§ Motion made, and Question proposed. "That this House do now adjourn"—[Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.]
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)
I hope that the whole House will understand, as I am sure every hon. and right hon. Gentleman who has spoken from this Box for the first time will understand, the ordeal of a Minister's first speech from the Treasury Bench. The House is always generous in these circumstances, and, therefore, I ask for a small measure of indulgence.
I think it would be for the convenience of the House if I were to deal with the principal issues which were raised by hon. Members yesterday and then perhaps elaborate on one or two of the themes with which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary dealt in the course of his opening speech. There seem to me to be two issues which kept on recurring through yesterday's debate. The first was the question of aid to what have come to be called the "backward areas" of the world, and the second was the role of Germany in the European community.
To deal, first, with aid to backward areas; many hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, and in particular the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) and Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker), spoke yesterday of the pressing need to bring help to the under-developed areas of the world. As every hon. Member will agree, the need is certainly pressing. It is not simply because it is vital for us, the free nations of the West, to raise the standard of living of all those peoples who might otherwise succumb to Communism.
That is certainly vital, and I agree with those who said that these plans should be regarded as complementary to our defence effort. But I will go further. Helping the under-developed areas of the world is a task which we are glad to tackle for its own sake, because we believe that the peoples of these areas are entitled to all the help that we can give them.
But here let me make two important qualifications. First, no country, however wealthy—and certainly not this 231 country in its present straitened circumstances—can be expected to invest money without adequate security. My, right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke yesterday of the achievement of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in bringing great benefits to Persia, but the treatment meted out to this Company is hardly calculated to encourage future enterprise or investment of this kind. It is thus a blow not only to us but to the Persian people themselves and to all peoples who stand, and hope, to gain from Western help.
My second qualification is this. We cannot do more than our own resources permit, and as long as they remain as limited as they are today the help that we can afford to give to others must equally be strictly limited. Here, I join with the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) in his remark, "Let us have a little help for the natives of Wednesbury." I would only add, "Let us have a little help also for the natives of Melton."
§ Mr. Nutting
Yes, and Scotland.
Moreover, I hope that, for their part, the under-developed countries will try to help themselves a little more by improving the conditions for domestic financing, by drawing up plans, and by turning their attention to improvements which do not require any vast expenditure on capital equipment, and so on. Many of the under-developed countries, which are, after all, large primary producers, are now earning large incomes as a result of high world prices for food and raw materials, and their need for external finance is, therefore, consequently reduced.
Despite all our difficulties, there is much that we have done in this matter, and there is much that we are doing. For instance, there is the Colombo Plan, which arose from the far-sighted wisdom and generous initiative of the Australian Government. We are anxious to do all that our resources permit to ensure the success of this initiative, and we are very much alive to the urgent need to do our utmost to further the economic development of South and South-East Asia. Assistance under the Colombo Plan from 232 this country has been estimated at some £300 million over the next six years, of which £255 million would be released from the sterling balances.
At the same time, let us also recall that this House has voted £140 million for colonial welfare and development. As. The House will remember, 1st July this year was the opening day of the six year period for which the Colombo Plan was drawn up. His Majesty's Government are now considering, with the other member Governments, arrangements for a meeting of the Consultative Committee to be held early next year to review the progress of the Plan.
In the Middle East, as in South-East Asia, poverty, disease and illiteracy are some of the basic causes of the present political instability. Since the end of the war it has been His Majesty's Government's policy to co-operate with and assist Middle East Governments to raise the standard of living of their peoples and to promote schemes for economic development. To carry out this policy, which was an earlier version of the American Point Four programme, the Development Division of the British Middle East Office was set up in 1946. I was glad to hear last night kindly references to the job which this office had done.
The Development Division consists of a team of experts in nearly every subject under the sun, such subjects as agriculture, health, labour, statistics, entomology, forestry, animal husbandry, and so on, whose task it is to give advice to Middle East Governments at their request. These experts have done most useful work and the office has become, in effect, the coordinating point for British technical assistance activities throughout the area, and it is the hope of His Majesty's Government that they will be able to continue this valuable contribution to the economic and social development of that part of the world.
There is another aspect of the Middle East problem on which I should like to say one or two words, and that is the problem of the joint defence of the area. My right hon. Friend and I were glad to note yesterday the general support which the House gave to the proposal made by Britain, the United States, France and Turkey for a combined defence organisation in the Middle East. We were also glad to note the hope expressed by hon. 233 Members that arrangements might be made within the framework of this proposal which could supersede certain of the rights which we hold at present under our Treaty with Egypt.
As my right hon. Friend said, three Commonwealth countries—Australia, South Africa and New Zealand—support the plan, and we hope that the other states in the Middle Eastern area will also wish to be closely associated with it. We sincerely and deeply regret Asia's hasty first reaction and her rejection of the proposal.
§ Mr. Nutting
I am obliged to the hon. Member. I was referring to Egypt.
We hope that in looking at this proposal again in a calmer mood Egypt will come to see its value and may be willing to discuss it as a serious and realistic plan. It must surely be clear to everyone, and especially to Egypt, that the vital Middle East area cannot be left undefended. Egypt herself and the Canal Zone, with its importance to international communications, form the heart of the area and they must be secure.
Our idea is that these joint defence arrangements in the Middle East will be a protective "umbrella" for these unguarded places and a shelter beneath which all states whose interests are in the area can make an individual contribution to its safety. The sponsors of the plan have no wish whatsoever to interfere in the internal affairs of the Middle Eastern countries but these countries must know that they are not in a position to defend themselves effectively without assistance and unless they band themselves together in some joint organisation.
That is why we hope that they will understand the true purpose of our plan and will not entertain needless fears that their sovereignty will be affected in any way. We hope that when the time comes to set up this organisation in the Middle East all the nations in the area will see their way to co-operate fully with us in organising their joint defence.
I now turn to the question of Germany's rôle in the European community, the other theme which seems to emerge constantly from yesterday's debate. On this question I should like to say first of all, a 234 word about the apparent contrast between our proclaimed desire to see a re-unified Germany while at the same time we pursue plans to incorporate Germany into the European defence system. It has been suggested that the Russians could not agree to all-German elections when an all-German Government formed after the elections was to be a part of free Europe.
Why not? I submit, with respect, that this suggestion ignores some very pertinent facts. It takes into account the fact that the Russians may well be loth to abandon the totalitarian régime which they have established in their zone of occupation, but it completely ignores, for instance, that armed forces in Eastern Germany have been a fait accompli for a very long time now and that the so-called German Democratic Republic—the East German Republic, has been incorporated by means of a number of bilateral treaties into the Soviet satellite system. In my view, therefore, it would be more proper to ask how the Russians and the East German authorities can pursue the goal of German unity when the Soviet Zone is already so heavily mortgaged.
In point of fact, of course, the position is that, if free all-German elections are held and an all-German Government results, it will be for that Government to decide on its future relations with both East and West. One reason why it has so far not been possible to reach any agreement on the holding of all-German elections is that the proposals emanating from Eastern Germany offer no guarantee whatever that any all-German Government set up would be free to make this decision for itself.
Moreover, the proposals made to the United Nations organisation for a commission to investigate the possibility of free elections in East and West Germany results not from British or French or American initiative but from the initiative of the West German Chancellor himself and the West German Government. If the authorities in East Germany are really sincere and serious in their expressed wish to see a united Germany, then surely it is up to Mr. Vyshinsky to accept this proposal in the United Nations Assembly and not, as he has so far done, to oppose even its admission to the agenda of the Assembly.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that an all-German Government should be permitted to build up defence forces of its own if it so wished, that a united Germany should be allowed to have defence forces?
§ Mr. Nutting
We have not reached that stage yet. What I have said is that it would be for the all-German Government, when it is formed, to decide what its relations shall be as between East and West. It will be for the German Government to decide what its relations shall be and what armed forces it will require to make those relations secure.
Meanwhile, what are we to do? I find myself in complete agreement with the right hon. Member for Derby, South, who pointed out yesterday that while we await agreement on the re-unification of Germany, it would be positively dangerous to sit back and have no policy in Germany at all. We cannot afford to leave a vacuum in Western Germany while we wait for an event which may never take place. No one except the Communists could benefit from that vacuum.
The French certainly are opposed to any such idea. We wish, of course, to see Germany re-united, but only if adequate safeguards are given that she can be reunited on a basis which would ensure the protection of the individual and national liberties of the German people. Until these safeguards exist, we are bound to take the necessary steps to ensure the defence of the Federal Republic.
There is one general point with which I must deal arising out of the speech of the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot). We were urged by the hon. Member not only to make a radical change in the whole of our own foreign policy, but, at the same time, to secure a similar change in the policy of the United States Government. I am bound to say after hearing the hon. Member's speech and reading it this morning in HANSARD, that he did not make out a very good case; nor did he hold out much hope—any real hope—that any such change would be followed by a change of heart on the part of the Soviet world. Indeed, he said:It may be that we will fail …; it may be that the Russians will prove intransigent in 236 Germany and that the Chinese will prove intransigent in the Far East. It may be; but let us at least make sure there is no intransigence on our part that will prevent an agreement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November. 1951; Vol 494, c. 155.]The only reason the hon. Member could give for such a change was that what he described as the present policies had led us to the present impasse.
But the hon. Member talks as if the present policies had been in operation since 1945, which is, of course, far from being the case. The North Atlantic Treaty, Western Union, the Brussels Treaty—all the agreements and arrangements made within the Western world for their mutual defence—have all resulted not from any desire on our part to threaten anyone, but from the threats to which we have found ourselves exposed. The real architects of the North Atlantic Treaty, as my right hon. Friend said yesterday, are the Russians, and not the Allies.
What happened before these agreements and arrangements were made? What happened when we were disarming? Were the Russians disarming? Were the Soviet States all sweet reasonableness? Were they withdrawing or reducing their occupation forces in Eastern Europe? Had they been doing so, there would have been no need for the Western world to change its policy; there would have been no need for the North Atlantic Treaty, and no need for us to seek protection in strength.
But now, the United States, France and ourselves have offered a change of policy. We have offered certain disarmament proposals which go a long way to meeting previous Soviet views. But what kind of reception do these proposals have at the hands of Mr. Vyshinsky? To say the very least, it has hardly been encouraging.
As most hon. and right hon. Members will agree, there can be no alternative before His Majesty's Government, in a world threatened and divided as it is today, but to continue their efforts to build up their collective strength, while, at the same time, remaining ready and willing to negotiate upon any problem where negotiation might bring forth fruitful results, whether it be on disarmament or on the Austrian Treaty, on the reunification of Germany, or on any other definite specific problem which divides the world today. We should be taking 237 upon ourselves a terrible responsibility if we were to fail to play our part in leading the defence of the free world—a responsibility and a risk for the lives and safety, perhaps, of generations to come, both in Britain and in Europe.
It is because we recognise these responsibilities to Europe that we have re-affirmed the terms of the Washington Declaration of last September, expressing Britain's desireto establish the closest possible association with the European Continental community at all stages of its development.To this end, we shall discuss with the Governments concerned ways and means of associating ourselves with the Schuman Plan, once it has been ratified by all the Governments who signed the Treaty which gives effect to it. Indeed, we shall do all in our power to encourage the movement towards a closer association of the nations of Western Europe, both in the economic and in the military fields.
I am glad to see in the latter context that progress has been made in the discussions in Paris upon the project for a European Army within the framework of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. As the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) truly said yesterday, Germany is a vital element in all these arrangements; and it is through projects such as the European Army and the Schuman Plan that we hope to see Germany playing a full, active and peaceable role within the European community.
The position of Britain in these arrangements is, of course, quite unique, for we are a part, and an essential part, of what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary once called the three great unities of the world: the unity across the Atlantic, the unity within the British Commonwealth and Empire, and the unity with Western Europe. We cannot, therefore, devote ourselves exclusively to any one of these three groupings, for it is through us, and through our playing our part in each of them, that the greater unity of all these three communities can be knit and welded into one. In short, we owe it to ourselves and to the free world beyond our shores to lead. That duty we shall discharge.
In conclusion, I should like to refer to a question which was asked of my right 238 hon. Friend by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), who asked us to beware of wishful thinking and over-optimism. I hardly think that there was anything which could be called over-optimistic about the Foreign Secretary's speech yesterday. I assure the House that there is no over-optimism, no tendency to wishful thinking, on the part of any Member of His Majesty's Government charged with our international relations.
But as my right hon. Friend said, we do not, and we shall not, yield to despair. The road we must travel to reach any settlement is long and uphill. There is no spectacular short cut available by which we may reach quick and easy solutions. Yet if we only could make an end to this business of diplomacy by diatribe, if we could only agree to make even the most modest beginning by discussing and agreeing upon some definite and limited problems, the sum of which has created this yawning gulf within the world, then the way might well gradually open to a general settlement. It is in this spirit that His Majesty's Government will continue their efforts, in the spirit of my right hon. Friend's speech to the United Nations Assembly, to bring the infinite blessing of peace to a tortured and distracted world.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Would the hon. Gentleman kindly deal with a matter which I raised in a Question to the Foreign Secretary yesterday, and to which I had hoped the right hon. Gentleman would attend? That is, the desirability of appointing a British civilian representative to take part in the peace talks now taking place in Korea. The Foreign Secretary promised to deal with this, but I think I am right in saying that he did not do so. Can the Under-Secretary say a word about it?
§ Mr. Nutting
My right hon. Friend gave a very full and careful exposition of the whole of the Korean business in his speech yesterday, but he has said that if the hon. and learned Member is still not clear about the position he will be prepared to make a further insertion into his speech tonight in order to deal with the point.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Mr. R. R. Stokes (Ipswich)
I should like to open my remarks by complimenting the Under-Secretary of State on his first innings at the Box. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I have a fellow feeling with him, for I well know my own what, I think, is called "anxiety neurosis," which afflicts so many of us here. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his performance and on his assurance.
Most of the things that the hon. Gentleman has said I shall hope to touch upon in my speech, except those that were answers to speeches made yesterday, but there is one point with which I should like to deal at once, and that is the hon. Gentleman's remarks about underdeveloped countries. I agree with the Under-Secretary, and, indeed, with the Foreign Secretary, that as far as possible under-developed countries should help themselves, and I certainly feel, from my experience of some of these countries, that they should not ignore the tremendous help given to them by this country in the past. I speak especially of Iran and Egypt. Having said that, however, let it be quite clear that we do not accept that under-developed countries can only be developed in future on the old basis of vast profits being made out of them by private adventures. I leave it at that.
I welcome, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), the speech made by the Foreign Secretary in Paris, and I wish him all success in his endeavours. He referred to the dreadful chasm that separates the East from the West and pleaded for better understanding between these two worlds. I feel that the more often it can be said that we are not "ganging up against anybody," as Ernest Bevin used to say, and that the whole of our programme is one for defence, forced on us quite unwillingly, the more likely it would seem that there is a chance of a better understanding coming about between us. Nobody will be more pleased than the people of this country—all of us—when the Iron Curtain is removed and we can mingle freely with the millions of people behind it.
I agree also with the right hon. Gentleman when he said that he does not expect anything to come about by spectacular gestures. I have in mind what I call "three-men meetings"—not that 240 there is any objection to three-men meetings in themselves if the ground has been properly prepared; on the contrary, they are a good thing. But I for one have a horror—this is not in any way a party point because, after all, everybody was involved—of such meetings as occurred at Teheran. To my mind, from the Teheran Conference arises most of the European unrest with which we are confronted today.
The Foreign Secretary yesterday, on Persia, declared the Government's willingness and determination to continue the negotiations in Iran just as soon as opportunity offers, and based his approach on three main conditions. These were, first, practicability, which he described as efficient operation at all stages so as to produce oil at the right time, in the right quantities, and at the right price. To that I would add, "and also of the right quality."
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that he would expect that the administration, at least, of the refinery, would be under British control? I do not know. I do not know if he will give an answer now, or later, or whether it is embarrassing, but it is one of the main points which were at issue during my discussions in Teheran and it would be an advantage for everyone to know what he had in mind in his remarks yesterday.
Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman laid down that there must be a fair share of benefits as between Iran and those who developed the oil industry and that it must be such as to permit the price of Persian oil to be competitive with the world's markets. Thirdly, he put in a plea for fair compensation which, as Mr. Harriman laid down, must, of necessity, be prompt, adequate and effective—otherwise, nationalisation only amounted to confiscation. I agree with the Foreign Secretary on all these points, which differ little, if at all, from the line of approach on which I endeavoured to work in Teheran and I hope, with him, that discussions will soon begin again.
I would warn my friends in Teheran—and I have many; we parted on no quarrelsome basis—that they had better hurry up for, as time goes on and arrangements are made, they will find that the world will arrive at ways and means of doing without their oil as other arrangements are made to replace it. May I say 241 something now about the actual negotiations as I have not yet had an opportunity of talking to the House about that visit since it took place? Here, I hope the House will appreciate that I have to depart from my quondam light and airy fashion of below the Gangway, when it did not matter so much what I said.
§ Mr. Stokes
The object of my visit was to try to settle on behalf of His Majesty's Government and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company the method of operation of a partnership in the oil industry within what was called the 20th March Law and the Harriman Formula. As reference to the Harriman Formula in the past has caused some confusion, I must explain that it formed a most fundamental point for the basis of the whole discussions in that, whereas in the March Law it was laid down that.all operations for exploration, extraction and exploitation (of oil) shall be in the hands of the Government.Mr. Harriman, after discussion at some length with the Mixed Oil Commission, got them to agree that the words "shall be in the hands of the Government." could be interpreted as under the "authority of the Government," which is not quite the same thing. This is important for in subsequent discussions it would seem to me that the Prime Minister himself had never really accepted the difference and that he was, in fact, conducting discussions with me with the Nine Point Law not very far from his mind. This became increasingly clear as negotiations continued.
That was not the only factor. It must also not be forgotten that the political situation in Teheran is anything but normal. There is something approaching a reign of terror there which makes it extremely difficult for the Government to do anything which the terrorists do not like. It would seem to me to have been clear that the terrorists did not accept the Harriman Formula and, whilst my negotiations were conducted on that basis, their basis was quite a different one, and this even though the Government had recognised the necessity to negotiate the manner in which the nationalisation law would be carried out in so far as it affected British interests.
242 It would be difficult for me, without doing damage, to go into very great detail of these discussions. I can only say to the Foreign Secretary that I did my best and that things were left in such a manner as to make it possible to start again on a friendly basis at any moment, which I still believe to be the case. I wish to deal now with one or two arguments which have been put forward, not necessarily in this House but elsewhere as well, with regard, first of all, to the use of force. The argument has been advanced that we should have remained in Abadan, whatever the circumstances, and, if necessary, used force to stay there. I can give three instances which seem to me to be absolutely unanswerable as to why this would have been—I will not say impossible—very unwise.
§ Mr. Stokes
Disastrous, if my hon. Friend likes, but I am trying not to overstate the matter.
Abadan consists of quite a large community, something of the order of 110,000 people and 37,000 workers actually in the refinery. Does anyone seriously imagine one could run an outfit, a venture, of that kind except with the continuing good will of everyone employed in it? In my view, it was absolutely out of the question. Secondly, the use of force might well have led—I should think it would have led—to another international dispute if not to war itself. If we had used it merely for the purpose of staying in Abadan against the wishes of the Iranian Government surely that Government would have appealed to the United Nations which, in turn, would have told us to take our troops away, and I cannot believe that that would be a satisfactory position in which to find ourselves.
Thirdly, had we used force, except for the purpose of protecting our own people, we would have had no backing in the world whatever. The United States certainly would not have backed us and we should have been accused by the United Nations of doing precisely what we accused the North Koreans of doing when they invaded the South.
Therefore, in all my negotiations I was very alive to the inadvisability of force—as, indeed, I think I can say, without betraying any secrets, was Mr. Harriman. 243 who was working with me. It never entered our minds that for material purposes force should be used. It is also argued that we ought to have gone to U.N.O. earlier. I do not know how many hon. and right hon. Members in this House have conducted high level negotiations. Negotiations with two people are difficult enough, but negotiations with three at the same time become very difficult and when one gets above that it is a long, tedious, and very dreary proceeding.
If the United Nations is to be allowed to succeed, surely disputes referred to it must be as few as possible and not as many as possible and then only put to the United Nations when the parties have exhausted every possibility of arriving at an arrangement between themselves. In fact, as the Foreign Secretary knows, Article 33 lays this down and anyone who understands the workings of the United Nations organisation will accept it.
In support of my contention that this last effort in Teheran was worthwhile—I emphasise that we should go right to the limit in our attempt to arrive at a solution before going to the United Nations—I can tell the House that up to as late a date as 20th August I had thought it possible to arrive at a solution but, after making great progress that day, something happened which altered the mind of the Prime Minister and I found on my return to the discussions the next day that no further progress was possible. [Interruption.] The Prime Minister of Iran, I am sorry if I did not make that clear.
He had made up his mind to refer my Eight Point Proposal, without any recommendation from himself, to the Majlis, which seemed a quite impossible thing to allow to happen. On that account the Eight Point Proposal was withdrawn. I told him I had come to negotiate with him and not with the Majlis. If he was prepared to put it to the Majlis with a recommendation that would be quite different, but he was not prepared to do so.
As the House knows, the discussions were then suspended, not on that point exactly, but particularly on the point, which had been emphasised to me by the whole of the British staff when I visited them at Abadan, namely, that they were 244 not prepared to stay in Abadan unless they were under what they considered to be an adequate administrative control, which, to them, meant a British control. Although the Prime Minister of Iran wanted the staff to stay, the staff themselves wanted to stay and we wanted them to stay, he still refused to accept the only conditions upon which they were prepared to stay and there was nothing left for it but to suspend the discussions.
As I explained to the Prime Minister, a firm and substantial bridge had been built between the West and his country by Mr. Harriman and myself, but he put this block in the way by refusing to do what we considered reasonable in the way of administration of the oilfields and the refinery. Just as soon as he had moved that out of the way I should have been glad to return, my Government being willing, in the hope of arriving at a successful conclusion.
That is but a brief summary of the main events which lasted over three weeks and I wish now to say something about the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company itself. In all my previous visits to Persia I have not heard complaints against the Company. This, I think, was the first time when any serious complaint had been put up to me and, try as I would, I could never extract from any of the people with whom I talked any evidence that the Company had behaved improperly.
There was one notable occasion when a responsible person put it to me that at the time when the irrigation of the Abadan area was contemplated the work had been investigated and was already to be put in hand, but, as he said, the wicked Company had interfered because they were afraid they would be deprived of cheap labour. Unfortunately for my informant—this was some 20 years ago—I had a good memory and it was my company who were engaged in carrying out the work. I was able to inform him that it was not the wicked Oil Company who stopped the work, but the Iranian Government, who refused to put up the funds. That was the only serious suggestion with regard to the evil doings of the Oil Company which I was ever able to elicit during the whole time of my stay.
Nor is it true to say that the oil company have not done much in the way of providing amenities such as housing, schools, etc., particularly in Abadan. 245 What is true is that perhaps they might have done more. That I certainly agree, but the fact is that whatever has been done has been done by the oil company and not by the Persian Government. Although the local authorities in the district draw something like £14 million a year from the oil company by way of taxes, import duties, and so on, which all fall locally, quite apart from the royalties, which are paid to the central authority, none of this money seems to find its way into a use which might be to the benefit of the people.
