and in political work, with-
out which no political program can be turned into practical politics. Never-
theless, it should not be forgotten that a number of individuals did, at the
greatest risk and often with serious consequences to themselves, stand out
firmly to the end in opposition to the Nazi regime. Many of these men and
women are now contributing to the future of their country and the re-estab-
lishment of the principles for which they suffered during 13 years. I think it is
right that due recognition should be given to them. There certainly does
exist some good material on which a new democratic Germany can be built
if it is properly used and properly encouraged. It is our intention that elec-
tions should be held as soon as the necessary machinery can be completed.
Here, again, we are working in unusual conditions. The task of constructing
an electoral register which would ensure a fair and representative expression
of opinion is one of great complexity. In conditions in which there are vast
movements of population, returning refugees and evacuees from other parts
of Germany, displaced persons and refugees coming from the countries of
Eastern and Central Europe, the task of constructing an electoral register is
one of great difficulty.
In the meantime, pending these elections, and in order to introduce the
-Germans, at the level of local government, to democratic methods, and to give
them some experience, we have set up a system of Nominated Councils, com-
prising representatives nominated or recommended by various political par-
Germany and Austria
ties and other anti-Nazi elements in the community. These Nominated Coun-
cils are not a good expression of democratic opinion, but they are the best
that can be achieved in the circumstances, and they represent the first step
towards self-government. As soon as possible, they will be replaced by elected
councils. On the higher levels of Government, a start has been made by the
formation of a nominated Advisory Council of Germans for the British zone.
The function of this council is to provide advice generally to all divisions of
the Control Commission, to act in an advisory capacity, and to represent a fur-
ther step in the process, which we are endeavoring to pursue at every level and
as speedily as possible, in the interests of a curtailment of manpower and
economy of British resources, of handing over as much responsibility as we
safely can to the Germans themselves.
SIGNS OF POLITICAL INTEREST
It is worth mentioning, and it is probably of some significance to those
who are concerned with endeavoring to assess the possibilities of the develop-
ment of democracy in Germany, that in that country, where open identifica-
tion with any political point of view over the last 13 years brought fearful
penalties first, from 1933 onwards, to anti-Nazis, and subsequent to May,
1945, to the Nazis themselves there is no lack of men and women ready to
come forward and associate themselves with the democratic parties that have
been set up, and take their part openly in the attempts to re-establish demo-
cratic government and machinery in their country. Political meetings, too,
attract large audiences, and where a particular issue emerges, political con-
sciousness and interests are seen to a marked degree: for instance, in the recent
elections in the American zone, 70 per cent of the electorate voted, a fairly
high percentage. In the case of the recent controversy over the fusion of the
Socialist Party and the Communist Party in Berlin no less than 71 per cent of
the electorate voted. There is, therefore, some evidence, to put it mildly, of a
degree of political interest in Germany at the present time.
DISPOSAL OF D.P.s
In the meantime, remarkable progress has been made in the disposal of
displaced persons. By October we had repatriated some 1,500,000 of these
people. Practically all the French, Russians and Belgians had gone home, and
in the case of the Russians alone nearly a million had returned to their coun-
try. By January, 1,750,000 had gone and today only some 400,000 remain.
In the assembly centers we were manfully assisted by the Royal Engineers, by
the British Red Cross and numerous voluntary societies working under its
aegis, and later by the UNRRA teams. Facilities have been provided for
employing the time of the displaced persons and providing them with educa-
tional facilities and generally for keeping them alive and interested in their
situation and in the future. Special places have been allocated to them in
the universities and a special university has been established at Hamburg for
We are now at the point where we have to consider the question of dealing
with what is generally known as the "hard core" of these displaced persons.
There are still some prepared and anxious to return home, but this question
British Speeches of the Day [MR. HYND]
of the remainder will have to be faced. In this connection there is sitting in
London a Special Committee on Refugees and Displaced Persons set up by
the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. I would mention in
passing the encouragement we have given to these people to return home. We
have, of course, refused to consider any question of forcible repatriation of
all except war criminals, quislings and traitors, and in that policy again we
have the support of the United Nations. . .
Mr. Pickthorn (Conservative): I did not quite gather all the Minister's
categories of exceptions.
Mr. Hynd: The categories are those which have been adopted equally by
the Americans war criminals, quislings, and traitors ....
Sometimes the evidence is quite clear as to whether these people are in one
of the categories for example, men who are found in German uniforms and
can give no satisfactory reason why they should be wearing them, deserters
from Allied forces, and so on. . .
DISARMAMENT AND DEMOBILIZATION
Before I pass to the wider economic aspects of our present problems there
is one matter which requires mention. It is the question of disarmament and
demobilization. The Potsdam agreement required
"the complete disarmament and demobilization of Germany and the elimination or
control of all German industry that could be used for military production."
Much has been done in these two fields but obviously much still remains to
be done. There is, first, the removal of movable weapons and warlike stores.
For this task, labor on a large scale is needed, as well as transport, including
ships, to carry the stuff away for disposal at sea. The dumping of gas ammu-
nition alone is a major operation. This task cannot be completed in Germany
this year. The removal of permanent fortifications is also a substantial oper-
ation, which will take several years to complete. All these tasks mean sub-
stantial British manpower commitments. Finally, there is the demolition
of factories and plants, the purpose or potential of which is the production
Everything today is a war potential, and that is another complication.
The production of arms, ammunition and instruments of war, as well as of
all types of aircraft, etc., and obvious items of war material, must be prohib-
ited. The production of such items as metals, chemicals, and various forms
of machinery, is directly necessary to a war economy but is also equally essen-
tial to a peace economy. Such industries must not be destroyed in all cases.
-They must be controlled and restricted to Germany's approved post-war,
peacetime needs, as defined in the Potsdam Agreement. All these things
involved the drawing up of a plan. Upon the standard of living which would
be permitted to Germany after the demolition and the destruction of war
potential and after the delivery of reparations, depended the amounts which
we could afford to destroy and the amounts we could afford to make available
THE ECONOMIC ASPECT
The discussion of this plan has naturally been approached by the Four
Powers from different points of view, which were genuinely held. On the
Germany and Austria
one hand, there was the demand for security which competed with the
necessity for making Germany itself a viable economic state at some period
if it was not to be a permanent liability to ourselves and to our allies. The
plan that was eventually produced and which was agreed upon by all the
Four Powers, after protracted, very difficult, and sometimes critical negotia-
tions, could be regarded as a fair interpretation of the Potsdam Agreement.
