§ 3.49 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)
I sincerely hope that I do not embarrass any section of the House by seeking to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, in order to open the two-day debate on foreign affairs, but there have been—
§ Mr. Eden
Nobody has run away. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), must not take his views on such a short run as that; he is likely to be proved wrong before many minutes have passed.
I was about to say, but for the running fire of commentary from the Opposition Front Bench, that I think it is a good idea in general that, as the world scene is so troubled, the Foreign Secretary should open the two-day debate on foreign affairs. When I have been in opposition there have been occasions when I have wished that it should be so and that we should not have to wait until the last phase of the discussion to have a glimmering of an idea of what the Government's foreign policy might be. [Interruption.] I am not reproaching the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South, but he really must not be so sensitive so early in our proceedings. There is a long way to go yet. [An HON. MEMBER: "Get on."] I am trying to, if only the Front Bench opposite will let me. We must get more cohesion between the benches opposite.
When we last debated foreign affairs in this House in November of last year. I described the state of the world—not. I must add, at that time thinking of the Opposition benches—as a tangled and troubled scene. I then had had only about a month in which to look round me and get some grasp of the problems which daily crowded in upon us. Since then I have been to Rome, Paris, Washington and Ottawa. I have had the opportunity to talk with other Western statesmen and to discuss our 814 common problems. In the light of this experience, I should like to tell the House how, in my view, we stand today.
I do not intend to ramble over the whole world scene. The House has heard the account given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of our conversations in Washington. I shall have some further comments to make this afternoon on the subject of those conversations; but there are also other problems of urgent importance on which I shall have something to say, and I propose to begin near home with the European scene.
If we take a day-to-day view of what is going on around us, it is inevitable that every difference of opinion looms large before our eyes. There have, of course, been such differences, and I shall be dealing with them in a little detail in a moment. They force themselves more prominently on our attention perhaps than the agreements reached and the progress, unspectacular but steady, which I think has been realised.
Most observers on the Continent, I believe, would agree that, though anxieties remain, the fear of immediate war has not increased and is indeed less. I think that is a fair judgment, and I think many factors have helped to bring it about. I will tell the House what they are. First, the growing strength of the Western nations which, though still relatively modest in conventional arms, becomes more evident every month. Second, the recent Assembly of the United Nations which, though marked by sharp and wordy differences, was, on the whole, less violent in controversy. And this Assembly did in the end agree to start work on a Disarmament Convention. Third, the remarkable progress which has been made towards a European Defence Community and, finally and perhaps most important of all, the work that is being done to widen and reinforce the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
If I may recall it to hon. Members, at the December meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Rome the Ministers of the 12 North Atlantic Treaty countries heard an interim report from the Temporary Committee of the Council, prepared by "the three wise men" as they have been called, perhaps not entirely without reason. This Committee was set 815 up to strike a balance between the military requirements and the political and economic resources of the individual countries. It has now completed its examination of the facts. Figures have been submitted by each member State, and the Committee has made specific recommendations for increasing defence efforts in a number of countries—not in ours.
At the forthcoming Council meeting at Lisbon, we shall hear each country's comments on these recommendations. We shall discuss them and consider how far they can be put into effect. At Rome there was also agreement that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was still top-heavy. In particular, the long intervals between the Council meetings, the inability of deputies to take far-reaching decisions on behalf of their Governments and the way in which subordinate committees of N.A.T.O., as I suppose we have to call it, are scattered about in many different capitals—all these prevented the Organisation from being as efficient as it should be. A number of proposals for disposing of these difficulties have now been made and are likely to be finally agreed at Lisbon.
The burden of them is that the Council should be in permanent session and that the national representatives on it should have a wider authority. There would also be a strengthened secretariat, particularly in the higher circles, and a permanent headquarters—about the location of which I have certain views which I will not elaborate—and where as many services as possible should be grouped. Of course, the form this Organisation finally takes depends upon decisions to be reached in concert with our Allies.
We hope to be able to welcome representatives of two new members of the Organisation to the Lisbon meeting. The House may recall that on 19th November, I informed hon. Members that His Majesty's Government proposed to declare very soon their formal acceptance of Turkey and Greece into N.A.T.O. Both those countries are old and trusted friends of ourselves, and I am glad to be able to say that we were the first of the N.A.T.O. countries to give formal approval of their admission. It is our hope that the necessary Parliamentary arrangements will have been carried out 816 in the next week or so in order that Greece and Turkey may attend the Lisbon conference as full members.
Let me now turn to the much more difficult question of the function of Western Germany in the community of free nations. Last November, Mr. Acheson, M. Schuman, Dr. Adenauer and I approved, as the House may remember, the draft of a General Agreement. In that we set forth the main principles which were to govern the relations between the three Western Allies and the German Federal Republic. This draft is now being completed with a number of related conventions. These cover in more detail such important matters as the status, protection and support of the Allied Forces stationed in and shielding Germany and the problems which will arise when the Allied High Commission is abolished.
These are very complicated but progress is being made with them. None of these conventions will be signed or published until all are completed. I doubt whether they will be ready in all particulars before the Lisbon meeting. A few important points of special complexity will probably be outstanding at that time. I am now awaiting a final report from the High Commissioners in Germany and when that is received we shall have to decide whether it will be useful to hold any meeting of the four Foreign Ministers here in London before the Lisbon meeting in order further to narrow such differences as remain.
Meanwhile, a meeting between the three Powers is, in any event, to take place here in London on 13th February, when it will be my privilege to welcome Mr. Schuman and Mr. Acheson. I need hardly say I shall be delighted also to invite Dr. Adenauer to join us here if, as I hope, the negotiations have reached a stage which will enable us to hold fruitful talks and take necessary decisions. I should personally welcome an opportunity to see Dr. Adenauer in London again. We all understand his problems and the spirit of European solidarity in which he approaches them.
The French have had a difficult and delicate task to balance, in their country, the dark and painful influences of the past and the growing hopes of the future. Their courage in this endeavour and their 817 understanding of the similar difficulties which face the Federal German Government, have been decisive contributions to the progress which has been made. Far-reaching events are taking place in Western Europe at this time. The results of the long and complex deliberations which have been held in Bonn and in Paris will soon be made known to the Parliaments and the people of the countries concerned. If they can be greed—and I believe they will—they will create a new Europe, different from any known since the days of Charlemagne.
Of course, it is inevitable that during this period, this last critical period, special difficulties should arise. We have been reminded of one in the last few days. The Saar, in the recent history of Franco-German relations, has always been a thorny problem. It is important that we should not now get it out of perspective. Under intelligent and patient statesmanship, I have not the least doubt that it can be solved.
I must just recall to the House that the French Government have always stated that they regard the present arrangements in the Saar as temporary and provisional. More than that: they have declared themselves ready to discuss a solution of this problem in advance of any general peace-treaty settlement. That is still the French position, as I know after my visit to Paris. Therefore the door is open to discussion and negotiation.
Furthermore, the French have been at pains to point out that their interest in the Saar is essentially economic. Anybody who has followed the negotiations on the Schuman Plan knows how true that is and how important the Saar is to the general balance of production in that part of Europe. There is, of course, a political problem too, but I am sure it is not beyond the ability of statecraft to solve it.
A number of suggestions have already been canvassed but I think I am wiser not to mention them to the House at this moment. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Because they may be more likely to succeed if I do not canvass them. If the hon. Gentleman will look at the Germans' own statements of what might be a possible solution, and at some of the French statements, 818 he will find there is running through them both a common thread of ideas. We shall do our best to encourage it, and we can do it better without making public speeches about it.
I repeat my conviction that this is a problem which, with patience and goodwill, can be solved. Of course, we can all understand—and hon. Members of this House better than most—the emotions which the future of the Saar raises, both in France and Germany. Those of us who were in this House before the war know that only too well. These emotions need not, and must not, be allowed to disturb the working out of a new and hopeful relationship in Europe.
I come now to an equally difficult task. Almost all Foreign Office topics are difficult these days. The counterpart of any new contractual relationship between Germany and the three Western Powers is the arrangements for a German contribution to Western defence. I must remind the House that it is only a year ago in Brussels that it was agreed that a German contribution should be made to the European Army. That was the decision.
For the last year, a conference has been working in Paris on the plans for the European Defence Community. We were not members of that conference. By a decision of the late Government, we only had an observer there. Perhaps it is unfortunate that we were not in a position to influence the work of the conference. At any rate, though we are not there, these negotiations have made quite remarkable progress. At their last meeting, the six Foreign Ministers disposed of most of the outstanding problems. It is now expected that an agreed report will be ready for our meeting at Lisbon.
If a European Army is to play its full part in strengthening the defence of the North Atlantic area, it must be fitted into the N.A.T.O. framework. That was laid down by the North Atlantic Council at the meeting in Brussels, but it raises also a pretty formidable problem. Five of the countries participating in the European Defence Community are also members of N.A.T.O., with obligations to both organisations. There is no difficulty there. But Germany, although she is to be a member of the European Defence Community, is not a member of N.A.T.O. Yet it is 819 essential that the European Defence Community, including, of course, German forces, should be under General Eisenhower's command, and that the two organisations, N.A.T.O. and E.D.C., despite differences of membership, should work together.
Here is a complicated task, a really complicated task, for diplomacy, and an intricate piece of machinery to work out. None the less, I am confident that it can be done. I hope that the House has seen the contradiction that Chancellor Adenauer has issued this morning of a most alarming report which appeared in the Press today. We shall go through some very difficult weeks while the Parliaments of France and Germany face this really historic decision. During this time we can help by patience and understanding, and not by alarmist endorsement of every rocking of the boat. That is our task. If we do that, I believe that we can produce a conclusion of which the House and the nation will approve.
What is our country's position in relation to this European Defence Community? Quite a lot has been said about that in the last few months, and it has led to a good deal of discussion and some misunderstanding. It is now clear where we stand and what we should do. I hope it is agreed in all parts of the House, but we shall no doubt find out as the debate goes on. It is our intention to establish a permanent delegation at the seat of the High Authority for coal and steel and to enter into relations and try to transact business with them. That is under the Schuman Plan. It is also our intention to associate ourselves as closely as possible with the European Defence Community in all stages of its political and military development.
We cannot tell yet the exact form our relationship will take, because the European Defence Community has not finally set up its machinery. But I should like to give the House certain indications of what we are prepared to do and see whether we can get a measure of agreement upon them. These are the things we think we should do in respect of the European Defence Community: First, we hope that the United Kingdom and the Community—I wish I could call it an army, but it is more than an army; I do not like the word "community"—will 820 maintain close consultation on problems of common interests and that a suitable means of liaison for this purpose will be established.
Subject to the overriding requirements of the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, British forces on the Continent will operate as closely as possible with the European defence forces and be linked with them in matters of training, administration and supplies. Arrangements could, for instance, be made for individuals and formations of the European Defence Community to train with British formations in Germany and elsewhere, and for us to lend officers and units where this is convenient to the European Army. We think that a considerable measure of blending between the air forces of the United Kingdom and of Europe may well prove to be a particularly profitable field of action.
There is one thing I must make plain. Let it be clearly understood that we in this island are resolved to maintain armed forces on the continent of Europe for as long as is necessary. We shall do that not only because of the requirements of the European Defence Community, but because of our own obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty and because of our special responsibilities in and to Germany. British forces are, of course, ranged alongside American and European forces in the defence of Western Europe. The measures that I have indicated will contribute to our even closer comradeship. It remains for us to achieve this same unity of purpose and effort in every sphere of N.A.T.O.'s activities.
I should like at this point to remind the House of a recent statement made by General Eisenhower. After saying that he could see no acceptable alternative to union between the States of Europe, he added that he believed that any attempt to include Britain immediately in a European defence force "would be a stumbling block rather than a help." In the same speech he asked how the British Commonwealth of Nations could be combined with Western Europe today. It seems to us that the answer to the question is that, as things have now developed, Britain and the Commonwealth could best be linked with Western Europe through the Atlantic Organisation.
821 That is why it seems to us of capital importance that we should realise that the North Atlantic Treaty is not merely some temporary expedient arising from the threat of Soviet aggression. That is why we regard it as a permanent association, which must be intimate but not exclusive. Our other Commonwealth ties are sacred.
It sets the pattern, a pattern woven on the wide spread of the Atlantic, for the future of political life in the free world. I hope that in the political field this sense of the Atlantic approach to international problems is going to grow, because it is in that spirit and mood that we can do our own best work. I hope it will be possible for this North Atlantic Council to meet as a forum where Foreign Ministers can discuss matters of foreign policy frankly and in a practical spirit with the hope of enduring success, and not with 400 people round a table in what is called a secret session. I believe that the interest of Parliaments and the public in the Atlantic community should be encouraged by every means in our power. That is a task in which everyone can play a part.
This week the United Nations Assembly adjourns. Nothing gave me greater pleasure than when I heard in Paris at the weekend—I was there meeting French Ministers and members of the United Nations—the warmest possible tributes from those in a position to judge about the work which my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State has done. He will deal in greater detail later tonight with the work of the Assembly, and no doubt will be cross-examined upon it by his predecessor. That is as it should be.
At this stage I will refer only to certain impressions I gained of the work of this Paris session. Despite some highly controversial moments, such as this House is now becoming increasingly used to, the course of the discussions in Paris on the whole has been more reasonable and less vituperative than in recent years, and I think that that is all to the good. The Assembly has debated one question of vital interest, namely, disarmament. I would not wish to forecast the results of the work of the new Commission which has now been set up to deal with this subject, but I will say that it is gratifying 822 that it was possible to establish this Commission, and also I think gratifying that Mr. Vyshinsky has indicated that the Soviet Government are prepared to participate in its work. Let us see where we can go in that way.
I now leave European matters and ask the House to consider for a few moments with me the situation in Egypt. The details of the recent events in Cairo, which the world has learned of since I last spoke to the House on this subject about a week ago, show how brutal was the character and how terrible the scale of the destruction of life and property in Cairo 10 days ago. For centuries there can have been no scene like this in a civilised capital in time of peace. Tragic indeed it is that Egypt, one of the most ancient homes of civilisation and history, should be the witness of such events.
In my statement to the House a few days ago, I gave an account of our views and purpose towards Egypt and I have little this afternoon to add to that statement. We are absolutely sincere in our desire to reach an agreement with Egypt which will ensure the security of the Middle East and of the Suez Council. This is an international responsibility. Such an agreement, if it is to have any chance of lasting value, must also take into account the true and rightful aspirations of the Egyptian people. We are prepared to seek ways and means towards this end and to pursue them in a spirit which will give expression to real friendship between our two countries. I am sure that our mutual needs and interests can be reconciled in a way that is both advantageous and honourable to both parties. I still believe that the answer is to be found in an arrangement between us, where the thought is not how much can each get out of the other, but how can we best help each other.
It is in this spirit that I have noted the new Egyptian Prime Minister's public assurances that he wishes to resume negotiations with us. I do not under-rate the difficulties. There are plenty of them ahead, but I hope that the House will understand that I think it will be undesirable for me to be more explicit about our intentions and methods at this stage. I hope the House will need no assurance that I understand how much is at stake in these negotiations both to 823 Egypt and to ourselves. We shall spare no effort to reach an agreement and to reach a settlement which takes account of the legitimate rights of both parties.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the Egyptian question, may I interrupt him? As he says, the defence of the Suez Canal is an international obligation. How, therefore, does he propose to invoke international discussion in order that there shall be international defence of the Canal Zone and not bring British troops alone into collision with the Egyptian civil population?
§ Mr. Eden
I think the best way to handle this affair in the first instance is between ourselves and the Egyptians because it is on the basis of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty that our forces are in the Canal Zone. Of course I accept, and have always accepted, that the 1936 Treaty can be and should be replaced by some further agreement and that further agreement should be—I hope will be—upon an international basis.
§ Mr. Bevan
This is an exceedingly important matter and all I want to do is to elicit the facts at this stage so that we can have an intelligent discussion on it later on. The right hon. Gentleman, on the one side, says—and everybody, I think, agrees with him—that this is an international obligation, but then he at once proceeds, as far as I can see, to the only practical steps on a unilateral basis. I should like to ask him, or the Prime Minister if he is to speak tomorrow, whether he will outline in detail how we are to call into existence an international authority to defend the Canal Zone and not place the whole obligation on British troops?
§ Mr. Eden
I think the position is really clear—[Interruption.] I am not trying to score a debating point; this is very serious. In the first instance, we are in the Canal Zone on the basis of the Treaty of 1936. There it is, an Anglo-Egyptian arrangement, and our troops are there on the basis of that Treaty, which the Egyptians have unilaterally renounced. We cannot accept unilateral renunciation of it. We think it better to resume efforts on an Anglo-Egyptian basis because this is an Anglo-Egyptian problem. That is agreed between the Egyptians and our- 824 selves, and, so far as I know, by every other Power in the world.
§ Mr. Eden
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me—I cannot speak all the thoughts in my mind in one sentence. As I say, the first approach should be with the Egyptian Government, and then with others, including the Americans. The first talk should be between us and the Egyptian Government; of course it must be, on the basis of the Egyptian Treaty.