My complaint would be that the oil company seemed not to have taken a sufficient interest in political goings on inside the country. In fact, had they done so, this situation might not have arisen at all, but that is anyone's guess.
§ Mr. E. H. Keeling (Twickenham)
May I ask a question? As two British Government directors are on the Board was it not their business to raise the matter?
§ Mr. Stokes
I am obliged to the hon. Member for raising that matter, but, if he looks at the conditions attaching to the appointment of those directors, he will see that the Government laid it down quite specifically that they were not to interfere in the affairs of the company.
§ Mr. Keeling
I have read those conditions, but they did not say the directors were not to interfere in political matters; they said they were not to interfere in the ordinary commercial work of the company—the everyday work.
§ Mr. Stokes
The custom of the company—and I have known it for some time—is that Government nominees do not do much except to attend board meetings. That may be a wrong thing, and my Government perhaps ought to have changed it; but the condition was not laid down by a Labour Government, but by a Tory Government, and it has ruled ever since.
Before I conclude on this point of my visit to Teheran I should like to express my appreciation of the work done by Mr. Harriman and the support he gave me throughout those very difficult discussions. Let me emphasise what my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South, said yesterday. Mr. Harriman was acting quite independently—sometimes I thought too much so—and 246 doing his level best for both parties. It was not his fault that a solution was not arrived at. Equally, I should like to express my appreciation of the help given to me by the representatives of the oil company, both at Abadan, where everybody knows what a grand job they did, and in backing my efforts absolutely magnificently; and the officials of the company who came out on my delegation.
As for my own delegation, I can only say that we worked most harmoniously—as the House will naturally expect after the eulogistic way in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham. South, referred to me yesterday—under very trying conditions; greatly ameliorated by the kind and very generous hospitality of the Iranian Government who did everything they possibly could for our personal comfort.
I still hope that, given good will and a recognition that, if full prosperity is to come to Persia, the operation of the oil must be a joint effort, a satisfactory agreement could be arrived at. The Eight Point Proposal which I put forward was a good and generous one. Based on the 1949 figures—not the 1950 figures of which I have no knowledge, and to which the Foreign Secretary referred yesterday—the Eight Point Proposal would have given the Persian Government some £50 million as compared with the £17 million they actually got. I feel that with patience and understanding the Eight Point Proposal could probably be fitted even into the Nine Point Law.
It would be extremely wide of the mark to assume that the British people are hated by the Iranians. Nothing of the kind is really the case. This hatred, such as it is, has been worked up during the past year or so under the cloak of nationalism, to which the Foreign Secretary referred yesterday; inspired, it may be from the outside-I do not know. Fundamentally, there is no reason why our two peoples should not be friends and the two Governments work together in the common interest of all mankind; and particularly to the lasting and immediate benefit of the Iranian people, whose real curse today is an unjust land system which completely deprives them of their means of subsistence. That, however, is not peculiar to Iran. There are other 247 places as well—I could develop that perhaps on another occasion.
I should now like to say a few words about Egypt and the Egyptian situation. Much has been said in the debate about the tragic situation there. I would not wish, any more than would any other hon. Member, to say anything which would in any way make the situation more difficult. But as a very old friend of Egypt, with many personal friends in all political parties, I would appeal to all my friends there, of whatever party, to exercise their influence to bring about a return to calmness and sanity. They should recognise that the nationalistic wave there which is sweeping the Middle East is completely out of date in a country so advanced as Egypt and that no country can stand safely alone. The unfortunate thing is that so many of the masses of the people confuse patriotism and love of their country with nationalism which, I suppose, in modern parlance, could be translated into, "My country, right or wrong."
Cannot our Egyptian friends see that the continued presence of British troops in the Canal Zone under the United Nations flag, as is now proposed, could not be regarded as the occupation of Egypt? Indeed, they themselves are asked to provide forces and join the proposed United Nations organisation there. This cannot be regarded as in any way infringing their sovereignty. Perhaps I might offer a word of congratulation to my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South for being so forthcoming or forthright, or both—in pushing forward with this idea of a Four-Power defence of the Middle East, with Egypt and others taking part in it. I am sure that that is one of the main ways out of our difficulties.
I would ask my Egyptian friends to realise that we have American troops in our country, but do not regard ourselves as being occupied or in any way imposed upon. As my right hon. Friend said yesterday, we welcome their presence in the interests of the defence of the free peoples. I would say, too, to my Egyptian friends, "Please think again before you allow this to develop into a catastrophe"; and let us all join together in our determination to maintain that freedom an 248 independence for which so many of us have fought for so long.
One word about the Sudan. I know that is a matter which exercises the minds of every thinking man in Egypt. Everybody there recognises that the Sudanese should have self-government. Some think it will take longer to arrive than others, but that is not germane to this argument. In principle it is accepted. When it is complained that the life-blood of Egypt, the Nile, is in danger, because the head waters rise outside Egypt and flow through the Sudan, I would reply that the agitation about the control of the head waters seems to me to be more political than factual.
I have never heard it emphasised in public speeches, or elsewhere, that water will run downhill. There is no engineer in the world who can prevent the flood water from the Blue Nile or the Atbara from reaching Egypt. There might be a certain amount of local obstruction in regulation after the flood, but I cannot believe that that could not be satisfactorily dealt with by agreement without the physical occupation of the Sudan by Egypt in order to secure her head waters. Indeed, if it could not be done by agreement I should have thought that something in the form of an international control or commission could be made effective, as I believe is contemplated.
I would say to the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) that I disagree with his thesis that Abadan had a great influence on events in Egypt. My own opinion is that the Egyptians acted primarily for domestic political reasons. They would have done just the same had I returned from Teheran with a completely successful agreement. That is my belief, but I do not want to be drawn into a discussion of that matter. I wish just to express my opinion.
§ Mr. C. E. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point would he deal with one question with which I thought he was going to deal but with which he has not? Could he explain to the House for what purpose substantial reinforcements were sent to the Persian Gulf? There were, I believe, two cruisers and a destroyer flotilla, considerable Air Force reinforcements sent to Shaibah and some troops as well. Were they sent to the Persian Gulf solely 249 for the purpose of evacuating a few hundred technicians from the Abadan refineries?
§ Mr. Stokes
No. At the time when I arrived there the British personnel in the oilfields in Abadan—for the most part they were back in Abadan—were some 4,000, and not a few hundred. It was only weeks afterwards that they were reduced to something much lower. The reason that the Forces, both Army, Navy and Air, were sent to the Middle East was solely for the purpose of protecting life and limb, should the occasion arise.
The protection of life and limb in a case like that comes to the same thing as protecting property; the two go together. But the object of the exercise was not to send them there for the purpose ultimately of using force in order to stay there, but to make sure that if anything was done to damage the life or limbs of our people there should be an adequate force available to see to it that it was kept down to the absolute minimum.
I wish to turn to another subject, the International Materials Conference at Washington. I wish to say this, because it seems to me to be a vitally important point affecting the whole question of what is to be done to help the backward peoples to go forward: which, as the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said, was the theme of so many speeches made yesterday. Unfortunately, I was unable to hear them, but I have read them in the OFFICIAL REPORT. It is now clear to me from what the Prime Minister said that Questions on this subject will be answered by the Secretary for Overseas Trade and I presume that the matter will come under the control of Lord Swinton, who sits in another place.
I hope the Government will support this work which was started so well as a result of the visit of my right hon. Friend the then Prime Minister to Washington in October of last year, and that they will see to it that the Conference is carried to complete success. It was never supposed, so far as I know, that it could function so quickly as to save us from the situations which have arisen this year. But when I was at Washington in May it was confidently anticipated that by the end of this year the various committees would have come to their conclusions, and made their recommendations, and, it was hoped, have had those recommendations accepted 250 by their Governments. They have, I think, already dealt with some six or seven materials in short supply.
I claim that the organisation has achieved the most remarkable success in that they have got agreement among countries producing material in short supply to pool that material and allocate it fairly to other countries in proportion to the needs of other countries. By "pooled" I mean that the nations possessing those raw materials cannot help themselves to the first scoop and leave the rest to be distributed, but that they have put all of it into the pool. That seems to me to be a very great step forward towards bringing about economic stability in the world.
Although price regulation as such did not, when I was there, form part of the functions of the International Materials Conference, to my mind there is no reason why it should not; and without doubt the conversations which have been going on recently at Washington have led to a saner approach to buying. Already, as a result of these talks, a certain measure of agreement has been reached. May be that is putting it too strongly, but there is an unwritten understanding which will help prevent that sort of thing happening again, and all of which should tend to bring the price of these raw materials more into line with reality and proper value. I have said on more than one occasion in public that I confidently anticipate that should help to lead to a drop in the cost of living next year. I hope that hon. Members opposite will remember that when it actually happens.
I would add that this matter was fully ventilated at a recent meeting of Commonwealth Ministers, and the objects and possible achievements of the International Materials Conference was fully appreciated by them. Without being in any way derogatory to them, I would say that some who came to scoff certainly remained to pray. I would emphasise that pooling is a two-way arrangement. We cannot expect other groups of countries to pool their raw materials unless we in the Commonwealth will do likewise as and when the necessity arises.
In my opening remarks I welcomed the speech of the Foreign Secretary in Paris and wish him success. May I add this? It would seem to me, and I speak personally, that continued public discussion 251 of international affairs may not now be the best way of arriving at satisfactory conclusions. I, as others, realise how this desire for public discussion came about; simply from the fear of secret discussions and secret agreements which, in the past, have led to disaster and misunderstanding.
Now we seem to have gone to the other extreme, in which, in our anxiety to avoid secret understanding, we have actually reached a position in which we can probably arrive at no understanding at all. In fact, it might be said that these public discussions have won one success which they can fairly claim; namely, that they obtain in public agreement to disagree. which agreement is most faithfully kept. [Laughter.] That may be putting it in a humorous way, but we have to make people either laugh or cry if they are to remember anything.
In all seriousness, I would ask the Foreign Secretary if it is not possible to take the preliminary discussions off the public stage and to hold them in private, if necessary with more than one political party of the countries concerned being present at those discussions, and then subsequently report fully on the decisions and recommendations to U.N.O. If this is found to be no solution, will somebody else suggest something better? Going on as we are today, the peoples of the world are merely frustrated in the absence of any constructive solutions whatever in U.N.O., which is being used merely as a platform for propaganda purposes.
I welcome the Foreign Secretary's suggestion that he should go slowly and treat the matter realistically, moving stage by stage, and I believe that we would get along if something of the kind which he has suggested could be adopted. The Foreign Secretary also referred to the absurdity of the proposal that atomic weapons should be completely abolished and traditional armaments reduced proportionately among the nations. I should like to go one step further than that, however idealistic it may seem. Surely this is the ultimate objective which all of us want, although it seems very unlikely of achievement.
We all want the abolition of all armaments everywhere. What a tremendous relief would be felt, what opportunities would be presented, if we could devote the resources that are now wasted on arms 252 for the benefit of people everywhere. Surely it was never meant that we should devote so much of our energies to blowing one another up, and then, after a few years of labour and struggle and some degree of recovery, do it all over again? What a great sigh of relief would go out if that policy of complete disarmament could be achieved.
Finally, I would like to point out that the object of all our endeavours, in Persia and in Egypt, at the United Nations and at the Raw Materials Conference in Washington and elsewhere, has all along been twofold—to preserve the freedom of mankind and to do whatever we can to help forward the backward peoples everywhere. We do not wish the people in the backward areas to look at Western civilisation through the plate glass window of society, as it was described by my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly). We want to bring them all the advantages which they can usefully absorb in their own territories, but, to the teeming millions who live on the boderline of starvation, it is vitally important that it should be brought to their understanding that this really is our objective, that they may have a better share of the good things of life, improve their standard of living and have a far better chance of fulfilling the object of their earthly existence.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Captain Richard Pilkington (Poole)
Although there has been a regrettable interlude—regrettable from my point of view—since I last had the honour of addressing this House, I cannot and I do not claim that this is in any way a maiden speech, and if I should be sufficiently fortunate as to say anything which may arouse the interest, whether it is of an inquiring or a critical nature, of hon. Members opposite, I hope they will not feel themselves inhibited from making their views known in their customary way.
If I may be allowed one personal allusion, it is to say that, in representing the town of Poole, which I have the honour to do, I think I am following in Mervyn Wheatley one of the best loved hon. Members of this House.
The right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) explained something of the record of the late Government in dealing 253 with the Persian crisis, but he did not, in my submission, explain away at all their most abject failure, a failure which, I believe, should have swept them out of office even had there been no other shortcomings for which they had to account. I thought the right hon. Gentleman was indeed well equipped and was a good choice to be sent upon a mission to Teheran, but, after all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the right hon. Gentleman did fail.
In the explanation which he has given us, he said that there was no alternative put forward from this side of the House which, in his view, would be successful. He spoke of the possible use of force, and said that, in fact, if force had been used to protect what was a British undertaking, then it would have been impossible to have carried on the work of the refinery without the goodwill of the Persians concerned. After all, we would have been no worse off then than we are today, when the refinery is not working at all.
§ Mr. Stokes
May I interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman? Surely, that was not the only issue. If we had used force and had stood condemned in the United Nations, where should we be?
§ Captain Pilkington
I quite agree, but the right hon. Gentleman, in reply to an interjection from my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe), said that, in fact, they did have force in the neighbourhood, and that, in certain circumstances, they would have used it, and then the exact thing which the right hon. Gentleman said he feared would happen would, in fact, have happened.
§ Mr. Stokes
The hon. and gallant Gentleman really has not studied the history of events. We made it plain that, if there was danger to life and limb, we would see to it that our people were properly protected, and if we had taken military action for that purpose, I do not say that we should have incurred the stigma of anybody, even U.N.O., but if it had been taken purely for material purposes, we should have done. There is all the difference.
§ Captain Pilkington
The right hon. Gentleman himself said, in reply to an interjection, that protecting the lives and limbs of British people would be equivalent to protecting property.
§ Mr. Stokes
I did not say anything of of the sort. I said that, automatically, in protecting life and limb, we should have been defending the refinery, because all our people would have been inside it, and that was the intention. The intention was to protect life and limb.
§ Captain Pilkington
I am sorry if the right hon. Gentleman did not mean what he said. If, in fact, we had not evacuated Abadan, as the former Prime Minister said we did not intend to do, I do not believe that things would have come to a head. But, if, in fact, they had come to a head, I submit that we would have been justified in defending what was our own. After all, that was surely the purpose for which the Government had this great force in the neighbourhood. They had sent that force out there to protect our property and life and limb, but they have never explained—
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
It is quite plain, in international law, that we have the right to protect life and limb, but not to protect property, and if we had done so it would have made us aggressors under the Charter of the United Nations.
§ Captain Pilkington
In that case, I am glad that the former Government was, in fact, swept from office. If that sort of principle is to endure, I wonder where they would draw the line? The fact remains that, if only we had taken action sooner, if we had done what the former Prime Minister said we were going to do, this position would not have arisen, and, even if it had, we should have had sufficient forces in that neighbourhood to deal with any eventuality.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman seems to have no idea of what has been going on while he has been away. I never said that we would stay in Abadan. I said that we had no intention of evacuating at the time when the suggestion was made that we should make a voluntary evacuation of Abadan and take everybody out. I said that we should hold on as long as we could, but that did not imply the use of force, because that was contrary to international law. It is quite simple.
§ Captain Pilkington
I have read the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, including that in which he said it was 255 not his intention to evacuate. I think I have paraphrased his speech accurately and the fact is that the then Prime Minister said that the Government had no intention of evacuating, and, as the whole world knows, they did evacuate. It is for the country and for history to pronounce—
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware that the Foreign Secretary pronounced upon the precise point which he is raising when he said:In present circumstances, merely to despatch British forces would provide no solution. It might even so inflame Persian feeling as to damage the prospects of negotiation.That was in a letter to the "Daily Telegraph" from the Foreign Secretary himself. That was in April.
§ Captain Pilkington
In April? Yes, but it was only in May when it became clear that the Persian Government was intent upon getting rid of the whole British undertaking. That letter was in April.
I am sorry to have raised such a hornets' nest by my preliminary remarks, and I should like now to turn to a different aspect of this debate, which I think is perhaps less likely to be controversial. During the lifetime of the late Government, the party now on this side of the House—I think it is generally recognised—gave quite a considerable measure of support on the general lines of foreign policy, and we hope and expect that we shall receive a similar measure of support from hon. Members opposite, not because we think it will make things any easier for us here, but because it is of the utmost importance that we should show, both to our own people and to the rest of the world, that upon these basic and fundamental issues we are a united nation.
We are trying to build a United Nations organisation which will mean what, in fact, it says. At the present time, we have only the blue print, as it were, of the United Nations conception, and what we have got to do is to turn that blueprint into a reality. So far, we have got no further than dealing with the preliminaries of the foundations upon which the ultimate structure will rest.
256 Those foundations are many and varied. The centre of those foundations is still the crowded Continent of Europe, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister pointed out five years ago in a famous speech at Zurich the lines which should be followed in order to make that centre a solid block of enduring strength. Some hon. Members have suggested in this Debate methods by which, both in form and function, the reality of a united Europe could come into being.
Then, there is the wider association of the British Empire and Commonwealth. which, if working in harmony and if fully developed, could exercise an influence in the world which would be second to none. Thirdly, there is the English-speaking community, which holds in its hands today the strongest instruments of power of our machine-made civilisation. The Foreign Secretary some time ago described these three entities as being three circles intertwined by the fact of this country alone being a part of each of them. That means that Great Britain is a key nation with responsibilities as great as her opportunities.
But there are also other main basic foundations all of which have been touched upon at various times in the course of this Debate. There is the Middle East, part of which we have just been discussing, and surely the aim and purpose of any Government of this country must be so to guide the new dynamic nationalism in those countries experiencing a political renaissance that it will be a constructive and not a destructive force, and be beneficial both to the countries themselves and to all their neighbours.
There is also the area covered by the Pacific Pact, a Pact from which, astonishingly, this country, in spite of all our interests and responsibilities there, is excluded. And hon. Members opposite have something to explain there which so far they have never succeeded in doing.
Then there is that space which at the moment is a void left dark and empty by the present action of Russia and her satellites. Until there is some great change of heart there, the structure of world peace can never be complete. There are other areas of the world which will one day play their part—the swiftly developing South American 257 continent, the African continent and the lands of many millions in the Far East.
All these are the raw materials of our endeavour. We have today in the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary two of the most illustrious figures on the world stage, and the world hopes and expects from this Government leadership, initiative and drive. As a nation we have a long political experience, and I believe that as a nation we have learned the virtues of restraint and magnanimity.
But we must also have the courage of our convictions and of our faith. I submit that there has been far too much talk of waiting on the United States and looking to them for leadership of the West, a leadership which we ourselves should exercise. After all, it is quality and not quantity that counts; it is will power and determination and not the possession of guns and butter, however convenient they may be in themselves, which are the ultimate criteria.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman say what evidence he has to show that the late British Government did not vigorously represent their point of view upon some of these important matters? For example, we may have very different views regarding General MacArthur's statement about the Far East and China, about Formosa, or about the recognition of China and indeed on India too. Is not there sufficient implied in those major matters to indicate that we have a very firm point of view?
§ Captain Pilkington
We have also had Abadan and the Pacific Pact, two things which I myself have mentioned. However, I do not want to make any special party point about these things. All I am saying is that there is too much talk to the effect that we should await leadership from elsewhere rather than that the leadership should come from us, and I think the House will agree with me on that.
There have been times down the centuries when we have been as comparatively few as we are today. Yet then it was our will which prevailed. What a great expanse of history—great both in length of time and achievement—stretches between those immortal words reputedly spoken by an English King,We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,258 and those equally immortal words spoken by a British Prime Minister when he said that,Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th August, 1940; Vol. 364, c. 1167.]The point I want to make is that in both cases it was the few that triumphed. There we have a lesson which we could well heed today. There is no reason why in different spheres it should not be the same today and the same tomorrow. For the test before the bar of history of the Welfare State of Great Britain, the joint creation of Tories, Liberals and Socialists, will be whether, as a result of it, the national character is to be more robust or more mediocre. Is the high quality of our people to endure? Have we still the gift of leadership? If we have, then, surely, we have sufficient opportunity at this so very crucial moment in the world's history to use it, and, if we do so use it, then as a nation we shall continue to lead the world towards those ideals which though distant are yet visible—justice, peace and prosperity for all.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
I have listened with close attention to what the hon. and gallant Member for Poole (Captain Pilkington) had to say, but he will have gathered from my interjection that I thought he was less than fair to the late Labour Government, which I had the honour to support. I can tell him from my own experience here and from discussions elsewhere that a very vigorous point of view was expressed by that Government on behalf of this country in relation to the matters to which I have referred.
But the great difficulty in which this country finds itself—like so many other countries in this troubled world—is that the preponderance of material wealth and power, and, indeed, of population, is not resident in these Islands, and, much as I would agree with him that we have a great opportunity morally to lead the world, yet because of the circumstances of which by this time we are all aware, namely, a position of near-bankruptcy at the end of a Second World War, we are, perforce, in a position of severe handicap.
I suppose that in these circumstances we have to conserve our friendship with our friends in America and in Western 259 Europe, although that is not to say that upon some of these vital matters we can accept their points of view. I as a back bencher am free, I hope, to express my view on some of these matters more forthrightly than can some of my colleagues who were Members of the late Cabinet.
The recognition of China is a matter of fact which no action of any one nation can alter. We cannot put back the clock in this matter, and I think that the sooner our American friends recognise that we have to live in the world with this great community of people, who have a vast hinterland of civilisation and experience of their own, the better it will be for all of us.
But the obvious thing with which we are all concerned is, of course, a settlement in Korea, and I join with my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite in hoping that some good news of a precise nature may emerge within the course of the next few weeks, because some of us have felt—due, perhaps, to the sources of our information—that these negotiations have limped along too slowly and that there has not been sufficient political representation from all the nations involved. Of course, the military men on the spot carry heavy responsibilities and great latitude must be given to them regarding their powers of decision.
The great difficulty in which the world finds itself today is because America, due to the reasons I have stated, is so powerful, that she seems to be taking an almost unilateral action in most of these matters. That is an appearance which she inevitably attracts to herself because of the reserves she has at her disposal, but I could have wished that we had gained the impression more that we were an ally rather than a sort of satellite of the United States in some of these matters.
I have already spoken about some important matters. I do not think that just because we are in a position of financial difficulty we should pull our punches in respect to some of them which concern us so vitally, and which may indeed mean all the difference between peace and war.
I do not want to go over the whole field of foreign affairs this afternoon, but merely to concentrate my remarks upon the subject of Germany. We listened yesterday and again today to right hon. 260 Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench telling us what are the proposals concerning Germany. There is a great deal of apprehension abroad regarding the way in which this problem is being tackled.