It is based on four assumptions: that the population of Germany should not
exceed 661/ million; that Germany will be treated as a single economic unit;
that the present. Western frontiers of Germany remain unchanged; that
exports from Germany will be acceptable in international markets. It was
further agreed that, in the event of any of those assumptions not being real-
ized, the plan will be open to review. We, for our part, attach great impor-
tance to this provision. Obviously, if the population of Germany is greater
than 661/ million there will be more hands seeking employment and there
will be more mouths to feed. Most of this extra food will have to come from
imports, and extra industrial capacity will be required both to employ the
hands and to provide exports to pay for the food, unless we are to pay for
If Germany were not to be treated as a single economic unit and if zonal
boundaries were maintained, or if territory were removed from the West,
Germany would not be able to utilize the resources which the plan assumes
will be available to her, and some compensating adjustment might have to
be made on this account. Similarly if particular markets do not prove to be
open to Germany because of discriminatory tariffs or for other reasons, she
will not be able to expand those peaceful industries to compensate her for
the loss of the other industries now denied her on security grounds. Much
of the result will depend upon the recovery of German agriculture and other
peaceful industry, and also upon the capacity of the Germans themselves to
adapt themselves to the circumstances. Given the opportunity and the will
to do so, it is reasonable to expect that Germany will achieve a balance of
payments and that in the long run she will be able to provide a tolerable
standard of living for her people. This level of industry was the greatest test
that the Quadripartite Government has had to face. It satisfies no one com-
pletely and all had had to make concessions. The fact that the agreement
was finally reached is not without significance in the present state of world
THE FOOD QUESTION
With the progress that has been made in all' these tasks, and with the
agreement now reached on the level of industry to be allowed to Germany
to enable us to begin planning for reconstruction, a new menace has arisen.
I refer to the impending crisis in food supplies. The British zone is the most
industrialized of the four zones of occupation and the least self-sufficient in
food supplies. The population of 23V1 millions is preponderantly urban.
Before the war, the era which comprises the zone was deficient in food supplies
to the extent of about 50 per cent of its requirements. It drew most of the
remainder from what is now the Eastern zone of Germany. It is necessary
to import into the zone, in order to maintain even a minimum level of nutri-
tion. In considering the special difficulties in the British zone there are other
British Speeches of the Day [Mn. HYND]
facts which have to be borne in mind. The first of them is that although it
was agreed by the Four Powers that a common standard of feeding should
apply throughout Germany, there is as yet no pooling of resources for that
purpose. Secondly, agricultural capacity varies considerably, even among
the three Western zones, the American zone being best and the British zone
the worst placed in this respect.
In addition, the British zone is the one which requires the most, as it has
the highest proportion of population engaged in heavy industrial work, par-
ticularly coal mining, which is basic to almost all the industrial activities, not
only in Western Germany but of the whole of Germany. We require more
food. In the first quarter of the year the world supply position, as everyone
knows, had already become so difficult that heavy cuts in the already low
rations operating in these localities had to be made, and not only in our zone
but in all three zones. In the French zone, the normal consumers' ration
was reduced to 1,075 calories; in the British zone to 1,014 calories; in the
American zone to 1,275 calories. Since then and during recent weeks, the
overall supply position has again deteriorated, until we are again faced with
the fact that there is barely enough wheat in sight to provide the present
1,000-calory ration in our zone until the end of this month. Grain to provide
a minimum stock on which to base a June ration distribution has not yet been
made available. ...
This food position is, of course, the key problem with which we are faced
at the present time. . I have no hesitation in saying that serious conse-
quences will be attendant upon a breakdown in food in the British zone of
Germany. I need only refer to the importance of maintaining the production
of coal in Aachen and the Ruhr to bring that home to every one who knows
To refer to the coal industry, the output from the coalfields in May, 1945,
had fallen from a pre-war capacity of 11 million tons per month to about
700,000 tons. It is only one of the many tributes to our administration that
by January of this year they had reached 4,500,000 tons per month, in face of
shortage of labor, destroyed and damaged pits, shortage of mining material
and equipment, and the lack bf normal production in commodity industries
and others. Of this 4,500,000 tons, about one million tons was made available
for export by quadripartite agreement. Here again, however, the food ques-
tion comes in because, at the beginning of March, in reducing the normal
consumer's ration we hadto reduce relatively the other categories of consum-
ers, The miners' ration was reduced from 3,400 calories per day to about
2,850. Production immediately declined but, as a result of special action taken
by our authorities in the closest co-operation with the German Miners Works
Council, we have been able to improve the position and production has
slighty increased again. Whether it will be possible to maintain, let alone
further improve this position, depends largely, if not entirely, on the food
situation, but our administration in the zone the very life of the zone itself
- combined with the pressing needs of France and the other Western Euro-
pean countries, are all at stake in this matter of Ruhr coal.
Germany and Ausiria
We have, therefore, taken all possible measures to conserve food supplies
in the zone and to increase the indigenous production. A considerable area
of grassland was ploughed up, although shortage of seeds and fertilizers
threatens to frustrate this measure to a large degree. The use of grain for
any form of brewing has been prohibited; the destruction of livestock to con-
serve grain for human consumption has been drastic; the grain extraction
States have been increased to the limit of what is possible in the case of
wheat and rye to 100 per cent. In order to make sure that there was no
hoarding of grain supplies by farmers, every farm in the zone has recently
been thoroughly combed. All these steps will have serious long term effects
and will affect the indigenous supplies of food next year, but the situation
is serious and no expedient should be neglected. As the Committee will be
aware, the Lord President is flying to Washington immediately to discuss with
the President of the United States of America further measures of meeting
the overall world food problem in which this will be placed in its proper
THE CASE OF AUSTRIA
I must say something about the special problems of Austria. I would ask
the indulgence of the Committee so that I may make reference to these, since
dearly it would be impossible to cover the whole range of German problems
within any reasonable time, owing to their range and complexity. While
many of the problems of Austria are naturally similar to those of Germany -
demobilization, de-Nazification, the problem of the zonal divisions, the occu-
pation troops, the costs of currency questions all these are in one degree or
another similar in the case of Austria. But there are one or two special
matters in the Austrian picture to which I think the Committee would wish
me to refer. Here again there have been on the control authority measures
of agreement, but there have also been cases of quite substantial differences of
opinion. On 1st November, 1943, an Allied declaration was made at Moscow
that Austria should be liberated from German domination and re-established
as a free and independent State. On 4th July, 1945, the European Advisory
Commission signed an agreement on control machinery in Austria and defined
the primary tasks of the Allies in Austria, amongst which was the establish-
ment of a central Austrian administrative machine and the making of prep-
arations to secure a freely elected parliament and government. . .
