HC Deb 28 November 1951 vol 494 cc1597-606

7.30 p.m.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I wish to dissent from the Motion. As I read the Clause, it is one which gives the power to provide for carrying into effect the Treaty of Peace with Japan and the protocol thereto. I believe that in the House of Commons there should be put a rather different view than has been expressed officially by the two parties. I believe that on this issue of the Japanese Treaty there is a Socialist point of view, which has the support of the people in Japan and also the support of a very large body of opinion in Australia. It is also an opinion which has, perhaps, a minority support, but certainly a support from the people of this country.

I wish to put what I believe to be the Socialist point of view, which is entirely against the idea that we as a nation should align ourselves in support of the Treaty, which is, in effect, making Japan a base for American activities in the Far East. My right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said in the debate on Monday, in commending the Treaty, that it was a liberal treaty, which is not a bad word…with a small '1'."—[OFFCIAL, REPORT, 26th November, 1951; Vol. 494, c. 997.] Socialists should advocate, not a liberal treaty with a small "1," but a Socialist treaty with a capital "S."

I am very glad to know that I do not speak for merely an isolated minority in this country, but that I have the support of people like Dr. Evatt, the Leader of the Australian Labour Party. Dr. Evatt has always been a well-known figure in the United Nations and he speaks with a deep sense of responsibility, not merely for the Australian Labour Party but also as a great leader of internationl opinion. In the "Daily Herald" of 5th September, I find that Dr. Evatt, the Leader of the Australian Opposition, in a paragraph dealing with his point of view, is reported to have scathingly attacked the Japanese Treaty, and to have described it as an open, unashamed abandonment of all the standards of international justice. In a full report in the "The Times," Dr. Evatt is reported to have said that the overwhelming majority of Australians were convinced that the Treaty menaced the physical and economic safety of the people.

The Chairman

The hon. Member is going beyond Clause 1.

Mr. Hughes

I am opposing the Clause, and I am opposed to giving powers for the carrying out of this Treaty and I am fortifying my argument by pointing out that the leader of the Labour party in the Commonwealth of Australia, which is one of our great Dominions, shares my point of view. If it had been only my point of view, I could understand it being disregarded, but this is the point of view of a great international statesman, a great leader of public opinion in the Commonwealth of Australia; Dr. Evatt holds that view and, I suggest that his opinion should weigh with hon. Members.

The Chairman

The hon. Member was not discussing the machinery of the Bill.

Mr. Hughes

Without the machinery it would be impossible to carry out the provisions of the Bill.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)

I think the Committee would like to know where they stand with regard to the width of this discussion. Far be it from me to check the Socialist eloquence of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), but am I not right in suggesting, Sir Charles, that the arguments which he has so far advanced for the rejection of the Clause could and should have been used on Second Reading? It does not seem to me that what he is saying is in order on the Committee stage. I think the Committee would be grateful for your Ruling on the breadth of the discussion we may have on this Clause.

Mr. Hughes

Further to that point of order—

The Chairman

Perhaps I may deal with one hon. Member at a time. The point raised by the Under-Secretary of State is very simple. On page 538 of Erskine May, dealing with the question of the Clause standing part, it says: Debate upon this question must be confined to the Clause as amended (or not amended)… It must be confined to the Clause; we cannot go beyond that.

Mr. Hughes

May I draw attention to the side-heading to Clause 1: Power of His Majesty to give effect to Peace Treaty and Protocol"?

The Chairman

The marginal note produced by the printing office has nothing to do with the Bill.

Mr. Hughes

The title to the Bill says that the Bill is to: Provide for carrying into effect the Treaty of Peace with Japan and Protocol thereto.

The Chairman

I shall be putting the Question on the Preamble following Clause 2.

Mr. Hughes

May I ask your guidance, Sir Charles? Shall I be able to argue against the Bill being passed on Third Reading?

The Chairman

Yes, certainly; if the hon. Gentleman keeps in order.

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)

In Clause 1 (1) it states: His Majesty may make such appointments, establish such offices, make such Orders in Council, and do such things as appear to Him to be necessary for carrying out the said Treaty and Protocol. and for giving effect to any of the provisions thereof. I do not want to delay the Committee unnecessarily, but when we discussed the Preamble to the Treaty, and expressed our views about it, the other night, a statement was made to the effect that we wanted to see that the economic activities carried on by Japan would be carried on within the tenets of ethical competition, as we know them.

May I ask the Under-Secretary of State, who is responsible for bringing the Bill to the Committee, to answer this question? If we have to spend certain money on research into methods of trading in Japan, or to suggest that Government organisations should investigate them, would it be possible under the Treaty for the expense of those investigations to be met by the Japanese rather than by the British taxpayer?