The Foreign Secretary told us yesterday that the aim was to associate Germany with the European community. He gave the impression that negotiations were going on with a view to giving Germany parity of status with the rest of the countries of Western Europe. He stated clearly that the Occupation Statute must be replaced by a new relationship based on equal partnership, and that these things were now being discussed in Bonn. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man) interrupted the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs this afternoon to ask what was meant precisely by his reference to the rearmament of Germany in the new context proposed, and some of us were rather dismayed when it was implied that Germany would be free to go ahead and please herself regarding re-armament.
§ Mr. Nutting
I am sorry if I gave that impression. The point is that at the moment we are negotiating a contractual settlement with the West German Government under which, of course, the question of security controls will also be negotiated. In the context arising from an all-German Government resulting from all-German elections, similar controls would similarly have to be the subject of negotiations.
§ Mr. Davies
That is something more, and no doubt my hon. Friend, if he gets the opportunity, will follow it up.
What we wish to know is this. If parity of status is to be given to Germany, and if discussions are now going on in Bonn to that end, are we to assume that there are some qualifications regarding the granting of free elections and the unification of Germany? We are told that the Occupation Statute is to be withdrawn.
Is it proposed that Germany shall be required to take her place in a European army? Is she also to be permitted to have a national army of her own? The hon. Gentleman might ask his right hon. Friends to pay attention to these 261 questions because they are of vital moment to the future of peace. This country is concerned in these questions and certainly France will want to know about them.
The course of development in Germany is there for all of us to see. The West Germans are all agreed that it is desirable that there should be an independent Government and that there should be parity of status. They want a national assembly, they want executive and legislative powers. Dr. Schumacher has said that, and I take it that Dr. Adenauer would take that point of view. The only difference between them is about the future course of the economic and political development of their country.
Having secured parity of status and independence in the sense I have mentioned, the next thing will be unification of their country. They are all standing for that, though there may be some difference of view about the terms on which it should be achieved. I think that if there were a popular canvass throughout Germany on this matter, as there may be, we should see that that is the second overriding demand.
The third overriding demand will be for the restoration of the land on the Eastern frontier, the land beyond the Oder-Neisse Line. These are matters of great moment not only for ourselves but for the whole of Europe and the peace of the world. It is in that context that I want to know what is meant by giving some kind of independence and permitting some kind of re-armament or some power to please themselves to Germany.
There is another problem to which I should like to draw attention. It arises from something I saw myself some years ago when I visited Germany—the problem of the 12 million "expellees" in Western Germany. This is a great human problem in which I am sure hon. Members on all sides of the House have an interest. I shall never forget how after the close of the war I saw at Marienthal, below Hanover, near the Soviet frontier, trains of "expellees" arriving in Western Germany.
I have never seen such a sorrowful spectacle in my life. There were trains of children and old people who had travelled with their bits and pieces of belongings perhaps for a week. They were being de-loused and sorted out as 262 sane, insane and sick. They were seated on a litter of straw and given a cup of soup and allowed an hour's rest before entraining again for an unknown destination.
These poor souls had to be housed wherever they could be found accommodation in Western Germany. Some were Roman Catholics who had to live with Lutheran families and with people of other religions in badly overcrowded circumstances. It is a great tragedy that so many people should have had to endure such misery. We all know how this House was stirred by Mr. Gladstone when the Armenian atrocities were being talked about. I suggest that unfortunately we are becoming inured to the miseries of so many people.
I want to know whether something more cannot be done in connection with this subject, because it has a vital relation to the subjects we are discussing concerning Germany. These so-called "expellees" from the Sudetenland, Czecho-Slovakia, Eastern Prussia and Poland are most anxious to get back to their own territories.
These disinherited people have formed their own political parties to demand that they should be allowed to go back. We know that the more rational elements in Germany are anxious that this problem should be attended to, but it has a political significance inasmuch that there will be trouble unless some promise is given to them about the future development of Germany in terms of the restoration of the eastern frontier beyond the OderNeisse line.
If there were a popular election in Germany I believe Dr. Schumacher might obtain great support. I should welcome that because the Social Democrats did make some progress when they formed a provisional Government. I agree with him that what is wanted in Germany is that the economic development of the country should take into account the need for a planned economy and the development of basic industries, such as we have had in this country, to give full employment and so avoid unemployment and distress for so many of the so-called "expellees."
There are 1.2 million unemployed people among the "expellees" in Western Germany. It is a great human tragedy 263 and, party considerations apart, I hope that we shall keep our eyes on this problem not only in the special circumstances of our discussion of the future development of Germany but on humanitarian grounds as well.
If there is to be any peace and any future for these people we have a duty to see that something is done to help them. It is indefensible that so many people should have been moved in this way and that under a system which takes so little account of human life, that families should have been gathered up by their roots and broken up. It is a terrible indictment of any political system when men and women are treated like cattle.
The Foreign Secretary said yesterday that it was no use making any spectacular attempt to solve the problems of the world at one grand sweep, that he must take matters piecemeal, take one problem at a time and try to solve it. If there is any matter on which there could be agreement with our Soviet friends it is on this problem of Germany.
It is an age-long fact that there has been this horror and fear of a strong, powerful militarist Germany overriding the Eastern countries. The idea of a Berlin-Bagdad railway is not a recent one. The French and many other people have had this fear; and in part it explains the willingness of some countries to become satellites of Soviet Russia. I believe also that Russia has great reason to be fearful because of the background of events. She fears what might happen if Germany were allowed to "get away with it" again.
Although we may not be so sure of success, I hope that an attempt will be made patiently and persistently to talk about the future development of Germany—for some of the reasons I have adduced and for many others which will occur to the Government and to my hon. Friends—to see if some pacific development is not possible in connection with the future of Germany. It is on this subject that we may arrive at some sort of agreement with Soviet Russia.
There is little future for Soviet Russia or for us or indeed for the peace of the world if we are to have a Third World War, a conflagration in which all of us will be involved. I wish success to the 264 new Foreign Secretary. He has made a good beginning. He will command the respect and gratitude of all men, irrespective of party, if he is able to reduce the temperature as he has so well begun to try to do.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm McCorquodale (Epsom)
At the outset of a very few remarks to the House I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs upon his appointment and upon getting over his first serious hurdle in that position. A first speech from the Box is possibly more nerve wracking than any other except perhaps a maiden speech. I am sure everybody will agree that he delighted us all by his accomplished manner and his excellent speech.
I should like to make one or two remarks also about the speech we had from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes). All of us in this House like to hear the right hon. Gentleman at all times, but I did not think that this afternoon he quite did himself justice in what, after all, is a very difficult task—which was an apologia for what I might call "the failure of a mission." He must remember that if he had been successful he would have claimed, rightly, a considerable amount of credit thereby. Having been unsuccessful he and his Government must equally bear a certain amount of blame for lack of success.
We also had a speech from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Poole (Captain Pilkington). Those of us who worked with him during the war are specially delighted to see him back in his place. We also had a speech from the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Edward Davies), which I greatly enjoyed. I hope he will forgive me if I do not follow him into all the intricacies of his argument about Germany. I must say I do not agree with him exactly in his choice of Prime Minister for Germany, but he would not expect me to do that. Nevertheless. we on this side of the House were grateful to him, and pleased at the wishes he extended to the Foreign Secretary in the closing words of his speech.
I wish to detain the House for a few moments on just one subject which, except 265 for a brief passage from my right hon. Friend, has not been referred to in this debate. That subject is a country for which we owe a great deal of responsibility and of which we are very proud, and which is very much in the news these days. It is the Sudan.
I cannot claim to be in any way a close authority on the Sudan but I should declare my interest, as the saying is, in that I and my family have had close business relations with Khartoum and the Sudan for the last 25 years. I have also some connections with the cotton industry of this country.
Perhaps I might start by saying a word or two about Sudanese cotton. I do not know whether every hon. Member realises the paramount importance to the high-class cotton trade in this country at present of Sudanese cotton. It is the only long-staple alternative to Egyptian cotton. Our export trade as far as the cotton industry is concerned will depend more and more on the highest-class articles. There will be no dispute about that anywhere.
That means long-staple cotton, and we turn instinctively to the Sudan for a great deal of that cotton. The Sudan plantations and the Sudan Government—a great example of private enterprise and Government initiative combining in the past—have built a wonderful cotton field in the Sudan. It is now being taken over and run by the Government of the Sudan. It is still doing very well under the care of one who I think has some associations with this House in that he is the brother of the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer. As everybody will agree, he has done an excellent job in the Sudan.
I would emphasise that in order to keep up the quality of Sudanese cotton the utmost care, attention and control are necessary. There have been two bumper crops both in quality and quantity in the last two years, which have been of the utmost use to this country, although I am advised that the coming year's outlook is not quite so promising.
Nevertheless, I say without any hesitation that it would be a major tragedy not only for the cotton industry and for employment in that industry in this, country but for our whole export trade and our balance of payments, if Sudanese cotton were to come under the same sort of control as Egyptian cotton is at the 266 moment, with the manipulated markets, the wild gambling, the barter agreements with Russia and all the rest of it.
If anything serious were to happen to the Sudanese cotton industry it would be a major tragedy for the Sudan itself, because cotton is her major export and her economy is here at the present time; it is bound to be here because otherwise she would be a poor country. Cotton is her major source of wealth at the moment.
The House will remember that the Sudan has been governed under what is called a Condominium, and since the troubles of 1923 that Condominium has meant government very largely under the aegis of this country. Indeed, for the past 20 years the Egyptians have regarded it almost as a punishment to be sent to help in the government of the Sudan. Their major interest has been what the right hon. Member for Ipswich referred to, namely the waters of the Nile. I agree with the comment that the right hon. Gentleman made on that subject.
Some will go so far as to say that under our aegis the Sudan has been about the best governed country in the world. Others may say that that is too great a claim, but there is a considerable amount of justification for it, and we in this country may take a great deal of pride for what we have done in the Sudan, where there has been built up a fine, prosperous hard working people.
Indeed, those who remember the dark days of the early part of the war, when it appeared that the Sudan and Khartoum were at the mercy of the Italian forces in Abyssinia and Eritrea, will remember that the Sudan Defence Force and such little help as we could give them stood successfully between the Sudan and that menace.
Progress has been made. In the last three years a Legislative Assembly has been set up for the Sudan, and after a few initial teething troubles that has been working most excellently. I have been interested to read week by week a sort of Hansard, the weekly digest of proceedings, which is issued by the Legislative Assembly of the Sudan, and I have in my hand the weekly digest of the first assembly of the third session, dated Thursday, 25th October this year. I wish to quote from this because I think it is 267 important that we should realise what the Egyptian proposals for the Sudan really are.
I quote from a statement made by Sir James Robertson, the Civil Secretary, one of the finest administrators who have ever gone out from this country to help develop other countries, and a man held in universal regard. He said:… on the 8th of October Nahas Pasha suddenly placed before the Egyptian Parliament four decrees. The first of these submitted to Parliament a Bill repealing the 1936 Treaty and the Condominium Agreements. Secondly he presented two Bills declaring Egypt and the Sudan to be one country and declaring the King of Egypt to be King of Egypt and the Sudan. Thirdly, he presented a Bill to set up a future Constitution for the Sudan. This latter Bill provides for a Constituent Assembly, an electoral law, a separate Council of Ministers and one or two Legislative Chambers. It provides for a Royal right to dismiss Sudanese Ministers and to dissolve the Sudanese Parliament and also provides that matters concerning foreign affairs, the Army and defence and currency should be vested in the hands of the King The King would also have the power of approving or refusing approval to legislation passed by the Sudan Legislature. The Sudan Government has received no copies of these Decrees. In this matter which so profoundly affects the Sudanese people His Excellency has received no communication of any sort from the Egyptian Government direct, neither was the Sudan Government consulted in any way beforehandThe Assembly passed a resolution without vote deploring the Egyptian Government's attempt to impose Egyptian sovereignty on the Sudan without consulting the Sudanese people. I suggest that after that we must regard the Condominium as at an end. Indeed, the Egyptians have claimed that it is at an end, and I am glad to say that the Foreign Secretary recognised that in the last phrase of the admirable statement he made to the House last Thursday when he said:His Majesty's Government meanwhile guarantee to ensure the defence and security of the Sudan during the intervening period."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 1179.]We must now take up our trusteeship on our own to bring the Sudanese to the stage of self-government as a prelude to self-determination, to use my right hon. Friend's words.
There is a gale of nationalisation sweeping over the Middle East. [HON. MEMBERS "Nationalisation?"] I am sorry, 268 I should have said nationalism. Nationalism in its present virulent form started with nationalisation in Abadan. To revert to what I meant to say, there is a gale of nationalism spreading over the Middle East, and I am sure we are all glad to realise that in the Sudan it is no gale but merely a gentle breeze. There has been admittedly a little trouble among certain students at two or three of the senior schools but apart from that everything is peaceful and quiet in the Sudan, as we would expect.
We should in no way be deterred from, or stampeded hastily into any departure from, our chosen path with regard to the Sudan by anything which has happened in Egypt. There is a great deal to be done—and much that we in this House must see is done—before complete self-government can be regarded as proper in the Sudan. We have to see that liberty, freedom and the rights of individuals and minorities in that country are respected.
There are many problems arising in that country, in which, after all, only a comparatively short time ago slavery was rife. There is, I suppose, a major problem which has to be solved—the difference between the north and the south in the Sudan. These are two completely different countries.
The north is an Arabic, desert, Moslem country dependent upon the Nile for existence. The south is an equitorial, native African country whose problems are similar to those of Uganda and other countries of equitorial Africa. I hope that some arrangements may be made to safeguard the interests of the south completely in any self-government that is set up.
For ourselves, I would say that we should not be hurried or obstructed by the Egyptian trouble in our announced intention of self-government; let us not worry ourselves unduly either by pronouncements from eminent people who obviously have not been well informed on this subject—even such people as Mr. Trygvie Lie who, if he was reported correctly in the week-end Press, seemed to make a remark of little help in regard to this great country.
Above all, I would say, let us be ready to co-operate to the full with the Sudanese. They will have plenty of difficulties. Our experience is and will be invaluable to them. I could go at length 269 into some of the difficulties that I know personally but I should be delaying the House.
I believe there is enormous good will towards this country in the Sudan. Let us do nothing whatever to impair that good will but let us ever seek to improve the friendship between ourselves and those people, to whom we have taught the principles of self-government. I believe that a good-will visit by one of the Members of our Government to the Sudan at this time—I would suggest the Joint Under-Secretary, who made such an excellent speech, or one of his colleagues—would do a good deal to focus the reality of our friendship in the minds of these people and of our determination to stand by and help the Sudan. In addition, I suppose at this time the Sudan has the most delightful climate in the world. I would envy anyone who undertook that task.
We may all be proud of the great work that we have done in the Sudan, and I believe that we will be proud, too, of the great work that we are going to do in the next few years in giving to the Sudan a full measure of self-government. I ask that from all sections of this House the strongest message of good will and friendship should go out to our comrades there.
I should like in conclusion, without intending any offence to the former Foreign Secretary, to express my personal satisfaction at seeing my right hon. Friend once again Foreign Secretary. I believe that that satisfaction is felt not only in all sections in this country and in all political parties but throughout a very great part of the civilised world. As the right hon. Member for Ipswich said in his speech, we wish him every possible success in the great task to which he has laid his hand. May his visit, with that of the Prime Minister to America, help to bring about the realisation of all that we desire.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the measures which he is now advocating were carried out to the full in the last six months by the previous Government? A junior Minister did go to the Sudan, and Sudanese cotton growers visited this House. If what the right hon. Gentleman is advocating were carried out, it would be nothing new.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I did not intend to imply that what I have suggested goes contrary to the policy of successive British Governments in the last 20 years since this country has taken over the trusteeship of the Sudan. I am very glad to say that all parties have co-operated in bringing about the desirable result which we hope will shortly come to pass.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)
Inevitably, foreign affairs debates range rather widely and perhaps haphazardly. I hope that the right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the Sudan, except to venture one mild disagreement with what he said about Sudan's progress towards self-government. I think there is need for haste here. I think there is always need for haste in bringing countries forward to self-government. We do not want to go too fast, but we have too often gone too slowly in the past.
I wish to make one point and to make it as briefly as I can. I want to talk for a few minutes about our relations with Yugoslavia. It may be thought that this is irrelevant in a debate where so many burning issues are in the forefront of our minds, but I hope to show that it is perhaps a more important subject than appears at first glance. We have, in the last year or two, built up a very close association with Yugoslavia, and a rather special relationship. This has been not merely the result of the fact that Yugoslavia had to reorientate herself completely, following the break with the Cominform in the summer of 1948. She had, of course, to look to the West, whereas before she had looked to the East; but in looking for economic and military aid she looked not only to us, but to France and the United States of America.
Yet it is with us that this relationship has developed. I want to try to show why I think there is a special feeling between Yugoslavia and this country. I believe that, first of all, it is the result of a very enlightened diplomatic policy which we have pursued in Belgrade throughout the whole post-war period. That policy has also been helped by the interchange of visits between Parliamentary delegations from Yugoslavia and from this country. Much good flowed 271 from the visit of the Yugoslays here about a year ago, and I believe that was fortified by the return visit of a delegation from this House, of which I was privileged to be a Member, last spring.
There are, of course, many bonds of friendship between our two countries. It may be forgotten by some hon. Members that we have been allies in two world wars. Certain hon. Members opposite have mentioned Marshal Tito in the same breath as General Franco. They may perhaps have forgotten that during the last war, when Marshal Tito's partisans were holding down many German divisions in the mountains of Yugoslavia, General Franco was giving hospitality to Italian human torpedo units in Algeciras—units which were coming across the Bay and torpedoing Allied shipping in Gibraltar.
The main reason for this special friendship which has grown up between Yugoslavia and this country is that we have had a Socialist Government in Britain. It was a Labour Britain which Yugoslavia came to trust more than she trusted any other country in the world. Arising out of that there has developed a fund of good will towards this country which, I think, it is one of the tasks of the new Government to preserve. I suggest to them that it can all too easily be dissipated. It can be dissipated if we begin to regard Yugoslavia in the way I believe the Americans regard her—as merely an ally in the cold war.
That is not the only basis for our interest in Yugoslavia. We have great economic interests. To some extent our economies are complementary. Yugoslavia has considerable timber and mineral resources, many of them largely undeveloped. She needs capital goods which we can supply, or perhaps shall be able to supply when the present stringency is over. It is very convenient to have an ally, and a fighting ally, on the fringe of Eastern Europe. But we all hope and pray that the cold war will not always be with us, and we look forward to building up this friendship with Yugoslavia, quite irrespective of the cold war.
To those hon. Members who may perhaps have reservations about the nature of the régime in Yugoslavia I would
272 make one or two observations, based on what I saw and heard there myself. Of course, the Tito régime has shortcomings, from the standpoint of our Parliamentary democracy, but it is a fact that Yugoslavia is extremely interested in democratic forms. As far as I can see, they want in some way to graft on to their system some form of democracy, and if hon. Members think that that is rather like mixing oil and water I would ask them to await events, because I think they may be surprised. After all, considerable changes have been made within even the last few months in Yugoslavia—changes, I think, in the right direction.
In conclusion, I want to say why I think it is extremely important that we should sustain Marshal Tito's régime in Yugoslavia, and why we should build up this special relationship which, thanks to the Labour Government, we have established with that country. Yugoslavia is the one country which has achieved a popular nationalist revolution and has also escaped from the orbit of Moscow. I think that is a fact of very profound significance. She has shown the way to other nations who are struggling, or who will soon be struggling, to liberate themselves from tyranny, from foreign domination or from imperialism.
There will be other nationalist revolutions, whether hon. Gentlemen opposite like it or not; that is one of the facts of the world which they will have to face and which they will have to try to understand, because so far they have shown precious little understanding of the revolutionary movements at work in the world today. I think it is very important indeed that these nations shall have somewhere else to look for help and understanding—somewhere other than the Soviet Union.
I therefore hope that in his winding up speech tonight the Foreign Secretary will find room for one or two sentences to show that he realises and recognises this special relationship which we have, and which no other country has, with Yugoslavia, and that he will do his best to sustain and strengthen it.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Reading, North)
May I commence by making the formal and general plea for the indulgence which is always granted by this generous House to a maiden speaker? It is perhaps a little 273 ironical that for the last two years before the General Election I occupied another seat in this House—with the Fourth Estate above; when it was my job to write on foreign affairs and also to criticise Members' speeches on those topics.
I have already discovered, in a fortnight, that criticism is a good deal easier than performance. However, if I have already learnt anything about maiden speeches it is that to meet the favour of the House they should first, and above all, be brief; second, should be non-controversial, and third, if possible should reveal some factual knowledge of the subject chosen by the maiden speaker.
It is for that reason that I should like, this evening, to follow the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) in talking about Egypt's pretences to rule the Sudan. Some three years ago I had an opportunity to tour the Sudan fairly extensively, from the extreme south, bordering on Uganda; down the Nile valley and up to the Egyptian border. During that tour I also visited Khartoum and met some of the local political leaders there, and afterwards I went to Omdurman. If I might digress for a moment, I should like to recall that at the battle of that name, half-a-century ago, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my father, who was for so many years a Member of this House himself, were comrades in arms and saw the downfall of the Dervish army which preceded the 1899 Condominium Agreement.
After I had left the Sudan I went on to Cairo, where I had the additional advantage of a long interview with Nahas Pasha, at that time the leader of the Opposition and now, as hon. Members know, the Prime Minister. On that occasion I first heard expounded the twin Egyptian claims—one for the immediate expulsion of all British Forces from the Canal Zone, and the other a demand for Egyptian sovereignty over the whole of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. I had the temerity at the close of those remarks to say these words, "Your Excellency, Egypt really cannot have it both ways."
By that, I meant that I had heard a strong exposition against Britain for not leaving the Canal Zone. We were accused of being imperialists and relying on past conquests to maintain our position there—an accusation which, incidentally, ignored altogether our rights under the 274 1936 Treaty. While, on the one hand, the Egyptian argument is that we are imperialists and that we rely on past conquests for our position, on the other hand, in almost the same breath they turn round and claim that, because of marauding levies of Egyptians, sent southwards on slave raiding and other activities in the 19th century, occupied by force the whole of the Sudan and gave a brief—a happily brief—period of extremely unenlightened rule to that region, they have the right to remain there indefinitely as rulers. They claim that that fact alone gives them the power and the justice to continue to rule that area.
But there is a second argument which I have heard put forward to justify these aspirations to rule the Sudan. They say that the needs of their national security for them to control the upper waters of the Nile over-ride all other considerations. There again, I think, one can say that Egypt cannot have it both ways, because if the needs of their national security' over-ride all other considerations of justice or anything else, then the same fact must apply to Britain's needs of national security in the Canal Zone—her need there for Commonwealth security. If this Egyptian argument is still being propounded it would seem to justify our remaining indefinitely in the Canal Zone even when the 1936 Treaty terms are ended in 1956.