On these main objectives we have been in full agreement with our Allies
but here again, as in Germany, perhaps inevitably, differences have appeared.
Thus a number of cases have recently arisen where the other members of the
Allied Commission, and also the Austrian Government, have had cause to
protest against the assumption of ownership by the Soviet authorities in their
area over property in Austria which, it is alleged, represents German assets.
This term "German assets" was not defined in detail at Potsdam, and no clear
definition has yet been agreed upon by the controlling Powers. It is essential
that an early definition should be made. The policy to be pursued in this
respect must clearly be considered most carefully in relation to other aspects
of our policy towards Austria. . .
The controlling Powers have agreed that every effort should be made to
British Speeches of the Day [MR. HYND]
enable Austria to exist as a prosperous and independent state. Therefore,
His Majesty's Government could not agree to any definition of German assets
which would be so wide as to prejudice this aim. They also think it most
important, in Austria's interest, that the present absence of clarity on this
question should be removed as soon as possible, and regard with misgiving
any action in this sphere which would be calculated to impede the speedy
restoration of Austrian economy and independence as foreshadowed in the
Moscow Declaration. . .
His Majesty's Government have placed before the Allied Commission in
Vienna proposals which are now under discussion. We are anxious to relin-
quish at the earliest possible moment each and every one of the costly respon-
sibilities we are now carrying. But we cannot finally cast aside the burden
until it is clear beyond doubt, to ourselves and to our Allies, that the work
we have undertaken is completed, and that Austria can once more take an
honorable, independent place among the nations of Europe.
THE COST OF OCCUPATION
I must now say a few words about the Estimates themselves. The scope
of our work is obviously much too wide to be dealt with in the confines of
a reasonable speech. In relation to the Estimates, of the net figure of 80
million in the Vote, about 70 million represents the net cost of supplies and
services essential to the occupation, after taking into account the proceeds of
exports from the British zone. This figure is the cost of a deliberate policy,
and it is inevitable that our responsibility which, however onerous, is inescap-
able, should, for the time being at any rate, cost us a lot of money. How
great, in all, will the price be? At this stage it is almost impossible to say.
The two main items on either side of our balance sheet are 100 million for
imports for the population of our zone, offset by 50 million, the proceeds
of exports from our zone. We have put in round figures because the situation
in Germany in particular chaos and starvation which might arise makes
precise budgeting impossible. Thus, the less food we can find to import
means less imports. Therefore, our estimate in that direction becomes upset.
On the other hand, the less food imported the less coal is produced; therefore
there are less exports. The whole situation depends entirely on the move-
ment of the food situation and other factors of the kind, so that we can do no
better than put in these round figures. We are not likely to do much better
this year than a net deficit of 50 million, and we may do worse: even if the
cost of imports drops, the value of exports will drop with it ....
What we have achieved in six years of deadly struggle must not be thrown
away through a refusal to face, for a short period, this unavoidable financial
burden. It cannot be a profit-making investment and was never intended to
be. It is part of the total price of security, of ensuring that Germany will
never again be a menace to world peace.
May I remind the Committee, in conclusion, that nevertheless our objec-
tive is at the same time a constructive one, for, in the words of the Potsdam
Agreement . .
"It is not the intention of the Allies to destroy or enslave the Germad people. It is the
intention of the Allies that the German people be given the opportunity to prepare for
Germany and Austria
the eventual reconstruction of their life on a democratic and peaceful basis. If their own
efforts are steadily directed to this end, it will be possible for them in due course to take
their place among the free and peaceful peoples of the world." . .
THE BIG ESTATES
We are not tackling the big estates on the same lines as the Russians. It
is not a question of the number of Junkers. There are not in the British zone
any Junkers in that sense of the term as applied in East Prussia or very few.
The large estates, in great part, are owned publicly or by co-operative organ-
izations there are, of course, private ones and we are taking steps to deal
with these concentrations of economic power, but not on the same lines,
because we are satisfied that the urgency of the food position and the neces-
sity for producing the maximum amount of bulk foods would be prejudiced
if we followed the policy of breaking these estates into small units and trying
to provide all the additional machinery and equipment to enable that policy
to be carried through. . .
The question of refugees has been raised with great emphasis, and we are
asked what we are doing about the expelled Germans. I should like to de-
velop this theme, but this is another big question. I recall the horror with
which the country heard of the terrible scenes in the eastern stations of Berlin
at the beginning of the winter. There were collections of miserable, panic-
stricken, half-diseased and dying people, coming from all parts of the Eastern
and Central European countries, Germans expelled by countries that did not
want them, into areas where they were not wanted, into areas where they
had no contacts, no homes or hopes. It was unorganized; six and a half
million people transferred, in the middle of winter, when there was no trans-
portation and so on. We could do nothing about stopping the movement
once it was on.
What we did do and I consider it was the most we could achieve was
to try to get some kind of order, some kind of control of the movement. For
that purpose, in order to get some agreement on this, we accepted a quarter
of them into our zone; we accepted one and a half million from Poland and
from other countries, and some others from Poland were accepted into the
other zones. As a result of that agreement, which laid down that the move-
ment should be made under humane conditions, and suspended during the
winter months when heating could not be supplied, that the refugees should
be supplied with food on the train, which we ourselves provided with con-
siderable difficulty, and that accommodation for their reception and dispersal
within the zone of settlement should be provided, we probably averted what
would have been a tremendous human tragedy. That was one of the achieve-
ments of our small team in Germany at that difficult period. The movement
is not completed, but it is improving as time goes on.
[House of Commons Debates]
THE WORLD FOOD SITUATION
HOUSE OF COMMONS, May 31, 1946 [Extracts]
The Lord President of the Council (Rt. Hon. Herbert Morrison): Let us
face quite frankly what is the position of His Majesty's Government in the
United Kingdom in this difficult food situation. What is our position?
Even with intensive effort . we grow only about half our own food. We
are, therefore, the most vulnerable great country on earth in a famine con-
tingency. . .
After everything possible has been done here to grow more and to use less,
the main fight must still be won or lost far away thousands of miles away.
We can stimulate and inspire others to produce more and to export more,
but we cannot command them. . Criticisms have been made that the
British consumer is not getting enough and he is not getting enough. It is
not only a matter of getting enough. What we all want is that he should
get a bit more variety and color in his daily existence, including matters of
food. The criticism that he is not getting enough really boils down to saying,
in so far as it is a criticism against the Government, either that the Govern-
ment ought to have persuaded overseas producers to grow more, or that they
ought to have persuaded the exporting countries to send more here at the
expense of the hungry countries. . .