§ Mr. Shinwell indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Eden
I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman does not see it. If he does not see it, I cannot help that. I am trying to develop a serious argument on a serious subject. When the Anglo-Egyptian discussions have opened, then we are perfectly ready that they should be broadened on to the basis of Four-Power discussions, but, if I may put it to the right hon. Gentleman—and I want the House to consider this—it does not necessarily follow that the Egyptians would most like a Four-Power basis of discussion as the first approach. That is why in all this business, as the House will have seen if it has watched what I have tried to do, I have left the position open so that we can get Four-Power discussions opened if that be the best means of making some further progress ourselves towards further international agreement.
Before I leave that topic, there is a much more difficult one—[Interruption.]—I am always glad of agreement whereever I can find it. There is a topic of the first importance to which I must refer before I leave the Egyptian scene. I cannot leave this question without a reference to the Sudan. Last November I made a statement to this House which I think received general endorsement. As I said then, and I say now, I am sincerely anxious to reach agreement with Egypt; but I can take no step which would be a betrayal of the pledges which that statement contained. Therefore, while I am very ready to search for a solution, there will be no going back on those pledges—which, perhaps, does not facilitate my task.
Now I turn to another country about which I have very little that is encouraging to report to the House—developments 825 in Persia. The Persian Government's initial response at the beginning of last month to the International Bank's initiative was hardly encouraging. Nevertheless, I understand the Bank has continued in its efforts and is determined to see what contribution it can make to end the present deadlock, a deadlock which leaves the great oil industry idle and unproductive. A week or two back, Dr. Mossadeq told Sir Francis Shepherd, when he was leaving Teheran, that he did not know why the British Government had not concluded a matter which could be concluded with ease and goodwill and why this difference between the two Governments still remained.
I confess that I found this statement somewhat baffling. It has to be set against the action of the Persian Government in closing our consulates in Persia and refusing to accept our new Ambassador, the distinguished son of a distinguished father. The Persian Prime Minister's claim that our consular representatives have been improperly interfering in the internal affairs of his country is utterly unfounded. No evidence has been brought forward which possibly could justify the action. It may be, however, that the move was inspired, not by external considerations, but by internal politics, which, I understand, are somewhat involved in Persia at this time.
As for the appointment of a new Ambassador, the Persian Government have announced that they will not accept diplomats who have previously served in Persia and, although they have nothing against Mr. Hankey personally, they could not accept him on this account, that is to say, that he had previously served in Persia. Another complaint I have heard is that he speaks Persian. This will seem to many people rather an odd basis for refusing a foreign representative, but, if it becomes at all a general habit, it will certainly simplify the Foreign Office examination. In the circumstances, what are His Majesty's Government to do? We do not at present propose to appoint another Ambassador and, despite all the discouragement, we shall continue to work to bring about that improvement in relations which the Persian Prime Minister reiterates he desires.
826 There has recently been, at the United Nations and elsewhere, much dispute and many allegations about the presence in the Kengtung Province of Burma of a number of Chinese Nationalist troops. Soviet charges that these troops were being assisted by the United States have been categorically denied, both by Mr. Acheson and United States representatives in the First Committee of the United Nations Assembly in the last few days.
We all know that some Kuomintang troops took refuge in Burma in the closing stages of the Chinese Civil War. What has happened since then has been obscured by conflicting reports and, it may be, by deliberate distortion, also. It is, however, clear that Chinese Nationalist troops are on Burmese soil and that they constitute a problem for the Burmese Government, who have not been able to secure their disarmament. His Majesty's Government are ready to do all they can to clear up this confused and disturbing situation. As it seems to us, the first task must be to establish the facts and then to consider what should be the best way of dealing with them.
There are a number of ways in which this might be done. It might, for instance, be helpful if the United Nations could establish a small commission to investigate this situation. If this were generally thought to be a practical proposal and the Burmese Government were agreeable, we should be willing to try to help it forward. That is all I should like to say on that topic at this time.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
In the meantime, will the right hon. Gentleman impress upon Americans the enormous importance of preventing not only their officials but their "un-officials" from carrying arms or any sort of supplies to the Kuomintang troops in Burma from Formosa?
§ Mr. Eden
I do not think the hon. Gentleman's contribution is a particularly helpful one. What I was trying to suggest is that we all know there is a dispute about the facts of this matter. I thought it best that the proposal which I made, and which I purposely put delicately because there are lots of other things to consider in this matter—not only the position of America but the position of the 827 Burmese Government and some others—should be only a suggestion that this commission would be useful and we should do our best to bring it about. I think I should be rather wise to leave it at that.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I quite understand and that the right hon. Gentleman might not be able to answer this point but, in case he can, is it his idea that in any international investigation the Chinese Government that we recognise might be associated with that inquiry in some way?
§ Mr. Eden
I have only sought to help on the inquiry. It is clearly a difficult arrangement. I do not know whether it would be welcome even to the Burmese Government. If one gets an international situation which is causing concern, someone has to make a move of some sort and we can be sure the move will be unpopular with certain Governments. I thought it best to make the move in this House, in this way but I was careful not to say anything about the composition.
On the Far East situation I will conclude by turning to the vexing question of Japan's relations with Formosa. From the moment when this problem was drawn to my attention in the Foreign Office, it has always been my view that the nature of Japan's relations with China should be left for Japan to decide after she had regained her full sovereignty. I have held—and hold—this view for many reasons, one of which is that I consider it of importance that during the occupation Japan should not commit herself to policies for which, if they later turn out to be ill-advised, she would blame the occupying Powers.
I have expressed that view on several occasions—in Tokio and Washington—and there has never been the least doubt about its being our opinion, as I think it was the opinion of the previous Government. I am quite sure that the United States Government would be perfectly ready to state publicly, if they were asked, that they know this to be so; indeed, Senator Sparkman, who accompanied Mr. Dulles to Japan last December, has, since his return, spoken of this matter with commendable frankness. In referring to Mr. Yoshida's action in writing his letter, he said; "We know that this did not accord with the wishes of Great Britain."
828 This is an issue upon which it must be openly admitted that we and the United States Government have not been in agreement. I am sorry about it, but I do not think it could have been avoided. As regards Japanese-Chinese relations, only time will show whether the Japanese Government are acting wisely. In my view it would have been better if their hand had remained free.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Before the Foreign Secretary leaves that question, does that mean to say that while he and the Prime Minister were in America no change was made from our previous position?
§ Mr. Eden
Our view about this matter has been expressed on many occasions ever since I took over the Foreign Office. I know it was in harmony with the view previously expressed by the late Government; but it is fair to say to the late Government that I did not form my view because it had been theirs before.
Now I turn to the Korean issue. There has been much interest and speculation whether, in our talks in Washington, we entered into any new commitments in regard to Korea. The answer is that we entered into no new commitments. As there has been so much misunderstanding on the subject, however, I should like to add a few words of explanation.
When a situation as dangerous as the Korean war exists, it is natural and right that His Majesty's Government and other Governments should be constantly looking into the future and thinking of the various situations which might develop and the various courses of action which they might require. In this way, at this stage of the Korean war, we have for some time been considering, in consultation principally with the United States Government and the Governments of the Commonwealth and other members of the United Nations, what should be our policy in the event, first, of an armistice being concluded in Korea, and secondly, of a resumption of fighting without an armistice.
On the first hypothesis—an armistice—two different things might happen. An armistice might be loyally observed and might be followed by discussions for a political settlement in Korea and a general relaxation of tension in the Far East. This is a contingency which we all 829 hope to see realised and for which, under the United Nations, we are constantly working.
But we have also to consider the possibility of an armistice being violated by a further act of armed aggression in Korea. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained in the House last week, this would create a very grave situation, the consequences of which have been fully examined, but without our entering into any definite or formal commitments. The only undertaking, if it can be so described—and I leave that to the House to judge—which we have entered into is that in that event, that is to say, a breach of an armistice, consultations would take place amongst the interested Powers, including ourselves. I am quite confident that this is also the view of the American Government in the present position.
There is another main contingency which has necessarily been under consideration, and that is that the armistice talks might finally break down—which is the other aspect of the matter—and that heavy fighting might be resumed in Korea. The Press on both sides of the Atlantic have been trying to guess our plans in this event, and no doubt our enemies in Korea have been trying to guess them, too—and I hope we can continue to keep them guessing.
But the fact that we have been considering various unpleasant possibilities does not mean that we want or expect them to happen; nor have His Majesty's Government entered into any new commitments regarding the contingencies which might then arise. I hope that is clear. We shall continue to plan and to prepare ourselves for any foreseeable turn in events, while continuing to work for the peaceful and just settlement which we all so earnestly desire. Fortunately, the prospects of this are, today, definitely brighter.
If I am to judge by the criticism, there seems to be an impression in some quarters in this country—and this, I think, is at the heart of the matter—that the United States is not really sincere in its pursuit of the armistice negotiations—
§ Mr. Eden
I am glad to deal with it—and even that she seeks an extension of 830 the conflict in the Far East. I want to state my experience, that I heard no single word in any responsible quarter, while I was in America, to lend colour to this belief. I sincerely believe that the American Government and people—both of them—are as deeply anxious for peace in the Far East as we are ourselves.
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Gentleman knows that in a vast free country of 150 million people Press quotations can always be found to support any point of view. That is so here, after all, despite the shortage of newsprint, and there is no shortage of newsprint there. We really must not allow ourselves to be influenced by some alarmist and extremist views. Of course, they exist in every free country. The only place where they do not exist is in totalitarian countries, where they are not allowed to.
This is the crux of what is troubling the public and House here and I want to tell the House why the Americans are, if possible, more anxious than we are to get an armistice: because they have felt and do feel the impact of their casualties upon their ordinary life at home—100,000. They affect every small town in the United States and have brought sorrow and anxiety to many American homes. They feel, too, that they have carried the main burden of the Korean conflict on behalf of the United Nations.
That is what they think. Hon. Gentlemen here may not all share that view but that is their conviction and I think that in it they are fully justified. That is why they are impatient and intolerant when others turn to lecture them and say "Why do you not take this or that particular attitude?" We have to use a more vivid imagination here to get across the Atlantic scene if we want to understand each other. I am as sure as I stand here that there is a deep and lasting American desire to reach a solution of this Korean conflict.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
While accepting what the right hon. Gentleman says about Press and public opinion, what is his view of the statements by the Secretary of State for the Navy and by Admiral Fechteler last week that in the event of an armistice not being achieved, war would be taken 831 to the Chinese coast? This was being said after the right hon. Gentleman had been in Washington, and it made some of us alarmed. This is not the Press; this is one member of the Administration and one senior official of the Navy.
§ Mr. Eden
I have not the details of the statements. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] What is the use of saying "Oh." I do not carry around with me notes of what every American says. If the hon. Gentleman wished to raise anything about that, I would naturally have looked up those statements if I had had notice.
§ Mr. Eden
I think the House is being a little unreasonable. I have given what I believe to be the broad American opinion. Individual speeches of this character are often made. I cannot reply for the American Administration; I can reply only for His Majesty's Government. If statements of that kind have been made, they do not in any sense represent the policy of His Majesty's Government. I cannot answer for the American Government.
§ Mr. Crossman
The right hon. Gentleman stated that he had found no trace of the alarmist views which some of us brought back. I quoted to him not from Mr. Henry Luce but from the Secretary of State for the Navy and Admiral Fechteler. I am really amazed that the right hon. Gentleman says that he has not had time to notice that since he and his right hon. Friend came back from Washington these two really responsible people have put forward what the right hon. Gentleman describes as alarmist views for which there was no foundation in his experience. These are the facts. Surely the right hon. Gentleman must take cognisance of them.
§ Mr. Eden
I accept what the hon. Member says. All I can say is that in my experience, and I have checked this as best I can with our authorities in the United States, I did not and my right hon. Friend did not hear any statements of that kind made to us. [Laughter.] I do not know why hon. Members should laugh at that. I am trying to give the House a fair impression of what my right hon. Friend and I heard. In some 832 quarters there is such anti-American prejudice that they will hardly listen to—[Interruption.] All I can deal with is what was said to us in our conversations.
I repeat that nothing remotely resembling those two quotations—my right hon. Friend will bear me out—was said to us in the course of any discussions which we had. It was exactly the opposite. President Truman, Mr. Acheson, General Bradley and all the others took exactly the opposite view. The hon. Member knows quite well that American ideas of Cabinet responsibility, their whole system, are different from our own. I am only saying what was said to us.
I repeat my impression, and I hope that history will prove me right within a week or a fortnight, that they want an armistice, that it will be signed and that it will be good. But the hon. Member and others are always trying to make bad blood between us and the Americans.
§ Mr. Crossman
The right hon. Gentleman has twice made the allegation that those asking the question I did were inspired by anti-American feeling. I should like to say, first, that I did not say that they do not want an armistice, nor did Admiral Fechteler or the Secretary of State for the Navy. They were discussing the right hon. Gentleman's second hypothesis. I was pointing out to him that the view which he says he did not find in Washington was in fact expressed by two men very close to the President. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that he has no right to call anybody anti-American for stating facts.
§ Mr. Eden
If I became slightly exasperated, that was not my intention, but I do feel very deeply on this topic. [HON. MEMBERS: "SO do we."] Yes, that is why we are discussing it. I genuinely believe that there is a measure of misunderstanding here of the American attitude in these matters. When the hon. Member said that these were the views about what was to happen if an armistice should be broken—
§ Mr. Eden
As far as an armistice not occurring is concerned, I can only tell the hon. Member that our views of that are precisely the same as those of the 833 previous Government here. Our position is precisely that declared by the Government before. On that there is no shadow of dispute. If the hon. Gentleman wants more details, they should not be asked of us.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn, East)
The remark which the right hon. Gentleman has just made is very important. I have been following as closely as I could, and earlier it seemed to me that there was much greater dubiety in what he said to the effect that if the third alternative occurs—the breakdown of the talks—we do not propose to let our enemy in Korea know what we intend to do. Now he has just told us that if that third contingency arises, his view is the same as that of the Opposition.
Can we take it that he does support our view—[Interruption.] We all hope that there is an armistice, but in the view of many of us the real danger will come, not if there is an armistice, but if the armistice talks break down. In that event, is it the right hon. Gentleman's assurance to the House that it is not the view of His Majesty's Government that the war should then be extended to the Chinese mainland?
§ Mr. Eden
I think there are two different hypotheses. I tried to explain them clearly. One is if an armistice is not reached and the conflict is renewed. It is in respect of that that the hon. Gentleman gave his quotation. In respect of that situation, we are in the same position as the previous Government.
There is the second position as to what would happen if an armistice is signed and then broken. In my opinion, that is not the most likely hypothesis, but should it happen we are committed certainly to consultation as to the action to be taken. If the hon. Lady will look at my speech tomorrow, she will not have to worry herself unduly. I think it is all right—at least, I know it is all right—but I hope I have made it plain that it is all right.
There is another aspect of American opinion which I want to put to the House—I believe it is true that America understands this as well—that is, that Europe is still the decisive area. Indeed, none of us can afford to forget that it is here in Europe that the Communist empire 834 marches with the Western world. Certainly the United States, in my conviction, have no desire to become more deeply involved in the Far East.
May I give one final illustration? Two days ago our two Governments introduced a resolution in the United Nations which secured the largest majority ever obtained since the Korean conflict began. That was to do all we could to help the negotiations at Panmunjom and to try to bring to a conclusion an armistice in Korea. That was passed, as I say, in the appropriate committee by the largest majority it has ever had. That ensures that if an armistice is secured there shall be a special session of the General Assembly to consider the political issues which will have to be dealt with.
Here, I submit, is a policy for any Government which earnestly desires to bring to an end this wasteful war in Korea. It is the policy of His Majesty's Government; it is the policy of the United States Government, and the policy of the United Nations.
So we are continuing in every sphere our efforts towards our aim for a world settlement, a state of peace in which we can turn our resources to more constructive tasks. The progress we have made—and I am sure it is real progress—owes much to the fact that not only have we worked in unity with loyal allies, but here at home party differences on these issues have, at least in the past, dissolved in the unity of common purpose and determination. Our first responsibility to the people of this country, and indeed to the whole world, is to play our full part of leadership in the cause of peace.
The wider our own measure of unity, the greater our influence in the world. Nothing is more elusive than to try to consolidate peace, yet in the last few months in at least three areas, in Korea, in Egypt and in Western Europe, the prospects are today more hopeful. Can we in one or all of these theatres relax tension and build understanding? I believe we can, and I also believe that success of this kind can lead to wider understanding. That is what we seek to do. We ask this House to help us in our task.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
We have heard an interesting speech by the Foreign Secretary, though I do not think that he told us much which was new. He struck a welcome note of hopefulness, but on most of the topics on which he spoke he said there were difficulties; he hoped the difficulties would be overcome; and that left us very much in the same position as when he last spoke. In fact, I think one would hardly have called for a Foreign Affairs debate of two days if it was merely on the kind of statement that the Foreign Secretary has made to us.
But the desire for this debate was occasioned by statements made by the Prime Minister in the course of his American visit, and I regret that he has not seen fit to open this debate. After all, he paid a visit, a very much publicised visit, to the United States; a very important visit. He made a speech to Congress, and the limelight was all on the Prime Minister, and not on the Foreign Secretary.