When, in both these arguments on national security and past conquests, the contradictions are pointed out to Egyptians, I have found that a further argument is advanced—one which is no less fallacious. That is what I call, "The Sudanese are our brothers" claim. In other words, it is a claim that the King of the Egyptians and the Egyptian Government should rule the Sudan because of racial affinity. That is just as fallacious as the other arguments, both historically and ethnologically, because if we consider the Sudan as an entity we must consider not only the area of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan but the whole great land mass of Northern Central Africa, which stretches southwards from the Sahara to the Equator, from Massawa on the Red Sea across to Cape Verdi on the Atlantic. For the Egyptians to rely simply on the fact that in the northeastern provinces of this vast area there has been a great admixture of Arabic 275 and negroid blood, and to justify kingship over the whole of the Sudan, would be no more and no less fantastic, in my submission, than for King Farouk to claim to rule Uganda or Eritrea.
In conclusion, I want to refer to the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom about the utter unreality of the proposed plebiscite—proposed in certain circles in Paris at the moment. To anyone who has visited the Sudan even for a comparatively short time, and seen how the bulk of the inhabitants are still living in complete primitive savagery and almost complete illiteracy, the suggestion that a plebiscite, such as would be applicable to European countries, could suddenly be held there and could give a valid result is not only unreal but utterly unthinkable.
I believe that the best and only solution for this problem, since the Egyptians have chosen to abrogate the Condominium, is for us to go forward with our own trusteeship for these people. It is only in that way, if we go on with the programme which, as has been generously said, belongs to all parties and to past Governments here—the programme of continuing to develop the social and economic potentialities of the Sudanese so that a constitutional framework may, in due course—not too long, I hope—be built up.
It is only when that is done that the Sudanese will be in a position to make a truly free and unfettered choice of their own future status in the world. They may have three choices before them. One that they may select is to have some form of federal union with Egypt. Another one—and one must see this possibility—is that of complete independence on the lines of Ethiopia. The third—and this is the one that, frankly, I hope will be chosen—is that of self-government within the British Commonwealth.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
It is a great pleasure to me to have the responsibility of congratulating the hon. Gentleman the Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett) on an excellent maiden speech. Although I cannot claim such a distinguished political lineage as he has, I can claim to be a fellow member of a trade union 276 represented right across the Floor of the House, by being also a journalist Member.
The hon. Member displayed in his speech some of the virtues of the journalist. He was informative, racy—and had his own prejudices as much as anybody else; but, as a journalist, he was slightly more aware of them, and was willing to give facts, even if they did not fit his prejudices. I can assure him of one thing, that the more independent and racy his speeches and his journalism are, the longer he will be able to remain on the back benches in this House.
Perhaps we should turn from the idyll of the Sudan, in which we have been lingering now for nearly an hour and a half, to the blacker areas of the Middle East. I very much agree with the hon. Member for Reading, North, about the seriousness of the situation in Egypt—as compared to the somewhat facile descriptions the House has had of it in the debate so far. It is not very much good going to someone with a temperature of 106 and saying, "Now be quiet and he good; try to think your temperature is normal," because one cannot think one's temperature down, and, quite frankly, we cannot think rising nationalism out of people who are really infuriated by it.
I think we are doing ourselves no service if we under-estimate the extreme gravity of the situation not only in Egypt but throughout the Middle East. In the debate last July I observed to the House that in the whole area there was not a single country, with the exception of Turkey and Israel, in which it was not a danger to life to be known to be pro-British. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) may be right about the Iranians' love of us. All I can say is that they do not love any of their compatriots who show any willingness to collaborate with Britain. They are willing to bump them off.
We have to ask ourselves why, after 35 years of British paramountcy in that area of the world, where we have the greatest interests, we have incurred this appalling mania of unpopularity. What has caused us to be hated and abominated throughout this area? Unless we face the problem frankly we shall not get a solution to it—unless we see the gravity of that with which we are dealing. I suggest that the fundamental reason why we have this problem there is that for 277 nearly 25 years we have tried to enforce on the area our strategic interests in violation of the national aspirations of the peoples.
I must say that when I hear hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite suggesting that it was an absence of strong policy from which we are suffering in the Middle East my reply is that here is the area of the world in which we have relied on military force. This is the area where we have disregarded national interests, where we have overridden the people, where we have said, "Whether you like it or not, this is an important military base, and we are going to have it." This is the area where old-fashioned strength has been permitted to over-ride political principle.
We have only to compare the situation in the Middle East with the situation in India, Pakistan and Ceylon today—an area in which, despite every strategic risk, we carried out our political principles. Disregarding strategy, forgetting for a moment that Russia might march in, we gave them their freedom. We took every strategic risk for the sake of political principles. In the Middle East we scrapped political principles because we were determined to cling to the strategic necessities of the moment.
I had hoped that the Foreign Secretary, after his recent speeches before and during the election, when—I admit, some three years later than any of us—he was criticising the late Government for their Middle Eastern policy, would have had a new idea about the Middle East, when he talked about it yesterday. No man was more firm in castigating previous Foreign Secretaries for failures in the Middle East. Take one—Haifa. I heard the right hon. Gentleman in speech after speech ask why previous Governments did not send tankers to Haifa, although at that time there was an Egyptian blockade of Haifa. There is no Egyptian blockade of Haifa now, and now the Canal is being run by the British. Is not that so?
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)
No, it is not. The Egyptians still have control of the Canal.
§ Mr. Crossman
I think I am right in saying that convoys go through the Canal under the control of the British. At 278 least, I would ask this question. Why, having upbraided previous Governments, does not the right hon. Gentleman, having been in office three weeks, not see to it that tankers are streaming through the Canal, and into Haifa Bay? Can it be that the appeasement of the Iraki—which of course, was the primary reason why Mr. Bevin never sent oil through the Canal—operates still with him as it did with his predecessors?
I find it very difficult otherwise to reconcile such confident belief while in the Opposition, that it would be perfectly simple to send tankers through, and such strange dilatoriness when in the Government about sending tankers through, and to see that the Haifa refinery is earning all the dollars which, we were told by the right hon. Gentleman in Opposition, it could earn if only he had his way. He and I agree on this subject—or agreed when we were both criticising the last Government. Now we shall see how, in power, the right hon. Gentleman will carry out the things he said he would do at a time when conditions were a great deal more difficult than conditions are today for sending oil to Haifa.
That brings me to the other point I wanted to make to the Foreign Secretary about the Middle East, and that is about Israel. I very much support what my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), said when he asked for an assurance that we do nothing to placate the Egyptians which would prejudice our relations with Israel. I say it for this reason. I shall never forget my first meeting with Dr. Weitzman in his house, when I was handed by him, on behalf of—well, they were not the Government then, but an illegal resistance movement—a plan which showed the partition line. I was then given the assurance that if partition were granted they would provide a base for us in Palestine—the base for which we are searching now in the Middle East. It was one of the tragedies of British history that we could have moved from Suez to a base within Israeli territory with the full consent of the Israelis if the British Government had accepted their offer in 1946—and they did not.
I would remind the Foreign Secretary that, however difficult things may be in 1951, we have five years still until the 279 end of the Treaty with Egypt. We have five years in which we are entitled to stay in Egypt without a new treaty. A great deal can happen in those five years. So astonishingly have relations improved between Israel and this country in the last two or three years that I believe we should not exclude the possibility of a really intimate collaboration, if we allow it to mature slowly and do not try to push it too hard.
But there is one thing we may consider practically at once with Israel, and that is Gaza, because that was part of the area where Mr. Bevin planned our base would be. What is it today? It is one of the gloomiest and most terrible parts of the world, a narrow strip of sand by the coast, where there are 200,000 Arab refugees—shall I say, being looked after, or not being looked after—by the Egyptians? This Gaza strip is one side of the desert which the Egyptian army was allowed to keep when it was thrown out of other parts of Palestine. Of course, the Israelis would not throw them out of Gaza, because they did not want the 200,000 refugees. So, cold bloodedly, they have been left in destitution under Egyptian control, and completely cut off from contact with Israel. Here is one of the natural places for a base. [Interruption.] Otherwise, why did the previous Government spend £2 million to build a large barracks in 1946, under Mr. Bevin, if they had not chosen Gaza as our base? If they did not think so, why was £2 million expended on the barracks in that area?
Would it not be the beginning of common sense to seek to use Gaza in co-operation with Israel? I would say to the Foreign Secretary that the belief that he can have an effective base in war-time in a completely hostile country is a delusion. I heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich give the reason why we left Abadan. He said we could not, after all, work Abadan if the inhabitants were opposed to us. There are 450,000 Egyptians in the Canal Zone very much opposed to us, and if there were war today that base would he in a hopeless situation. We need a base in friendly territory and not in a hostile territory. I would not deceive myself by thinking that the Egyptian nation is friendly to us or is likely to be in the 280 next five years so long as we hold the Canal.
The Foreign Secretary said that we are asking nothing of the Egyptians which we do not submit to ourselves. What nonsense! They have had us there for 70 years. They have been wanting to get rid of us for 70 years. They have had countless assurances that, "The British are just going to go," and I do not think that, from the Egyptian point of view, there would have been much difference if, in addition to British troops, there are French, American and Turkish units in the Canal Zone. I would urge the Foreign Secretary to consider whether it would not be wise to move the peace-time base northwards and merely reoccupy Suez in case of war. That was always the sensible proposal of the Chiefs of Staff, and the mistake they made was to have hovered about it so long instead of deciding between the one, two or three possible places where the base could have been.
We should, fundamentally, build our Middle Eastern policy not on appeasing our enemies, but on assisting our friends. The only two nations capable of fighting an invader are Turkey and Israel. Every other nation is not only incapable of of fighting but hostile, or potentially hostile. Yes, they would be hostile if we started by losing, as we always do, in a war. Most of those Arab nations want to be sure of being on the winning side. I am not saying that I blame them for that, but am only saying that we need a reliable place to build our base, and that I believe that of all the unreliable "neutrals" Egypt still remains the worst. If we stay in Egypt as things are we shall have to enforce our stay in the Canal Zone with 450,000 lowering, sullen, hostile Egyptians licked into shape, at the best, by the threat of force.
I turn from Egypt to the subject of Germany, raised by the Under-Secretary of State. I would begin by warmly congratulating him on his speech. It is a very good thing to have a speech which says something, even though one may disagree with it, and the hon. Gentleman's speech was interesting and well expressed. We knew we had a Foreign Secretary with charm; and now we have an Under-Secretary of State with charm—blessed pair of sirens! However, the hon. Gentleman said something very disputatious about Germany. We have to 281 argue about this in this House, because this is the issue of peace and war in the next few years. What happens in Germany within the next six or nine months will determine very much whether we drift towards war or avoid it for the next few years.
I was upset by the Foreign Secretary's statement yesterday. He laughed it off, but throughout, he talked about "Germany" when he was referring to the West German Government at Bonn. That is a very dangerous psychological state to get into, if one goes on thinking that this particular Government, not a very representative Government, governing in a part of Germany, is the same as Germany.
When we talk about integrating "Germany" into Western Europe, what we should talk about is integrating one part of Germany into Western Europe. When we talk about giving sovereignty to "Germany," we should realise that one is giving sovereignty to a fragmentary Government which is not an all-Germany Government and never will be. I would suggest to right hon. Gentlemen opposite that the issue is not only whether Germany go Communist or Democratic; the real issue is how Germany should be unified, whether by force or agreement.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)
Is it not a fact that Western Germany contains at least three-quarters of the population?
§ Mr. Crossman
I think that it is about two-thirds, but I will not quarrel with the hon. Member's figures. It is the larger part, but it is not Germany.
May I also say to the Foreign Secretary that nor is Germany merely the Eastern and Western zones. It also includes in the mind of every German large sections of Poland and Russia. That is what I am trying to talk about. The recreation of Germany in the mind of every German means (a) West Germany, (b) East Germany and (c) the lost provinces—Koenigsberg and Breslau. The issue for Germany is how they can regain their unity substantially and whether they should do it by war or agreement. Whatever we do that remains the dominant urge of every German, and I do not blame him. I should have had the same urge if I had had committed upon me the atrocities of Yalta. If I were a 282 German, I would say, "I want to unify my country."
I ask the Foreign Secretary: If he centres his attention upon (a) giving virtual sovereignty to the Western German Government; (b) integrating Western Germany into Western Europe, and (c) giving it weapons to share in the defence of Europe, what happens when that process has been completed? After that, the only way to unify Germany is by Western Europe defeating Russia. That will be the way it will be done if the Germans get their way. This is one of the terrible things about them.
I would like the Foreign Secretary to answer this second question: How does he see the possibility of any agreement with the Russians if we consumate the division of Germany by making Bonn a sovereign Power and giving the Western Germans arms? Does he expect them to sit quiet while Germany remains divided and Koenigsberg and Breslau are still under hostile rule? Then they will be determined to get by force what can still be achieved by agreement if only we are prepared to act.
What distressed me about the speech of the Under-Secretary was this. When I ask, "Would a central German Government be permitted defence?" he said that was one of the things we would discuss with them. May I say, quite frankly, that that sentence alone will rule out any chance of anyone taking seriously our intentions to seek an agreement with Russia about Germany. It is quite clear that the only terms upon which we could get what we call the Austrian solution—that is, German central government with occupation forces on both sides—is if both zones were disarmed.
The only possible basis of agreement between ourselves and the Russians is that they should disarm on their side and that we should not go on with the arming of Germany on our side. No Russian in his, senses will agree that a united Germany should be rearmed by Britain and America under any conditions. No Russian could possibly agree to unity except on any other basis than the disarmament of both zones.
The issue that we have to face is whether the Russians are prepared to take the destruction of a Communist State in exchange for our surrendering a German contribution to Western defence. 283 That is the bargain which could be struck. There is no doubt that if free elections occur in East Germany Mr. Wilhelm Pieck would be in Moscow some weeks before they occur. Every one of the Communists would fly from Eastern Germany to Moscow, even before elections took place. Everyone knows that an election would mean the Russians accepting total liquidation of the East German Communist State—the totalitarian State in Eastern Germany would be swept away, and back to Moscow would flow the Communists just as they have done in North Korea and everywhere else.
The question is: Will they take that in exchange for our foregoing a German defence contribution? When the Under-Secretary talked about the Government of a united Germany after an election being consulted about how many divisions they should have, he made a mockery of any approach to the Russians. Up to about nine months ago we were protesting against the Russians re-arming the East Germans. Do we now want to re-arm them and not let the Russians do it? Surely we could all be agreed that if we could get the disarmament of all Germany as a basis of agreement with Russia, that is a sacrifice we could well enforce on the Germans for the sake of preventing a world war. Is not that clearly in the British interest.
Or do we say that it is impossible; that the Russians would not dream of giving it up? Let us have a try. But we can only hope to succeed if we are genuinely trying to do it. Genuinely trying means being prepared, if the Russians accept, not to have West Germany re-armed. And here we come up against Washington.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
That raises a great deal of difficulty in my mind. If we have a united sovereign German State, it is perfectly true that that in itself creates one good argument why it should be disarmed, but how can we ensure that the sovereign State does not do something?
§ Mr. Crossman
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has asked that. Obviously, people here are not used to what we call the "Austrian Plan." Austria is not a sovereign State today, but for seven years elections have taken place in Austria and 284 now there is real freedom even in the Russian Zone. It is a remarkable fact that in Austria there has been a unified central Government under a control commission with occupation forces on both sides.
I agree with the Foreign Secretary about going in stages. But the only possible first stage we can aim at in Germany is to offer free elections for a central Government while keeping occupation armies on both sides and resurrect the Control Commission to keep all the Germans disarmed. We shall soon be unable even to discuss this compromise with the Russians if we make Western Germany a sovereign State. Once we have made her a sovereign State, we cannot take her sovereignty. Therefore, I say that there are only six or seven months now in which we are still free to try to reach a compromise with Russia.
Washington takes the view that the unification of Germany is a terrible Communist plot to prevent them getting German troops. It holds that to unify Germany on the Austrian solution is to take away the German divisions, which would replace the Americans when they go back home. I suggest to the Foreign Secretary that if he is concerned to bridge the chasm, his job in Washington is to pursuade the Americans at least to consider objectively the case for and against our going all out for a limited Austrian solution. It does not give anything away; our troops are still there. But it does postpone German rearmament. That has already been postponed by the Germans since we were rushing into it a year ago. Is it not worth postponing it again to see if the Russians are really interested in a German compromise? I think that they are terrified of Germany re-arming. I think that they are more frightened of this than any other thing. So they might agree.
I was not against our starting to talk about re-arming Germany if this was a diplomatic method of bringing the Russians to the point of saying, "We must come to terms." If I thought the Foreign Secretary was using the threat of re-armament to push the Russians into negotiations I should be happier. But I do not feel that in his eyes the rearming of Germany is a secondary policy, and the big policy is to go ahead and try to get unification and elections. I only wish it was.
285 That brings me to the last point which is Anglo-American relations and Atlantic defence. I have been asking myself, since the King's Speech, one question about "strength." I have been asking how much stronger we have got since we started to get strong. It was last January that we started to get really strong, when we swept up to £4,700 million. Let us see how much stronger we are after 12 months of getting stronger. Of course, the Americans are far stronger. The Germans are far stronger. They are taking our export markets one by one as we switch our factories over from making motor cars to tanks. The Japanese are stronger. The only people who are much weaker are Britain and France.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave us some bleak news. We are about back to 1946. Production has stopped rising for the first time since the fuel crisis. Our exports are being crushed by the burden of re-armament. We are back to 1946. Six years of recovery have been destroyed by one year of seeking military strength. Look at France. She is ruined by Indo-China. All American assistance is going to that one campaign. On top of Indo-China there is the Brussels decision.
All this has made the Americans militarily stronger, and it has made us British militarily stronger. When I saw our Forces in Germany I was impressed. We had two armoured divisions, and we did not have that before the war, but the sudden increase of military strength has meant a terrible decrease of economic strength. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite laugh, but I would say that the amount of military strength we have gained in the last 12 months is very small compared with our appalling loss in economic strength.
The Foreign Secretary will be faced with this problem in Washington. We have two alternatives. We either take large-scale American assistance in order to sustain our re-armament programme, which has brought us back in six years to where we were before, or we cut back re-armament.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
If my hon. Friend says that the increase of the re-armament figures from £3,600 million to £4,700 million has 286 caused the balance of payments crisis, will he explain how?
§ Mr. Crossman
Let me put it in two sentences. I would say that Atlantic rearmament has had the main deleterious effect on our import programme, and that British re-armament is having a very disturbing and distorting effect on our export capacity. The one is forcing up the prices of our imports and the other strangling our exports. The combination of those two is the crisis I have referred to, a crisis which has brought us down from a position of independence of America to a position where the Government is compelled to consider large-scale American aid.
§ Mr. Crossman
I would say it in this sense—we have had to increase our exports by 30 per cent. in order that we may bridge the gap, and at a time when we are just beginning to feel the effects of the switch from our exports to re-armament. It cannot be done. We know that American aid is going to be asked for if, indeed, it has not been already requested. The fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not put any control on dollar imports made it clear to me that he was going for American aid.
This request for dollars is an important political decision. In 1946 we could ask for aid for a few years to enable us to be independent, but that will not be the reason for it this time. We have made our recovery, and we have now imposed on that recovery greater re-armament than we can sustain. Therefore, if we get it this time it will be to perpetuate the distortion of our economy which has been achieved this year, and it will make us permanently dependent on the U.S.A.; permanently, because re-armament is not going to end in three years as the optimists believe.
This is a generation's problem. It is no good telling me that there is going to be a settlement in three years and that the re-armament will not be needed after that. The programme, which is now being begun, will not be cut in 1954. It is no good saying that it will end in three years. If we start borrowing now, let those Conservatives who voted against the American Loan at a time when we had every 287 justification for asking for it because we could say then that in three or four years' time we would be independent, think of their position. How can they vote for direct American economic aid? They voted against direct American aid, not military aid, but aid to stabilise the pound.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
On this question of the permanence of our arms expenditure, why does my right hon. Friend describe the expenditure as permanent? The United States and ourselves, as I think my hon. Friend has stated, are very rapidly matching up to and surpassing Soviet strength. The balance of military power is passing to us and, therefore, it is reasonable to suppose when the hump is over—this is definitely the plan I believe, because I was talking about it with General Eisenhower a few days ago—it will be possible to reduce the arms effort of the United States and ourselves.
§ Mr. Crossman
I was addressing my remarks to the Conservatives. Still, I will reply to my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Crossman
From and through you, Mr. Speaker. I accept that rebuke.
I should like to say to my hon. Friend that this was, in fact, the point I was trying to put. There are two ways of looking at our problem. One is what I would call that of the optimistic and objective warmonger, the person who says that, after three years' effort, we shall be in a position to squeeze the Russians. After that we need not worry any more because they will have reacted to the squeeze. This is the ultimatum psychology. These are the boys who say we will be over the hump in 1954, and after that the Russians will not dare to attack us. But on this policy, the only thing which can happen before 1954 will be war. which is what we want to avoid.
§ Mr. Mayhew rose—
§ Mr. Crossman
No, I am going on.
I would prefer my hon. Friends to recognise, as does the Foreign Secretary, judging from his speech, that the task of ending the cold war is the work of a generation. It is going to last 25 years. So. we are undertaking an arms pro- 288 gramme which will go on for as long as we can foresee. Therefore, we should undertake nothing which this country's economy cannot sustain out of its own resources.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
Would my hon. Friend give us his amount, in terms of money, which he thinks should now be spent on re-armament?
§ Mr. Crossman
I am not the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but at least I can say that it is a good deal less than the sum which forces us to borrow dollars to prevent a devaluation of the £. That is a negative test, but the point is there. We must remember that the present Atlantic arms programme brought us down in 12 months from a position of economic independence to a position when we have to get dollars so that the £ will not be devalued inside three or four months. That is more than we can bear.
I would agree to the borrowing of money from America if I were really aware of an imminent war. If there were any grave danger of Russian aggression, then I would be prepared to undertake it, but I know if there were a grave risk there would be direction of labour, there would be a war economy, and there would be air raid shelters. A country which has no air raid shelters and no war economy, and which is maintaining a full peace-time economy and putting armaments on top of that is not a country threatened by any grave risk.
So I say to my hon. Friends on this side of the House that we have got to make up our minds together on this matter. We, as a party, should not be prepared to support or accept assistance from America, unless it is a sort of wartime Lend-Lease and unless it is accompanied on the home front by the measures of war economy which we would all expect if war were really upon us. But I have heard nobody talking in America about Lend-Lease nor, over here, about direction of labour, rationing and all the other things which are inherent in a war economy.
I say that it is outrageous to surrender our Independence, to surrender our power of restraining our allies, to over-burden ourselves and France, to weaken us both in the job which we should be doing, namely, to teach the Americans that this will last for 25 years, and they must 289 budget for that. If we can get the Americans to realise that this will be a long slog, which may outlast the lives of our children, we shall be moving forward. We can only do that if we are independent economically of the Americans, and if we are making only the armaments we can afford. If we and France can stand together independent and united we can still save the peace of the world.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)
We are always animated by the speeches of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), and I think that he described his own speech best when he referred to the most excellent maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett), which he said was racy and independent. I am thankful that that same raciness and independence in the hon. Member's speeches has kept him from the Front Bench of his party and out of the Foreign Secretary-ship which he might otherwise have occupied.