GREAT BRITAIN'S PIPE-LINE
It is only, however, with the world-wide awareness of the famine threat,
an awareness I can claim credit for this on behalf of the Government -
which has largely been stimulated by His Majesty's Government, that public
opinion in all countries has reached the stage of being prepared to accept
sufficiently drastic measures to promote effective results. Everybody in all
nations must face the gravity of the situation. They must all, in our judg-
ment, be ready for drastic action. Our country must, of course, make its
contribution. . The reduction in the stated requirements of the United
Kingdom by 200,000 tons means that we must examine the stock position or,
as I prefer to call it, the "pipe-line," those miles of pipe-line stretching across
the Atlantic and starting in the prairies of Canada and so on. My hon. Friend
the Minister of Food is engaged in that task.
It was difficult to make the Americans understand the stock position in the
United Kingdom. It is bound to be difficult for a country which is a great
growing country and, indeed, an exporting country, to understand the special
difficulties of a country like ours where we are dependent upon importations
from overseas. I did impress upon them that this was a real problem and,
as evidence, I pointed to the fact that, in order to protect the stock position,
or the pipe-line, after the loaning of 200,000 tons in April, my right hon.
Friend the then Minister of Food had reluctantly imposed restrictions and
cuts upon the British consumers for that specific purpose, and he certainly
would not have done it if he had not believed in the British stock and pipe-
line argument. Nevertheless, the Americans were not fully convinced, and
that was one of the reasons why a concession in the end had to be given. But
my hon. Friend the Minister of Food will examine the pipe-line. We must
World Food Situation
see if it can be condensed or tightened up still further. Doing so may involve
risks and real difficulties. It may involve the risk of disturbance and disloca-
tion here and there. In these circumstances, and additionally taking into
account the fact that we are living in a terribly uncertain world nobody
can be certain about the food position from month to month, or even week
to week; it is a shockingly uncertain world in this matter taking account
of all that, my hon. Friend the Minister of Food is making preparations for
a system of bread rationing in case that -hould be necessary. . .
We are at last at the beginning of a new phase, the phase of world-wide
mobilization of all food resources to win the peace. Like other democratic
mobilizations, it comes tragically late; like them again, it is accompanied by
a daily procession of black news which will go on let us make no mistake
about it until the mobilization has brought results in the fullness of
time. . .
RESPONSIBILITIES NOT BRITAIN'S ALONE
Nevertheless, the very blackness of the situation is calling forth impressive
and inspiring forces which may make this a turning point in human history.
It is the first time when men have fought in all countries on one side. Let us
not miss the significance of this, or compromise our opportunities by a failure
to recognize the fact that many countries are fighting on one side in the battle.
Let us not compromise our opportunities by a failure to rise to their full
greatness. . .
The position as affecting our country before my visit to Washington was,
in fact, becoming intolerable. Britain herself, the most dependent of all the
great countries on food imports, was, in fact, by inference, by tendencies in
policy and in practice in the settlement of these matters internationally, in
process of being saddled with the responsibility of feeding 20,000,000 hungry
Germans and 400,000,000 hungry Indians. This was the problem that my
right hon. Friend was up against, the problem that I had to handle as well as
stimulating the high level consideration of the world problem. This was
the problem of the British at the time when I opened these discussions at
Washington with President Truman and the members of the Administration.
These figures have only to be given to show that it is utterly impossible for
the United Kingdom to shoulder that responsibility. It is a responsibility in
which other countries and the world as a whole must take their share. Neither
of these responsibilities, either in Germany or India, were really the responsi-
bility of the Minister of Food. He had his work cut out in feeding the United
Kingdom. He had his problems here, and yet the Minister of Food under
those conditions was being forced by events to make continual diversions from
the United Kingdom stocks and cargoes afloat in order to avert starvation
in the British zone.
BRITAIN'S AID TO GERMANY AND INDIA
I will give the House the figures. Since the German civilian program
began last autumn we have sent to the British zone out of United Kingdom
stocks these quantities: flour, 88,000 tons; shipped barley, 60,000 tons; barley
to be shipped, 70,000 tons, making a total of 218,000 tons. But that is not all.
We have arranged diversions to Germany of the following British cargoes
British Speeches of the Day [Mn. H. MORRISON]
afloat: wheat, 255,700 tons; flour, 6,000 tons; oats, 3,500 tons; barley, 7,300
tons, making a further total of 272,500 tons, or a grand total of 490,500 tons.
Near enough 500,000 tons have been diverted either from stocks or from
British cargoes afloat to Germany. In addition, there have been diversions
to India. Out of United Kingdom stocks, 4,000 tons of flour have gone to
India, and out of cargoes afloat 100,000 tons of wheat, making a total of
104,000 tons. This position developed because of the lack of effective pro-
vision for those countries out of international resources, and my right hon.
Friend the then Minister of Food had to give up 600,000 tons in all of bread
grains which were actually in his possession they were in his possession, not
like the 200,000 tons with which I dealt to keep hunger at bay in India and
in Germany since last autumn or thereabouts. . .
I advance these practical grounds in the case of Germany. If British-
occupied Germany reaches the stage of complete famine, certain things
follow. Ruhr coal cannot be produced by famine-stricken miners. Ruhr
coal is badly needed not only for Germany but for France and for the whole
of Europe the whole economic situation in Europe is involved. More-
over, if the Germans go down in hunger, trouble will arise, disorder will
eventuate; in fact, it has eventuated. Nazism will have the raw material upon
which it can re-create itself, and the British military consequences will be
grave. The Army itself will be in difficulties and demobilization will be
impeded. Consequently, on mere self-regarding grounds political, eco-
nomic and military it is inevitable that we must seek to keep the occupied
area of Germany with a minimum of food necessary to sustain human life
as far as we can. That is altogether apart from the fact that the British find
it difficult and I am glad they find it difficult to achieve any satisfaction
out of starving people, whatever their nationality may be, and I think that
represents the mind . and, I am sure, the ultimate judgment of this great
British people. ...
Stocks on hand and in sight for the British zone at the time I left London
were so low that by today there would not have been a ton of bread grains
left in British-occupied Germany. That was the position. In such condi-
tions we obviously could not have maintained our share in the occupation.
It would have fallen to pieces; it could not have gone on. Therefore, I can
claim, and I do claim, that as a result of the Washington talks this-threat
to the prestige and security of the British position in occupied Germany has
now been averted. . .