On coming back he made a short statement last week which, we understood, was to be amplified. The general opinion about that statement is this, that everyone was struck by the difference of tone of the statement which he made in this House and the speech which he made to Congress. The "New York Times" on 31st January, said:Prime Minister Churchill gave a good demonstration of how to say the same thing in two different ways … like a good salesman with different customers he displayed his wares to their best advantage, first in Washington and then in London.But the question we are asking is whether they were the same wares. It may be good salesmanship, but I do not think it is good statesmanship.
The right hon. Gentleman made two statements on the same matter which are interpreted differently in two different countries, although the entire object of the visit was to try to promote mutual understanding. There is no doubt about it that that was the impression given in the United States. The speech made by the Prime Minister was interpreted as being a sharp change in policy.'Prompt resolute and effective action' was widely interpreted here"—836 says an American writer—as a willingness to join the United States in such measures as bombing Manchurian airfields and blockading Communist China. The Labour Party Opposition in Britain also construed the pledge in the same way.And not only, I may say, the Labour Opposition. It goes on:They were told yesterday that while it was agreed that a violation of a truce would lead to a very serious situation there had been no definite or formal commitment.Now we ought to know here whether there has been this definite change of attitude. The "New York Herald-Tribune" says:Britain will lend full support to that kind of direct attack on Chinese centres of strength which Britain so much opposed when MacArthur advocated the idea.The "Kansas City Star" described that as:a notable shift in the position.The result was that there has been grave disquietude here over the speech of the Prime Minister.
When the right hon. Gentleman comes back here he makes a speech in an entirely different key, and tells us there has been no change whatever. The question is: Is this only a change of salesmanship methods, or is there a difference? I am bound to say that, reading his speech, the general attitude struck me as one that he was, quite naturally, trying to please his audience. But I cannot but think that in doing so he tended to represent us as an ally, even a comparative minor ally, in an American war.
It is significant that he only mentioned the United Nations once in the whole of that speech, and that was only very much in passing mainly to emphasise the fact that physical action was being taken on the largest scale by the United States for a moral action of the United Nations. Thereafter, with that passing glance at the United Nations, it got no more reference at all.
One might have thought that this was purely a quarrel between the United States of America and the Communist Government of China. That was an unfortunate impression to give. Then the Prime Minister said, "We take our stand at your side." That is all very well, but we were taking our stand also at the side of other nations. The stand we were taking was on behalf of the United 837 Nations with other nations. Here again, the emphasis was wrong. When they came to discuss what the next step should be it looked almost as if the decision should be that the United States and we should agree; and the question of the fact of this being action taken by the United States and other nations on behalf of the United Nations entirely slips out of the picture.
Therefore, we want to know just what the attitude of the Prime Minister really was on these matters when they came to discuss them and not merely when he was addressing Congress. It seemed to me curious that in all these discussions the whole emphasis seemed to be on the contingency of the armistice being broken. I am quite sure that the Americans all want the armistice to succeed, as we do. But there was very little emphasis—
§ Mr. Attlee
—but the Prime Minister put very little emphasis on the armistice succeeding. In the Congress speech, in his speech here and in the speech of the Foreign Secretary, not one word was said as to what was to happen in the way of going further than the armistice when the armistice has succeeded.
§ Mr. Attlee
It has not been considered in the least. We have had no discussion at all, as far as I can make out, of how we are to get peace in the Far East when we have got an armistice. An armistice is only the first step.
§ Mr. Attlee
I am not talking of procedure: I am talking of policy. This is a very important matter. When I went to America we discussed this policy and we found certain differences which have to be thrashed out. The trouble is that there is only one point that was touched 838 on by the Prime Minister in his Congress speech—and I think it unfortunate that he mentioned it—and that was Formosa.
The Prime Minister went out of his way to deal with the most difficult point of the whole question of a Far Eastern settlement in order to say what we had all agreed—that these people under Chiang Kai-shek should not be left to be massacred.
§ Mr. Attlee
I do. I have said so. But the obvious interpretation on his words—the whole slant of his words—was support for the Chiang Kai-shek régime to save Formosa. I am perfectly well aware of the importance of the Formosa question. The Americans necessarily feel very sensitive about Formosa, because it was through Formosa that the attack was launched in the last war; but the Chinese also feel very sensitive about Formosa.
§ Mr. Attlee
The Government of China. They see here a Government that has been turned out of China, which I believe is a Government completely discredited. They see it there situated within striking distance, and it is perfectly natural to think that it is being held there as a spear-head of a possible attack against them.
§ Mr. Attlee
There is obviously a danger from the point of view of the Chinese. What is to be done about Formosa is a vital question in any settlement. I have not advocated handing Formosa and all those people there to the Chinese Government, but I also do not believe in maintaining Formosa as a point of arms for a rival Chinese Government.
For myself, I believe that the right thing is that this place should be neutralised for a period of years. But we have to face up to this. The fact is—the right hon. Gentleman may not have intended it—that the general reaction to his statement was a backing of the Chiang Kai-shek Government. I believe that the continued backing of the 839 Chiang Kai-shek Government is fatal to getting a settlement in the Far East. That is the obvious interpretation that was given and taken.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman has said that on the particular statement made—that the Chinese Nationalist refugees on the Island of Formosa should not be allowed to be massacred by an expedition across the sea from the mainland—we were agreed. Have I said anything else on the subject?
§ Mr. Attlee
No. But the mere fact that that was dragged into the speech—[Laughter.] It is no good laughing. Even the Minister of State will find that when he makes speeches on Foreign Affairs he has to be very careful about what he says, because not only what he says but the impression given is most important.
That undoubtedly was the impression. I think that it was a most unwise suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary said, rightly, that the Administration wanted an armistice. Then he proceeded rather to suggest that the whole of the country necessarily thought just as the Administration did. I was under the impression, certainly when I was there, that there was a party that was for an all-out war against China. Undoubtedly, there were people who wanted what they call drastic action under MacArthur. Undoubtedly, there are forces today in America which would like to have what they call a "showdown" with the Communists.
§ Mr. Attlee
That is the fact. There are those various currents of opinion in the United States of America. It is most important to do everything to support the people who want an armistice and who believe in limiting this war, and not to give any occasion to think that there is any support whatever for the people who take the other view.
Among our people there are various sections. There are the violent anti-Communists, and then there are the impatient people who say, "Let us get it cleared up." There are people who have their eyes more on the East than 840 on the West. There is that danger that we might be dragged into a war which nobody wishes, and, as was said on the other side and has been said by the Prime Minister—I think we have all said it—it would be a great strategic mistake to get bogged down in a China war.
There, again, we have to be careful in our speeches not to lend support to those people whose minds are turned in that direction. There are wise people in the United States, but that was the general impression that was given over here; the right hon. Gentleman explained it, and he also said that they had discussed various matters, but he could not say anything more.
I quite agree that we cannot tell our opponents everything we are going to do in a matter of this kind, but the Prime Minister must see that that kind of statement has added to the suspicions which many people have that we were being committed more deeply than appeared on the surface. Therefore, I think it would have been well if the Prime Minister had made a speech today in which he dealt with this matter, because lie must know of the existence of this criticism. He must have known that the newspapers have said that he speaks with two voices, and it is just as well, here in this House, that we should have but one voice—a single voice not to be interpreted one way on one side of the Atlantic and in another way on the other.
§ The Prime Minister
It will be a very great help to me tomorrow to have these points so shrewdly and moderately put before me by the right hon. Gentleman, so that I can rescue him from any anxiety he may have. I might, perhaps, show him that the differences between us are not so wide as he supposes.
§ Mr. Attlee
I should have thought that the Prime Minister would have liked to clear it up himself, and not to have it dragged out of him. I hope that there is a general agreement on the need for doing our utmost, first of all, to get an armistice, and, secondly, in any event, to try to limit the contest in the Far East.
I think we should not lend ourselves to the kind of suggestion such as that of a blockade of China—a perfectly futile operation—or to any extension of the war, and all that kind of talk that goes 841 on. I think it is up to us to be a steadying influence here which will help the Administration in the United States of America.
The Foreign Secretary covered a good deal of ground, and he gave us a good deal of cause for hope, but I do not think he opened up anything very new. There seems to be a relaxation of tension, and we all hope that talks will soon begin with the Egyptian Government with a view to trying to get a settlement there.
I hope, too, that we shall see something more reasonable come out of Persia. I could not help noticing that the fact that the Persian Government had refused to receive a British Ambassador caused no emotion on the Conservative benches. If that had happened in the time of the Labour Government, we should have been told, "They are kicking you all round the place," but, with the situation as it is now, it does not matter. That goes for a good many of these things—
§ The Prime Minister
After being kicked out of Abadan, as we were, the refusal of the Persians to receive a British Ambassador is quite a minor matter.
§ Mr. Attlee
I did not think that it was the official view of the Conservatives that we should have stayed in Abadan by force. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] Perhaps we had better not debate that point.
There is only one other point with which I should like to deal, and that concerns the negotiations that are going forward for building up the defences of Western Europe. It is difficult to follow exactly what is happening in the building up of the European Army. We have taken the line that that is the most hopeful way of bringing in German Forces for the defence of Western Europe, including Germany, but we have seen a certain slipping, and we believe that, while it is essential and right for the defence of Western Europe that there should be participation by German Forces, there must be the greatest care to see that we do not again build up militarist forces in Germany.
Therefore, we have held that there should not be anything which would be building up a new German Army. I 842 noted that the Prime Minister did use the phrase "German Army," but perhaps that was merely a slip. We held, too, that the Forces of the Western Powers should be armed and strengthened first before there is an attempt to bring in German units. I entirely agree with what was said with regard to our association with the defence of the West, but without our complete integration in an army of that kind, and I was pleased to hear about the work of the air Forces, although that joint training had already taken place in the time of the late Government. I think we want to have the greatest degree of co-operation both between ourselves and the Forces of the United States and the European Army under the aegis of N.A.T.O., but I think that there we shall require a great deal of flexibility.
On the other points touched on by the Foreign Secretary, I was pleased to find that there seemed to be a reasonable optimism, but I have not dealt with them at any great length, because perhaps some of my colleagues will deal with them, if it is thought to be necessary, and because this debate was specifically brought forward so that we might clear up this matter of what really happened on the Prime Minister's visit to the United States.
Let me say that there is nothing I dislike more than the kind of stupid anti-Americanism which one can find in people of various kinds in this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Over there."] Yes, and over there, too. There is nothing so bad as trying to make bad blood between our two countries. It is done sometimes by people who suggest that, in all our foreign policy, we meekly follow America, and it is done sometimes by other people who suggest that we are, economically, entirely dependent on America—a mere dependant. They are both wrong.
This country holds its own position in the world, and it is vital that we should not he regarded as a mere tool of any other country. The British Commonwealth has its own position in the world, to maintain its independence, with its allies, and anybody who, in any way, seeks to stir up bad blood between the British peoples and the Americans, or indeed between us and any of the other democratic forces, is doing a bad service to the cause of world peace.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
I think that this debate has served a useful purpose, if only because it has very much helped to clear the air. I think there is no longer any great doubt about what the Prime Minister intended to say in Washington, and actually said. Nor do I think there is any real doubt on either side of the House about the underlying sentiments of the people of the United States of America.
Those of us who have any knowledge or experience of the United States know that the Americans are not a warlike people; that the vast majority of the people of the United States today have only one main objective, and that is to "get the boys home from Korea." They may be wrong, or we may think they are wrong from time to time, as to the best method of achieving this end; but that is the end that they want to achieve—to get out.
They are there, on a bleak peninsula which is of no conceivable value to them from any point of view, strategic or otherwise. And they are there because of their idealism; because they believe they are fighting the battle of collective security. They have had very heavy casualties—ten times heavier than anybody else—and I think that these facts should he continuously borne in mind in this country when speaking of the United States in regard to this matter.
We are, of course, in the danger that always arises out of a limited war. We had it with sanctions over Mussolini. It is not easy to fight limited wars, conducted under rules as if one were on a tennis court and keeping the ball in play It is difficult to conduct such a war, and it is difficult to conclude such a war. We are finding it difficult, but I am sure that our intention is the same, on both sides of the Atlantic, and that is to conclude it as speedily as possible, subject to not betraying the cause for which we went to war. I would remind hon. Members opposite that, after all, it was a Labour Government which authorised General MacArthur to cross the 38th Parallel, and subsequently branded China as an agressor. It is always easy to get into this kind of war, and difficult to conclude it; but hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot escape all responsibility.
844 Before passing to the subject upon which I really wish to address the House with some urgency, namely, the problem of Europe, I should like to direct attention to the magnitude of the world problem which confronts us and the United States at the present time. The free world consists of four dense industrial areas of population which are rapidly losing their visible means of support. In Western Germany, there is a dense industrial area cut off from Central and Eastern Europe, and from the great Russian hinterland. Japan is cut off from the Asiatic mainland, and particularly from Manchuria.
Our own relationship with the great raw material producing area which stretches the whole way from Suez to Indonesia has undergone drastic changes, and our economic position there is far less secure. Nobody on either side will dispute that. In addition, the United States is conducting an industrial expansion without parallel in history, which is making ever-increasing demands upon diminishing supplies of raw materials all over the world. That is the essential nature of the problem; and that is the magnitude of the problem.
The danger is not only from direct Communist aggression. We are also confronted by the fires of virulent nationalism burning the whole way across North Africa, from Morocco right through to the Far East, to Hong Kong; fanned by the Communists when it suits their purpose, but not necessarily of Communist origin. We have lost Persia—a grievous blow—due largely to lack of effective co-operation between this country and the United States. But if now, in this situation, we were to lose the whole of South-Eastern Asia, it would deliver a blow at the economy of the free world which might easily be fatal.
Here is the real danger, not mentioned specifically by the Foreign Secretary; but it is more dangerous, I think, than anything that may happen in Korea. The great danger is the threat to South-East Asia. This is the thing we must watch all the time; and, in the circumstances, it certainly does not look as if a blockade of the Chinese mainland would be helpful.
845 Before considering the European question, about which I mind very much, I should like to say that I think the fundamental issue between democracy and Communism is as much a struggle for the minds of men as for any physical possession of territories. We could defeat the Russians in arms, and still lose the world to Communism; and we could ourselves be defeated by concentrating exclusively on the military aspects of a "hot war" that may never happen, while losing sight of the political realities of a "cold war" which is actually happening now, and which we are losing.
The question has arisen as to the respective rôles of N.A.T.O. and the United Nations' organisation in this world picture. N.A.T.O. was called into existence because U.N.O. belied its name. It was not a United Nations' organisation; collective security as applied to U.N.O. was not, in fact, collective, and did not bring security. Now we hear that they are to consider a disarmament convention. Well, I hope I am not unduly sceptical, but we had all that between the two world wars. I remember all those endless disarmament conferences, at which they discussed tanks, guns and rifles instead of the causes which produced those tanks, guns and rifles. I am afraid that I do not believe we shall ever avoid war by limiting the types or numbers of armaments. We are back on the tennis court again; but one cannot make rules for war, and one ought not to make rules for war.
I think it is not being too sceptical to say that the best chance of avoiding a third world war will come when the ordinary people of the world are so convinced that a third world war would mean the mass suicide of the human race that no one will dare to start it. That is better than making rules about the methods by which that war is to be conducted.
Disarmament, isolation and appeasement did not do us much good in the 'twenties, even although they were covered up by a smoke-screen of a high-sounding international superstructure. I fear that we are doing a bit of that now, making the same mistakes as we did after the First World War; only U.N.O. is in some respects worse than the League, because the veto clause puts the great Powers above the law, with the implication that force can only preserve peace 846 when it is applied to small nations, and provoke war when it is applied to powerful nations.
I submit that the solution lies, for the time being, and as a prelude to a wider solution, in strengthening N.A.T.O. by every possible means. N.A.T.O. is ultimately responsible for our security and defence, because it is where the real power of the free world resides, and it is the only place where that power resides. Meanwhile, we are conducting a worldwide struggle against the centrally-directed forces of Communism without any central organ of decision of our own; and the consequent dissipation of our available resources is enormous.
In any loose association of greater and lesser powers, such as N.A.T.O. now is, it is inevitable that when an emergency arises and quick decisions have to be taken in face of the dynamic of events, the strongest Power takes the decisions; and the United States have been doing just this. I believe—I have said it before and I wish to repeat it now—that a supreme council is desirable to direct not only the military strategy but the political policy of the free world upon a global scale. I believe that we could ourselves retain a far greater control over our own destinies as members of such a council than we can on a long-distance transatlantic telephone line, with occasional six-monthly visits by the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary to the United States.
I both listened to, and read, a very interesting broadcast address by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), in which he said:The real value of our special connection"—that is, the connection between this country and the United States—is that the two nations always react differently. Very seldom, I expect, is either of us completely right, and when we have argued it out the middle way is likely to be fairly good sense.I think that that is true. We ought to be almost continuously in the process of arguing it out with the U.S.A., and I believe that a supreme council of the type I have envisaged is the best method of doing it. Meanwhile, I think that the N.A.T.O. organisation is altogether too loose; and that, without organic consultation of some kind, we shall never get 847 effective results and will also greatly waste and exhaust our strength.