This is a liberal Treaty, and it has demonstrated the goodwill of the Western world towards the Japanese people. Even those who went into the Division Lobby the other night against the Bill do not desire to see the economic life and the standards of life of the Japanese people crash. But we sincerely ask that Japan should enter the comity of nations on new ethical terms in trading competition. If British industries—rubber, cotton, silk or rayon, for instance—feel there has been some unfair competition, and if we ask for an investigation into it, would it not be possible for the expense to be met by the Japanese?

Whether my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) was in order or not—and it is not for me to question your Ruling, Sir Charles—I heartily endorse his view that there are many sections in the Pacific, like some opinion in New Zealand and Australia, who feel that although they have signed the Treaty, they have done so with some trepidation, because they are afraid of a recrudescence of the evil dumping we knew before the war. Are there possibilities under this Clause of the expense of missions to Japan being borne by the Japanese, for at least a preliminary period?

Mr. Nutting

The answer to the question is, "No." The expense of any such mission going to Japan to conduct investigations into Japanese trading methods would not arise out of a Treaty and still less would it arise out of the Bill. Any expenses incurred in connection with the dispatch of such missions to Japan would not be chargeable against the Japanese under any power which His Majesty's Government have taken under the Bill.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment.

7.44 p.m.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."—[Mr. Nutting.]

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I wish to oppose the Third Reading and I am guided in my opposition not only by the fact that I believe a very much different kind of Treaty with Japan should have been drawn up, but by the fact—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

The Treaty cannot be discussed. We are discussing now the machinery for bringing it into operation.

Mr. Hughes

I object to the machinery in the Treaty. If there was no machinery there could be no Treaty, and if there was no Treaty there could be no machinery.

I wish to oppose the machinery of the Treaty on the grounds that I believe quite a different kind of machinery is required for solving the problem of our future relationship with Japan. Instead of bringing this machinery forward, we should have taken the view of our great partner in the East—India. I reject entirely the idea that because a certain machinery of a certain Treaty has been adopted in San Francisco we should necessarily endorse the machinery and the Treaty in this House.

This machinery has also been the subject of criticism by a great leader of international and Commonwealth opinion, Dr. Evatt. I read in "The Times," of 5th September, that Dr. Evatt said that the overwhelming majority of Australians were convinced that the Treaty menaced the physical—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not think the hon. Gentleman quite understood me. We cannot discuss the Treaty, and the hon. Gentleman cannot quote what other people have said about the Treaty. It is only the machinery in the Bill for putting the Treaty into operation which we are now discussing on Third Reading—the machinery in the Bill

Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)

Further to that point, Mr. Speaker. The Bill states: And whereas it is expedient that His Majesty should have power to do all such things as may he proper and expedient for giving effect to the said Treaty and Protocol… Is one not, then, at this stage, entitled to question the powers being conceded and to give reason why such powers should be withheld?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Certainly. That would be quite in order, but it is not what was being discussed just now.

Mr. Hughes

I will confine my remarks to the machinery within the Treaty.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Not the machinery within the Treaty, but the machinery for bringing the Treaty into operation.

Mr. Hughes

Exactly. That is exactly what I meant. Referring to all this, Dr. Evatt said: All the tragedies of the past war are apparently to be re-enacted, and treaties are to be treated as scraps of paper, and the low standards of living of Japanese labour will be swamped by countries with higher living standards. The militarists and industrialists will be armed and soon again be on the march"—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is exhausting my patience. I warn him that if he does not keep in order I shall ask him to resume his seat.

Mr. Hughes

I want to confine my argument to this proposition, that it is inexpedient to agree to the Third Reading of the Bill because it is against the interests of this country and also against the interests of the people of the great Dominion of Australia and also. the interests of the people among whom this Treaty—this machinery of this Treaty—is to be the subject of agreement. This machinery, this whole idea, is entirely against the opinion of the Japanese Socialist Party and the Japanese working class movement. There is in Japan today the strongest opposition to the idea contained in this Bill, and if such a Bill were introduced into the Japanese Diet it would receive the strongest opposition from the people of Japan.

I would conclude with this quotation. I would conclude, because I have certainly no desire to tax your patience, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. [Laughter.] I have not. I appreciate your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker; and I appreciate the toleration with which I am treated in this House. I wish only to quote this opinion from the very eminent correspondent of the "Manchester Guardian" who dealt with the attitude of the Japanese Socialist Party towards this Bill, and with this quotation I would conclude: The most determined opposition"— says this writer— comes from the Socialist Party. Under the Treaty, say the Socialists, Japan will secure only pseudo independence. In reality she will find herself entirely dependent militarily. She will serve as a base for the United States. Her army, equipped by the States, will supply a mercenary army…The reason why the Socialist Party of Japan would be against this Bill is because they believe in the three-prong Socialist slogan—no bases, no re-armament, no Treaty without Russia and China. Those are opinions which, I think, should be expressed in this House.