Supplies for the British zone are again flowing at a rate sufficient at least
to maintain distribution of food at the present level, low as that is. India
was also faced with a breakdown of rationing in many Provinces during July
and August. Here again there is good reason to suppose that the threat of
breakdown has been averted. I earnestly hope so. At any rate, the situation
is materially better and will be materially better than it was.
INDIA'S POSITION NOW
I have been pressed to give the figures for India and the British zone.
I am now going to give them, and I am very delighted to give them . .
With regard to India, the quantity of wheat and coarse grain recom-
World Food Situation
mended over the five months from May to September was 1,165,000 tons,
exclusive of the allocations of rice which the Combined Food Board will be
able to make available during the period in question.
The Leader of the Opposition (Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill): Are the
figures which the right hon. Gentleman has just given additional?
Mr. Morrison: The rice is additional to that figure ....
These figures are less than India asked for. But what else could we do
in a situation where we have such a deficiency, after screening, of some
3,500,000 tons of wheat? Cuts had to be made. That is why we had to make
the cut of 200,000 tons. We could not help it. . .
The 1,165,000 tons is the total allocation. . It is the total program
provision, or recommendation for India for May to September. There is
no addition of any previous commitments. That is the total for this period.
I would only say that it is an infinitely firmer provision than ever before.
It is accepted by the three Governments . .
India did ask for more. I myself, of my own knowledge, cannot answer
for the rightness of the Indian claim, neither can I answer for other countries
abroad, but it was bound to be less, because the supplies are simply not
there . .
Moreover, whatever the program was, India was not in fact being well
supplied. The shipments to India from January to April were 329,000 tons
of bread grains. The agreement, if fully implemented, will give a total of
approximately 1,500,000 tons for January to September, 1946, apart from
rice, and this compares with imports of wheat in 1944 of just over 600,000
tons and in 1945 of 759,000 tons, and with pre-war imports of wheat, flour and
rice altogether of about 1,500,000 tons. Thus, in spite of the world-wide
crisis, India's lost rice imports are being more than made up in wheat sup-
plies. . .
It must be remembered that before I went to Washington the only reason-
ably reliable bread grain shipments in sight for India were about 100,000
tons. That was mainly wheat and flour from Australia, with one cargo of
Argentine maize. The later months threatened to be as bad or worse: pros-
pects now, on the basis of the agreement, are about 300,000 tons, and the
new rate represents roughly 60 per cent I can give this figure of India's
stated minimum requirement, as against 20 per cent in sight, at the most,
before I went to Washington. I think that is as much information as I can
REDISTRIBUTION OF CLAIMS
Now 1 come to the British zone of Germany. Here the quantity recom-
mended for shipment for the same period, May to September, was 675,000
tons. I do not want the Committee to think that I did a bargain on India
and Germany against 200,000 tons from the United Kingdom. We tried not
to get into a haggling market spirit about this, nor did we try to do a deal.
I sat down with my advisers, and the United States Administration sat down
with their advisers, in the spirit of saying, "Here is an awful problem; we
have to lift it on a high level; what can we. do to solve it? How can
all of us help and make our contribution to the solution of the problem?"
British Speeches of the Day [MR. H. MORmISON]
I therefore make no claim that I gave up 200,000 tons out of a program -
out of a hope and got something else in return. We were trying to solve
the problem, and it was in that spirit that the discussions proceeded.
I should emphasize that sources of supply for these quantities have not
yet been determined, and that since a substantial deficit still remains on world
account it does not follow that these actual quantities will be fully realized
in practice, unless additional supplies can be made available sufficient to make
good the deficit. As stated in the communique, the two Governments are
resolved to do everything in their power to secure those additional supplies.
In so far as these efforts fail to achieve their purpose, the net deficiency will
not be met wholly at the expense of those two claimants but will be spread,
so far as practicable, among claimant countries generally. The Committee
will be glad to learn that since my discussions in Washington the United
States Government has found it possible to make available for India and the
British zone of Germany appreciable quantities of wheat and coarse grain
for early shipment.
BREAD AND FLOUR RATIONING
The Minister of Food (Mr. John Strachey): I would like to go straight
on to the most important point we have before us, which is the decision on
bread and flour rationing which has been arrived at by His Majesty's Gov-
ernment. The bare fact of that decision was announced by my right hon.
Friend the Leader of the House today. I would like to make perfectly clear
what that decision is. The Government have decided to authorize my De-
partment to proceed at once with full preparation and consultation on a
scheme of bread and flour rationing. . If there is the slightest risk or
danger of there being those grave consequences mentioned by the right hon.
Gentleman the Member for Southport of any actual shortage of fundamental
foodstuffs in this country without rationing, then unquestionably the decision
will be to ration.
We shall certainly take no risks whatever in a matter of this gravity. It
Would perhaps be unnecessary for me to say that it would be criminally irre-
sponsible on the part of the Government if they flinched from a hard decision
of this sort, if they put off the evil day and hoped for the best. We shall look
at our margins most conservatively and carefully and take our decisions in
that light. It is quite true that if all went well the factors are many and
complex we should probably be in a position to get through without the
institution of bread and flour rationing. It may be so. But most of these
factors are not in our control. Most of them depend on events, the seasons,
the capacity of governments to move great stocks of food over great distances,
and the most important of these factors are not in our control. Therefore,
I repeat that we shall play safe, and it may well be that when we come to
review this situation in a few weeks' time the Government's decision will have
to be to put into effect our plans for bread and flour rationing. In view of that
possibility, I would, therefore, like to say a few words about what the ration-
ing of bread, which we have never had in this country . would mean. ...
World Food Situation
THE PURPOSE AND VALUE OF RATIONING
The purpose of rationing, of course, is precisely to ensure that the people
of Britain do not lack for food, and that everyone will receive his fair share
of the available supplies. In a word, the purpose of rationing is to give
security for our daily bread, and, therefore, if bread rationing comes, it
should be taken as I am quite sure it will be taken by the people of this
country as a security measure. Far from it being anything alarming, it will
be the assurance that this Government will see that in this period of greatest
difficulty the people of this country are fed. The purpose is, as my right
hon. Friend has said already, above all, to give us control of the situation.
If I may use a simile, we are sailing during the next three months into a storm
area. We do not know whether the storm will hit this country in full force,
but we are determined to go into that storm area with the capacity and the
ability to shorten sail at the shortest notice if that proves necessary. That is
why we may well find it wise to institute such a scheme even, as it might prove,
unnecessarily or even prematurely, rather than to err on the other side.
The other thing I would say about rationing is and I think hon. Mem-
bers on both sides of the Committee will bear me out here that all experi-
ence shows that when one faces a situation of shortage, or potential shortage,
rationing with all its disadvantages and difficulties is the only proper and
right way to meet the situation. . .