I am always very glad to follow the hon. Member, for it is a much safer position than preceding him. That is how highly I regard his debating ability. I would agree with him entirely that this question of Germany is pre-eminent in the matters that have to be faced by us in the future.
The hon. Member painted, with his customary brilliance, a most dishonest picture of the situation in Germany. One would have thought from what he said that here was a peaceful Soviet Union leading delicately by the hand the tame people of Eastern Germany threatened by an aggressive West, who were ready to pounce upon them at the first opportunity. The whole thing is ludicrous and a complete travesty of the real situation—a situation which strikes at the root of the our main problem today.
Why are we faced with this grave necessity for re-arming the Germans, which is just as repugnant to Members on this side of the House as it is to hon. Members opposite? The reason is perfectly simple. There is every evidence that unless the Western Germans are able to look after themselves the Eastern Germans will encroach upon them. The hon. Member makes grimaces, which he is able to do with such ability, but the 290 fact remains that it is Eastern Germany where Communist rallies are being held, which have every similarity to the type of rallies held in Hitler's Germany. It is in East Germany that the police have been armed.
We know perfectly well that there is a barrier between the East and the West which we cannot penetrate, though possibly the hon. Member for Coventry, East, has better means of penetration than others of us have.
§ Mr. Crossman
There is no doubt about it that there is a great knowledge of what is going on in both parts of Germany owing to the fact that the German Generals on both sides exchange information.
§ Mr. Harvey
The hon. Member is now showing a confidence in generals which has not always been evident in his remarks on other occasions. It is an insult to the intelligence of the hon. Member to suggest that because generals in Germany are consulting one another we are aware of exactly what is going on in the Eastern zone of Germany, and that it is known to everybody. The Iron Curtain is too thick. This hits right at the root of this problem.
Hon. Members on this side sympathised with the previous Government—we have very little sympathy with them otherwise—when they came to build up a free structure in Germany, upon what the hon. Member disgracefully called the Yalta atrocities. They were under the reasonable impression that they could trust the Soviet Union to operate a peace system once the Hitlerite menace was defeated. That is one of the historical events which did not transpire, and the policy which the late Government had to pursue was affected by that fundamental issue, which was never once referred to by the hon. Member for Coventry, East. No one could believe that anyone of his intelligence could have ignored it other than by intention.
I am glad that we have had this demonstration of divergent policy and I am glad that we had the demonstration which we had last night from the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot). In this debate the conflict has been not so much across the Floor as across the Gangway opposite. I am glad the hon. Member for Devon- 291 port is here, because I listened with profound interest to the speech which he made last night. He took it upon himself to quote from Shakespeare in referring to my hon. Friends on this side of the House and I will paraphrase a little Shakespeare to him—his speech to us was full of sound and fury but it signified extremely little.
What did he say? First of all he disagreed with continuity in foreign policy. It is one of the great tributes to my right hon. Friend who is now Foreign Secretary, and to the former Foreign Secretary and his predecessors, that it has been possible, in a House of Commons bitterly divided in other directions, to achieve unanimity, and therefore continuity of foreign policy.
When the hon. Gentleman put forward his case for a new foreign policy he finally came down to the astonishing statement that we must think things out again. He made no lucid contribution. Then he attacked our re-armament programme. The most extreme attitude which he adopted, and which was repeated rather more coolly by the hon. Member for Coventry, East, this evening, was that because our re-armament programme was not competitive with the Soviet programme we should have no re-armament programme at all.
The hon. Member for Coventry, East, made observations tonight which can hardly be regarded as helpful to Anglo-American friendship. I have greater belief in the unity of interest and ideals between ourselves and the American nation, and greater faith in the future of the world—if there is that basis of agreement—than to leave it to the peculiar, to say the last of it, agreement that could at the moment be reached with the Soviet Union. There has been nothing in the conduct of their foreign affairs, or in our relationships with the Soviet Union to indicate that there is any basis in the suppositions put forward by the hon. Gentlemen, or that there is the slightest likelihood of their coming into being.
That brings me to the most interesting discussion that we had last night, when the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) made a most excellent contribution on the subject of the nature of Communism. It seems that there has been a very 292 clear difference of opinion as to whether we are concerned with imperialist Communism or Communist Imperialism. We have to face the fact that we have to live together in the world with the Soviet Union and with Communism. Unless we devise a system whereby we can do so, there will be an eventual conflagration, which it is the endeavour of all of us to avoid.
I do not think it is right to reject as unsound the policy of negotiation from strength, because strength is, whatever may have been said by hon. Gentlemen on the other side, the only thing which the Soviet Union understands. I agree profoundly with what the former Foreign Secretary said that the moment of danger will come when we have achieved parity of armed strength with the Soviet Union. It is then that some of the suggestions made by the hon. Members for Coventry, East and Devonport will be relevant, but which are now premature in their conception. To endeavour to negotiate from weakness with the Soviet Union will be to find ourselves back along the line which satellite nations in Europe have already found they have had to take up.
I should like to make an appeal to the Foreign Secretary that in this negotiation from strength he should consider not only strength of armaments and physical force but should consider most carefully the network of persuasion in international affairs. I should like to read a sentence from a recent book by Professor E. H. Carr, discussing the impact of Soviet foreign policy on world affairs. He has spoken about the important subject of propaganda.
I particularly want to bring this up tonight because I have noted with a little alarm a certain tendency to attack the British Council, the Central Office of Information and other instruments whereby British points of view are dispersed abroad. I do not believe that any of these organisations are free from criticism, but it is not the organisations which have to be attacked but the people who run them, and their methods. Professor Carr has said:Propaganda, in the temporary sense of processes organised and carried cut by officials appointed for the purpose, is part of the normal conduct of foreign policy and is a quite recent phenomenon in foreign affairs which owes much to Soviet inspiration and example.293 As we cannot hope to negotiate with the Soviet Union from any other position than strength in armaments, so we must be prepared to deal with the onslaught of Soviet propaganda wherever it may appear. This is a highly important task which cannot be carried out by this country by itself.
I suggest that the United Nations, to which we must give the fullest possible support, must consider more efficient ways of disseminating the viewpoint of the United Nations throughout the world, and that we, too, must do all we can to see that the British viewpoint, our standards and our ideas of life and Government, are disseminated more effectively.
§ Mr. Nutting
Perhaps I can relieve the Foreign Secretary from replying on this point, which happens to be the particular concern of my Department, by telling my hon. Friend that we are alive to all the suggestions that he is putting, and that we shall take them into account in our future policy.
§ Mr. Harvey
I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend for that reply, because it will relieve hon. Members from listening to a development of this case which otherwise I should have had to undertake. I am relieved to hear what he has said, because when the former Prime Minister was in power we cross-questioned him as to the operation, in one particular and important instance, of our information services in the United States of America. Contrary to the belief which he apparently held, the British point of view was not at all understood by the United States of America, who felt that our views were better expressed by the hon. Member for Coventry, East.
Our suggestions were pooh-poohed by the then Prime Minister. I hope that the reply which the Joint Under-Secretary has now given to me indicates that his view is different from that of the previous Government. I urge that in any cuts which are made in services of that kind we shall bear in mind the vital importance of informing the world how and where we stand and of influencing the minds of people.
I agree entirely with the views that have been put forward about the cultural and educational duties which fall to us as a nation concerned with the building of the future structure of peace. The activities 294 of the Communist régime and its propaganda are always more fruitful where there are disease, poverty and want. It is encouraging to know that the Joint Under-Secretary of State, as a representative of the Government, is fully aware of the danger and of the importance of this task.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
Listening, as I did yesterday, to the Foreign Secretary giving a rather grim preface to his general remarks of his impressions of Mr. Vyshinsky, after six years' absence from office, and listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), today, I was struck by the atmosphere in which we are debating a most grave and serious situation.
This is not the occasion for partisan bickerings between one side of the House and the other. I know that if one wants to be popular one has to applaud one's own party line and party policy, and I must admit that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East, has on numerous occasions criticised his own Government either directly or by implications. If he is right, we should consider his points carefully and see whether it is not possible, as he said, to get agreement on these very serious matters both within our separate parties and within this debating Chamber, but I am not at all sure that his assessment of the facts is one on which we can base a solution.
The reason is that he is so brilliant in his exposition and in his jugglery with words, that his ideas shoot right over the mark. He is not able to present, even in his own case, a solution on which we could really agree. When he talks about re-armament or disarmament, what does he say in effect. He says that £4,700 million is the wrong figure. Maybe it is.
I should like to hear from the Government facts which I have never heard from the previous Government and which led to the conclusion that £4,700 million was the right figure. I hope we shall get them. I hope we shall get the information in the public discussion on defence. Only if we are in possession of those facts can we make up our minds whether the previous Government or the present Government are right in the direction of our national policy.
My hon. Friend is much too naÏve in his assertions. I wonder what knowledge 295 he has of the Russians. He has intimate knowledge of the Germans, I agree, but of Russian psychology I am afraid he knows very little. Certainly he has not had the vast experience which the Labour Government have had, under two Foreign Secretaries during six years of office, of trying to reason with the Russians to get them to accept some broad, fair solution.
I was very interested to hear the Foreign Secretary say, coming freshly from Paris, that all he was able to hear from Mr. Vyshinsky, the Foreign Secretary of a great and powerful nation, was sneers and diatribes. That is not the way to get agreement between Governments. I speak, not with a vast experience of Russia, but merely from reading the facts. Some of the facts are contained in a book called "The Russo-German Alliance," which alliance led to the outbreak of the last war. To what conclusion do I come from reading those facts, based as they are on official documents, facts about Russia?
My conclusion is that Russia because of its materialist conception of life, will bargain only on one basis. The basis is fundamental and it frequently emerges. Read, for example, the books of the present Prime Minister. He had a lot to do with Russia during the war, when he was the first international statesman to go on the air and, with all his prejudices and his past actions against Russia, to say: "We will stand by the side of Russia in her fight against Nazi Germany."
What does he say in those books? It is repeated in books by other observers of Russia. He says that Stalin had broadly one question only to ask of him when he was leading this nation in the war, "How many divisions?" On one occasion when the Vatican was mentioned as probably being able to exercise a certain influence in affairs, Stalin said, "But how many divisions of troops has the Pope?" Stalin understands those terms. It is unfortunate, and I regret it very much.
Every lover of peace must regret the re-armament on which the world has embarked. We know—particularly those who have served in the fighting Forces, and there are many in the House—what war means, but how on earth are we to 296 bargain with Russia and come to any terms on the basis of some of the remarks—I will not call them arguments because they were not reasoned arguments—by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East? I am a great admirer of some of his writings and some of the contributions he makes on the wireless, but I believe his wireless contributions are regarded mainly as entertainment.
However, we are discussing a serious matter and we are entitled to hear serious arguments from all parts of the House, and the one that I now put before the House about Russia is that we can talk on only one foundation, as Stalin puts it, of how many divisions there are. That is regrettable, but it is Stalin who is advancing the point, not this country.
Strangely enough, when my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East, says that the question of the re-armament of Germany is a question of war and peace, for once in a while he is right. Of course it will be a question of war or peace. We can be quite sure that there will be war at some time if Britain and America are weak, and if Germany is left as Russia wants it, in a vacuum.
We can be quite sure that once Russia knows that we mean business in Germany too—by "business" I mean that we shall negotiate not from weakness but from strength—she will alter her tune. That is the experience of the past, and I am sure it will be that of the future.
I am fortified in that opinion by speeches made by our own leaders when they were in the Government and were in possession of all the official information from the Embassies, the Intelligence Service and so forth. In spite of what my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East, has said, I do not believe that in the days when Mr. Ernest Bevin was alive, a Labour Government with the Labour Party behind it would have dared to embark on such a re-armament policy and conscription, sending our young men into the Services for two years, unless it had been convinced that it was the only way of ensuring peace. It is a risk and an experiment, I quite agree, but in these days we have to proceed by trial and error. I hope there will be few errors. However, that is the reason why I support this policy.
In relation to Germany, I ask all hon. Members—those of my hon. Friends who 297 disagree with me on this point, as do some hon. Members on the other side of the House—what they are prepared to do about Germany. It is no good dismissing Germany by saying that she is divided into two zones. Those are facts, and it was not we but Russia who divided Germany.
People who go to Berlin, as a Parliamentary delegation did recently, and walk or ride from the Western sector of Berlin to the Eastern sector, have no need to question anybody, for they can see with their own eyes the great discrepancies and the great difference in outlook between the people of the two sectors. There is a greyness and a drabness about the Eastern sector. The Russians will say that it is the capitalism of the West that makes West Berlin so attractive to so many of the people in the Eastern sector. Whatever may be the reason the difference is very noticeable.
There it is. We have the German nation divided artificially between the Eastern zone and the Western zone. Never mind why the division was made in this way, although I must say that serious errors were committed by statesmen who contributed to the division during the war. I am not a supporter of the Yalta Agreement. I am ready to criticise those who left that militarily untenable corridor between Berlin and the West. The possibility of war arises every time the Russians seek to block the corridor on some pretext or other. Those who consented to that solution must bear some responsibility for it.
But those are the facts. What are we to do about them? I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East, and those who think like him, that the best thing would be to keep Germany permanently disarmed. But how are we to do that? I agree with that solution, but Russia does not. Russia has taken precautions, because she believes in rearmament and not in disarmament, to arm German nationals in the East. I can think of no more serious war than a civil war, but what are those armed nationals for if not at some time to use force to overcome those in the West who will not agree with them?
§ Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)
Will my right hon. Friend tell me how Germany is to be compelled to re-arm?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am prepared to deal with that later, but at the moment I am dealing with a different matter, what I might call the "moral issues." We fought to defeat Germany, and we have defeated Germany.
What are we to do about the future? My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East, will not tackle that question. All he says is, "Why not have the Austrian plan for Germany?" a plan which he says has been working smoothly, because a few anti-Communists are permitted to be elected in the Russian zone of Austria. Russia keeps the power there all the time and she keeps the power in Austria against the will of the Austrian people. Why? It is because she knows the strategic importance of Austria.
But what are we to do about Germany? Disarm her? We have disarmed her economically in spite of the fact that she is making great strides in her economic system. Why should she not? There are 40 million or 50 million people in Germany who have to be fed just as there are 50 million people in this country who have to be provided for, and so long as Germany is engaged in fair industrial operations in the world, why should she not do her best for her own people just as our Government does its best for ours?
At all events, most of Germany's economic operations in exports are controlled by trade treaties freely negotiated with a number of countries, including our own. We have disarmed Germany economically and militarily, and yet, we are re-arming ourselves and both the Americans and the British are keeping large Occupation Forces in Germany. Those Forces are there under an Occupation Statute, and it is the purpose of the present Government, as it was of the Labour Government, to revise that Statute because we cannot grant Western Germany a Peace Treaty.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Southgate)
Supposing we exclude Germany from all self-defence or from manufacturing armaments while we carry on with the heavy impost of British re-armament, how are we to compete in the markets of the world against Germany, who will not have to carry that heavy load? It seems to me we are offering Europe to Germany without a struggle.
§ Mr. Bellenger
The point which the hon. Member has put, seems to me to be this: I am arguing that we should re-arm Germany so that she should have to bear re-armament taxation and burdens, as we are, and more or less reach a state of equality of taxation with us. I am arguing nothing of the kind. I say that rearmament is for one purpose only—at least, it is in the democratic nations—defence.
How are we to defend Germany, right in the centre of Europe, with Russian troops in Germany, unless we take some steps to do it? At present we are doing it by keeping there large American and British Forces, with our young men who have been conscripted, in order to keep Russia as far away from these shores, or certainly as far away from Germany, as we possibly can.
It is fantastic that we in Britain should be, as it were, arguing that we and America and the Western nations combined in Western defence, should be the only ones to defend Germany. Why should not Germany defend herself if there is a possibility of aggression from her neighbours? The only reason, as far as I can understand, that we are re-arming ourselves is because we believe that there is a possibility of aggression against us. I say, "What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," and therefore, the Occupation Statute, if it is to be revised, must be revised on terms.
What are those terms? One is obviously something which has been agreed at Brussels, and agreed to by the British Labour Government and other Governments, that Germany should make a contribution to the defence of her own country. In that, there are two points upon which the Germans are insistent and which, perhaps, answer in part my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen). One is the cost of the occupation of Germany, which at present Germany is largely bearing, and the other is how any contribution that Germany makes to the defence of Western Europe shall be used. In other words, how will her troops be used?
Make no mistake about it, when these matters are settled—although I know that Germany and German youth have quite cynically said, "You can carry on this ohne mich—" that is, "without me" 300 —it will not be difficult for Germany to recruit voluntarily a sufficiently large defence force, which, if it is combined with the forces of America, France, Britain, and the other nations of Western Europe, will act as a severe deterrent in stopping Russia if she wants to commit any act of aggression.
I hope, therefore, and I have reason to believe, that these issues are not far from settlement. I believe that the German Federal Chancellor, Dr. Adenauer, a very courageous man, a man who is the nearest to a statesman that I know on the European Continent, a man who has had to take decisions which were very unpopular in his own country, is a man who knows his own mind and is not only doing the best he possibly can for his own country—the supreme duty of every statesman—but is also trying to save, as he believes, and as we believe, too, Western civilisation.
I have reason to believe that these two main questions are within reach of settlement, and possibly the visit of the Foreign Secretary to Paris and the interview that he will very shortly have with Dr. Adenauer will conduce to a rapid settlement, because we must have a settlement quickly if it is to be effective. I hope that Germany will then take her part with the other Western democratic nations, both industrially and culturally, as she is fully fitted to do, and militarily, as she is also able to do.
I am bound to say, and I say it with great sadness and regret, that that is not the ideal solution. I agree with my hon. Friends who see in this a dangerous situation. But what is the alternative? They will not give us one. All that they talk about is reducing a figure of £4,700 million to something, as my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East, said, less than that. Let them come out boldly and say what we ought to do if they have a better solution. I do not think, in view of the circumstances I have related with regard to Russia, that there is any other way.
There is one matter to which I should like to refer quite briefly in connection with the right hon. Gentleman's speech yesterday. He mentioned the question of the armistice negotiations which are going on in Korea. Every parent of our 301 boys serving out there is fervently praying that we may quickly come to a cessation of this terrible war, a war which was not started by us or even by America.
The Foreign Secretary was talking about the armistice terms in relation to prisoners of war, and I interjected to ask him in what respect those negotiations concerning prisoners of war were going on. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle), intervened to say that we have more prisoners of theirs than they have of ours, and, therefore, the question would be easy of solution.
Do I understand that the armistice conditions will include, so soon as the armistice has been agreed and the stop line has been reached and hostilities have ceased, an exchange of all prisoners of war that we can locate, or does it refer only to those who are sick? This is a matter of importance to many mothers and others, not only in this country, but particularly in America.
I can well understand the right hon. Gentleman's explanation that the prisoners of war question concerns the ascertainment of the locality where they are held, the conditions under which they are held, and the possibility of contact with them by the International Red Cross. But if it is possible to give an answer tonight, I should like to know whether it is contemplated that we shall be able to effect exchanges of prisoners of war—whether the basis is two to one or one to one, I do not mind—so soon as armistice terms have been agreed.
I do not think that peace can be ensured by pious resolutions or brilliant speeches or anything that is said in any Parliament or conference. Peace can only be achieved by a willingness on both sides to meet each other's point of view. Every businessman knows that in business, both sides begin by stating their highest terms and then gradually come down to a basis of compromise and that then a contract ensues. The contract is not always observed.
Nevertheless, it will be a great achievement if this or any other Government can get Russia to come to a binding contract, because paradoxically enough, in respect of the industrial agreements that Russia has made with other countries, she has observed her contracts. If we can do 302 this on a political scale it would be a great achievement.
I go so far as to say that the country does not care which Government achieve it, and there are many hon. Members on both sides who will give credit to whoever the Government are, even to the present Prime Minister—if he is able to do it—with all the differences which exist between him and some of us. But what we are after is peace. It is only because I believe that these are the only ways we can get somewhere near to it, although I do not believe entirely up to it, that I supported the Labour Government when it was in power and that I support the present Government in the way they are tackling these negotiations with Russia and America.
I believe that at some time British influence will have a greater effect on America, our partner in these matters, than a lot of hon. Members may think. In my opinion Britain still has a tremendous moral influence in the world. It is something we can export over all tariff barriers and all political frontiers.
Britain is not down and out yet. Britain has a tremendous amount of goodwill among and contacts with other nations in the world which I hope will induce Americans to go into this affair with us on a basis of 50–50 and not of something more than 50 on their side and something less than that on ours. I believe that responsible minds in America do take notice of and recognise the tremendous contribution that our country made in that year when we "stood alone," as the Prime Minister calls it. I believe that negotiations with America, properly conducted—we shall be vigilant on all these matters as an Opposition, of course—will bear great and valuable dividends before long
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Lord John Hope (Edinburgh, Pent lands)
There has been so much said in this debate on which the whole House is agreed that perhaps one has noticed the one or two jarring notes somewhat unduly. I listened yesterday to a speech by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) and I listened today to the speech of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). It was not long ago that the hon. Member for Coventry, East, said in a speech, I think in Oxford, that Bevanism would be the policy of the Labour Party in a year. I suppose we 303 have heard from those two hon. Members the foreign policy of Bevanism.
If I may be allowed to make a controversial point, I hope very much from my party's point of view that the hon. Member for Coventry, East, was right because, if what we have heard from him and from his hon. Friend is to be the foreign policy that the party opposite will adopt within a year, the party on this side of the House is safe for about 20 years.
§ Lord John Hope
The hon. Member must argue that with his hon. Friend. May I now come to the Foreign Secretary's theme, which I might call "The cold war and the chasm"? I was as refreshed by the speech of the Foreign Secretary as every other hon. and right hon. Member in this House, and it is in no sense criticism of him but, if I may say so, merely a general warning to us all, that I say in connection with the cold war I think we are all tempted to sacrifice clarity of analysis to anxiety for a solution.
I shall have something to say in a moment about a solution. Meanwhile I must comment on a suggestion of the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), who recommended to the Foreign Secretary that these discussions between the statesmen of the world should take place less in public than they have up to now. I quite agree that in certain circumstances there is much to be said for diplomacy behind the scenes, but equally I can also see that in this case, when dealing with Communist propaganda, we have to be very careful before we allow them to send out any propaganda—entirely false accounts they would be, of course—of what has gone on in secret.
We should not have the advantage, which we have when matters are discussed in the open, of letting the people see what has been said on both sides. I think the free world has lost nothing, but has gained much, from the fact that all these discussions so far have been in the open and that everyone knows beyond a peradventure the heavy responsibility and extreme degree of guilt that the Soviet Government bears for the present impasse in world affairs. 304 It is customary, and it is a healthy custom, to ask, "Are all the faults on one side?" That is a fair rule of life, but in this case I suggest to hon. Members opposite that it is really an irrelevant question in the case of the cold war and responsibility for it. It is for the Soviet to end the cold war, because we cannot. We cannot end it, except by surrendering everything in which we believe.
It is a great mistake to suppose that both sides suddenly found themselves locked in conflict, as it were by chance or by mistake. That did not happen; the Soviet began the cold war and they began it quite deliberately. History is already littered with proofs of that contention. I am going into no details except in one case because the details are already familiar to the House and indeed to the world.