7.51 p.m.

Mr. Ian Horobin (Oldham, East)

If I can, while keeping in order, I should like, as a Lancashire Member, to say that I do not think it would be expedient to give His Majesty the powers implied in bringing into effect the Treaty under this Bill unless the powers are used in the context of a very definite policy in connection with Japan and the United States. It is not expedient that this Treaty should be brought into operation unless in at least three years concomitant action is taken—in view of what we heard in the debate the other day—first, to deal with the desperate danger of Japanese competition. I do not want to go into that further, but would refer only, for instance, to the urgent necessity for reinforcing Lancashire's position with regard to her raw material supplies and cotton market.

Second, it is only expedient that His Majesty should have these powers, I submit, if action is taken at the very highest level in Washington to deal with the extraordinarily difficulty diplomatic problem. I speak as a profound believer in the vital need for the closest relations between this country and the United States, but it is useless to disguise from ourselves the fact that on this issue United States and English interests tend to diverge; and they can be brought into the necessary agreement only if at the same time as His Majesty exercises his powers under this Bill the Government seek, at the very highest level, to knit together our relations with the United States on this matter.

We are in the ironical position that, just as in the war the one danger was that, if it had not been for the close relations between the Prime Minister and the then President, Japan might have been treated as the primary enemy, so now, if we are not careful, there is the danger that Japan will be treated—I will not say as the first friend, but, at any rate, as very much more than a friend than will be healthy for some parts of the British industrial structure. That danger can be overcome only at a high level. I believe it can be.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think that the hon. Gentleman is going beyond the Bill before us. He is dealing with how the Treaty may be carried out.

Mr. Horobin

I shall not delay the House further on that. I do not think my remarks were open to that interpretation. I am submitting that it is not expedient that these powers should be given, as they are by this Bill, unless they are exercised in that diplomatic context. I submit, with the greatest respect, that that is a legitimate point to make when we are asked to say that it is expedient that these powers should be granted.

The third point which I wish very briefly to put to the House is that it is not expedient that these powers be granted unless certain action is taken in Tokio. If I may be allowed to make a personal remark, speaking as an ex-prisoner of war of the Japanese, I think I may say that I know as much as anybody in this House about this subject. I was a witness in the war crimes trial, and I know as much as most people about that dark and dreadful episode in Japanese history. Protest would not be confined to hon. Members opposite if there was any suggestion that we were granting these powers merely to obtain mercenaries in any strategic sense. There would be a revolt far beyond that. It must not be in any context of that sort that these powers are used. This must be genuinely the beginning of a new chapter in our relations with Japan.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I have made it perfectly clear that that cannot be discussed now. I really am losing my patience. I warn the hon. Gentleman that if he pursues that line, I shall ask him to resume his seat.

Mr. Horobin

I will not pursue that point any further. I believe that it is only on that ground and in that context that it is now expedient for us to pass this Bill to bring into effect the Treaty.

7.57 p.m.

Mr. S. O. Davies

If I understood you aright, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, a few moments ago, you agreed that an hon. Member would be entitled to state his objections to the powers referred to in the Bill, particularly in lines eight to 10, and also to give his reasons why such powers should be withheld. I hope that I may be able to put my case to the House without in the least trespassing upon your very good nature.

I am objecting to this Bill, first, on the grounds that in all sincerity I consider it, as a dishonest attempt to legalise what is nothing less than a conspiracy. It is a Bill that is legalising a whole mass of illegalities that have already been perpetrated, and on that ground I must strongly object to it. I presume that one cannot refer to the previous discussions that have taken place on the Treaty, but the instrument which we are considering now is, as has already been said, being used to give an air of respectability and honesty.

On the basis of our conception of international ethics it is nothing less than a conspiracy that has been foisted upon all the other nations which accept this Treaty.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member does not get round it by calling the Treaty a conspiracy.

Mr. Davies

I have said more than that, Sir Charles. I say this Bill is an attempt to legalise a conspiracy, and I must object against this House of Commons being used for such mean and despicable purposes. I must be entitled to that right, surely.

All that has been said on this Bill—all the misrepresentations that have been uttered on both sides of the House and from the two Front Benches—mean nothing to us. Here we are giving life to a fine pretentious piece of justification, to what is, as I have said, something utterly dishonest and a fraud upon the 1,000 million people living on the Asiatic continent.

I object to this Bill going through the House. It is unclean in every line and every sentence of it, and, small as the Bill is, it embodies in it more evil than I have seen in any Bill in the House of Commons. I am ashamed that there is such unanimity on both sides of the House in giving legal sanction to what I have described as an utterly mean and low-down conspiracy.