We do not believe that a voluntary scheme of economy such as my Depart-
ment has had in operation during the last few weeks, which may be valuable
up to a certain point, can ever be fully satisfactory. . The only possible
fair way of dealing with this situation, if it arises in its full force, is a system
of rationing such as we have had in regard to other commodities, almost as
essential as bread stuffs; a system such as we in this country have known how
to administer with the utmost fairness and I pay tribute to my distinguished
predecessors during the war years and after in this respect in which the
people of this country have the utmost confidence, a system, as has been
said repeatedly in this Debate, which has been the admiration of the whole
world. Therefore, we can be confident that if a bread rationing scheme is
introduced it will be introduced on the standards of fairness and of efficiency
on which the previous rationing schemes have been introduced. . .
My right hon. Friend (the Minister of Agriculture) is already undertak-
ing the development of cereal cultivation in this country for the following
harvest. He has set a target of 21 million acres additional, and has passed
legislation, as the House knows, for that purpose and for appropriate plough-
ing-up grants. Therefore, I have his utmost support in the critical situation
which faces us; we are helping ourselves, in this country, to the very utmost
degree . .
My right hon. Friend has just authorized me to say that he feels confident
that the labor situation this harvest will make it possible for the farmers to
deliver the goods. ...
"IT TOLLS FOR THEE"
This Debate, if it has done nothing else, has made all sides of the Commit-
tee realize, and I hope it will make the world realize, the very great sacrifices
British Speeches of the Day [MR. STRACHEY]
which this country has made to alleviate world conditions. I believe that
the Lord President's visit has done much to relieve India I cannot put it
higher than that, because that problem is of tragic magnitude which none
of us can hope to solve and to rescue the British zone in Germany from a
desperate situation, which was one which could not be postponed; it was
coming on very soon. . .
Famine, like peace, will be found to be indivisible. We shall find that it
is just as much in our interest to mobilize the resources of the world to fight
world famine as it was to mobilize them for defense. But I do not for one
moment subscribe to the doctrine that we should do these things only with
self-interest as the motive. This is one of the cases where practical hard-
headed reasons and reasons of common humanity combine to point in the
same direction. In the face of famine we shall find that it is really true that
we are all members one of another. In the face of famine that is true of
all men even though the color of their skins may be different and some may
live in India, and even though we were fighting against some of them' yester-
day. At this juncture we of the Anglo-Saxon race would do well to remem-
ber the words of a great British divine of the seventeenth century, words
which by a happy coincidence have been made live again through one of the
great novelists of America who used them in a title of a fine book of his. I
refer to these words:
"Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and, therefore,
never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee."
Make no mistake about it the bell of hunger and of famine is tolling or will
toll for many in different parts of the world and over many parts of Europe
today. We as a nation are deeply and irrevocably involved in mankind.
Therefore, in this crisis in man's fate and it is a crisis in man's fate as
in the last crisis, we of this nation shall play our part and carry manfully
burdens which the world may well think insupportable.
[House of Commons Debates]
QUESTION TIME IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
The first hour of every sitting day in the House of Commons is
devoted to answering questions which Members of Parliament put
to Ministers. A selection of some of the questions asked during
May, 1946, is included below, together with the Ministers' answers.
HONG KONG (PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES)
Mr. Driberg (Labor) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether
he has any statement to make on constitutional changes in Hong Kong.
The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Hall): Yes, Sir. His Majesty's
Government have under consideration the means by which, in Hong Kong as
elsewhere in the Colonial Empire, the inhabitants of the territory can be
given a fuller and more responsible share in the management of their own
affairs. The Governor has accordingly been instructed to examine the whole
Question Time in the House of Commons
question in consultation with representatives of all sections of the com-
munity and to submit a report at an early date, bearing in mind the policy
of His Majesty's Government that the Constitution should be revised on a
more liberal basis as soon as possible. The aim will be to settle and to an-
nounce not later than the end of this year the principles on which that revi-
sion should be based.
[May z, z946]
ANIMAL FEEDING STUFFS
Mr. Hurd (Conservative) asked the Minister of Agriculture if he has any
statement to make about the position of pig and poultry keepers; and if the
Government will compensate those who are driven out of business by the
further cut in feeding-stuff rations.
The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. T. Williams): Some immediate changes
in the arrangements for feeding-stuff rations in Great Britain during the sum-
mer period have been made necessary by the reduction in the supply of ani-
mal feeding-stuffs which will result from the flour conservation measures
announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food on 2nd May. Basic
rations for farm pigs and poultry will have to be reduced in July, August and
September to quantities sufficient for one-twelfth of pre-war numbers. Other
classes of stock will also be affected.
[May 7, 1946]
FOOD FOR AUSTRIA
Miss Lee (Labor) asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what
emergency measures are being taken to meet the threat of famine in parts of
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. J. B. Hynd): UNRRA has
recently accepted responsibility for the provision of essential food imports
into Austria. We are doing all we can to help. Two food ships have been
diverted to Trieste by His Majesty's Government. Three thousand seven
hundred and fifty tons of flour have been loaned from British Army stocks.
The whole of the stocks held by the British element of the Allied Commission
for Austria have been made available to UNRRA, for distribution by the
Austrian authorities. Twenty thousand pounds is being spent in Switzer-
land by the Aid to Austria Appeal Fund to help meet the immediate emer-
Miss Lee: While some of us in this country welcome the quite exceptional
measures which are being taken by the Chancellor and the Foreign Secre-
tary to meet the situation in Austria, is my hon. Friend satisfied that the
Austrian public itself is well enough informed, and will he see that there
is greater publicity, so that these facts may be made better known?
Mr: Hynd: I have every reason to believe that the information conveyed in
this answer will be suitably publicized in Austria.
[May 7, 19461
British Speeches of the Day
REPORT ON VISIT TO AMERICA
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Churchill) asked the Lord President
of the Council whether he has any statement to make on his recent Mission
to the Government of the United States and to His Majesty's Government in
Canada in relation to the world food situation.
The Lord President of the Council (Mr. H. Morrison): Yes, Sir. I am glad
to take this early opportunity of reporting to the House on my Mission to
the United States and Canada.
In view of the gravity of the world food situation, the Government con-
sidered that special inter-Governmental talks at a high level were necessary
through the United Kingdom, United States and Canadian Governments,
that is, the three Governments to whom the Combined Food Board reports.
On our initiative, the United States and Canadian Governments have now
discussed with us, at a high level, the most urgent elements in the world
food and agriculture problem with particular reference to wheat, and the
measures which they and we are adopting to meet the menace.