Now, I turn to Europe. Western Europe is the vital strategic frontier of the free world. It is incapable of standing on its own feet economically, and also incapable of defending itself unaided against the Russian power. It is, therefore, no good pretending that either this country or the United States can disinterest themselves in the fate of Western Europe. We have gone to war over and over again on the Continent of Europe to prevent the mainland across the Channel from falling into hostile hands, and certainly, in an age of atomic missiles, our position has not become less vulnerable in this respect.
The Foreign Secretary and the Leader of the Opposition mentioned the European Army, and the difficulties that have arisen about that. I say with all sincerity that, while there is much to be said in favour of a supreme council for N.A.T.O., there is not much to he said for a limited and essentially artificial political "community," as it is called, to control a purely Continental Army without direct American and British participation; because I believe that, in the absence of direct British and American participation, it might well be that in two or three years' time we should find that Army directed by a revived German General Staff.
I do not know what is going to happen at Lisbon, but I do not think that the House quite realises the present explosive condition of public opinion on the Continent of Europe about this matter. I was in Paris at the week-end, as was my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I am sure that he realises what is going on at the top level; but there are also lower levels. As a result of my talks, and of a study of the French Press, I never remember a period when the French people were more consumed with anxiety than they are at this moment over the proposed German Army.
I do not think it will have at all an easy run, because it will be very difficult to persuade the French people, or the German people—or, indeed, the British people—to accept even the possibility of the creation of another Wehrmacht which could have as its only objective—which must have as its only 848 objective—the recapture of the lost Eastern Provinces. That is the real danger, in the absence of direct British and American commitments on the Continent of Europe. It certainly worries me; and I think it only right to say that it is worrying a great many people very much on the Continent.
In this German affair, we have made the mistake of putting almost every cart before every horse. We started off—and those hon. Members who were in the last Parliament will remember it only too well—by attempting to weaken Germany beyond repair, by methods which will not stand examination and which are now best forgotten. The right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and I had a good deal to say about them at the time. And then, suddenly, overnight, while we were still dismantling German factories and blowing up their shipyards and went on doing it, we said—with the Americans and, I must admit, under some American pressure—that we must re-arm them at once, before we had made peace, before we had arrived at any political solutions whatever.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
How much more would the hon. Member's anxiety about the creation of a German Army be valid had we not, in fact, dismantled much of that great industrial potential about which he now protests?
§ Mr. Boothby
I am not saying that we ought not to have dismantled the German armaments factories. I am only saying that you cannot, psychologically, dismantle factories and blow up shipyards one day; and then tell the people to whom you have been doing it that they must re-arm the next day. At least, it requires a very sudden change of heart on their part.
I reinforce my argument with a very suggestive quotation from an article by Mr. Walter Lippmann, which appeared two or three days ago in the "New York Herald-Tribune":I do not see how or why we should blame the Germans for making the most of our official misunderstanding and miscalculation in Germany. It is not they but we who adopted the unprecedented and fanciful notion that a nation forced to surrender unconditionally—and subjected to immense destruction and humiliation—could within two or three years be turned into a loyal, active and docile ally.That is all I am trying to say. It is a difficult job to do; and in my submission 849 we should have been better advised, having admitted Germany back to the community of Western Europe, through the Council of Europe, to have made peace with them before we started talking about re-armament. It really is not much good re-arming an occupied enemy; and that is practically what we are attempting to do at present. We are forcing the pace too much.
Next, I think we should have admitted them to the Atlantic community, still without stipulations; and, finally, we should have devised a comprehensive defence organisation for N.A.T.O. as a whole, because I agree absolutely with the Foreign Secretary that this problem of German re-armament can only be solved in the context of N.A.T.O. My right hon. Friend was quite clear about that in his speech, and I heard that part of it at least with relief and satisfaction. As always, the larger solution is at once the simplest and easiest; and I believe that a new approach should be made on this matter.
I want now to say just a word on the economic aspect before I come to my closing passage on the political problem. We are all agreed now, I think, that there can be no reversion to the old free multilateral trading system of the 19th century. Planned national economies cannot coexist with international economic anarchy. The doctrine of non-discrimination is no longer valid. Faced by the overwhelming economic preponderance of the dollar area and an endemic disequilibrium in the free world, our supreme task and need is the creation of an economic unit which will be capable of restoring the balance, and of standing on its own feet. I am convinced that such a unit can be built out of Western Europe and the sterling area, but not out of one or the other in isolation; because, in the final analysis, productivity depends on the existence of assured supplies of raw materials and assured markets.
I do not believe that either Western Europe itself, represented economically by the European Payments Union, or the sterling area can achieve this single-handed, in isolation from one another. They are both now in great jeopardy. Meanwhile, as the economic pressure increases and the power and predominance of the dollar area grows, what are we reduced to? We are reduced to physical 850 cuts in our national imports, with devaluation as a last resort; thus throttling down the volume of trade to a minimum.
France follows Britain in cutting imports and reducing the total volume of European trade. Really, for a civilised community, we ought to try to think of something better than that; and I beg the Government—I hope that the Minister of State for Economic Affairs will pass this on to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, I think, is interested—to study the possibilities of closer cooperation between the countries represented by the European Payments Union and the sterling area. There is here a tremendous field for development through more effective co-operation; and I suggest it to the Government as a matter deserving the most urgent study.
The sad fact is that real progress was being made in the economic field in Europe before re-armament. The European Payments Union had brought about a considérable liberation of trade. The O.E.E.C. was doing very good work. I see that the Minister of State for Economic Affairs is present. He will, I am sure, be the first to admit that the association of the O.E.E.C. with the Council of Europe has been fruitful for them both. When I was in Paris yesterday, I was told by some of the French statesmen that the British Government were proposing to cut down O.E.E.C., to reduce their financial grant, and to curb its activities. I do hope that this is not true, because I regard it as one of the most hopeful lines of development.
I welcome the sending of a permanent British delegation to the High Authority constituted under the Schuman Plan. Here I confess I do not understand the attitude of hon. Members opposite. The Labour Party obtained power largely because of the bitter memories of mass unemployment in the 1920's, caused in the main by cut-throat international competition, and by an excess of production in relation to the available markets and purchasing power. They seem to have forgotten, in their new-found but almost obsessive belief in our national economic independence, the trade war of attrition in the 1920's, which reduced the coal industry of this country to a shambles and forced the steel industry into a closed and restrictive international cartel.
851 Sooner or later, when production increases, as increase it will, and rearmament decreases, as we hope it will, there may again be a surplus of steel production for the world markets. When that happens, uneconomic pits and obsolete steel works will be closed either by competition or by agreement; and the Schuman Plan, with which I am certain we must in the end be associated, is an alternative not to some supposed and illusory British freedom of action, but to the inexorable pressure of unchecked and uncontrolled international competition, which hon. Members opposite ought to be against, even if they are not.
I now come to the political problem. Western Europe has reached a crisis in her destiny. She is not the United States of America, and this is not the 18th century. Federation on United States lines is therefore not the answer. I believe that the answer is ultimately to be found from within the Council of Europe itself. It is a matter of grief to me that the Council of Europe was never once mentioned by the Secretary of State in his speech this afternoon, because it is in danger of being sunk—hon. Members on both sides should face up to this—by the apparent apathy and indifference of the Governments which established it.
I believe this Council could do great work if it were treated seriously. But it can never work if its recommendations are persistently ignored, and its work treated as of no account. The Committee of Ministers could become an effective political authority for the conduct of purely European affairs or, in M. Schuman's words, "the definition and alignment of collective policies in matters of common interest." But if so, it must be used for that purpose; and the existing functional organisations must be streamlined under its authority.
The Consultative Assembly could be useful if it were consulted. It is at present an Assembly, but alas, not a Consultative Assembly. If we propose to go ahead at Lisbon next week and establish a European Army under a separate political authority, is that not even to be discussed by the Council of Europe before it is ratified? The Council of Europe ought surely to have an opportunity of expressing its opinion. It should be asked for its view before any treaty 852 is finally ratified. The truth is that every competing political authority that is set up weakens the Council of Europe, and will inevitably become an instrument for the establishment not of democracy but of technocracy.
One might have supposed from the speech of the Foreign Secretary that the Governments and Parliaments of Western Europe were indifferent to the fate of the Council of Europe. In fact, they believe passionately in the Council of Europe. M. Schuman, M. de Gasperi, M. Van Zeeland and Dr. Adenauer all came to address us at the Council of Europe during the last session and said, in terms, that they regarded it as of vital importance. The belief in a United Europe is about the only faith left to the youth of the Continent. If they lose that faith they will become an easy prey to Communism.
I believe in the Council of Europe. I believe that it has become a laboratory in which a new, vital and interesting experiment is being conducted in confederation—in essence, an attempt to combine effective international action at Government level with democratic consultation, leaving the ultimate sovereignty in the national Parliaments where it at present resides.
Our responsibility in this matter is very great, because I do not believe that the countries of Western Europe will go any distance except under our leadership. They cannot, and they do not want to. We belong to the Commonwealth, to Europe and the Atlantic Community—the only nation that belongs to all three—and, as such, we can belong exclusively to no one of them, nor can we contract out of any single one of them. They are all three interdependent. That was made clear in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. We could if we liked, become the linchpin of the whole.
The great advantage of confederation is that it engenders a sense of membership of one community, while retaining at the same time the maximum flexibility; and enables the terms of membership to be not necessarily identical for all the participating countries. There is no purely European or Commonwealth or Atlantic solution of the problems of defence and economics in this modern world. We have got to achieve a synthesis of the three. Until we can do that, 853 we cannot feel secure. We cannot raise the standard of life of the undeveloped countries of the free world. We cannot solve the German problem. We cannot hope to come to terms with the Soviet Union.
At the last meeting of the Consultative Assembly at Strasbourg, M. Struye of Belgium made what he described as an "anguished appeal" to this country. No one suggested that we should enter a European federation. That idea has been given up. But they want our help and leadership. M. Struye's words were, "Will you, or will you not, come and help us to make Europe?" I echo that appeal tonight. I think that I am rather a lone voice crying in the wilderness on this issue, but I assure hon. Members that I believe with complete sincerity in this Council of Europe. I have seen it grow. I have seen it move on from one success to another. I believe it to be the only chance of achieving any kind of unity within Europe which will be of real value in the long run; and I think that, instead of weakening it, we ought to strengthen it in every way we can.
I ask for nothing more than some evidence of support from His Majesty's Government, because we have not in the Council of Europe had much support from the British Government since it began. I ask the Minister of State to say a word of encouragement, because so far we have had none. We cannot, even if we wanted to, turn our back on Europe at this stage. If we did, we should not only expose ourselves to mortal peril; we should break faith with the cream of two British generations who are now lying over there in the fields of France, Flanders and Italy, because they were prepared to give their lives not only for this country but in order that Europe might live in freedom and peace.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. John Freeman (Watford)
It is always an honour to follow the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby). I do not think anybody doubts the sincerity with which he speaks about the Council of Europe. For that reason it is always rewarding and worth while to argue with him about it. But I do not wish to follow him on that subject this evening because, important though it is, we are faced with even more important matters which we ought to be discussing.
854 We have been treated this afternoon in the most extraordinary fashion by the Prime Minister. It must be well known on the opposite side of the House—and it is certainly well known not only on this side of the House but in the country outside—that the object of this debate today was principally to allay a good deal of public alarm which has been caused not necessarily by anything which the Prime Minister has done wrong in Washington but by the two totally different accounts which he chose to give on one side of the Atlantic and on the other. Yet, after over two hours of the debate, the Prime Minister has not spoken.
It may be that the debate could have been brought to an end in a few minutes if the Prime Minister had been willing to tell us exactly what it was he did undertake in private conversations in Washington. The right hon. Gentleman says that it would be helpful if he first of all had the opportunity to see what was the nature of the criticism. Does he not understand that it is precisely this attitude of salesmanship about which we are complaining? What we want from him at this stage is not a reasoned case to meet arguments coming from this side of the House, but a plain statement of fact as to what he agreed. But we have heard nothing from him and we are not to hear from him until tomorrow.
I felt that we were perhaps embarrassing the Foreign Secretary, whom we all respect, at the beginning of his speech by pressing so much for the Prime Minister to tell us these things. After all, it is something in this Administration that the Foreign Secretary should be allowed to open the Foreign Affairs debate, and we congratulate him on that; but when we came to the later stages of his speech and heard the extreme embarrassment with which he himself was faced in trying to deal with this problem, we were entitled to complain that the Prime Minister has treated both the House and the country with considerably less courtesy than the occasion demands
If the Prime Minister decides tomorrow to try to answer the doubts we feel, let us be quite clear what those doubts are. Listening to the Foreign Secretary, I found very little comfort in the words he used and, indeed, very little certainty that he understood what are the difficulties which we on this side of the House are 855 experiencing. He said we had entered into no new formal commitments. The Prime Minister told us that a week ago and I think we all ought to accept it. But that is not the point.
The point is this: it is quite clear from the reports which are coming from Washington that the impression which has been created over there is that there has been some very substantial shift of policy as between the visit of my right hon. Friend the present Leader of the Opposition, when he went to Washington something over a year ago, and the recent visit of the Prime Minister. I do not think it is necessary to cite too many detailed instances of this. It is apparent in every newspaper one sees, it is apparent in all the expositions of the radio commentators, and it is apparent even among State Department officials.
It is already an open secret, I think, that when the communiqué was made public at the end of the talks, the official briefing officer of the State Department—and this has been published, so there is no breach of confidence in revealing it—went out of his way to emphasise that there had been a sharp change as between the attitude of the last Government and the attitude of this Government on Far Eastern matters. We cannot judge that change, we cannot know whether it is right or wrong, unless we can first of all be told what it is.
This afternoon the Foreign Secretary has tried to put the three possible cases in Korea. First of all, there is the case that there could be an armistice and that it could be followed by a genuine relaxation of tension and a peaceful settlement. With great respect, in the present circumstances I think that is extremely unlikely, and I will say why in a minute. Secondly, there is the case that there could be an armistice and that it could subsequently be broken. That also is less likely among the various possibilities, and I am glad that the Foreign Secretary agrees with me there. The most likely possibility is that there will not be an armistice and that we shall be faced with the difficulty of deciding what we are to do if the armistice talks either break down or drag on to the end of the patience of one side or the other.
Has there been a new commitment in facing that situation? Of course, it is 856 not a formal commitment; we have been told that and we believe it, What we want to know is this: what was the colour of the informal understandings which were reached? It would be improper to suggest the degree of consultation which ought to take place between different members of the same Administration, but I believe I am right in saying that even the Foreign Secretary was not present when the Prime Minister was locked up in the Pentagon with the United States military and Air Force leaders. It has been suggested by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon that what they were discussing were contingent plans to meet all sorts of hypothetical situations. Unless some new decisions were taken as compared with the decisions taken by the Labour Government, one would like to know what on earth they were talking about.
§ Mr. Freeman
As my hon. Friend says—or what there was to talk about. The Foreign Secretary's words this afternoon have not cleared up this situation. If there was any change he has not told us what it was. If, indeed—and it may be true—there has not been a change and the Prime Minister's goodwill visit to the United States has led merely to the most appalling international confusion but to nothing worse, then perhaps we can be told just that.
At present we are still left with this difficulty—that whether or not there has been a change of policy, the Prime Minister is under an obligation to say which of the two speeches—his own speech to Congress or the Foreign Secretary's speech to this House this afternoon—is the version of the affair which the world is to believe.
The "New York Herald Tribune," or one of the other reputable American papers, complimented the Prime Minister on his astute salesmanship in expressing himself in one set of terms on one side of the Atlantic and in different terms on the other side. But those who have been salesmen will tell you that it is possible to over-sell your goods on occasions and that when you do you are embarrassed. On this occasion the Prime Minister has got himself into just that embarrassment, and if we are doing him an injustice in suggesting that 857 behind all this secrecy lies some sinister change, then all he has to do is to tell us tomorrow, when he speaks, that there has been no change on China or Korea from the position which the Labour Government adopted under my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.
If there has been a change, we are entitled that he should define with clarity what that change has been. It is all very well—and one understands it—for him to say that he does not want to give comfort to the enemy. What we are asking is that he should give some comfort to the people of this country, because there is a real anxiety about this matter.
The Foreign Secretary, I think in a moment of heat, which was perhaps engendered by the unfortunate position in which he was placed this afternoon, taunted some of us on this side of the House with voicing these views purely from anti-Americanism. That is not true, and I am perfectly certain that in his calmer moments the Foreign Secretary realises it. The fact is, as he knows perfectly well, that there are two main streams of American thought on this problem of China and the Far East.
There are some Americans who do want to go to war with China and who do think that is the right solution to the problem. We in this country have loosely styled them MacArthurites. I remember in the last Parliament that most hon. Members who now sit on the Government side were MacArthurites. I remember that when any of us on the then Government benches cared to make any criticism of any of General MacArthur's policies or statements we were accused, as usual, of being traitors and anti-American.
Why did hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House change that view? Why did they jump on the then Prime Minister's bandwaggon when he went to Washington? Precisely because they realised perfectly well that the people of this country are not prepared to tolerate an irresponsible war in China, and at this moment there is not the slightest reason to lead this country or any other country into war with China. That is why I say that this is a matter which is causing real public concern and that it must be cleared 858 up. If we have done the Prime Minister an injustice in suggesting things which did not in fact take place, indeed he has only himself to blame, and the matter can be cleared up at any minute he chooses to rise in his place and tell us that the position remains unchanged.