I simply put the proofs under four headings: Broken treaties—I say nothing about those, it is an old story; the disgraceful use of the veto by Russia in the Security Council—again an old story and a familiar one; the war in the Far East by proxy, again an old story; fourthly, and about this I want to say a word, armed strength and consumer production and the relation between the two in Soviet Russia.
I am concentrating on the figures vis-à-vis Russia and the United States, and my argument is of course directed largely to hon. Members opposite who believe that America is to blame for everything that has gone wrong. At the height of the last war, the United States of America had more than 12 million men in their armed forces, which was a few hundred thousand less than the Russians at that time. Within two years after the end of the war the United States had less than 1,750,000 men under arms and Russia was estimated to have 4,700,000. So much for armed strength.
I turn now to the question of production and wish to refer the House to the extremely significant speech made by M. Beria in Moscow a week ago. M. Beria said this about production, two things to which I would call the attention of the House. One was that this year production of leather shoes in Russia would barely exceed one pair per head. Secondly, he said that the Soviet was only now "beginning"—that was the word he 305 used—the mass production of refrigerators, washing machines and so on.
The question to ask those who insist on blaming the United States for warlike intentions is, what were the Russians doing in the post-war years when the Americans, whom they are so ready to blame now, were mass-producing these consumer goods? That is the question to ask certain hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham. Erdington)
Has the hon. Member no conception whatever of the destruction which Russia suffered during the war? Surely the first five years would be devoted to reconstructing the shattered industries and cities. That would clearly be the first thing to do, before they went on to produce refrigerators and washing machines
§ Lord John Hope
There might be something in what the hon. Gentleman has said, if Russia had not spent the intervening years building aeroplanes and tanks and armed forces in every degree. That is what Russia has been doing for the past few years, and the hon. Member ought to recognise it and say so.
The Russians began the cold war and they are responsible for the chasm. The question is how to cross it. One thing must be said at once. At the moment only one side wishes to cross that chasm in friendship. The other side at the moment means to cross it only by conquest. But here, in my submission, comes the daylight. As soon as Soviet Russia knows that that conquest cannot be effected they will think again. That is the position at which we must aim, and that is what we mean by our intention to seek and to hold peace through strength. The core of the problem, therefore, is to induce Soviet Russia to want to end the cold war.
What is the point at which the Soviet Government will swing into line? I say, shortly and simply, that it is the point at which they know for certain that the union between the British Commonwealth of Nations and the United States is here to stay. That is the moment at which the Soviet Government will want to call off the cold war, and not a moment before. They do not know yet that that moment has arrived, if indeed it has. In that connection, if the House will forgive 306 a personal point, I am proud that since I came into this House in 1945 I have done all I can to bring about that close and indissoluble union.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
This is a fascinating point. Could the hon. Member expand it a little? What does he mean by his term "union?"
§ Lord John Hope
I am coming to that. I can answer the hon. Member in a moment. The Soviet Government knows that a common foreign policy by the Commonwealth and the United States can guarantee the peace of the world. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) commented yesterday on the fact that that could be guaranteed by the United States, Soviet Russia and the Commonwealth. Of course it could.
But I believe it can also be guaranteed by a firm union between the Commonwealth and the United States, without Russia if need be. That is why everything which the Russians say is said in order to split the alliance between us and the United States. That is why those who preach the theory of neutrality are helping the Communist cause and that is why the "third force" is a thoroughly vicious fallacy.
I hope that a common foreign policy will be the aim of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary when they go to Washington. A common foreign policy does not shut out or de-limit the area of regional pacts or arrangements. I am of opinion that only such a common foreign policy can give the central direction which people of all politics in the anti-Communist camp recognise that the free world must have.
So far as details are concerned—and this is my answer to the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies)—I do not want to go into too many because I have not the time. But I would suggest that there should be regular meetings between the Foreign Secretary of this country and the Secretary of State in the United States, and their staffs. I should also like to see the immediate reform of the Joint Chiefs of Staff committee.
So far as the Americans are concerned, I know quite well—I have listened to it so often—what is the criticism that is made of our allies. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) calls 307 them unreliable allies, and hon. and right hon. Members have called them headstrong. But it is just as well to remember the facts when we are criticising people for their character.
The facts are that in most of the big things since the war the United States have been right. But let us give the critics part of what they want. For the sake of the argument let us admit that the Americans are headstrong. Is not that as strong an argument as we can find in favour of blending their power and our experience?
The Foreign Secretary, with what we all believe to be great wisdom, advocated a policy of "step by step." I know well that that does not mean that he and the Prime Minister are not prepared, when they go to Washington, to see this thing through. The House will remember—I will not quote it—the famous prayer of Sir Francis Drake; about whatyieldeth the true glory.It is the continuing of the job to the end once you have begun it.
If the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary return from Washington with the links between the British Commonwealth and the United States forged beyond the possibility of severance, theirs will be the true glory. They will have saved the peace and posterity will bless their name. I wish them well.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
I have one point to make and I shall try to make it as briefly as possible. I was very much struck by this passage in the speech of the Foreign Secretary yesterday:Can the Kremlin, for instance, really regard the Atlantic Pact as aggressive in intent? Can one believe that countries like Denmark or Norway or Belgium or Canada could conceivably want to join an alliance designed for aggression? However ill the Soviet Government may think of the greater Powers of the free world, if they pause for a moment to examine the matter they simply cannot believe that these powers could make a joint aggressive move against them."—[OFFICAL REPORT, 19th November, 1951; Vol 494, c. 35.]I feel, on the contrary, that one of the great problems which faces the Foreign Secretary is that in their ignorance, prejudice and isolation, the Soviet Government can and do think precisely that. It 308 seems to me that this is a point which is not studied with the care it deserves. I may be right or wrong, but I am sure this problem does deserve careful study by the Foreign Secretary if he is really to bridge the chasm between East and West, about which he spoke yesterday. I think the importance of it is obvious.
If the Soviet Government is, as many people in the United States and some hon. Members on the benches opposite believe, purely cynical about its propaganda; if, when it says that the Soviet Union is threatened by the Western Powers and, that the Atlantic Pact is aggressive in intention, it is purely cynical and using this propaganda simply to divide and weaken the West in its efforts to achieve its aim of world Communism, it seems to me that certain things follow for our policies and our attitudes.
For example, it means that we can go all out for armed strength, without any inhibition whatever; certain in the knowledge that the only effect will be to encourage these clear sighted and realistic men to abandon their adventurous policies, the kind of thing we have been seeing in Korea, Malaya and elsewhere. We can without any inhibition re-arm Germany to the teeth, if we can feel sure that the Russians fully understand our motives and know that we are not planning an aggressive war against them.
If, on the other hand, as I believe, they are at least 95 per cent. sold on their own propaganda; if they are not cynical about these things, but do actually believe them, there is great danger in charging blindly ahead along the lines I have been describing. There is a danger that such policies could inflame pathological fears and suspicions of the Russians beyond a certain point, even produce some kind of panic preventive action, which might easily precipitate a world war. Whether I am right or wrong about that, this is surely an important problem, worth studying carefully.
There is no time to detail the evidence for one side or the other. I will merely suggest that, at first sight, it must seem very odd that able and intelligent people, as they undoubtedly are—and anyone who has had contact with them knows that perfectly well—should believe such ridiculous things. Moreover, one must note that, when the theory of 309 Marxism and Leninism conflicts with the State interests of Soviet Russia, it is usually the latter which prevails over the former.
Nevertheless, it is my firm conclusion that the Soviet leaders are, in fact, to a large extent, the victims of their own propaganda, that they are not cynical when they say the things they do. This impression is confirmed the more one goes into the conditions in which they live and work, and considers the remoteness and isolation of the Soviet Union, the lack of free discussion, and the fears and ambitions to which they are subject and the doubts which are repressed, consciously and sub-consciously.
I think that those who visited Russia, have talked with Soviet delegates and know the Russian people well, appreciate what I am saying as being true. Where the Russian leaders are dealing in practice with things with which they are in actual contact—in home affairs, for in-stance—theirs is a realistic approach, but where they are dealing with the Western world, from which they are remote and about which they are usually informed by people who are afraid to tell the truth, it seems to me that they do have these wholly false but genuinely felt suspicions and fears.
What is more, what they believe is fairly plausible. It is certainly held to be true by the vast mass of the people in Russia and in China. What reason have we to suppose that these beliefs are not held by at least 90 per cent. of the bureaucracy in Russia, especially when there are some here in Britain, with access to a free Press and all the facts, who themselves believe in the lunatic theory that the Atlantic Pact is aggressive and directed against Russia? If these people believe it, why is it difficult, as the Foreign Secretary suggested yesterday, to believe that the Politburo and the Kremlin, remote, ignorant, prejudiced, obsessed with their half-baked theories, do not believe it, too?
Of course, it is dangerous to talk in this manner, because everyone admits that fear is at least a large part of the motivation of the Russian Government. It is open to foolish people—or to Communists—to suggest that if we want to remove the fear and terror in the world all we have to do is to abandon our arms and change our policies. That is a dangerous and thoroughly false and wrong conclusion, 310 because the same pernicious doctrine which leads the Russians to fear aggression from the West leads them also to hate the West and try to destroy it.
The same Western armaments and policies which increase their fears of our attacking them, also deter them from attacking us. The cause lies not in any Western armaments or policies, but far back in those pernicious doctrines of the inevitable conflict between what are called the Communist and what are called the capitalist countries.
The conclusion to be drawn, I am sure, is first, that we must make a maximum effort to be strong, and, second, that we must make a maximum effort to avoid increasing their illusion that we are forcing war upon them, that they cannot disengage from the cold war if they wish to. There may be policies which would strengthen the Western Powers and yet, because they so greatly increase the suspicion and tension in the world, should be avoided for the sake of peace.
My final suggestion is a practical one, Whether I am right or wrong about this question of Russian and Chinese motivation, I do feel that the question is one that deserves serious study by the Foreign Secretary. It has not been done, so far as I know. I suggest that a thorough and organised study should be made of this subject, not only in this country, but in the United States, where they have things to learn on this subject. In a short while I hope it may be true to say that our understanding of the Soviet Union may be a little better and that we may help the progress towards the ideal which the Foreign Secretary rightly put first in his speech—the ideal of narrowing the terrifying chasm between them and us.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)
The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) has just ended his speech with an interesting suggestion, which I have not heard put before, and I hope that the Government will follow it up. The hon. Gentleman also said, and I quite agree with him, that we should make a maximum effort to be strong to deal with Russia, but that we should also make a maximum effort not to frighten the Russians.
I would disagree with him on that, because I would point out to him that the speech of my right hon. Friend the 311 Foreign Secretary in Paris last week must have disabused the Russians of any fear; at any rate, it should have disabused Mr. Vyshinsky of any fear that we were ever going to attack the Russians or engage in any form of preventive war.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made a very fine speech yesterday, but I think it will be agreed that it was in the nature of an exploratory speech. It seems to me that it is useful on this occasion to deal with the objects of our foreign policy. Foreign policy, put very simply, means the maintenance of British interests abroad. British interests are primarily trading interests, because we are a trading nation. In these islands, as the Prime Minister is so fond of saying—these little islands with 50 million people crowded together—we must trade to maintain our own safety and our standard of life, so that the primary object of our foreign policy is to maintain and extend our trade.
To do that, we must have freedom, freedom to live in our own way in our own islands, and that seems to me to be the object of our foreign policy. The method by which we should achieve it is, first, peace. Those who spoke at the last General Election and said that, if the people voted Tory, they were more likely to have a war, must have misunderstood the real situation in this country, because it is against the interests of all British people to have to fight a war at all. It is against our trading and business interests to fight a war at all. Therefore, I think it was misconceived that these charges should have been bandied about even in the struggle of a General Election.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman really saying that peace is not an end in itself?
§ Captain Duncan
Yes. I am saying that the object of foreign policy is the maintenance of our trade and of our way of life, and that the best method by which we will achieve it is peace. The maintenance of peace, therefore, is our prime method of achieving our object, and as I had already explained before I was interrupted, another method by which in the past we achieved peace was through the League of Nations in the past and today is through the United Nations. I want to say a few words about that.
§ Mr. Baxter
In view of the fact that the Socialists constantly heckled each other this afternoon, I think I might, in fairness, be allowed to heckle my hon. and gallant Friend. Since when did the League of Nations secure any peace?
§ Captain Duncan
That is just what I am going to explain to my hon. Friend. The League of Nations failed, although it started as a great ideal. The whole idea of the League of Nations was that through the force of public opinion in the world any potential aggressor would be deterred from committing aggression. But that ideal failed, and it is unfair and wrong to say that its failure was the fault of any party in this country. It was not.
§ Captain Duncan
It was not the Tory Government, and every intelligent person knows it was not.
Now we have the United Nations organisation which was started in California at the end of the war. The League of Nations was unsuccessful partially because the United States was not a member of it. The United Nations organisation is more fortunate in that it counts the United States among its members, and it is frankly based on the use of force to supplement world public opinion.
In making his speech yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary seemed to be a little worried by the bogging down of the proceedings of the United Nations in what he called "their tangled character" and,the alarming growth of international committees and commissions of every sort and kind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1951; Vol. 494, c. 34.]I think it would be a very great pity if this happened again, for that is exactly what happened in the League of Nations. Floods of words were used in the League of Nations, and when difficult circumstances arose they were got round by a flood of carefully edited words and we got nowhere.
It seems to me that through this multiplication of committees and commissions there may be the danger of the same sort of thing happening again, that we are not going to effect peace through the United Nations, but merely going to get round difficult situations by floods of carefully 313 edited words once again, and that when a problem arises it will be referred to a committee or commission and be put off for another day. We had it quite recently in the case of Persia, when Dr. Mossadeq went to the Security Council in Washington. That matter was put off.
Again, we had the case of Albania where the British Government suffered a great reverse with the loss of British lives when destroyers were sunk. We won our case at The Hague Court and we went to the United Nations where we exerted all the usual lawful diplomatic procedure, yet we have not received a penny by way of compensation.
It seems to me, therefore, that to supplement all these methods, and others which I will not mention, for maintaining peace we must bring back again respect for law and order and for contracts entered into, as, otherwise, the United Nations Charter will be worth nothing but a scrap of paper to be torn up and forgotten. We must get back to respect for the signed contract and the written word and for the obligation that membership of a body carries with it responsibility for obeying instructions made as a result of resolutions passed by that body.
As one who has had to don khaki twice in my life, I find a decision on the question of Germany one of the hardest I have ever had to make. It seems to me that whatever I may say about the United Nations, we have to decide what is best for Britain in the light of the circumstances of the time. In the past the main danger has been Germany. In the even further past it was France, but, today, there seems to be no doubt—
§ Captain Duncan
Never. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, who is a Scottish Member, even though he is a Welshman, has some Celtic fellow feeling.
It seems to me that the question of Germany has to be decided in the light of existing circumstances, and in the existing circumstances it is fundamentally clear that the only possible enemy, so far as we can foresee, is Soviet Russia. I hate the idea of re-arming the Germans, but I am forced to the conclusion that the only alternative to that is to leave a vacuum in the middle of Europe which 314 can only be filled by the only possible aggressor of today. It is a horrible decision to have to make, particularly when one has studied the Germans in two wars and knows their character. None the less, all we can do is to allow the German nation to rise again, to allow it to re-arm and to do what we can through diplomatic means to allow that Germany of old to live within the comity of nations once again instead of allowing it to expand its militarism and revive its old ideas of aggression.
Those are the two main ideas I wanted to put before the House, but I would say, in conclusion, that the hopes and wishes, not only of Britain but of the whole world, are centred today in my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. His responsibility is enormous. If he can only save the peace of the world, his success, even if it be only a partial success, will be responded to in the hearts of millions of people all over the world.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
The hon. and gallant Member for Angus, South (Captain Duncan), has spoken to us about his disturbed feelings in relation to Germany and her re-armament. I appreciate his difficulties, but I would remind him that there is nothing constant in the history of Britain about this sort of enemy against which it would seem that we are always having to re-arm in one way or another.
The intervention of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), when he referred to Scotland, was no joke. If we go back far enough in history we find that at one time Scotland was as serious an enemy as the hon. and gallant Member opposite would have us believe that Russia is today. Does not it seem possible to him that there are pages in history which might prove what I am saying, even to him? All I would say is that there seems to be some capacity on our part to find enemies, and it is probably the necessity to undermine that capacity which is now our greatest need.
In the time during which I shall be allowed to address the House I should like to turn away from the preoccupations of this debate to a point of view different from those which have been expressed today. If I may, I should like to return to the speech of my right hon. Friend 315 the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), and his appeal that we should be careful how we approach America. It might well be that America might become an enemy if we allow our mental processes to master us as we were mastered when we thought of Germany and as we are mastered when we think now of Russia.
I know that in America there are proportionately as many men and women as there are here who are anxious for a settlement in the world and for peace in the way the hon. and gallant Member for Angus, South, has described. I am not disposed to say hard things about the American nation, whatever I might have to say about the policy that is being pursued. I hold in my hand a book recently published by the body of people known as Quakers and entitled, "Steps to Peace; a Quaker view of United States Foreign Policy." It was prepared by the American Friends' Service Committee. It is a very remarkable book and I wish hon. Members would find the time to read it.
This book was written by men who are anxious to support their own country and who believe in their own country. They say, quite frankly, that though they are critical of their country's policy…it is not because of any lack of affection for our country, but because of our deep distrust of military power as an instrument for building peace.They remind us thatAmerica was brought into being as a nation by men who had a deep sense of the value of the individual, a mistrust of undue influence by men of military mind.…
§ Mr. Hudson
Let us remember that these Quakers were probably thinking of William Penn. At any rate, it is the William Penn point of view that has very much actuated the body of people who express themselves in this book. They go on to say that those who brought America into being had amistrust of undue influence by men of military mind and a deep and pervading confidence in God.They say that the approach, the attitude of mind that is called for today is that which assumesa humility sensitive to how other peoples and Governments feel, an inquiring spirit that 316 persistently tries to understand those we fear most, and a continuing recognition that all people everywhere are children of a common Father—these constitute, we believe, a much surer position of strength than one that depends upon the capacity for the use of destructive violence.They approach the problem in that spirit and they appeal for negotiation, for reasoning and for courage. They think that very often there are opportunities offered to us in a world utterly divided because of blindness to those opportunities. They think that our reliance on the United Nations as an organisation to exercise violence rather than to practise negotiation—which was the main intention in the foundation of the United Nations—that the willingness to practise violence against the recalcitrant has its own reaction on our minds.
This is preventing us from using the United Nations as an organ for negotiating a better world and a surer peace. I feel that they are right in that when I think of the United Nations meetings in Paris recently and of the slanging matches between Vyshinsky on one hand and Acheson on the other. Their very despair in facing one another and in facing the problems they ought to be working out together arises out of their long disposition to look upon the United Nations as the world's main organisation of force.
We in this country make a great mistake when, for example, we talk about how we think negotiation should proceed. Some of my hon. Friends who have been talking this evening have been emphasising again, as all parties emphasise, the need to be strong before one negotiates. But to be strong is no qualification for negotiation. It may have the result that the other man with whom one negotiates reacts in the opposite direction we expect him to take. He probably tries to make us think that he is as strong or somewhere near as strong as we are. Instead of opening his mind to a spirit of negotiation, he remains adamant against every proposal we have to make to him. He does this because he fears that any other course would make him seem weaker in our eyes. Thus we never really can negotiate from strength.
I submit that the main job of this House today, and the main job of the Government, is to make an effort to look behind this policy of re-armament and this reliance upon the United Nations as an 317 organisation for the exercise of force and see whether even among those we fear most there may not be something which we can adopt as a common basis with them to build anew. I believe there are such things.
The Friends' Service Committee, in the book to which I have referred, point out that the United States is more strongly organised now than any nation in the world and is probably feeling herself the most insecure of any nation in the world. She has the biggest stockpiles, her armaments are greater, her industrial potential is, beyond all doubt, greater than anything we know, and yet the Americans are in a constant state of funk.
I feel that in this matter the American Friends' Service Committee are right. In one passage of the book which they have published they say that the people who insist upon regarding themselves as being strong and, therefore, able to negotiate strongly are quite mistaken. In the realm of arms, one nation's common sense is another nation's high blood pressure. Anger, rather than confidence, is the consequence.
Is there, amongst all the diverse difficulties which face us, anything we can pick out upon which we might find common grounds with the Russians who, apparently, we fear most? Is there common ground upon that issue to which I referred at Question time today—the atom bomb? It was we who let it loose. Our Prime Minister took the responsibility for this, with Mr. Truman. The Prime Minister has said that he took it on his conscience to use the bomb, though he was advised by the scientists of those days that it might be better not to use it.
Let us try to understand what a nation would come to feel once they believed that the atom bomb, used, first, against the Japanese, would next be used against them. With the threat of this bomb hanging over their heads, like the Sword of Damocles, the Russians, in reaction, became increasingly suspicious. Russian speeches have become more and more hateful. I have nothing good to say about the speeches of Mr. Vyshinsky, as he has made them recently in Paris, but I understand them. Do not we all understand why speeches of that sort are made by these men? It is not because these men are utterly bad; it is because, by our 318 reliance on the atom bomb, we have treated them as being utterly bad.
I suggest that the line laid down in this book by the American Friends' Service Committee, as a suggestion to the American Government for a new policy on the atom bomb, is well worth our attention tonight. They remind us that, despite Mr. Vyshinsky's insistence on the veto, almost exactly a year ago he made a suggestion that in certain eventualities Russia would agree to international inspection of the places where bombs were made. I notice that General Eisenhower, speaking on this matter not long ago, said there might be a chance to reach agreement on this question, but that the indispensable preliminary was that there should be complete inspection on all sides. Is there any chance of that?
The Under-Secretary throws out his hand despairingly. I put it to him that the situation is not as bad as he thinks, because in his speech Mr. Vyshinsky went on to describe what were the steps involved in the inspection to which he said Russia would agree. First, he said, there must beaccess to all enterprises for the extracting, production and stockpiling of atomic raw materials and products.That is fairly complete, and I think the Americans would be more likely to object to it than would the Russians. Second,there must be the right of observation in atomic energy enterprises with production operations, to the extent necessary for control over the utilisation of atomic materials and energy.Third,there must be the right to carry out measures concerning weighing, verification and analysis of various kinds of atomic raw materials.The Russians thus proposed to lay bare the atom bomb and its manufacture, but for some curious reason this offer was not accepted. I dare say there is an excuse for it, because so many other offers have been made on which we have poured our derision—so many excuses, indeed, that we have forgotten that these statements were made by Mr. Vyshinsky. I hope that when the Prime Minister goes to see Mr. Truman he can travel back along the road which he has travelled on this atomic bomb question.
I want this issue to be re-examined, as the American Friends are asking the American Government to examine it. It is a far bigger question than the question 319 of Austria or Italy or even Germany, for to me the thud of atomic bombs, dropped experimentally, is a dreadful undertone to all our discussions. If the atom bomb is dropped in earnest in the world again—as it was dropped at the end of the last war—it means that everything else we are trying to do in this House will be of no avail. If we can find an approach to Russia which will make even a limited agreement possible it will be worth trying. Every statesman, every politician on our Front Bench and on the Opposition Front Bench, should be bending all their efforts towards securing such an agreement.