There has been a temptation to say that a matter like agriculture is the
exclusive concern of each nation, but the facts are demolishing this attitude.
I told the President, and I told His Majesty's Government in Canada, that
there was no aspect of British food and agriculture with any bearing on the
prevention of famine which I was not willing to discuss with a view to their
making criticisms and suggestions. I made it no less clear that I counted
on them to take the same attitude. Both Governments showed themselves
fully aware of this need for raising the fight against famine not only to the
highest level of priority, but also to a plane above all petty considerations of
national pride. I wanted to find out whether we were supposed to be deal-
ing with famine on the basis of each nation contributing to the full extent
of its ability, whatever inconveniences and even hardships might have to be
faced in the process. I had the dearest assurances from both the United
States and Canadian Governments that they were resolved to work with us
on that footing.
In these circumstances my colleagues in the Government and I felt, as I
am sure the House will feel, that Britain could neither stand aside, nor be
asked to bear an unwarrantable burden or to make disproportionate sacri-
fices. I laid detailed evidence before the United States Government to show
that we in Britain have, in proportion to our resources, given the world a
lead in this matter. Our agricultural community is in all the circumstances
doing wonders both in production and in loyal observance of measures for
the maximum production of food from farms. The British consumer also
has accepted more austerity for more years and has played the game better
in the fair working of a fair rationing scheme than any other body of con-
sumers. . .
In a starving world we cannot defend to ourselves quite apart from
what other nations might think any policy except aid to the utmost extent
of our ability. This is and has been our policy, and I was very glad to find
a deep conviction of this, not only in Canada, but in the United States. Our
present and past sacrifices have hurt, but they have certainly given us a
remarkable degree of moral leadership in this matter among the nations of
Question Time in the House of Commons
INDIA AND THE BRITISH ZONE IN GERMANY
The immediate occasion of my mission to Washington was the emergence
of some disturbing misunderstandings regarding responsibility for, and abil-
ity to supply, India to meet whose urgent needs the Government are most
anxious to do everything possible and the British zone of Germany. Ship-
ments to these areas from the United States were falling to a very low level.
We were confronted with seeing them starve, with all the political, economic
and military consequences, or with trying to keep them alive by diversions
from our own meager resources, as we have already had to do, or with finding
some basis on which the United States Government could accept responsi-
bility for these areas to the same extent as for any other.
Clearly there was no tolerable alternative to the third of these courses,
and it is that course which will now be followed. The United States Gov-
ernment have now felt able to associate themselves unreservedly with the task
of supplying India and the British zone of Germany to the full extent that
available resources allow and they have instructed their representatives on
the Combined Food Board accordingly. So far as Germany is concerned they
have accepted the proposition that there should not be a starving or a more
underfed British zone in Germany side by side with an American zone which
is getting assured food supplies, but that both zones shall work to the same
standard of rationing and shall have the same degree of assurance that their
supplies will not suddenly come to an end.
In order to secure this very valuable assistance to these two areas, it was
essential to put the United States Government in a position to defend the
United Kingdom program without reservation, as being one which contained
no element out of which relief for Germany and India could reasonably be
expected. It was widely felt in the United States that since V-E Day we had
continued to maintain stocks at an unnecessarily high level, and that in
view of the imminent world famine threat and the fact that most other na-
tions claim to be getting along on no more than three or four weeks' supply,
we should make some contribution, not from cutting our consumption but
by economizing the amount of wheat locked up in that long pipe-line, which
stretches from the prairies, through the Great Lakes to the ports, mills, baker-
ies and finally stomachs in the United Kingdom.
REDUCTION OF BRITISH CLAIM FOR GRAIN
I explained to the United States Government with the utmost force and
in detail why we feel that the exceptional effort now being made by the
British people to carry out their commitments for winning the peace cannot
be assured without approximately the quantity of wheat which is now mov-
ing through the pipe-line. I did not feel that in spite of having gone so far
earlier, the British people would wish to be represented as the only ones
who were making no abatement of any sort in their current demands on the
Combined Food Board, in view of the vast gap of nearly three-quarters of a
million tons monthly between the screened demands for bread grains dur-
ing the period from May to September and the world supplies in sight for
the same period.
Therefore, with the authority of the Government, I most reluctantly
British Speeches of the Day
agreed to reduce our import claims during the period up to September by
200,000 tons as an outright sacrifice without any condition of replacement.
. We have not, in fact, given up a single ton which was either here or on
the way here, or either owned by or allocated to the United Kingdom. What
we have done is to reduce that part of our claims which was outstanding and
not covered by supplies already acquired or earmarked. . .
In such an emergency it seems not unreasonable that we might expect to
make an economy of this limited proportion by emergency measures of
the kind which had to be adopted in blitz conditions when the dangers to
the United Nations on the food front were certainly no greater than they
are now. I can make no promises of any sort: all I can say is that if further
economies and sacrifices prove necessary it will not be for want of the utmost
possible administrative ingenuity and effort to avoid them.
CO-OPERATION IN OTHER COUNTRIES
Regrettable. as this cut in our import program is, it forms, as I have
shown, part of an agreement whose benefits promise to be substantial. The
United States Government have, moreover, agreed that the criticism that has
been run in America against the levels of United Kingdom stocks will now
be regarded by the Administration as definitely and finally met by the sacri-
fice which we have made. Our decisions which are, I am sure, right in
themselves- depended for their adoption on the mutual confidence that
there was no holding back in sacrifices on either side. It is very difficult and
probably unprofitable to try to measure the efforts of one country against
another, but I would say that the Americans are now most thoroughly aware
of the importance of diverting food to Europe and are making diversions
which, at least in some cases, are upsetting their own system of distribution
and are instrumental in closing some of their flour mills.
What is even more important, they have now changed the price ratio in
order that farmers may find it more profitable to sell grain as human food
rather than to feed it to livestock. As the President said to me, "When
something must be done we usually do it." We recall with admiration how
magnificently the American people delivered the goods during the war, and
it would really be most unfair to assume that these measures which are now
being applied with so much energy throughout the United States will not
in due course give the results which the United States Government are deter-
mined to achieve.