For the rest of what the Foreign Secretary had to say, I recognise, and I think that most of us recognise, that he spoke with a real desire to try to be as helpful to the House as he could. Nevertheless, in listening to his remarks on Egypt, I again was left far more alarmed in many ways than I was before he spoke, in spite of the eminently reasonable terms in which he couched what he said. He said very little on Egypt, and what he did say, I think, could be summarised in these four propositions. I hasten to explain to the right hon. Gentleman that I am not quoting him verbatim; but I hope that I am not doing him an injustice in thus summarising what he said.
First, he said, he earnestly desired agreement. We all agree with that. He went on to say that he did not accept unilateral denunciation of the 1936 Treaty, and later on he said that he would not go back in any way upon his pledge to the Sudan. Third, he said that he acknowleged that the Suez Canal was an international obligation; and fourth, he said that we are, nevertheless, proceeding by bilateral discussion.
Now, what those four propositions surely mean is this. First, we are earnestly anxious for agreement. Second, before we start negotiating we would deny the only two points on which the other side is willing to negotiate. Third, we recognise that this is an international obligation; but fourth, we will make the internationalising of this problem depend on the successful negotiations which the first two propositions make impossible.
I am endeavouring to debate this seriously, and I want to ask the Foreign Secretary whether that is good enough. First of all, I do not believe that there is a single hon. Member on this side of the House who will not give him the fullest possible backing in the remarks he made about the Sudan. On the contrary, our alarm was that possibly some deal was going to be done at the expense of the Sudan, and if his assurance means, quite categorically, that that is not so, I am 859 certain that I can speak for my hon. Friends when I say he will have our complete support on this.
But we have got to face the corollary of that. By standing firm on the Sudan, we are knocking out one of the possible matters on which we might negotiate, on a firm and lasting basis, a new agreement; and if we are all agreed that this must be done, then we are left with the sole possibility of negotiating on our actual presence in the Canal Zone at all—that is to say, negotiating on the basis of the Egyptian repudiation of the 1936 Treaty.
I know that the Egyptians have not got the law on their side in repudiating the Treaty, and I know that we have got it; and that is sometimes very cold comfort. I do not believe that the Foreign Secretary thinks for a moment that we can sustain our position in the face of public opinion in the world, or influence nationalism in Egypt merely by citing the legality of our position under the 1936 Treaty. The fact is that that Treaty, freely negotiated in 1936, represented at that time a very great step forward in the independence of Egypt and in our relations with Egypt; in the years which have passed since 1936, events have moved, and it now represents a relation between our two countries which the majority of Egyptians, I believe, find intolerable.
We have got, perhaps—the Foreign Secretary appeared to hope so—a last chance to reach an agreement with the arrival of the new Prime Minister, Aly Maher Pasha. I think it worth reminding the House of this, that British policy in Egypt has at least had this effect. that when for the first time—however objectionable was the way in which it manifested itself—when, for the first time, there was some sign of an Egyptian Government in power which had some popular backing and began to engender the first signs of some kind of social revolution in Egypt, it followed from our position in the Middle East that the only thing we could do was to help to crush it and support the appointment in its place of a man of the extreme Right who was imprisoned by us in the war as a Fascist supporter. The pashas, however, are anxious to come to terms with us. We have that much chance, at any rate.
860 But if we picture ourselves a long time ahead from now, and looking back on the history of the relations between this country and Egypt, there will, I think, be seen to be two periods of those relations, a period before the killing at Ismailia the other day, and the period after. That was an appalling act that we had to be committed to. I should like to make it quite plain that, in saying that, I am not criticising the soldiers who carried it out. It so happens that our troops in Egypt are under the command of a man whom I should regard as one of our most enlightened and intelligent generals. His difficulty is that he is put in a position by British policy where he has got to fight a war.
The trouble is that one cannot stand still with an army in that sort of situation. The dynamic of guerrilla fighting is the dynamic of war, and if British policy puts General Erskine in the position where he has got to lock his men up behind barbed wire, knowing that they will be shot piecemeal whenever they dare to venture on the road, the consequence is bound to be the sort of massacre we saw the other day. We cannot blame the soldiers that it happens; but we can blame the Government which let it happen; and I think the consequence of Ismailia is, that never again will an agreement be possible between this country and Egypt based on the presence in peace-time of British troops in the Canal Zone.
I say this to the right hon. Gentleman with great earnestness. If he stands fast on the Sudan, as we all think he ought. if he then hopes to negotiate a new agreement he will have to negotiate it by negotiating whether or not we are to be in the Canal Zone at all. I believe that if he looks back to the last Government and to the problems—not dissimilar—which were tackled in South-East Asia, he may see a parallel between the two. They are not exactly on all fours. I quite understand that. However, once again we are in the dilemma where somehow we have got to seize the initiative, and it appears at first sight that every avenue is blocked.
The best way of seizing the initiative, in my submission, would be to name the date right away in which we would be out of the Canal Zone and to invite the United Nations—the right hon. Gentle- 861 man admits that this is a problem that ought to be internationalised—to decide, between now and that date, what sort of steps they think they would have to take for the protection of the Canal. I am not unaware that there would be some very complicated consequences arising out of that decision, and that there would be all sorts of problems to be thought out. I do not believe they are insuperable.
It seems to me that there are two tasks to be performed by British troops in the Middle East—on the assumptions on which the right hon. Gentleman himself would wish to base his policy. One is the actual protection—the local protection and maintenance—of the Canal itself, and that is a perfectly simple job which could be done, indeed, by the Egyptian army unaided.
The other is the maintenance of an Imperial base in the Middle East. In the middle of the 20th century, when one's troops are no longer acceptable to the inhabitants of other countries, one cannot maintain Imperial bases by force. One cannot do it either as a matter of morality or of expediency. But have the military authorities in mind the possibility of an alternative base? These things have been considered in the past, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, and, desirable as the Suez base may be, it is not the only one. If we have to get out of Suez—and we have—then the sooner we start thinking about where we are going the better for everybody concerned.
There is, I think, a reason why it is logical on an occasion like this to take the Far East and the Middle East, which are not politically far apart, and to isolate them from the rest of the problems which the House may be discussing today and tomorrow. The Foreign Secretary made a taunt—perhaps he did not mean it to be a taunt, but at any rate made a good-natured gibe—in the early part of his speech, saying how difficult it sometimes was to get an inkling of what the late Government's policy used to be. I will permit myself a very slight measure of agreement with him on a few particular occasions, but, looking back over the past six years, I think there was an integrating and binding element in that policy which is 862 now apparent, and which gave the whole thing continuity.
It was surely a recognition that whatever else was happening in the world this country has reached the penultimate stage of its Imperial destiny. That is the stage of the great accounting, when the people of the nations who have been subjected to Imperial power decide on what sort of terms they are going to live with it when they get their freedom; and that decision is taken on the basis of the way they have been treated beforehand and of the manner in which they achieve their nationhood.
We are still anxious to exercise our influence in the world, but we are playing a hand from weakness at the moment. We are no longer materially one of the great Powers of the world, but we have it within our power to exercise a tremendous influence if we keep in sight that simple proposition which the Labour Government never forgot, although even they occasionally weakened in its application. Where we have dominated inferior people either by colonising, by protecting or by occupying them, or whatever it may be, the time has come when at their legitimate request—a request which today is backed by world opinion—we have got to create a new relationship. It is the end of the colonial era.
At the same time as we have to create a new relationship based on the independence of those hitherto subject countries, we have to recognise that iron curtains and all the other political difficulties of the world are artificial factors compared with the common problem which the world has of feeding itself and of developing its agriculture, and all its natural resources. It would be wrong to pretend that there is a short and simple answer that can be put in so few words as that to most of the problems of the world. But it would be right—and history will judge it right—to say that the Labour Government's foreign policy was clearly based on those principles, and that those are the principles in foreign policy which we now wish to see followed whatever Government is in power.
It is a matter of regret to most of us, I think, that in the three months since the General Election various significant things to the contrary seem to have happened. The strong arm has been used in Egypt, and the consequence was 863 Ismailia and the likelihood that there is no longer any chance of getting an agreement on terms which would be fully satisfactory to us. In the Far East we have ceased exercising the influence which, under the last Government, we were able to exercise, the influence of restraining those extreme elements in the United States which desire to make war on China. All that has happened in three months of a Conservative Government.
During the election we were taunted with having called the Prime Minister a warmonger. I, personally, did not; I do not know whether anyone did, but I certainly did not use that expression. What I did say, and what in the light of the experience of these last three months I adhere to, was that if the right hon. Gentleman came to power we should be faced by him with the implementation of policies which almost certainly would undo a great deal of the good which the last Government had done, and which would by degrees carry the world nearer to war. Now at the end of three months of Conservative rule I am afraid we are nearer to war than we were last October.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
In the earlier part of his speech the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. J. Freeman) expressed disquiet that there might be some difference between the contents of the speech given to Congress by the Prime Minister and the speech given in this House last week. I was one of the few Members of this House outside the official delegation to America who had the privilege of hearing the Prime Minister address Congress, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that apart from difference in treatment and in tone to two different assemblies, the contents and meaning of those two speeches are, in fact, exactly the same.
§ Mr. J. Freeman
The noble Lady will surely allow me to point out to her that the speech to Congress was broadcast in full in this country.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
That was why I could not understand why the hon. Gentleman should be so disturbed, particularly as we have it in the form of a White Paper before the House.
Without doubt the speech was a quite remarkable personal triumph and a 864 superb example of a public relations job carried out by my right hon. Friend as an ambassador of Britain. The wife of one Congressman said to my brother-in-law in Washington, "It was as if the British Empire itself had walked into the room." Quite apart from that personal triumph, I think we ought to remember that our Prime Minister is regarded with almost greater respect outside this country than some accord him inside it.
I think we should remember, too, what was the proclaimed object of that visit to the United States. It was not primarily to effect deals there, although much was achieved, but to establish in the name of the new Government and in the name of all of us those intimate personal relations between heads of States and governing authorities, so that Britain and her largest ally outside the Commonwealth can work together easily, intimately and in a common understanding.
The Prime Minister's visit did not, of course, remove all the disagreements, but it did, I believe, sweep away misunderstandings. It is also true to say that now each country surely knows exactly where the other stands. As was said the other day, even if each head of State did not look through the same spectacles at any rate they looked through each other's. I am certain that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, by their visit to America, have changed the whole climate of American opinion towards Britain.
There has, of course, been criticism, and the question has been criticism, and the asked: Does this movement towards American opinion mean that Britain is going to tag on after Uncle Sam? Surely, not least of the things of which we should be proud were the Prime Minister's declarations of independence. It was made plain that Britain would speak her own mind, that she would not be rushed into decisions, and that she would not give blanket approval to a nation in a hurry. I would say that the most striking part of the speech came soon afterwards, when there was a pause, and, looking over his spectacles, the Prime Minister said to that great Assembly:I have not come here to ask you for money"—and there was a roar of approval, when he added, 865I have come here to ask, not for gold, but for steel; not for favours, but equipmentand he did it so that we in this country could honourably play our part with all those who serve great causes.
If we are to be independent, we need political courage here. Hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot always have it both ways. Last week, they divided against the economic cuts; sometimes in their speeches it seems as if they want to stand quite unaided; yet it is, after all, left to the new Government to start repaying the American loan, and to take very difficult decisions for many homes. Surely it is a task for all of us in this country to try to prove that we do not expect our friends, in the Prime Minister's own words, "To go on keeping the British lion as a pet."
The greatest criticism in this debate this afternoon has been of the remarks made by the Prime Minister in connection with the Far East, and the words "prompt, resolute and effective action," should anything go wrong. The Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister together have categorically assured us that that does not mean that any new commitments have been entered into. Surely it means that Britain and America must follow together a coherent foreign policy. They cannot always be agreed, but if their objectives are clear, then action can be taken on a global scale. To me it seems that the main theme of that speech to Congress, which we may not see come about for two or three years, was the conception that we shall achieve eventually a merging and fusion of ideas and interests between this country and America.
The Prime Minister naturally said some things that did not please us, and some things that did not please America: otherwise he would never arouse debate, and he would never leave the way open for some eventual blending of ideas. There has been no bargain that if Britain works with America in the Far East. America must work with us in the Middle East. It has, I think, been made plain that every case is to be regarded on its merits, that in the global task of containing the Soviet, both nations must be seen and known to be acting together, where-ever it may be. There can be no greater deterrent to a potential foe and no finer spur to keeping the peace.
There also seems to be criticism that Anglo-American liaison would perhaps in 866 some way by-pass the United Nations We know that in Article 52 of the United Nations Charter there is provision made for regional agreements, which in the case of N.A.T.O. was supported by the party opposite. I think that it is true that the United Nations are passing through a very difficult time. First of all, people feel that this is the answer to the problems of the age; then, of course, comes disillusionment, and then, perhaps, comes the third stage when people think that perhaps U.N.O. is the answer to some but not to all of the problems of the many nations that take part in it.
As I see it, we cannot yet escape the need for a wise balance of power; not a preponderance of power but a balance of power. As was said by the hon. Member for Watford, responsibilities change, and as Britain's Imperial responsibilities pass on, then surely the burden of keeping the peace should be more widely shared. The Prime Minister said in this connection, with regard to the Middle East, that there should be a solution on an international basis. He said that it may be sometime "before a wider solution can be achieved," but that "that should really be our aim and goal."
Surely it is only with the right balance of power, reinforcing and supporting international organisations such as the United Nations, that peace can he held. For example, the Foreign Secretary this afternoon was, I think, hopeful. He said that we were growing in strength. That means that the Western world has reached a new stage on its arduous journey in the search for peace.
I would say that the Communists have lost the initiative. As proof of that, one can see in many things that they are going out to block things that are supported by the West rather than to start new things themselves. They tried to stop the Japanese Peace Treaty, the official ending of the war with Germany, the extension of the North Atlantic Treaty Pact and many other movements. Why this record of failure on their part? Without doubt it is because the free world partnership is growing in strength and unity. I think that we ought to take heart in this battle of the "cold war" and not be too cynical about the efforts of the United Nations and other peace moves.
There is a great deal of difference between agreements and settlements. An 867 agreement means that Russia undertakes an obligation; settlement means that she recognises certain conditions. For instance, in Berlin there was an agreement with the Western Powers which has broken. But when allied strength proved that the Berlin blockade was a faliure, there was a settlement of existing conditions by Russia. When we have strength enough to ensure that agreements cannot be broken, then we have reached a settlement with the Soviet to keep the peace.
It is because I believe that we must reinforce our international organisations with the right balance of power that I should like to support what the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) said about Western Europe, and particularly what he said about the Council of Europe. When I was in Washington, I was fortunate to be asked to meet certain Senators and Members of the House of Representatives in connection with the Council of Europe. It was just before the publication of their Foreign Affairs Committee Report on the visit of a delegation from Congress to the Council of Europe, which, hon. Members will recall, took place at Strasbourg in November of last year.
There are certain passages in that Report which I understand are very critical indeed of Britain; I regret to say of both parties. Senator Green, for example, has often quoted the Mutual Security Act, which stresses that aid to Europe has, among other objects, that of encouraging the economic unification and political federation of Europe. It has been often said lately in America that this aid should be withdrawn unless some progress is made. It is true that our European story is not properly understood against the context of successful American federation—because our European history is a turbulent one, torn with centuries of strife, and memories. Like them, also, we differ in race, creeds, ideas and language. The fact remains that this criticism of Britain is there. It is only quite recently that it was publicly announced that General Eisenhower himself did not want Britain to become part of the European Defence Community.
I think that from the time devoted to this subject by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon that we were hearing in this 868 House an example at last of positive foreign policy—of trying to reach out and anticipate events. All I can say is that I hope this will be carried on in regard to the Council of Europe. We cannot afford to give a bad impression again so far as the European unity is concerned.
I imagine that the next meeting of the Council of Europe will be about May. I ask the Government to prepare now for those two weeks, to work out carefully what part Britain can play, what we want the Council of Europe to become and what we think it should do. I know this is very important, because the tide of European thought must move forward or back. Let us be sure that we in Britain are in the van.
It is the more important to prove that we believe in Europe as Europeans because of the Presidential election year in America. The debate on foreign and domestic politics arising from that cause is going on now in every house, at every street corner and in every centre, and it will go on until they are exhausted by 7th November. It is becoming more and more difficult for Congressmen to justify to their constituents the outpouring of men and treasure to the far corners of the earth. I was told quite bluntly that Western Europe—we were all lumped in together—had wasted American gold. I is easy enough to explain to one's constituents that one has inherited the earth, but it is rather more difficult to explain why one has to prop it up.
We in this country will also need to show patience and understanding during this year, which will be strangled by the Presidential election. Hard things will be said. Let us all try to keep our heads. We all know that there are many people here who look askance at what they call the American domination of our affairs. The fact that Western Europe might have succumbed to Communist fifth column activities had it not been for the immense generosity of our friends does not alter those feelings. That may be rather a good sign, for it is somewhat like a convalescent patient who wants to stand unaided at last. Many Americans are very impatient of our ways, too. Let us face these facts together frankly and remember that between true friends it is not always necessary to renew a declaration of faith.