I think I have kept my promise about the time I should take, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. There is much else to say, but if we could do the thing for which I have appealed it would be a great contribution to peace. which the hon. and gallant Member for Angus, South, said was his main desire. I pray to God that it may be the main desire, now and for always, of everyone of us.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Southgate)
It must not be imagined that we, on this side of the House, do not share, basically, the opinions and the feelings which the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) has expressed. May I go a little further and say that those of us who have fought in a war are probably more pacifist, to use the word in its best sense, even than those who have not fought? We come out of a war with such a sense of blasphemy and futility that we hate war with all our hearts.
When the hon. Gentleman puts his case with such feeling and eloquence, and says that all we need to stop a war are good intentions and peaceful desires, we have to remember what happened in 1914. Even after the war had progressed for some time the American President said there was such a thing as being too proud to fight. In that, he was expressing the point of view of the hon. Member for Ealing, North; but while America was too proud to fight, our comrades, the French and British, were dying by their tens of thousands. Nor did the South Koreans have any time to negotiate.
It must not be thought that when we take a different point of view we lack sympathy, but we must remember, in 320 considering the hon. Gentleman's explanation of American history, that while the religious bodies played a great part in the creation of America, in making it an independent country it was also accomplished by those men who were determined to fight for it who—
§ Mr. Baxter
Against us. My maternal ancestor was a German mercenary fighting for the British against the Americans, and in the pay of the British; and, incidentally, I became a British mercenary in 1914, fighting against the Germans.
§ Mr. Usborne
The hon. Gentleman has suggested that America was formed by men who wanted to fight. In fact, the United States of America was not formed in that way. It was formed as a result of the Congress of Philadelphia by people who were determined that those 13 colonies should not fight among themselves. That is why they united.
§ Mr. Baxter
I did not say by men who were determined for war, but by men who were determined and ready to fight if necessary; and they did fight.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Is not the position really this; that the war was fought by two sides, each ready to fight, both not wanting to, and both, 150 years later, wishing that they had not?
§ Mr. Baxter
That is typical of the hon. Gentleman's love of splitting four hairs at once.
I want to raise two matters. I know that silence is a physical and temperamental difficulty of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), but if he would follow me with the courtesy of silence, and would listen to me, I should be obliged. I want to raise one or two points on which I feel strongly. Mr. Bonar Law once said that the biggest nuisance in the House of Commons was the Member who had been to Bulgaria during the Recess. I went through Europe this summer and, therefore, I qualify as a nuisance. I motored across Europe, visiting Germany, Austria, France and so on.
I met a very intelligent German politician, a man of very high standing in Western Germany. He put a point to me which I think is worth mentioning to 321 the House tonight. He said "I do not think we worry as much about the Russians as you do because you are further away. Remember this. Stalin is a dictator, and no dictator has ever been followed by a dictator. Stalin is also an old man." I said "What about Stalin following Lenin?"
"Oh, no," he said, "Lenin was not a dictator; Lenin was a Communist. Lenin brought the Communist Party into a position of complete power. After Lenin's death Stalin decided on a counterrevolution, and I am surprised that you do not realise that he simply started a counter-revolution." This German politician continued, "Stalin was determined to become a dictator on the model of Napoleon, Hitler and Mussolini. He drained the power of the party until it was merely an instrument for what he wanted to do. Study your history very closely and you will come to that same conclusion."
He said also, "Stalin has had his war. Stalin is jealous of his place in history. He does not want another war if he can avoid it." I think this is worth hearing, coming as it did from this very shrewd German observer. He said one more interesting thing: "Remember, he has not allowed anybody to understudy him. He has not built up his successor. The only man he allows in the limelight at all is Molotov because he is everything that the Russians despise. Do think about that. I do not think Stalin wants war, and after Stalin dies Russia may become liberalised, at least to some extent."
If that is so, why does he not choose peace? There again we are running into difficulties, because I think there is this danger; Stalin is in a very difficult position. As a repressive dictator, he cannot afford to make war and he cannot afford to make peace. I believe that that parallel situation exists. A dictator cannot make peace with the outside world. He must convince his people. whom he is treating with harshness and vigour, that it is necessary to maintain their armaments and defence. He cannot have peace with the outside world. Also he cannot have war successfully since the world is armed against him.
If that is true—and I think there is much to be said for that point of view—we have to realise that he still has a large area of manoeuvrability. Stalin can 322 make threats of war. He can make trouble in the undeveloped areas of the world. He can do what he can to make industrial trouble in the capitalist countries of the world, and finally he can do his best, which is very considerable, to worsen the relations of Britain and America. Those are his four manoeuvrable points which are greatly to his advantage—the threat of war which keeps us re-arming, trouble in the undeveloped areas, industrial troubles in the capitalist countries, and stirring up trouble between America and Britain in waters which are always easy to stir up.
It seems to me that on both sides of the House we must come to the conclusion that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs starts with a great deal in his favour. He enjoys great good will in the outside world. He is very popular and he also has this asset, that he was the first Western statesman to go to Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution.
During the last war, when he went there with the present Prime Minister and Lord Beaverbrook, Stalin said to him: "We want to give a dinner party to you personally." It was because of the memory that he was the first states-man to go there from the Western world after the Bolshevik Revolution. That may yet be very important. [Laughter.] I am not inventing this statement. These facts are quite true.
§ Mr. Baxter
I cannot give the date, but the fact is that the present Foreign Secretary was the first Western statesman to go to Moscow.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
There is another outstanding incident in the life of the present Foreign Secretary which should be mentioned, and that is that he resigned on principle.
§ Mr. Baxter
He may have played cricket for Eton for all I know, I am talking about Russia.
Therefore, let us leave it there. My point is that I hope that my right hon. Friend will see not only the difficulties of his position but the opportunities of it; and I think that he might make contact with Stalin at some chosen moment to the advantage of the whole world.
He has another task, and that is to restore the prestige of Great Britain. 323 Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite may not like this, but in travelling across Europe this summer I heard not one word said against this country. In fact, I heard not one word said about this country at all. There were three great Powers that were discussed everywhere—Russia, Germany, America. Two countries were never mentioned—France and Britain.
Maybe the long absence from his office of the Socialist Foreign Secretary caused great damage to our prestige. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Oh, yes. For a Foreign Secretary to be too ill to carry on his task and yet to hold that position is, in my opinion, not fair to him and not fair to the country. Certainly, at any rate, this country has a great deal of leeway to make up because of that.
I do hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will make the Empire the foundation of his foreign policy. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite must face this fact—again, a not very pleasant fact—that America, because of her very existence, is offering an alternative leadership to the British Empire.
Therefore, do not let us underestimate the value of the Royal visit to Canada. The Dominions and the Mother Country are held together by moonbeams, not by chains. I think one of the great mistakes in the foreign policy of the Socialist Government was that on so many occasions they did not take into account the reactions of the Dominions. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will give much attention to the Empire aspect of foreign policy.
My final point is about America. America is a country which is so vast a target that there is no sneer nor joke that does not reach it. It is easy to make fun of the Americans. In Austria, that charming country, with no air force, no army, no navy, no future, where the peasants are so pleasant, and the aristocrats so sardonic, they say, "Of course, the world has passed to the two primitive races, the Russians and the Americans." A very good Austrian joke; and we have to be very careful, it seems to me, that we do not indulge that same temptation.
Sometimes I think that the Americans must wish that they could pull up a drawbridge and isolate their country 324 once again. I think that the most important thing which has happened in the world for a long time has been America's coming of age. By contrast, one word at the time of Munich and the last war would not have happened.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Gravesend)
There was an offer made. Let the hon. Gentleman read the books of the present Prime Minister. There was a most definite offer.
§ Mr. Baxter
If America had sent one air squadron at that time Hitler would not have made war. Now America has taken on a tremendous responsibility. We should be profoundly grateful, but we should be careful as well. We should not only offer her co-operation with the guidance of the wisdom and experience which she lacks; and we must see to it that the Foreign Office is not regarded as a branch office of the State Department. That was a great fault under the Socialist Government. Since we have now found a note of agreement between the two sides of the House, I propose to conclude on it.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
The hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Baxter) had the whole House with him in the last few minutes of his speech.
§ Mr. Fletcher
In the earlier parts of his speech he said a great deal with which I disagreed. One thing on which I agree with him was his remarks about the Foreign Secretary. I think that the subject we are discussing transcends party politics, and I think that the long experience of the Foreign Secretary, his popularity abroad and his general patience and approach to foreign problems are a national asset. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House wish him well and every success in the important negotiations that lie immediately ahead and which may be so fateful for the future destiny of our country.
The supreme issue at the moment is how to achieve peace. We are all united in our objective; the problem is how to achieve it. We all agree that the threat to world peace during the last few years has come through the military strength of Russia and her aggressive attitude.
325 I think that a great many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House were rather slow in the years that followed 1945 in recognising the Russian menace. I think myself, for example, that if there had been more armed strength in Western Europe in 1948, the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia would not have occurred.
The whole international situation has been transformed in the last one and a half years. Whereas two years ago the predominant factor in the international situation was the immense military preponderance in arms of Soviet Russia, since the events in Korea in the middle of 1950 the predominant factor in the world situation has been the determination of the United States of America to mobilise her immense manpower and industrial potential, and as was so clearly revealed in the MacArthur inquiry, it is now obvious that the people of the U.S.A.—Republicans and Democrats alike—are determined to do everything necessary to resist any further Russian aggression wherever it may occur, in the East or the West.
As has been said by earlier speakers, our objective is to be able to negotiate through strength. That is why we are re-arming. But as was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) yesterday: we do not have to wait until we are immeasurably stronger before we start negotiations.
Negotiations must be a continuous process and must take place now from the increased strength we have already attained since the event in Korea in 1950. I agree with what, I understand, is the view of General Eisenhower, that it is more important we should have 20 divisions in Western Europe fully-equipped in 1952, than have 60 or even 80 divisions in 1954 or later. We have to preserve the peace in 1952 as well as in 1954. Incidentally. I think that we can congratulate ourselves on having preserved the peace in 1951.
Just as I think that we were tardy in this country—certainly some of us were—in recognising the Russian menace, so I hope we will not go to the other extreme and, by concentrating on the Russian menace, blind ourselves to other dangers which, although not so imminent, may in the long run be equally serious.
326 First, there is the danger of over-armament in America. As was said recently in the "Economist," one of the dangers is that the present American programme is designed for fighting Russia, not for staying at peace by deterring Russian aggression. In a year or two's time, if we are fortunate enough to have preserved peace as long as that, we may be faced with the situation in which the preponderance of military strength by America is itself a danger.
That is an additional reason why it is necessary for us in this country to build up our own military strength so that we may be both independent and able to use our influence, if necessary, in order to avoid precipitate action elsewhere.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
It is a very interesting point which my hon. Friend is developing. He says that we ought to build up our own strength, but does he mean by that that we should not have defence preparations today greater than we can afford and that our expenditure on arms should come out of our own resources? Is he thinking of the economic state of the world arising from the combination of defence expenditure in the world today?
§ Mr. Fletcher
Yes. What I am submitting to the House is that during the last eighteen months the cost of re-armament, whether by ourselves, America, France or any of the other western countries, has been undertaken because we believe, rightly or wrongly, that we are faced with the menace of Soviet Russia. Since the events in Korea there has already been a substantial measure of rearmament preparation not only in this country but in the United States and elsewhere.
Therefore, as every month goes by we are increasing the deterrent effect of Western military strength in Europe. Let us never forget that our object in rearming is to deter aggression. The object is not, as some people in America seem to think it is, to build up overwhelming military strength in the belief that war is inevitable, and that our only object is to defeat Russia.
The extent and tempo of re-armament varies with an assessment of the danger from time to time and in accordance with whether we take the view that war is inevitable or not. Here we all say that 327 war is not inevitable, and we are rearming for the purposes of deterring aggression and preserving, peace. I was endeavouring to point out that in pursuing that aim we should not blind ourselves to other possible dangers, one of which is that in a year of two's time the menace of American re-armament might also be a threat to the peace of the world.
Another danger, of course, is the economic dislocation of our own country.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
My hon. Friend says that at the moment Russia is over-armed and is a menace to world peace, and that in a few years time it may well be that America will be over-armed and a menace to the peace of the world. Will he tell us how he would advise this country to act when the time comes?
§ Mr. Fletcher
The argument I am trying to address to the House is that concurrently with the pursuit of the immediate object of re-arming in order to deter aggression, we should not forget the ultimate objective. Unless we have both our own independnce, both military and economic, we shall not have sufficient power to exercise adequate influence on America.
Then there is the danger that may come from any serious dislocation of our own economy, that of France or any of the Western countries, because do not let us forget that a serious economic collapse in this country or in France would also suit Russian interests.
Thirdly—and it is on this point that I particularly wanted to say a word to the Foreign Secretary—is the question of Germany. I thought that what the Foreign Secretary said yesterday about Germany was slightly ominous. He did not tell us very much about the negotiations that had been going on at Bonn, but he said that he hoped that shortly we should have approached a normal peacetime relationship with the Government of Bonn. That was surprising, because if it means anything it means that soon we shall have an agreement with the Western German Government which recognises either their sovereignty or near-sovereignty.
I was more appalled at what the Joint Under-Secretary of State said this afternoon. As I understood it, he said we were aiming at the unification of Germany, 328 which is in itself a laudable aim. Then, when that stage is reached, the re-unified Germany would have sovereign powers, able to determine its own future, to rearm as it chose, and play what part it might choose in world affairs.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I think it has been agreed by more than one hon. Member that the solution of the German problem in the next six or nine months may well be crucial in the international situation. Whatever may happen in other parts of the world, how we treat the German problem in the next few months may determine whether we preserve the peace of the world.
I want to remind the House how far we have travelled in recent months. It was only about the middle of last year that Mr. Bevin said that German rearmament was unthinkable. This House has never approved the principle of unconditional German re-armament. In February of this year the present Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister, announced, with the general approval of the House—certainly with the approval of the then Opposition, who now support the present Government, although not with the approval of all hon. Members on this side of the House—that the then Government had decided on the principle of the re-armament of Germany, subject to certain conditions. I want to ask the Foreign Secretary to tell us when he replies whether these conditions still operate or whether the Government have departed from them.
May I remind the House what the conditions were on which the House in February this year was willing to contemplate some measure of German rearmament? The Prime Minister said that they were:… first of all, the provision of arms, Obviously, the re-armament of the countries of the Atlantic Treaty must precede that of Germany.Does that condition still hold? Then the Prime Minister said:Second, I think the building up of Forces in the democratic States should precede the creation of German Forces.329 Is that the policy of the present Government?Third, the arrangements must be such that German units are integrated in the defence Forces in a way which would preclude the emergence again of a German military menace.Is that the policy of the present Government, and if so, is that consistent with what the Joint Under-Secretary of State was understood to say just now when he envisaged a situation in which there would be a united Germany, a sovereign Power, able to decide her own strength and how she was going to use it? Are we satisfied there is no danger of reviving Nazi militarism?
I imagine it would be difficult to give any German Government any kind of sovereign status without giving it a considerable amount of independence as to how it should use it. As I gather from reports from Germany, that is one of the conditions on which the German Government will insist.
It was also stated:Fourthly, there must be agreement with the Germans themselves."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 12th February, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 62.]It is well known that large numbers of elements in Germany are still opposed to German re-armament. I want to make an appeal to the Foreign Secretary. I believe that the question of German rearmament may well be the crucial factor in determining whether we are to have a peaceful settlement with Russia or not.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). We should use the threat of Western German re-armament as a factor in negotiating with Russia, but I appeal to the Foreign Secretary to say that as long as there is a hope of reaching a pacific solution of our problems with Russia—he told us his policy is to try to solve the problems one by one, taking Korea, Germany, and so forth—we shall rely on our own military strength, on that of America, on that of the other countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, before we embark upon measures of German re-armament which, when carried out, may well create a German military strength which will then make it far more difficult, if not impossible, thereafter, to reach a pacific solution with Russia.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
My task tonight in winding up the debate on behalf of the Opposition is somewhat different from what it would usually be, for it is only a very few weeks since I myself was in the Foreign Office, and, having listened to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary at the beginning of the debate and the Under-Secretary of State at the beginning of today's debate, I could detect very little deviation from the line which the late Government were following a few weeks ago.
Consequently, there is very little that I can get hold of in the way of legitimate criticism of what was said by those official spokesmen. It is not even open to me to address the long catechism of factual questions which is usually addressed from the Opposition benches to a Minister who is to reply, because the Foreign Secretary indicated that, with the one exception of the talks in Korea, there was practically no other field in which there were very recent developments on which he felt able to report to the House.
It has been a striking feature of the debate that there have been only very few suggestions from any quarter that there should be major switches of policy at the present time. One or two of my hon. Friends have made such suggestions, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) and Devonport (Mr. Foot) in yesterday's debate, and today my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man), has also made certain suggestions about changes in policy, at any rate in regard to Germany.
These hon. Friends of mine voiced many deep misgivings about what might result, if the worst occurred, from the policies which are being followed at present. I am bound to say that I—and, I am sure, most other hon. Members—very largely share those misgivings, but I felt that, having, as they did in their speeches, faced frankly, and perhaps even in an exaggerated way, the risks which attend the present policy, they did not go on to face equally fairly the risks which would, in my view, certainly attend the sort of suggestions that they were making or, indeed, any other alternative policy that we might think fit to follow. As my right hon. Friend the 331 Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) said in winding up for this side yesterday, risks are involved in any policy at the present time. Those risks are, in my view, very largely due to the nature of Soviet policy, which has posed such very unpleasant alternatives for us and for other countries.
The arguments of my hon. Friends related mainly either to the Far East or to Germany. I want to say a word or two about the Far East. I entirely agree with what they said, that no lasting over all settlement in the Far East is at all likely without China. I have always believed that the Central People's Government should have been admitted to the United Nations soon after it got control, in fact, of China. I agree also with what one of my hon. Friends said, that in viewing the very unfortunate situation in the Far East we should be wrong to think that it is only Communist policy which has caused these difficulties. I believe that there have been serious errors on the part of the United States over the last 18 months or more.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury and Radcliffe)
The right hon. Gentleman refers to the "very unfortunate situation." Would he say a word about the only place where there is a fortunate change, where Communism has been repulsed, which is in Indo-China?
§ Mr. Younger
I was not intending to talk about Indo-China, but it is perfectly true, I think, that a reverse has been suffered. I would not, however, say that it is the only place in the world where a reverse has been suffered recently by Communism.
I say, particularly to my hon. Friends who raised all these points, that we have always spoken our minds to our American colleagues and to others, both publicly and in private, upon this matter of the status of China. Of course, we will now never know, in the nature of things, what effect, if any, it would have had if our policy, which we suggested this time last year and before, had prevailed. It may be that it would, as we think, have given, at any rate, a much better hope of a favourable development in China. Maybe we should, nevertheless, have ended up where we are today. That is one of the things that will always remain a matter 332 for speculation by historians; but we cannot know it today.
But we do know that what has made a Far East settlement in the near future, I am prepared to say, almost impossible, is above all the North Korean aggression and the subsequent participation in it of the Chinese Communists. But for these two things, it is almost certain that, for instance, the Government of Pekin would by now be sitting in the United Nations. That was certainly the very strong view of the majority of delegates, even of those who voted against the view we took, when the General Assembly of the United Nations opened in September, 1950.
They all thought there was an excellent chance that by the end of the Assembly at Christmas, 1950, the Pekin Government would be in by a majority vote. It was the intervening events in Korea that ruled that out. Equally, had there been no Korean aggression, I believe it would have been possible for the Pekin Government, without international complications, to have taken possession of Formosa.
It is because we feel that it was the Korean events which made the position in the whole of the Far East deteriorate so seriously that we now say that the Korean fighting must stop before we can have any hope of solving these other problems. I do not underestimate the need for solving them—they must be solved if we are to get any peace at all in the Far East. I therefore ask the Foreign Secretary to keep on emphasising, particularly when he is in Washington, the need for a recognition of facts in China—the fact of the Communist control, which, I believe, is unlikely to be reversed, of the whole of the mainland and the population and resources of China. This will be a very burning and topical problem the moment a cease-fire is obtained, as we hope it will be, because the next stage will undoubtedly involve the raising, and the discussion and the solution, of just these problems, which were already worrying us before the Korean fighting broke out.
Some criticism has been made of the Japanese Peace Treaty. This is not an occasion for entering into a discussion on that in any detail because I believe we shall soon have another chance of doing so, but I just want to say one or two things about it. Here, again, it was the 333 Korean situation that created the conditions in which any Japanese settlement at the present time was bound to be unsatisfactory. I have never professed enthusiasm for the Treaty we were able to make. I think that it was at the most a second best and I would have wished it might have been otherwise, particularly as regards the participation of some Powers.
But do not let us forget that it was high time, at the end of six years, that we should be ending the occupation and that Japan should be taking her responsibilities. The whole of the Commonwealth had been pressing for this since 1947, nearly four years from the time the Treaty conference was actually called, and the whole of that time the internal situation had been deteriorating and was likely to go on doing so.
We were told yesterday that this was not negotiation from strength but dictation from strength, but the Soviet Union were consulted all the time from 1947 right up to the San-Francisco Conference, but we never got a constructive suggestion. All we had, almost up to the San-Francisco Conference, was complaints about procedure, a determination to keep out many of the countries, including Commonwealth countries, which had participated in the war, and the attempt to put this into the channel of the Council of Foreign Ministers in order that a veto might be effected. I have, personally, a quite clear conscience about the treatment of the Soviet Union in this matter.
I am less happy, I confess, about China, but there, of course, the problem was essentially a practical one that the Powers principally concerned in the war against Japan were divided almost fifty-fifty as to who should represent China. That was a fact which had to be faced, and I think most will agree that there was little prospect of early agreement on that. Therefore, we had to balance the risks of going ahead and shelving in some way the problem of Chinese representation, or delaying the Treaty. To have prolonged the occupation and delayed the Treaty would not have earned us any thanks from China.
That would not have suited her very much better, if it had suited her better at all, than the Treaty without her participation, which is coming into being. It would not have allayed what she claimed 334 always as her principal anxiety, namely, the continuance of United States' influence in Japan; but in our view it would have decreased the chance of the saner and more peaceful elements in Japan being able to control their country's policy in the coming years.
In the face of that unpromising situation, we did, in fact, choose the lesser risk. I do not believe that the Japanese Peace Treaty will prejudice the ultimate settlement of the Far East as a whole. Indeed, I would say that the risk is somewhat less than if we had chosen to continue the existing position with Japan and to continue an occupation which all of us, including the Americans, believed had long since done all its useful work.
There has been a great deal of discussion of German problems, but I do not think that in the short time I have at my disposal I can enter into that subject in detail. I would make one or two general points. Some hon. Friends put very vividly the risks of building up our strength in order to negotiate, but, once again, I do not think they put fairly the risks of not building up our strength—risks which, incidentally, most Europeans living in Europe feel very acutely.