His Majesty's Government in Canada readily associated themselves with
the general lines of the conclusions reached in Washington, at which in fact
their own Ambassador had been present. A joint announcement to this
effect was issued in Ottawa on 20th May and will be circulated in the OFFICIAL
REPORT. Canada is, of course, not only a huge exporter of wheat and other
foods, but is very export-minded. On grounds both of interest and of
sentiment, she desires above all to export the utmost possible to the United
Kingdom, while the nature of the Canadian administration and control over
wheat makes the problem of ways and means less difficult than it is in the
United States. I cannot speak too highly of the encouragement which we
are receiving from Canada. Their cordiality and affection for this country
and the spirit in which they are facing political difficulties in order to deliver
Question Time in the House of Commons
the wheat are wonderful. I was particularly glad to meet Mr. James Gard-
iner, the Dominion Minister of Agriculture, and to be personally convinced
that we are moving abreast in these matters.
In conclusion I would say that if my talks with the United States and
Canadian Governments are any guide, we are now on the way to creating the
same type of spirit and urgency about food for winning the peace which we
created for resources for winning the war. It is becoming more and more
obvious that the world must, by concerted measures and sacrifices, get on
top of famine if famine is not very shortly to get on top of the world. In
such a situation the world looks to all producing countries to do their utmost
to implement all measures which, in their particular circumstances, are cal-
culated to make available the greatest supply of bread grains. It looks to
all receiving countries to see to it that the supplies are soundly distributed
and to take vigorous steps to smash the black market. And only if both the
producing and the receiving countries respond will the crisis be overcome
and the world be able to turn to more constructive and congenial tasks....
Mr. Churchill: I should like to ask the Lord President whether he can give
us any idea now of the precise amount in tonnage of American wheat which
will be diverted to the British zone in Germany, or, at any rate, to India?
Mr. Morrison: I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not press me on
that point; it would not be convenient .... I think that it would complicate
the task of the Combined Food Board, and it might be embarrassing to our
interests, if I were to divulge these figures, at this stage.
Mr. Churchill: No difficulty appears to attach to divulging the figure of
200,000 tons, which we are to sacrifice. Naturally, we should like something
more than this very vague statement, as to the results we are to achieve by
this new sacrifice, and, as the right hon. Gentleman, I believe, has himself
described it, "very great gamble." Can we have nothing more precise than
the vague words which he has used?
Mr. Morrison: I can only say that the German figure will, of course, be a
substantial one. It must be so. In the case of India, I will say this: The
allotments which the United States and Canadian Governments have agreed
to support will secure to India shipments in 1946 at a very much higher rate
than in any previous year, despite the acute world shortage of all cereals. I
do not think that I ought to go further than that ....
Mr. Churchill: I will not press the right hon. Gentleman further, at the
moment, but I must register the unsatisfactory position whereby very heavy
and precise sacrifices are made by us, and we are given nothing but the
rigmarole which the right hon. Gentleman was able to read out just now-
[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw"; "Play the game"]-nothing but the rigmarole,
which he was pleased to read out just now I apply that to the particular
phrase which he used in giving us a little more information and if anyone
can see any meaning in it, from beginning to end, I shall be most interested.
.. We should like to have a little time to consider it, and perhaps an an-
nouncement can be made on Monday, after discussions have taken place
through the usual channels, as to whether a Debate should be arranged on the
subject or not. . .
British Speeches of the Day
Mr. R. R. Stokes (Labor): Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I believe
the majority of the House and of the people in the country would wish to
congratulate the Lord President on the contribution which he has made
towards the starving people of Europe-[HoN. MEMBERS: "Speech."] Arising
out of that, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that the
country is behind him in this, and whether he can now give some indication
as to what further contributions could be made if, for instance, the people
were asked to accept the rationing of bread?
Mr. Morrison: I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. .. With regard to
the rationing of bread, I can only say that that would be a matter for answer
by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food .... It would not, I think,
be appropriate for me to make any statement on that point. . .
[May 23, 946]
TRADE UNIONS IN THE BRITISH ZONE
Mr. Cocks (Labor) asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether
it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to encourage the formation of
trades union organizations in the British zone of Germany; and what prog-
ress has been made in this direction.
Mr. R. J. Taylor (Lord of the Treasury): The reply to the Question is:
Yes, Sir, that is our policy. One hundred and nineteen trade unions are already
functioning in our Zone, and a further 159 are in the early stages of formation.
Total membership now exceeds 700,000 and is increasing daily. Trade union
representatives serve on the German Zonal Council which has been set up
to advise the British authorities. They also participate in the work of Ger-
man de-Nazification panels and committees.
[May 28, 1946]
OTHER SPEECHES AND DEBATES IN MAY, 1946
Texts can be consulted in the Library of British Information Services.
Those speeches delivered in the House of Lords or the House of Commons
are published in full in "Hansard," copies of which may be bought through
B.I.S. For prices see last page.
NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE BILL
House of Commons, May 1 (Debate resumed). Mr. Key (Parlia-
mentary Secretary to Ministry of Health), etc. (Debate ended
NEW TOWNS BILL
House of Commons, May 8. Mr. Silkin.
WORLD ALLOCATIONS OF RICE
House of Commons, May 8. Sir B. Smith (then Minister of Food).
REOPENING OF THE TATE GALLERY
Mr. Bevin. London, April 10.
Other Speeches and Debates
TRADE DISPUTES AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Sir H. Shawcross (Attorney General). Eastbourne, May 12.
CALORIE TABLES FOR GERMANY AND AUSTRIA
House of Commons, May 13. Mr. Hynd.
Mr. G. Tomlinson (Minister of Works). Broadcast, May 13.
RICE IN SIAM
House of Commons, May 15. Sir B. Smith.
STATEMENT OF CABINET MISSION TO INDIA
House of Commons, May 16. Mr. Attlee.
CABINET MISSION'S PLAN FOR INDIA
Sir S. Cripps (President of the Board of Trade). Statement at
press conference. New Delhi, May 16.
INTER-SERVICES RECRUITING CAMPAIGN
Mr. Lawson (Secretary of State for War). Broadcast, May 16.
A BLUEPRINT FOR FREEDOM
Viscount Wavell (Viceroy of India). Broadcast. New Delhi,
DISPLACED PERSONS IN BRITISH ZONE
House of Commons, May 20. Mr. Hynd.
WITHDRAWAL OF BRITISH AND INDIAN TROOPS FROM N. E. I.
House of Commons, May 21. Mr. Bellenger (Financial Secretary,
IRON AND STEEL INDUSTRY
House of Commons, May 27. Mr. Wilmot (Minister of Supply),
Sir A. Duncan, etc.
House of Commons, May 27. Mr. McNeil (Under-Secretary of
State for Foreign Affairs), etc.
REFUGEE CHILDREN ADMITTED TO GREAT BRITAIN
House of Commons, May 30. Mr. Ede (Home Secretary).
House of Commons, May 30. Mr. Isaacs (Minister of Labor).
Official Report of Parliamentary Debates
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