869 In the very delicate business of Anglo-American relations, I feel that it is sometimes wiser to stress the differences rather than the similarities. Because we speak the same language, let us all remember that the New World and the Old are cast in different moulds. Our flags have the same colours, but they are arranged differently. Although we have much to give each other, I should say that we are complementary but not alike.
In considering these very important things, I hope very much that what the Leader of the Opposition said earlier will come to pass. He said that it is very important that we in Britain should speak with one voice. I hope that forecasts the fact that there will be no Division against the Government's foreign policy tomorrow. If there is such a Division, it will be a very important break in the bipartisan approach to foreign affairs which has existed since 1945 when we, the Opposition, supported the late Government in many unpopular measures, such as the Berlin air-lift and Korea.
Most hon. Members must agree that in our present Foreign Secretary, in regard to both experience and stature, we are brilliantly served. Should there be a Division tomorrow night, it will very much please the Communists everywhere, and any person or party who plays into the hands of the Communists or plays their game will be watched with the greatest interest in America. In fact, they are being watched now. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who are they?"] We are not in secret session yet. I see no reason at all for a Division, and it will not ease our task as a nation if we cannot show a united front tomorrow night. To paraphrase some words used by the Prime Minister in Washington, in matters of foreign affairs all the greatest Britons should work together for all the things that matter most.
If for some reason there has to be a Division tomorrow, I hope it will be made plain that it will be on a matter of detail and not on the basic principles of foreign policy, that we can still all recognise that the United States and the Commonwealth have inseparable destinies. If we believe that, let us spend our time here trying to make sure that, in the closing words of that great speech to Congress, the supreme fact of the 20th century is that Britain and America tread the same path.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)
At the beginning of the remarks of the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), I could not help feeling that she seemed to be living in a world of delightful make-believe. She suggested that the Prime Minister's visit to the United States had swept away all misunderstandings and that there had been a change of climate as regards the attitude of the United States towards the United Kingdom.
I am afraid that there has been a change of climate, but it is a change of climate in a direction which makes the Opposition rather fearful. Not only has there been a change of climate in the United States, but it may be that there has been a change of climate throughout the world; and that is what is causing us considerable concern. The interpretation which has been put on the speech which the Prime Minister made to Congress, the action which he said we would take in certain events, the attitude that we appear to be taking regarding Chiang Kai-shek and Formosa, and what we would do if the armistice talks broke down, is such that it cannot do anything but worsen the relations between the East and the West generally and particularly the relations of the West with the Soviet Union.
If the interpretation which has been put by us on this side of the House on certain of the statements which were made by the Prime Minister is the same interpretation as is put on them by the Soviet Union, then the Soviet Union's suspicions regarding the policy which they accuse us of having followed in the past will be confirmed, and the propaganda which they have been carrying out will be vindicated.
The Prime Minister could not please Congress and the Kremlin at the same time, and it is clear that he set out to please Congress. To win ephemeral applause by fine oratory is sometimes to act irresponsibly, especially if on the words which one uses there can be put an interpretation which can be one thing in Congress and another thing in the British Parliament; and if what the Prime Minister said is open to different interpretations in the two Parliaments.
Up to the present, the policies and actions of the West in regard to defence 871 generally have been fully justified. Our policy has been based purely on defence. In Malaya we are struggling to prevent the spread of Communism, and in Korea we are fighting to repel aggression and to uphold the principle of collective security within the United Nations.
Above all, the Atlantic Pact is a regional, collective security instrument within the framework of the United Nations, and as long as we restrict our policy to defence we are fully justified in that policy and Russia's case that the West are the aggressors falls to the ground. It cannot be upheld. But if any action is taken which gives the impression that there has been a shift from a non-aggressive, defensive policy to an aggressive, provocative one there is danger that the West will be in difficulty in defending the position it has taken up, and we shall be in danger of losing the support of those countries whose support at present possibly hangs by a thread.
I refer, for instance, to South-East Asia, to the new members of the Commonwealth and others who do and will support us in our policy largely because they believe it is purely defensive; based on the Atlantic Pact and otherwise for the purpose of defending our democratic way of life, and because they believe that, morally, we are in the right position. Not only have we to be morally right but we have to appear morally right. But in Malaya and South-East Asia and elsewhere there is still a hangover of imperialism and of colonialism and there are movements to achieve their nationalist aspirations.
If we give the impression, as, unfortunately, the Prime Minister has given, that at this stage we are more favourably inclined to support Chiang Kai-shek in using his Nationalist troops to attack the People's Government of China or to defend Formosa or otherwise, we are taking action which will raise doubts and suspicion in the minds of those people. They will question whether the policy we are pursuing is one worthy of their support.
The purpose of our re-armament programme is fourfold. In the first place, under the Atlantic Pact, we are following a defensive policy and under that Pact 872 we are endeavouring to unite the free world and maintain its unity in the face of subversive Cominform propaganda and action. Secondly, through the Pact we are endeavouring to deter Russia from taking any aggressive action of a provocative nature which might lead the world into a general war.
Thirdly, if by any chance Russia did take such action and we were engaged in war, we are trying to ensure that we would be strong enough to defend democracy and our democratic way of life. The fourth, and in many ways the most important reason for the action we are taking under the Atlantic Pact is that if we succeed in convincing Russia of the unity of the world, and in showing her our determination to defend ourselves if attacked, we can convince her it is in her own interest to come to the conference table and work out with us a modus vivendi.
I think there is sometimes too much talk about negotiating from strength. We want to be strong enough to persuade Russia to come and talk, but when we talk we should talk more as equals than as one party under duress or as one party threatening the other. We have a long way to go before this stage can be reached, but we have to convince Russia that the policies of the West are not aggressive policies. I fear the speech which was made by the Prime Minister in Congress is such that it has made more difficult our task of convincing Russia that our policy is not to resort to aggressive methods. It makes it more difficult for us to bring her to the conference table.
These next years will be very crucial years. As has been made clear by General Eisenhower and others, as we reach the climax of our re-armament programme there is greater risk of war. I welcome very much the Foreign Secretary's hopeful statement this afternoon that the risk of war has receded, but I fear that if the misinterpretation and misunderstanding, as they are alleged to be, that have arisen as a result of the Prime Minister's visit to America are not cleared up, the Foreign Secretary's optimism may have to be damped down somewhat. During these crucial years we must avoid provocative action at all costs. What is militarily desirable is not always politically wise and action must be judged in that context.
873 Quite clearly, militarily it would be probably desirable for the West to have bases in Yugoslavia, but if any attempt were made to obtain bases there and the request were granted it would be interpreted by Russia as provocative action. Therefore, for political reasons it would be unwise to press such a measure.
The same applies to Spain. There are those who would argue it is desirable that we should have military bases in Spain, but if we agreed that Spain should associate herself with the West and come into N.A.T.O. the political and moral loss in Europe would be so great that we would lose rather than gain.
§ Captain Christopher Soames (Bedford)
Does the hon. Gentleman regard permission to America to use air bases in East Anglia as a provocative act?
§ Mr. Davies
I do not see any comparison there whatsoever. The political factors with which I have been dealing with regard to Yugoslavia and Spain do not arise in connection with this country, America and ourselves both being members of the Atlantic Pact and neither Spain nor Yugoslavia being members.
On this question of political factors German re-armament is also relevant. However desirable German re-armament may be militarily, we on this side of the House have laid it down that there should be certain safeguards against the reemergence of German militarism and that there should be no national army and no general staff. Yet, at this stage, there is some pressure or some suggestion that Germany should come into N.A.T.O. If Germany were admitted into N.A.T.O. at this stage she would become irrevocably associated with the West, which would make it far more difficult to bring about German unity. Premature and precipitate action which would have that political effect must be avoided in spite of its military desirability.
There is further the question of the attitude of the United States at the present time. I am concerned that there are people—and, unfortunately, a large number of people—in the United States who take an attitude somewhat different from ours towards the cold war. There are those in the United States who consider that we have reached a further stage in the cold war and that it is more advanced and nearer a hot war than we in this 874 country consider it to be. Consequently, they may be willing to take a greater risk of provocative action than we desire to take in this country.
Here, America and ourselves appear to have a somewhat different approach. For instance, unfortunately—and this I found from my experience in dealing with Americans at various conferences—there is an instinct with the Americans to reject every move of the Soviet Union. As soon as there is a move which might be interpreted by some people as a move forward on the part of the Soviet Union, the immediate reaction of the Americans is generally—not always—one of great suspicion, and of rejection. The Americans are fearful lest any concession invoke the accusation of appeasement.
At present, the American attitude is fully understandable in view of the attitude which Congress takes of the un-American Activities Committee. It is electioneering, but it makes it all the more important that we do not encourage this element in America by giving the impression that we are coming closer to them rather than endeavouring to exercise restraint upon them.
I do not say that Russia is ready at this stage to come along and negotiate, or is ready to talk. Unfortunately, that is not the case at present, but certain things have happened which have brought it home to Russia that she cannot, go further without running the risk of bringing about a general war, which I do not believe Russia desires. I came to that conclusion at the Paris meeting of the Four Deputies, which I attended. There, although it was not possible to reach agreement with the Soviet Union and although there was a great deal of angry exchange between the different participants, the fact remains that at that conference Russia could not help but learn that the West was fully united and could not be split, and that we were determined to go ahead with our re-armament programme to defend ourselves if attacked. In other words, Russia had to face the position that the West was gaining in strength and would continue to do so, and could not be shifted from its purpose.
Consequently, it is possible that, following that conference, Russia has reached a stage where she has re-assessed, or is re-assessing her policy, and 875 it may well be that in a reasonable time there may be some re-orientation of Russian policy. There are signs that that is taking place. What is so regrettable, if that argument or speculation is in any way correct, is that just now, when Russia appears to be re-assessing her position, there should be a speech by the Prime Minister in Congress which immediately re-affirms her doubts and suspicions and vindicates the attitude which she has taken in the past.
I think there are some signs. There was the suggestion for the truce talks in Korea, which came immediately following the Paris Conference. There was the moderate behaviour of Mr. Gromyko at the Japanese Peace Treaty Conference in San Francisco. He could have raised more obstacles and made things far more difficult than he did. It may be that he is not as astute and brilliant as he is cracked up to be, but he did not behave in the way one would expect had he wished to be obstructive on that occasion.
Then there appear to be feelers put out about German unity, some of which are genuine and some are not. There is a movement both sides of the German Iron Curtain to explore the position to see whether a united Germany can be brought about. Finally, there was a retreat or advance, whichever way we like to regard it, at the United Nations, as regards the banning of atomic weapons. Clearly, it was a retreat from Russia's previous position and an advance towards the position of the West.
The gap is very wide still and it will take considerable closing, but I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary refer to the appointment of the Disarmament Commission. I welcome the measure of agreement which has been arrived at. I welcome these signs of movement on the part of Russia, perhaps only exploratory, and I hope we shall look at the position without prejudice. Such efforts must not be brushed aside, and I hope that His Majesty's Government will use as much influence as possible to see that the United States do not reject any such moves. Against this it is possible to put the slowness with which the talks in regard to the Korea armistice have gone, the vituperative speeches of M. Vyshinsky at the United Nations, and the refusal of 876 Russia to make any progress with the Austrian Treaty, which she could quite clearly have for the asking.
There are two more matters I wish to deal with. In striving to maintain our special relations with the United States, which the Prime Minister did during this visit and which are desirable because our relationship to the United States is something special—and we all desire that the alliance should be as close as possible—it is important that we do not weaken our relations with our other allies, and particularly with the members of the Commonwealth and the countries of Western Europe.
Our relations with the United States must in no way be exclusive. For that reason I welcome the visit of the Foreign Secretary to France this last week-end, in order to be able to explain what has been discussed there. What gives me cause for concern is lest there should be any impression from the Anglo-American talks, and the statements which have been made, that we will work out a joint Anglo-American policy which will be presented to the smaller Powers and that pressure will be used upon them to adopt that policy. If we do that, we will antagonise our allies and make things more difficult.
In recent years, and particularly since the Atlantic Pact, there has been an emergence in Europe of the smaller countries. The voices of the Foreign Ministers of the smaller countries have become as influential as those of the great Powers Before the war, who knew the Foreign Ministers of some of the smaller Powers? Now we know M. Stikker of Holland, M. Bech of Luxembourg and M. Van Zeeland of Belgium. We also knew M. Spaak of Belgium, when he was Foreign Minister.
These small countries have had equal partnership with the great Powers, and that has been of great value in formulating European policy and foreign policy generally. Further, it has enabled these countries and ourselves to present a common front on occasions to America, which has been very effective. By strengthening our relations with America we may weaken our relations with Europe and our ability to co-operate with those countries and stand up to America should it be necessary to do so, as we have done on certain occasions. We, France and 877 some of the other countries were able to make it quite clear to America where we stood when we prevented pressure being brought about by the United States for Spain to come into N.A.T.O.
It is very important, also, that in building up the Welfare State, as we have done in the United Kingdom, we have created a factor of resistance on the Communist front. The mere fact that we in Britain during the last six years have succeeded in creating here a Welfare State, gave hope, faith and encouragement to Europe in its struggle against the spread of Communism. We were able to show Europe, Western Europe in particular, that there was an alternative to pre-war capitalism, on the one hand, and post-war Communism, on the other hand. We created in this country a way of life which offered economic security and gave hope and faith to other peoples. It got rid of the evils of pre-war capitalism to a very large extent, but it did not have to embrace the tyranny of post-war Communism.
If the Tory Government now, in their endeavour to carry through a re-armament programme, in their endeavour to carry out their own policies, in any way undermine the Welfare State and put obstacles against our advancement towards greater economic equality and social freedom, they are removing one of the bulwarks to Communism in Europe. If they destroy this example of the successful Welfare State which we have built up in the last six years, they will make it more difficult for those people who are, understandably, attracted by Communism as the alternative to capitalism in their economic conditions in Europe. We shall be harming the very cause of democracy for which we are striving to preserve through our rearmament programme.
If the re-armament programme is so great that it makes inroads upon the Welfare State inevitable, as hon. Members opposite seem to consider, judging by the action they are taking, then it is necessary to ask ourselves whether the effectiveness of the re-armament programme in achieving defence against Communism might not be offset by the spreading inside certain countries of that against which we are fighting. Russia would then appear to achieve by peaceful means her objectives, and our re-arming might well be in vain.
878 Hon. Members opposite should not be blind to the fact that to many the fear of a return of pre-war capitalism is greater than the fear of Communism, and that the necessity to preserve the Welfare State, based on equality, has to be balanced with the necessity of being strong enough to defend it. In chasing away the shadow of Communism, we must not lose the substance of the political and social democracy which we are striving to preserve.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
At an earlier stage of his speech, the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), referred to the concern aroused by the interpretations put on the speech of the Prime Minister in Washington; but, of course, the Prime Minister is responsible for what he says, and not for the interpretation that others put upon it, and a great deal of responsibility for that concern rests upon right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
There is not too fanciful a parallel to be drawn with the circumstances of our domestic policies of the last few weeks, when hon. Members opposite have also raised great public concern by the interpretations which they chose to put upon the education policy in regard to the continuance of the school age. Ultimately, their fears have been found to be baseless. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
The hon. Member for Watford (Mr. J. Freeman) observed in his speech that a few words from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister would allay concern. All peoples of the democratic world are concerned with the situation in the Far East, and it would be a very welcome thing if that concern could be allayed. It will be recalled that Mr. Pickwick, if it be appropriate to mention him in what is necessarily a rather solemn debate, had occasion to envy the ease with which the friends of Mr. Peter Magnus were amused; and I envy the ease with which the hon. Member for Watford will have his concern allayed. It is not merely a matter of what the British Prime Minister may say or do, or of what the American Administration will say or do. Concern can only be allayed if there is a clear sign that the other parties to these transactions take a view which will free the democratic peoples from concern.
The hon. Member for Enfield, East, kept on saying that he hoped we would 879 do nothing provocative. That is a hope that we all share; but one has to have regard to the background of events. There is still a war going on in Korea; and war, as the hon. Member ought to know, tends to be very provocative. So far as the Korean conflict is concerned, the attitude and approach both of this country and of the United States are clear. They would both, Administration and people alike, welcome the cessation of the Korean conflict because, quite apart from the strategical reasons causing them to do so, both of these great peoples are subject to the democratic sanctions which find expression in the people's hatred of war all over the world.
But no such sanctions operate on the other two parties concerned, the Soviet and the Chinese Communist Governments. Their intentions and reactions to the Korean conflict are a good deal less easy to be certain about. The desire of the Chinese to end that conflict depends on two things: first, on the impact on their men and equipment of the casualties they have sustained, but, secondly, upon the question of their future possible intentions elsewhere.
So far as the Soviet are concerned, their intentions in this matter are still more doubtful, because they have from a strategic point of view a good reason to regard the continuance of the Korean campaign as a sort of Korean ulcer, which will drain away the forces of the West without imposing any like disability upon the Soviet. So far as the Western nations are concerned, there is a unanimity in their desire to end the Korean conflict on any terms compatible with the vindication of collective security and resistance to aggression, which took us to Korea.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I do not know whether the hon. Member is a reader of "The Times." If he is, perhaps he will have noticed a leading article on the subject this morning, in which "The Times" says that we could have had in Korea 12 months ago an armistice on terms that we would be very glad to get today. Will the hon. Member tell us, in his opinion, whose fault it was that we did not get those terms 12 months ago?