I think that in ridiculing this policy of negotiating from strength my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport did not consider properly the exceedingly bleak prospect which would face us in an attempt to negotiate if Western strength was not built up. He said himself that Yalta and Potsdam had given the Soviet Union strength in Europe and we all know what was the fate of negotiations under those circumstances. I, therefore, favour greater strength on our side as a precondition of negotiation. We do not, of course, refuse negotiation in the meantime; we merely feel that we cannot be very optimistic about meeting the right sort of attitude from the other side of the table until we have built up strength. Unless we find that we are wrong about that—
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Younger
I cannot give way—we shall have to wait until the time when either Western strength has been achieved or when it becomes clearer to the people in the Kremlin that it will inevitably be achieved at some time. That moment may be approaching and I know that the 335 right hon. Gentleman will watch for any sign that it has, in fact, arrived.
On the question of German re-armament, I cannot share the perspective of my hon. Friends who have taken a rather strong line about the present proposals for integrating Germany in Western defence. I would say this to the right hon. Gentleman. I hope that he will contrive to keep an open mind on the precise nature of the German solution. I believe it is true that a too rigid insistence on some particular form of integration of Western Germany in Western Europe may be the enemy of the other objective which is the peaceful restoration of a United Germany. I would remind him that after the so-called London conferences of May, 1950, the Western Powers did then make suggestions for the unity of Germany which were broadly speaking what my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East, referred to as the Austrian solution.
It is true that since then the tension has greatly increased. Nevertheless, a solution which permits the peaceful achievement of German unity must remain one of the best hopes of a peaceful Europe in the future. I believe that a sort of so called Austrian solution, which is less than full sovereignty for Germany could, in any case, only be art interim phase, and the time for it will rapidly go by. To my knowledge we have as yet had absolutely no indication that such a solution would be acceptable and would enable us to come to an agreement with the Soviet Union. We never, if I remember rightly, got a reply to the tripartite proposals made after the May conferences last year. I will not say any more about Germany than that because my time is very limited.
A good deal has been said about various international organisations. I believe that Britain is bound to be very intimately concerned with practically all of them; with the Commonwealth, of course, but, in addition to them, with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and various European organisations and with the United Nations. All these organisations represent, in their own spheres, a striving towards a coherent world order whose outline we can hardly discern at the moment.
I do not propose to sort them all out but I offer to the Foreign Secretary one 336 or two thoughts on two of these. I welcome what he said about the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation:I hope that with the gradual development of these Atlantic contacts at all levels, as they are now being made, we shall increase the sense of being an Atlantic community, organised not only on a military basis for the purpose of defence, but also for a joint endeavour for our common betterment in every where."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November. 1951; Vol 494, c. 39.]With that I feel that the House will agree, but I think we must be careful.
We must appreciate that the origins of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation did lie in defence, and that strategic requirements do tend to dominate the whole organisation. Those strategic requirements do not necessarily coincide with what is required either in regard to a sense of Atlantic community or to an endeavour for the common betterment in other spheres. The late Government, like the right hon. Gentleman, as I understand, supported the recent extension of the organisation to Greece and Turkey. That made sense strategically. Now we know there are future Middle East plans for defence, not, I dare say, within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, but in some way tacked on to it.
I think it is right that we should know that many of our colleague States in the organisation feel that in these conditions the original conception of the Atlantic community is getting stretched very far. If, as may well be the case, further additions have to be made and further strategic commitments undertaken it may be necessary at some time to draw up a separate and purely defensive alliance of an ever widening group of States not arising from the original idea, which I believe to be very valuable and strongly supported by many of the member States of the Atlantic community with close ties of history, culture and general understanding.
May I also offer a couple of thoughts on the United Nations? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will resist the tendency, which I think is particularly strong in the United States, though I have also heard it voiced in the House during this debate, to convert the United Nations into an anti-Communist alliance. I believe that if defensive groupings of that kind are necessary, as most of us believe they are, then they are much 337 better undertaken outside the United Nations, though in accordance with the principles of the Charter. The United Nations, after all, has as one of its first objectives that of being the centre for harmonising the actions of nations, and it is really essential that all parties—the contending parties, and not just those nations on one side of the dispute—should actually be there.
It seems to me that this organisation has been much "damned with faint praise" during the debate. People have complained about public diplomacy as against the older methods, and have spoken of television diplomacy and have said that it is no substitute for negotiation in private. I do not think that anybody who is supporting the United Nations believes that it is a substitute. Public debate in the United Nations is in addition to the regular processes of diplomacy which go on. Sometimes, the debates ace helpful, and sometimes they are not.
I would like to say that I, like many other hon. Members, welcomed the conciliatory tone in the Foreign Secretary's first speech in the United Nations. If others would all follow that example, the debates would always be helpful, but all of us recognise the asperity with which a number of statements are made, particularly by the Soviet representatives. If that represents the reality of their thinking, is it not better that we should know it than that we should never hear it at all? Is it not the fact that, but for the annual General Assembly of the United Nations, there would be fewer diplomatic contacts between us and the Russians, not more? We would know less of what was going on in their minds, and it is important, therefore, that these meetings should continue.
It is important, also, that hon. Members should appreciate that the United Nations is not without achievements, both in the field of very acute disputes, like the original Iran dispute, the Indonesian, Kashmir and some others, where these difficulties have at least been kept within bounds and major wars have been prevented from breaking out through the agency of the United Nations, and also in other matters, like the settlement over the Italian Colonies, on which a great deal of private diplomatic work had been done, but in vain. It is not as though the United Nations' work were something that 338 might be more properly done by diplomatic methods; it is a case of taking on disputes on which the diplomatic methods had failed, and even in these exceptionally difficult circumstances it has sometimes succeeded.
I return to the dominating issue of the world scene, which is the Soviet threat and the measures which we have all felt it necessary to take against it. I believe that all substantially agree that we must accept considerable defence burdens, though we may argue about the exact levels. I think we must, in this policy of building up our strength, show consistency of purpose and some perseverance. It is no use proclaiming important programmes and then jettisoning them as soon as they become inconvenient.
In deciding how we are to treat this matter, we have to balance two judgments, each almost equally difficult. The first is our judgment on the nature and scale of the danger we have to meet and the time when we are most likely to have to meet it, and the other is the resources which we can devote towards meeting that military danger without risk of losing our cause on the civilian front. The second of these is perhaps more a matter for an economic or defence debate, and I will say nothing more about it. But the estimate of the danger to be faced is very much a matter for the Foreign Secretary and one for a foreign affairs debate. The evidence of Soviet intentions and of the Soviet potential for aggression at any particular time is, at all times, scanty. But as the months go by, new material does become available, and new thinking on the subject should be constantly developed.
In his speech in the debate on the Address, the other day, the Prime Minister referred to a diplomat who, on being asked what year he thought the greatest danger of war would arise, replied, "Last year." Without necessarily subscribing to that somewhat extreme view, I would say that the longer I remained at the Foreign Office—I was not there very long—the more dubious I became about the reality of some of the dates which are advanced from time to time as being dates of particular danger and dates by which, accordingly, we must at all costs be militarily ready.
Most of us who have had any military experience know that dates have to be 339 selected for military planning, but let us not make the mistake of thinking that dates so selected have any lasting significance as a guide to the realities of the world situation. I think it likely that what we have to face is a long-term continuing risk and not that the danger is going to reach a climax at an early date. These dates must not dominate us; it is they which must give way in the light of the situation as it is assessed and constantly re-assessed from time to time.
I hope, therefore, that the Foreign Secretary will never allow himself to become the prisoner of calculations made or of dates fixed in the past, but will insist on maintaining a lively objectivity about the constantly changing world scene, especially as it affects the danger of war and the scale of the effort which the West has to divert to purely military ends. He will, I hope, always remember that in the measure that resources are saved in this direction they become available to support the no less vital economic and social policies of the Western Powers to which so many of my hon. and right hon. Friends have referred in this debate.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)
The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) has delivered, if I may say so, a characteristically thoughtful and thought-provoking speech, to which I think we all listened with the very greatest pleasure—I only modify my encomiums lest they should unduly embarrass him. As I listened to the discussion during these two days I thought that we have been, I think I can truly say, something of a council of the nation, discussing international affairs. There has been a very considerable measure of agreement, with, just now and again, to make clear how wide the agreement is, a sharp note of disagreement.
The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) informed us that he was dealing with the party on these benches, but he was, I thought, very effectively dealt with by the party on the benches opposite. However, I wish to assure him from the very beginning that I for my part have no complaint to make about the reminiscences which he brought to my notice. It is perfectly fair debate to recall words spoken in other times and other 340 circumstances and to apply them to the present day.
I want to begin by making a brief reference to one matter which the right hon. Member for Grimsby mentioned just now. He referred to the importance of ensuring that the United Nations should not become an anti-Communist alliance. I am in absolute agreement with him in that. Not only am I in agreement with him, but, as I think he probably noticed, there were some sentences in my opening speech in Paris which showed clearly my view on that point, and though I do not want to be drawn further at the moment I will say that I would like wider representation at the United Nations than there is now, even though that means that it must often come from the two different points of view. With that, as I say, I am in entire agreement, as with almost everything the right hon. Gentleman said.
Before I refer to the speech of the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), I must first make an apology, which is always a good thing for a Foreign Secretary to do at the outset of his term of office. I made a mistake yesterday. The right hon. Gentleman corrected me, but he was so polite that he did not point out he was correcting me. I said that Persia's revenue—dealing with AngloIranian—this year would have been increased to between £40 million and £50 million. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not know anything about this year but that last year that would have been right. I do not know anything about this year either. I gave the wrong year and the right hon. Gentleman gave the right year. The figures I gave should have applied to 1950 and not to the present year.
§ Mr. Stokes
I should like to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman there, because my figures referred to 1949.
§ Mr. Eden
This is getting better and better. I thought the right hon. Gentleman said "last year," which is 1950. Anyhow there were divergences in quoting different years. I was wrong yesterday; I trust that the right hon. Gentleman was right today. I have no doubt he was. The right hon. Gentleman made reference to the International Materials Conference. I should like to assure him that we share his good opinion of the work that that Conference has done, and 341 we are not unmindful of our responsibility to see that that good work continues.
The right hon. Gentleman gave an account of the Persian negotiations. There are perhaps one or two points I could raise about that, but at the moment I have to deal with the position as it is and not with the position as it might have been, or might not have been, according to how the matter is observed. I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance he asks as regards the organisation of the refinery. I cannot forecast what sort of final solution we may reach.
The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) made a speech, which I am sorry I did not hear, in which he referred to the motivation of Russia including an element of fear. That is a point which has been raised more than once in these debates and that may well be true. It is not something which is entirely absent from our minds I can assure him, and I think that what I said yesterday covers that point as far as it is wise to cover it at the present time.
There were a number of Questions at Question Time today—and an hon. Member opposite also raised the matter in this debate—about the atom bomb in relation to Korea. Though I know that some of those who are anxious to raise the matter are not likely to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, I do not feel that on that account they ought to be deprived of a reply. Therefore, I should like to draw their attention to what the Leader of the Opposition said, when he was Prime Minister, about the conversations which he had with President Truman at the White House. I want to quote one or two sentences. He said:As far as the use of the atomic weapon is concerned, I can tell the House that I was completely satisfied by my talk on this question with the President. I would ask the House to accept my assurance that there is no difference of opinion between us on this vital matter."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 12th December, 1950; Vol. 482, c. 984.]I should only like to say I know the circumstances of that conversation and so far as His Majesty's present Government are concerned we entirely endorse what the then Prime Minister said. Therefore, I think the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) and those other hon. Members 342 who were anxious about this can lay their fears at rest. I do not think there is the slightest hazard of the event they fear coming about. I think that that will remove what has obviously been a source of anxiety during this debate.
Other speakers have referred to the problem of Arab refugees, and as I have been trying to survey this Middle Eastern situation I have come to the conclusion there is really no problem which, by its solution, would do more to dissolve the internal tension between the Middle Eastern countries than this. These 900,000 unhappy people, by no fault of their own, are utterly hopeless. It is stark tragedy. I have had to listen in Paris to one after another of the Arab representatives who have come to see me and have told me of the conditions that exist. Several hon. Members have referred today to the internal stresses in the Middle Eastern countries, as I have deliberately called them.
I include Israel in that description, and, of course, I want good relations with Israel, as I do with the Arab States. I know very well that these strains and stresses within the Middle Eastern countries preoccupy their minds far more than anything that happens outside their borders. They think at once in local terms and hardly ever in global terms, and it is no good blaming them for that fact.
It has struck me with immense force that this human problem is one on which the United Nations really ought to concentrate its strength and organisation. I am blaming nobody for anything that happened before. I know how difficult it is to get international organisations to move effectively in these sort of things, but I felt that as a first priority we ought to get moving effectively to try to handle this Arab refugee problem. That is all I can do.
The whole business is so complicated and intricate. The finance is so exacting and costly, and the results seem so poor for what has been poured out already. But, still, the attempt has to be made. The United Nations must try to make a more effective attack upon this problem, for we should find that many of these hatreds which are so deep in the Middle Eastern minds would subside once that human problem was dealt with. That has been very near my heart since I took over this office.
343 I turn to another part of the world. The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) gave us rather a lecture about Yugoslavia. He explained to me how the late Government had improved relations with Yugoslavia. I think the late Government is to be very much congratulated on having done so, but I think somebody else played quite a part in it, too. I would not mention who I thought it was, but he is extremely anxious that I should not lose all the good will which the late Government, by skilful diplomacy, built up with Yugoslavia. Well, I promise to do my best. The hon. Member was also sure that it had all come about because the Government of Yugoslavia were really good Socialists, like the previous Government.
Far be it for me to pronounce whether the late Government were ever good Socialists or not. That is for their internal decision, and not for me. Whether they were or not, I do not think they were Communists, which is what the Government of Yugoslavia is. However, I say to hon. Members opposite: if you feel you are birds of a feather do not let me try to separate you. I would only say that, with all the inhibitions and disadvantages that a Tory has, I shall do my best to maintain reasonably good relations. I would say to the hon. Gentleman that all this comes from this very dangerous habit of drawing parallels between parties of different countries. They really cannot be fairly drawn.
I remember once being told that I was a Republican. I had not the foggiest notion what that meant until I realised that it was something to do with the United States of America. All these analogies are absolutely false to the realities of international problems, and I can only assure the hon. Gentleman that I would be as willing to try to work with Yugoslavia if it had a "wicked Tory" Government as I shall be ready to work with it now though it has, as he tells me, a Government like the benches opposite.
Now I come to much more serious matters. The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) asked me a question about prisoners of war. The details of these negotiations have not yet been undertaken, but as I understand it, the purpose of them will be to secure the release of all our prisoners of war 344 from behind the enemy lines in Korea. It will be part of the armistice terms.
I must refer to the speech which the former Foreign Secretary made yesterday. I do not know whether to be grateful to him or not for saying that he did not disagree with very much I had said. There are other difficult questions I have to decide.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
If I may say so, the right hon. Gentleman is putting it the wrong way round. What I said was that he did not disagree with much that the late Government had said.
§ Mr. Eden
It may seem to some of us that that is a very complicated view of matters. I do not really mind very much as long as we arrive at somewhere near the same solution when it is all over.
I was very interested when the right hon. Gentleman spoke to us about arguing with the Americans. He said he had been arguing about East-West trade. So was I, a great many weeks before he was. When I was in Los Angeles all this news broke upon me without any preparation by the Foreign Office, who might have forewarned me about what was going to happen. I had to put the best case I could for the Government here, which I did. I hope I shall never put the right hon. Gentleman in that position—and if I do, I hope he will meet it at least half as well as I did at that time.
I agree with him that, fundamentally, there is need for frank speech between us and the Americans; and the Americans have never resented it, and never will. The danger is rather that if we try to half conceal our intentions or wish, for diplomatic reasons, to present the picture less than in its true form, we may have misunderstanding, and we quickly can have misunderstanding. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman need be anxious on that account. I assure him that I have been extremely frank hitherto.
In the last quarter of an hour left to me, I want to say something about Germany. Before I come to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I want to say something about my statement of yesterday. It was not a new declaration of policy about Germany, as the House understands. It did not attempt to be that. The House would not expect anything of 345 the kind within this short period since we have taken over. The negotiations which are going on in Bonn today are part of the agreed decisions taken by the Foreign Ministers in September in Washington—and I think rightly taken.
In their communiqué after their meeting they declared that the purpose of the negotiations with the German Federal Government would be to reach mutually acceptable agreements, the effect of which would be to transform completely the relationship of their free countries to the German Federal Republic by establishing it on as broadly a contractual basis as possible.
We are not seeking to conclude a peace settlement with Germany. That is not possible at present. The aim was, and remains, to establish with that part of Germany with which we can deal, namely, the Federal Republic, relations which approach as nearly as possible to normal peace-time relations. That is what I meant to convey yesterday, and the object will be to replace the existing occupation of Germany by a new relationship based on equal partnership.
It is true that matters not solely within the Federal Republic's competence are concerned—the unification of Germany, Berlin, the protection of Allied troops stationed in Germany for common defence. Special rights have to be retained by the Allies in order that they may carry out their special responsibilities, which arise from the fact that Germany is divided and that the Federal Republic is an outpost of Western defence—and that is truly the position. But the retention of these powers to enable the Allies to deal with special emergencies does not mean that the Allies intend to interfere from day to day with the internal affairs of the Federal Republic. They do not.
Nor does it imply that they wish to impose special servitude on the German Federal Government. We shall want Germany, of course, to accept the same sorts of conditions as the other Powers in regard to any contribution she makes to Western defence. All partners in a common enterprise must do that. We are all doing it. We want to approach as nearly as we can to normal peace-time relationships in our new relations with the German Federal Republic.
346 Now I come to the points raised by the hon. Member for Coventry, East. I listened carefully to his argument and I think I can fairly represent it in this way. What he is really asking us to do in respect to Germany is what I should have liked to have done originally; that is, to hold to the Four-Power Potsdam Agreement to operate conjointly in Germany. But how can we do that now? How can we go back to that? How can we ignore all that has happened in the interval, and the gradual stages in recent years under which our foreign policy has been moulded by events which we ourselves could not directly control?
Do we really want this? If we could go back, do we really want to go back? I am not merely thinking of the part that Germany is going to play—the two-thirds or three-quarters that is not behind the Iron Curtain—in Western defence. That has its part, but I do not think it is the most important part. We have also the fact that all through these years gradually we have drawn Germany—this greater part of Germany—into the Western orbit. We have drawn this part of Germany into the Schuman Plan, and into every sort and kind of contact—political, economic, literary, cultural of every sort and kind.
Is it not a good thing to have done it? Is it not the one hope that we have done so? The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I do feel that there is at least a chance that in that two-thirds of Germany there will be an understanding of democratic life, a sense of the freedom and of the other things we agree about. The hon. Gentleman looks indignant. What else are we to look for as an alternative? The alternative is really that we should go back to something like Potsdam—what the hon. Gentleman called the "Austrian agreement." All right, an agreement of the Four Powers. But is that going to work in Germany?
How attractive is that to the Germans now, since they are taking part in all sorts of conditions of life in freedom in far greater measure than is permitted behind the Iron Curtain? It is argued that both plans started on the same level—that the German and the Austrian plans started on the same level—and that the Austrian plan has gone well. It has, because it has not been sabotaged. Who sabotaged the German plan? We did not. Is it 347 possible to go back as though in the last five years wrecking had never taken place?
Does the hon. Gentleman really think we can go back to do in Germany what has happened in Austria because there has been no wrecking at all there? The hon. Gentleman is trying to create something he does not even know the Germans want. Or, alternatively, he thinks we could, perhaps, create a vacuum in Germany, a disarmed vacuum in Germany. Would anybody want that? Would the Germans want that? The Russians would want it. Hon. Members have got to face that. There is nothing in the world they would like better than a disarmed vacuum in the centre of Europe. That is just one part that a country like Germany can never play.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
I understand the right hon. Gentleman's case, but if this is his case why does he say that he is in favour of a united Germany? What he has proved is the case against a united Germany.
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Gentleman, I think, must be fair. What I have proved is that the position at which we are now, in which I stand at this Box tonight, is a position created by Soviet intransigence. It is not a position the Government wanted to reach at Potsdam. It is not the position that the Labour Government, through all these years, wanted to reach. It is not a position I want to be in now, but, it is a position created for us.
We have suggested, as regards the general unity of the country, these elections. It is not humbug to suggest these elections. It is a possible method by which we can see, if these elections can be held, what the voice of Germany demands. I cannot see that there is anything wrong in trying to do that. It is trying, at one and the same time, to hold Western Germany, the Federal Germany that we have, within our family, and to allow the wider Germany and the whole Germany to express its opinion freely in a manner which it has not been allowed to do before. Have I answered the hon. Gentleman's question?
§ Mr. Foot
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has answered the question. What he was describing was the 348 advantage of building up a Western Germany associated in defence with the Western world. That is the condition he lays down, and he knows that if he insists upon it it makes impossible the idea of a united Germany and free elections.
§ Mr. Eden
Why should it? I do not accept that. Why should it be impossible because Western Germany agrees to hold the ideas of tolerance and freedom as we understand them here—why should the hon. Gentleman feel it is impossible that Eastern Germany has not a mind of her own and should never share them, too?
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I do not see why the right hon. Gentleman should get so vehement. What made me indignant was the note that Western Germany is as it now is because it is associated with us, and has suddenly become tolerant and democratic, when all the world knows that it has not.
§ Mr. Eden
That is not a very helpful interjection or a constructive one. What we are trying to do—and in this the hon. Gentleman half supported us—is to create this in Germany. It was argued that we cannot in Germany create any kind of tolerance or democratic spirit at all. That is a view which the House or any hon. Member may very well take, and it may very well be true. I have no power to say that it is not true; I do not know. But I say that in all parts of Germany west of the Iron Curtain it has a chance, at any rate, given a Parliamentary system, freedom and the life which we believe every nation should enjoy. We had in the Schuman Plan and other movements a measure of unity between France and Germany and between the West and Germany.
I have only time for a few more words, although there are so many things that I wanted to say. The hon. Gentleman said that if there was a grave risk he would undertake re-armament. I took his words down. He said, "If there was a grave risk, I would undertake re-armament." He was criticising re-armament now. That is what we cannot do. We cannot undertake re-armament from Saturday to Monday. We have either to undertake re-armament now, with the realisation that we will not be prepared before a certain period, or we cannot do it at all. I have no bound mind to any dates or programmes or any such thing. We have 349 to watch this situation day by day, week by week and month by month to see what developments for it are given.
I cannot say any more tonight. I want to conclude by telling the House that tomorrow I go for what are really my first conversations with the German Chancellor. I shall go to them with this determination: that I want to see Germany not doing what she has done twice in my lifetime, but at last beginning to play a part in the European world. If I can only get two-thirds or three-quarters of Germany to do that, it is better than nothing at all. I would like the whole. May be one day the whole will come. That is the purpose for which we must work, and we must not be diverted from it.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. P. G. T. Buchan-Hepburn)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The Orders of the Day were read and postponed.