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
It would hardly be the fault of my right hon. Friend. [Interruption.] The hon. Member asks 880 me a question and I give him an answer. I cannot guarantee that every answer I give him will be the answer that he will like.
§ Mr. Silverman
Perhaps the hon. Member will bear in mind that I was not asking him whose fault it was as between party and party. He had been dealing with the question of nations and the desire of the United Nations to do this and that and the desire of other nations to do this, that, or the other thing, and in the question I was asking I was thinking of the various responsibilities of nations and not the minor question, which may be of interest in other respects, as between parties in this House.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
The hon. Member asks me a question as between nations but, of course, nations find the expression of their actions through their Governments. Therefore, if any blame did attach—I am not suggesting it did—to this country at that time, it would, of course, be blame which would attach to the Government which the hon. Member from time to time supported.
§ Mr. Silverman
I can see that point completely. I think we all remember that 12 months ago, which is the time we are considering, a Labour Government was in power and not the present Government. For the moment I am not interested in that point, but in a much more important question for the world, never mind which Government was in power—and I concede that it was mine and not that of the hon. Member. Does the hon. Member say that 12 months ago the fault for the continuation of hostilities lay entirely with the Chinese? That is what I am asking him.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
Certainly I will answer the hon. Member. In international affairs, as in human affairs generally, it is seldom that, viewed in the light of history and wisdom and experience, total blame, or total credit, attaches to any one party. There are very few transactions in history in which, if it were possible, we would not make some alteration.[Interruption.] The hon. 881 Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Orbach) does not contribute very often by way of a speech, but frequently from a seated position. If he has anything of interest to say, I will gladly give way to him.
§ Mr. Maurice Orbach (Willesden, East)
Very often I come to this House in the hope of being called to speak. What I have to say, if not of interest to the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith), is of interest to my constituents and I think I conduct my Parliamentary life in as satisfactory a manner as he does.
§ Mr. Speaker
I try to call as many hon. Members as I can, but these prolonged interchanges between the two sides of the House rather limit the number I can call.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I would not have given way if I had not thought the hon. Member for Willesden, East, wanted to put a point with me—
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
What the hon. Member actually said could have been dealt with equally in a letter to his local paper. Following the efforts of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) to take us back to the past, I wish to continue with the situation as we find it now.
I was about to say that, in spite of the general wish on the part of democratic people to end the Korean conflict on any terms not incompatible with the causes they support, it would, of course, free the hands of the Chinese for action elsewhere. In the speeches of hon. Members opposite there has been the underlying fallacy that the scales of peace and war are held by the democratic people; but that is not so because we have to analyse the intentions of the other two parties. After listening to some of the speeches made by hon. Members opposite, one might almost think it was us, or at any rate the United States, who were the aggressors and the other parties who were on the defensive.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has the courage, but the tactical unwisdom, quite frequently to say what other hon. Members perhaps only think. I like to think that only a few hon. Members opposite really share the views of the hon. Member on these matters.
§ Mr. Silverman
May I make one last interruption? It is not a question of generalities. My position has always been that I thought that the United Nations were fully justified and our country was, not only fully justified, but morally bound to assist in the repulsion of aggression when the North Koreans were overrunning South Korean territory. But I think that exhausted the rights of the United Nations and that when that aggression was repelled and we went beyond the frontier into North Korea, in order this time not to repel aggression but to carry out a political objective—concerning the way in which the country was to be run—we had gone beyond our function and were in exactly the same position as the forces of North Korea when they came South.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I am sure the House are obliged to the hon. Member, but what he calls political questions are really mixed military and political questions, and I assure him that it is a great deal less easy to make that distinction—or was at that time—than he has always thought.
The talk of hon. Members opposite about the dangers of extending the war to the Chinese mainland seems to neglect what may well be the more real and acute danger of the Chinese themselves electing to extend the war in Asia. It is difficult to know the full truth and to know what goes on in all these distant places, but we have reports of troop concentrations in the Yunan Province. Although there are, of course, climatic and geographical difficulties in the way of that aggression, these have been overcome before. They are there certainly well sited either to reinforce the Viet-Nam rebels in Indo-China, or make a thrust to the West of Indo-China with the object of occupying Siam.
Those are the practical dangers which exist, or may exist, for the democratic peoples and the United Nations today: yet, in the course of this debate, they have only been mentioned in passing, 883 while all the stress has been thrown on the possibilities of provocation, so-called, by the democratic peoples who do not in fact want any extension, or indeed continuance, of the war in Asia.
I think it is clear that, if pretext was wanted, the presence of the Chinese Nationalist troops in the north-east corner of Burma might be made to serve as a pretext. What hon. Members will appreciate is that those areas are not like Korea. Those areas, unfortunately, combine comparative military impotence with considerable economic resources; they contain, in particular, a very large supply of the world's rice crop, the food of the East. If any such assault were successful, it would not be a question of the Communists holding the "gorgeous East in fee" but of holding the hungry and powerless East in fee, with all the possible grave consequences to India and Indonesia.
Those are the possible realities of the situation we have to face today—not these hypothetical acts of provocation which hon. Members opposite are stressing and to which they are giving undue emphasis. I think it right that we should speak of these things because I have always felt—as many others feel—that, in the case of the Korean war, had it been clear that aggression would be met with the collective resolve and the massed might of the United Nations, it would probably never have happened. It would be wrong—and the hon. Member for Enfield, East, would presumably agree with this because he believes in the democratic peoples taking defensive action—to let the whole of South-East Asia go by default, with all the incalculable and irreparable consequences that would follow.
So far as concerns the question of the fear of a general war—a fear so deeply, widely and naturally held by all peoples, especially the democratic peoples of the world—I do not think that general war normally starts because any nation or any Government desires it. Not even a totalitarian and expansionist Government consciously desires a general war. A general war normally comes by miscalculation. It was so in the case of Louis XIV, Napoleon—[An HON. MEMBER: "And Hitler."]—and Hitler, certainly. Had they been able to foresee the determined and united opposition which they would arouse—had they been 884 able to peer through the future to the final result—there would have been no general war in any of those cases, and there will be no general war today if there is no miscalculation.
Therefore, it is right for the democratic peoples to see to it as best they can that there is no miscalculation on the part of aggressive totalitarian Powers which might land the world in the final catastrophe of another world war. I think it is our duty and our interest to prevent such a miscalculation and that we can only do that by preserving the unity of the democratic peoples. To a considerable extent that means a unity of outlook between our country and the United States.
In that regard, I should like to say a word about what is known as bi-partisan foreign policy. I believe that a bi-partisan foreign policy, both in this country and in the United States, is essential for the collective security and the maintenance of peace. I believe that we, in this country and in this House of Commons, by pursuing a bi-partisan foreign policy from 1945 to 1951, did a great deal to assist and encourage the Americans in their more difficult task—on account of their isolationist tradition—on the path of a bi-partisan foreign policy.
Therefore, I hope particularly that there will be no end to the by-partisan policy of this country at this time, in this year of a Presidential election. It would be weakening to American action and administration if we were to sacrifice bipartisan foreign policy in this country at this time, because it would tempt the Americans in their weakest hour.
I think it is right to say that the extreme Right in the United States and the extreme Left in this country "boxed the compass" of political myopia. In effect, they are in an alliance. [Interruption.] I hope the hon. Member will confine himself to trying to picture the process. They are, in effect, in an alliance, uneasy and unsought, it is true, but an alliance the effect of which is to paralyse the will of the free peoples. I do hope, therefore, that this debate will not mark, as has been prophesied by some of the newspapers, the end of the bipartisan approach to foreign policy in this country, which has yielded such good results in the last six years.
885 I apologise for the length of my speech. It has been rather a bi-partisan performance on my part and that has extended its length; but I want to conclude by reinforcing what has, I think, already been referred to in the course of this debate. In the Far East we are face to face with Communism. I think that our troubles are by no means confined to the Far East, nor are they confined to our open clash with Communism there.
In the Middle East we are entangled in difficulties with a nascent nationalism. In the whole of the Moslem crescent from Morocco to Persia there are these difficulties, and I believe that the chief danger against which we have to guard is the creation and rendering permanent of an unnatural alliance between Communism and nationalism in those vast areas. Communism is neither nationalist nor internationalist; it is a form of predatory imperialism, and these nascent nationalisms should have much more to look to from the democratic peoples than they have from the Communists.
Unfortunately it is one of the great weaknesses of our six years of foreign policy under the Government of right hon. Members opposite—
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
Yes, a bi-partisan policy means encouraging what is good and seeking to point out—[An HON. MEMBER: "If that is what it means, we shall always have it."] I was hoping on this point that I might carry with me even the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, because he should agree that there should be no identification between Eastern nationalism and Eastern Communism. I believe there is a fundamental antithesis between them and it is a mark of failure in our foreign policy so far—I do not want to make a party point about this—that at the end of six years, at the time when right hon. Gentlemen opposite quitted office, the position in those countries was as bad as it was. Hon. Members opposite may think this surprising, but I am more concerned that we should strike the right path in the future than apportion blame because the situation is not better than it is.
We have this great struggle with Communism; but so far as nationalist feelings in Asia are concerned, we should have 886 and can have sympathy, knowing from our own experience that nationalism is a necessary milestone on the road to a wider and more internationalist point of view. Though we do and should reprobate both the horrible excesses of the Cairo mob and the curious antics of the Persian Prime Minister, it is right that we should keep before us the possibility of a sympathetic attitude to nationalist aspirations in order that we should not in any way cement what I believe to be an unnatural and to them unprofitable alliance between those nationalities and the Communist Power.
If we are to do that, which I believe to be essential to us, it is the more necessary that we should in this country seek to pursue a bi-partisan approach to foreign policy, and seek to do our duty at this difficult time solely having regard to our duty to our country and the free world and not being distracted by party passions or prejudices in regard to it.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
If bipartisan foreign politics means that one encourages what is good in what one's opponent has to say, and is critical of what one disagrees with, then perhaps I can concur with the sentiments of the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith). It is time, however, that this House examined more specifically than has yet been done today precisely what the foreign policy is to which we are seeking to commit the citizens of this country.
I hope that the Prime Minister is to speak in the debate tomorrow. To have reduced the House of Commons to a guessing competition about what he actually said and meant in Washington for one out of the two days of this debate is bad enough. I hope that before the debate goes far tomorrow he will tell us precisely what he did say and what he did mean. It may, however, ease his job tomorrow and may help to lessen confusion among anxious people not only in this country but all over the world if I tell him what I stand for, and I believe that on this point I can presume to speak for all Members on this side of the House.
I stand for the commitments that were made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition when he was in Washington. He made no flashy 887 speeches, there were not the same repercussions in the Press of the world, but we knew precisely what he said and to what he committed us. If speeches from the opposite side of the House mean anything at all they mean that the Prime Minister merely reiterated the sentiments that the Leader of the Opposition expressed when he was Prime Minister, and if that is the case I should like to know what all the fuss is about.
I think I have a small clue to what the fuss was about in two words that the Prime Minister deigned to interject early in the debate. The Foreign Secretary made a long and very smooth speech. The Prime Minister in tones which, if they could have been recorded, would have meant more than the words themselves, interjected at one point in the debate "Communist China." Are we to assume from his tone that Members opposite are ready to go to war with all countries that are Communist?
Let us be clear whether we are seeking, as a House of Commons, to agree to resist aggression or on fighting Communism. I detest Communism, as I detest a great many other forms of government in the world. I believe that the democratic Socialist values which are held on these benches are not only the best answer to Communism in Great Britain, but could be applied with good effect on a very much wider scale. But I am not prepared to tell other countries what sort of government they should select nor am I prepared to inflame general public opinion against them to an hysterical pitch that may lead to war if I do not happen to agree with their choice.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
Was not that the attitude displayed by the hon. Lady's party against Nazi Germany before 1939?
§ Miss Lee
The hon. Member must be very much younger than he looks, if he will forgive me for saying, or he would remember that in those years we on these benches made passionately plain our opposition to Hitler and Hitler Germany. If there had not been so much social "to-ing and fro-ing" and so much sympathy among hon. Members opposite for the anti-working class attitude of Hitler, we aright have rallied world opinion in 888 time to avoid that war. It was a strange interjection for the hon. Member to make.
I repeat: Are we seeking to outlaw aggression, to stand by our United Nations commitments against any country that aggresses against its neighbour, or are we to take part in the hysteria that has taken possession of some sections of the American public, and build up to a situation where we leave the Communist countries of the world no alternative except to believe that we intend to fight them?
I wonder what interpretation any Chinese citizen could put upon the debate that he has heard in this House today. General Chiang Kai-shek, a discredited refugee from China, is not only given protection and asylum. We do not believe in handing any person over to be butchered by political opponents, but we are giving more than asylum to a political refugee; we lavish on him American dollars, United Nations support, arms and advisers, so that we have now strengthened him to the point where his soldiers are invading Burma. That is the one fact in the Burmese situation about which we are all clear.
But let us also be clear about what follows. If there are Chiang Kai-shek's soldiers in Burma then we are in Burma, the United Nations are there, for who armed and financed those soldiers? If we want the Eastern world to believe that we are the most nauseating hypocrites all we have to do is to go into Southern Korea to fight against aggression from Northern Korea and then be found building up in the East reactionary forces which, by our aid, are themselves committing aggression against other people. I hope that the already helpful statement which the Foreign Secretary has made on the Burmese situation will be further clarified.
I consider it to be folly to the point of tragic madness that so much influential opinion in the Western world has failed to realise that our diplomatic task should be to divide China and Soviet Russia; not to say to the Chinese people that there is no way at all in which they can turn, except towards Soviet Russia. I know it is hard to talk about that just now. I know it is doubly hard to talk in America and I sympathise with what has been said about the fact that it is America who has 889 had to bear the biggest brunt of the casualties in Korea. But I make the point for I am trying to find a way of ending the casualties in America, or our own country, or any other country. Should we not, therefore, urge that, just as Yugoslavia, which is a Communist country, has gone its own way and is welcomed into the United Nations, there is no bar against any country because it is Communist?
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
Does the hon. Member believe that China would have been capable of her recent activities without industrial supplies from other countries, such as Russia? In other words, does the hon. Member believe that the acitivities of China have been aided by her own industrial potential?
§ Miss Lee
If what the hon. Member wants to do is to declare war on Soviet Russia he should do it. Just as the Government of hon. Members opposite at the time of the Spanish Civil War was surreptitiously helping Franco Spain, or at least binding the hands of the people of Spain, it would be very easy to deduce that Communist China is getting aid from Communist Russia. But what I am saying is, why do we leave Communist China in such a position that she has every reason to fear that her Government will not be recognised by our Prime Minister?
We have the way in which the right hon. Gentleman referred to Communist China. If we recall that it is clear that not only certain hysterical elements in America but certain blind class-prejudiced elements in our own country which are turning a very dangerous world situation into an almost tragically impossible situation. What has been stressed too little in the debate so far—and I hope other hon. Members will resume this theme—is that the outstanding problem of the world today is not Communism, of any other "ism"; it is hunger. If we leave hungry, and therefore angry, nations with the belief that they can look only to Soviet Russia, I am convinced that though Soviet Russia in time will break their hearts and destroy these countries' economies, that will he little consolation to us if, in the meantime, we have lost our opportunity to make friends.
890 What is happening in the world? In South Korea we have Syngman Rhee. We lose no opportunity of insulting the Government of the Chinese people by building up Chiang Kai-shek. Then, if we turn to Japan, we find we are supporting the old Imperial groups, the most reactionary elements in the community. At the same time, in the heart of central Europe, though Hitler has vanished, Hitlerism is rampant. That is Germany at the present time. Poor men and women looking at the alignment of forces in the world today have far too much reason to believe that we have gone into Korea not in order to fight back aggression, but rather as part of a counterrevolutionary campaign to attack the legitimate nationalist and legitimate economic interests of poor people everywhere.
So I say to the hon. Member, who spoke about bi-partisan policy, that he cannot make me stand shoulder to shoulder with all the reactionary generals and industrialists and landlords of the world in an attack on the legitimate aspirations of poor people. In recent days in this House hon. Members opposite have launched their own attack on the poor people of Great Britain. So long as they are attacking the poor inside this country we have little encouragement to believe that outside this country in the international sphere they will have the sense of compassion, the understanding, the comradeship, which will really begin to melt the fundamental fear in the world today, which is the fear of hunger.
The Prime Minister has been extremely peevish on some recent occasions about what he considered were unfair attacks made on him during the General Election. It is quite true that hon. Members on these benches went to the people and said. "Look here, do you think that the leadership of the present Prime Minister or the present Leader of the Opposition gives you the best hope of keeping peace in the world?" I believe it was the deep doubt in the mind of the people about the record of the right hon. Gentleman opposite in those matters that accounted for the narrow majority behind the party opposite. I say "accounted for the narrow majority" because they had promised the people 891 so many things they badly wanted, food—
§ Mr. Gower
Would not the hon. Member agree it was something more than saying, "To whom can you best entrust the peace?"; that it was something which threatened the consequences of war if the present Prime Minister were returned at the head of the Government; and that our majority is so small because of the misrepresentation of hon. Members opposite?
§ Miss Lee
If the hon. Member will permit me to finish my last sentence he will see exactly what is my point of view. Hon. Members opposite went to our folk who had had a hard time. They had been building up the resources of the country but they did want more red meat; they did want the cost of living to come down; they did want simple comforts. In the Election hon. Members opposite promised them those things and they owe some of their support to those promises.
Therefore, I repeat that the handicap of hon. Members opposite in the Election was that while the people, or many of them, had not found out hon. Members opposite on the domestic front they did have doubts about the Prime Minister on issues of war and peace. Just as all the promises on the home front have been betrayed, the visit of the Prime Minister to Washington has more than confirmed our fears on the international front.
World war is nearer because of that visit. It is impossible to read the American Press, it is impossible to read the Press of the world, without knowing that, whatever his intention, he has given many people the belief that he is ready to take part in a great world campaign against Communism. So I say, in conclusion, think hard before it is too late. Every country has the right to choose its own Government. If we will confine our international responsibilities to standing loyally as members of the United Nations against the common aggressor and if we will understand we have also the responsibility to help hungry people everywhere to better times, then we can sustain the hope of peace. But if it is a campaign against "isms" we are seeking to rouse remember that we as well as the others will go down in the general havoc.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury and Radcliffe)
The hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) started her speech by saying she was going to be specific. She was neither specific nor pacific; she was vague and bellicose. The hon. Lady started, in a debate about foreign affairs, by discussing the Far East. She ended with a rather belated election speech which was hardly worthy of her great reputation in this House as a factual speaker. She referred to hon. Members on this side—myself included I have no doubt—as belonging to those who have a blind prejudice. "Blind" is an unfortunate word, because my eyes have seen the conditions in China and hers have not.
In this debate I have noticed very much indeed that, whereas six years ago when we had foreign affairs debates there were about six Members of this House—three on this side and three on that—who used to talk about the Far East with some knowledge, now we have probably more than 100 who talk with great assurance, who have probably gone so far as to read the weekend newspapers about the Far East, and some of whom may have been there for a few days. They constituted themselves, on these flimsy grounds, as experts.
I wish to be specific on the matter of the Fast East. It is time that we did not talk in such very vague terms. One factor stands out a mile. The interest has shifted, though not necessarily the importance; but in this plumbers' war of hot and cold, at present the hot part of it is occurring in the Far East. Therefore, the bias has shifted to some extent from Europe to the Far East. It is only right that we should examine the position possibly a little more closely than has been done during this debate.
We start with the great error of referring to China as if it were one country. That it most certainly is not. It is a whole series of disjointed countries which, during most of its history, have not been united and have very little reason to be united today. We assume from that that the Communist Government which was established in the north must of necessity be accepted wholeheartedly by the south. There is one very good reason why it never should be and that reason was alluded to by the hon. Member for Cannock when she talked about the power of hunger.
893 The division between the north and south of China is based on the fact that nearly every year North China comes down and robs South China of a very great deal of its food. The strong and permanent dislike that exists between those two main divisions of China is a factor which nobody seems to consider. The people of North China live in a cold country and live on grain. The people of South China live in a hot country and live on rice. These fundamental differences have made them into very different people with very different ideas.
In that fact there resides the possibility for which the hon. Lady was probably searching of the answer to this question: "Shall we have to back, sooner or later, Communist China or Chiang Kai-shek?" Why is it assumed that there is no alternative? Throughout this debate nobody has alluded to the fact that there might well be another power which would arise in China itself which would want neither Communism nor Chiang Kai-shek. That is one of the reasons why we must examine rather more closely and specifically than has been done the real alternative that may occur in Korea.
We are fighting in Korea for no reason that we or the United States want. Looking at the matter not from the political angle but from the strategic angle, our fighting in Korea has been dictated by the enemy. It is the most significant fact of all that, throughout the last five years, on practically every occasion from the Berlin air-lift onwards what we have had to do has been dictated by the central Power inside—by the Russian Power using satellite states wherever it thinks fit.
We have to get out of that way of thinking and think ahead if we are to preserve peace and people from new aggressions. I believe that we shall be faced with a different alternative in a very short while. Whether the armistice talks continue for a long time or for a relatively short time, it may be that they will make an agreement and keep to it in Korea, but that does not in any way debar the likelihood of an attack breaking out in another part of the Far East.
Nobody in this debate has so far referred to the focal point of trouble in the Far East at the moment—that is, French Indo-China. Occasionally one is confronted with a position in which one 894 can tell very nearly for a certainty that something is going to happen and that there is one solution. Kipling wrote an interesting story called, "The Bridge Builder." Nobody reads Kipling nowadays. It is a story of a bridge in India which is suddenly put in danger, just before completion, by a great flood. The designer of the bridge takes a drug to protect himself from malaria and suddenly, with the clarity that drugs give sometimes, he sees that there is one rope in the huge tangle which is holding the boats which will break the bridge. He seeks out this rope and saves the situation.
In the north of Indo-China and in Indo-China itself will be fought out whether Communism sweeps through Siam, Burma, Malaya and India. There is no natural defence between Indo-China and the Middle East. There is no possibility of resistance. I am well supported in this argument by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, who for two or three years before he assumed the exalted rank he now holds sat on the back benches. There were about three of us who preached about this.
The importance of Indo-China is this. It is important not only as part of the French Empire, not only as a protection against an almost certainly very bad, if not fatal trouble in Malaya, but because in Indo-China, since the Pau Agreement in 1950, there has been the first great working agreement between a European Power and a native population which has really shown results.
If one examines, as I do very carefully, the reports from people whom I employ out there, one sees that what is going on in Indo-China, and in South-West China just over the border in the provinces which traditionally have been against North China and even today are resentful of Communism—Yunnan, Kwei Chow, Kwang Si and Kwang Tung—is that they are turning to see what we propose to do in Indo-China, to see what the promises of the Western democracies really mean. The hon. Member for Cannock must listen, and must not be wiled away by the sweet nothings which are being whispered into her ear by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman).
The situation in Indo-China is utterly different from that in Malaya. The racial position is different. There are three 895 races in Indo-China and at least two of them are not of Chinese origin. It is important to realise that Indo-China is essentially anti-Chinese. Its reaction against Ho Chi Minh and the Communists in the north who have largely come from Yunnan and Kwang Tung is very strong. For several years France has been making enormous sacrifices. There has been a war outside Korea carried on by a democratic Power in the Far East since 1945.
In the Pau Agreement in the autumn of 1950 an enormous advance was made. The people of Indo-China—the poor people to whom the hon. Member for Cannock refers as if she had the sole power of understanding all their problems, which is a bit of arrogance to which she has no possible title—have seen that here was an agreement which really meant what it said. Large numbers got into the civil service. Under the inspiring leadership, which followed about a year afterwards, of Marshal de Lattre de Tassigny, they saw that something real was about to happen—not speechifying, not waiting until after the event, not having a policy dictated by Communism, but a real reply, a real solid reaction for the first time. There has been an enormous measure of success. Large guerilla forces, composed entirely of local inhabitants, led by both local officers and French officers, came into being. They ran from the sidelines into the field and started to take part. That is the significant thing; it reveals a large and successful effort, and it is an opportunity for us.
There is a great deal of talk to the effect that we must not take on any new commitments in the Far East. We are partners in democracy with France just as much as we are with the United States of America. The Americans are very fully engaged in Korea, and I am quite certain that they are not resentful of it; I was in America for three weeks during the Recess, and I have some grounds for what I say.
§ Mr. James Carmichael (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Did the hon. Member make any speeches when he was there?
§ Mr. Fletcher
Yes, but I do not pretend that they were reported as the hon. Gentleman would be reported, although I think they may have been understood a little better.
§ Mr. Fletcher
That is a matter of opinion. The point I was making about Indo-China was this. We could frankly and openly give support to Indo-China. I do not say that we should increase the forces we have in the Far East. We have certain commitments in Hong Kong, which were affirmed by right hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in power, but if we were to take some of our troops from Korea—
§ Mr. Fletcher
The hon. Gentleman says "scandalous." I shall not give way to him; he can interject as much as he likes. Does he know the meaning of the word "scandalous"? I feel complimented by it. Whether it is scandalous or not, what I have said is a practical suggestion of something which might have a very good result in protecting the people of Indo-China from the onslaught which is quite clearly being prepared against them.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I wonder whether it is worth while to examine what warmongering is. Is it warmongering to prepare beforehand to repel an onslaught or not? Is it warmongering to protect the people of a country for which you are responsible, and for which your friends are responsible, from attack, or is the right thing to do to wait until the enemy have prepared the largest possible force and have overrun the country, and then to try to win it back? Which is warmongering?
§ Mr. Fletcher
The hon. Gentleman's sympathies lie in certain directions and are the impulse for all he says, either above or below his breath. One can have fellow travellers in the East as well as in the West.
I believe that our success in the Far East, which would follow from such 897 action to prevent a people who are making great democratic progress from being overrun, would have a great effect across the border in South-West China, in provinces which have shown a marked lack of sympathy with Communism. The effect would be very considerable. In the end, the answer in China, in my view, must be a freely chosen alternative both to Communism and to Chiang Kai-shek. How is that to happen?
§ Mr. Fletcher
As I have lived for a long time in China, I think it is quite pertinent and in order, and not arrogant in any way, for me to say what the Chinese themselves are saying—and are saying very loudly and very frequently.
§ Mr. Fletcher
It is quite possible to inform oneself if one takes the trouble and is not full of prejudice. It is quite possible to find out what is happening. Take one example. When the Communists in North China were sweeping to the South, the people of Yunnan changed their policy three times in the first 10 days. At one moment they agreed they would play with the Communists; two days later they said they would not; and two days afterwards they said they would. That shows a little vacillation.
Since then there has been more than one incident. That is the reason for the Canton cruelty, with the horrible mass murder in public of hundreds of people by beheading, which hon. Members opposite may choose to forget or to swallow. It was, nevertheless, an act of the Communist Government which they seem to think is the free choice of China. In view of that mass cruelty and mass murder, I scarcely think that the Communist Government is likely to be the free choice of anybody. If these people see that the European Powers are willing and able to protect countries which are making advances in democracy, I believe that will instill into them, much more certainly than will be the case otherwise, the will and the power and the 898 desire to resist and to throw off the Communist yoke, which is much lighter in South-West China than it is in the North-West.
May I say what the Chinese people really want?—and I am not being arrogant; I travelled through the interior of China during the war and made contacts which have been of considerable assistance. These people are not primarily interested in politics or political argument. What they want is to have, not a wooden plough, but a steel plough. The greatest awakener to modern ideas in the whole of China is the pneumatic tyre. The Chinese used to have to pull his hand-cart on solid wooden wheels, literally by the sweat of his brow. Now, in nearly every village, we find that almost every cart has pneumatic tyres. The lot of the Chinese is enormously alleviated thereby.
That was the greatest factor in awakening in his mind a desire for better material things. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite, who are saying, "Hear, hear," should ask themselves this question: From where are the Chinese to get these things? Do hon. Members opposite imagine that the Chinese will get from Communist Russia these things which they cannot get from inside China? No doubt they can get a certain amount from inside China, because local manufacture has been encouraged, but the impulse and the nursing through the first period must clearly come from the Western democracies. We are only too willing to have the Chinese as our allies; there is no feeling on any side of this House against China.
When the hon. Member for Cannock speaks of the Chinese having chosen the Chinese Government, her argument is a little unreal. They have not chosen the Chinese Government. The Chinese Communist Government has been imposed upon them. Anybody who studies the facts of what happened can see that it was imposed upon them. A vacuum was left as a result, I am quite willing to agree, of the extremely bad behaviour of the previous Government. A vacuum was left, but hon. Members cannot argue as a convenience that it is good for the people of China that the Communist Government should remain. If, on their borders, we show then an example of real 899 partnership between a Western democracy and local inhabitants, as we are doing in Indo-China, then we have a chance of striking the first great and effective blow against Communism and of success against Communism in the Far East. Anybody who examines the facts must come to that conclusion.
It is not only important to support Indo-China from that point of view. An immeasurable disaster would occur if Indo-China were to fall. It would place a heavy responsibility, which they would not like, upon those who pursue their own ideas and their own ideology to an unreasonable and unlimited extent. If the facts in Siam and in Burma and in Malaya are examined, it will be found that if the north of Indo-China falls into Communist hands, it will be a tragedy.
Let us take the rice position alone, as it affects India. Three years ago the production of rice in Indo-China fell to 10 per cent. of what it had been, and there was no exportable surplus. Last year, as a result of the P.A.U. Agreement and its implementation very quickly by the French, production went up to 35 per cent. This year it is hoped to be 55 per cent., with a reasonable exportable surplus for countries going hungry for rice, such as India and Burma. There alone is reason—and very sound reason—why we should examine very much more closely the question of supporting Indo-China.
We have heard figures of the great sacrifices we have made in Korea. The sacrifices France has made, that have weakened her in Europe at danger to us, are terrific. There have been 28,000 casualties up to date since 1945, and for a population of the size of that of France, that is comparatively a much greater proportion. The hon. Gentleman will get into a little trouble if he speaks in that way. I will let him off this time because of my due respect for the Chair.
§ Mr. Fletcher
There are 106,000 of the Viet-Namese Army and 60,000 guerrillas. Out of an army of 173,000, about 73,000 are from Metropolitan France, and the rest are either from Viet-Nam or other parts of the French colonial empire. The 900 total cost of that war to date—up to the end of December—to France has been £1,100 million. Here is a case in which a European country, and our close ally and partner, has been keeping alive in the Far East one of the few chances that we know of democracy being a great force. The successful continuation of that will give us most certainly an opportunity for progress in other parts.
We hear from the other side of the House attacks on us because, in the dire necessity in which we find ourselves—and I am not going to be controversial and say whose fault it was—we have found it absolutely necessary to bring in certain cuts and not to make steady progress with the standard of living in this country. But it is absolutely an inescapable fact that if Malaya were to fall the standard of living in this country would fall catastrophically in a very short time.
There is not any sort of doubt about that, and there cannot be. It can be demonstrated. Anybody who has studied the balance of payments question, the dollar-earning question, will see that that is so. Is it not the first thing to do in the Far East not to play the game—the strategical game—that is being forced on us? One of the reasons, I have no doubt, Korea was chosen as the field of battle was because it was so remote and would stretch our lines to such a great extent.
We have to think—and to think quickly, because the threat is gathering strength—of what is to happen if Indo-China, important in itself, and even more important strategically, is threatened and if, after all these years, the effort that has been made by France is not sufficient. Marshal de Lattre de Tassigny, when he arrived, found a very good climate, a new spirit, in Indo-China, and his brilliant and forceful personality was devoted to the task in hand—he was ruthless towards anybody not pulling his weight—and turned that better climate into the living reality of the defeat of Communism. He is dead, and his son is dead, and there is some danger that France, with the weariness of spirit with which she finds herself, may return to that desespoir, that defeatism, which began to attack her not so long ago. The best thing we can do, both as to the effect on France in Europe and out there, is not to think that it would be aggression on our part to help her in the 901 defence of Indo-China, but to make some effective and real contribution.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am not saying do any more; I am saying use the forces we have in the Far East in a different distribution. I ask this question. Can we afford not to defend Indo-China? Can we afford to see Malaya threatened in a way which would lead very shortly to a much worse situation? There are certain assurances which are very painful, when we have to take out a heavy insurance, because the premium always falls heavily, but it has to be met, because the thing that one is not insured against is always the thing that happens.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Our lads are dying in Egypt and dying in Korea and dying in Malaya. Is the hon. Gentleman now suggesting we should send British troops to die in Indo-China as well?
§ Mr. Fletcher
That appears to be an appeal to the heart. British lads are dying. I know it appeals to the heart. I have as much reason, perhaps, to know it as the hon. Member or anybody else, but what I am saying is that this is a thing we have to regard absolutely objectively, and that we should re-distribute the forces we have without adding to them at all, and that in that there is no greater risk of British lads dying in Indo-China than anywhere else.
I would say this to the hon. Gentleman. If we do not take this action, if we do not take out this insurance, there is much more chance of more British lads dying in Malaya than if we do take out this insurance, and there are a lot more chances of a lot more British people in this country having a worse standard of living and facing a worse position. These are very unpalatable facts, and it is obviously running some risk to get up in this House to put them forward, but they are facts, and anybody who likes to take the trouble to check them can see that they are.
It is the same risk as Formosa. Here is a very grave risk. I do not happen to agree—and I have said so openly, for I agreed to differ when I was in America—with the American point of view on many of these things, but there 902 is a change taking place in American sentiment. Naturally, I do not move in the same circles as the Prime Minister and those who went with him, but I have gone regularly every year to America, and I have contacts there at every level, including men amongst the labour leaders in America. [Interruption.] Oh, yes.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Oh, yes. They do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. They do not want a Socialist government. They do not want to negotiate with Governments. They want to negotiate with private enterprise. Do not forget that. I have contacts among a considerable number of Americans. There is a considerable change of heart. There is a possibility of a new policy for the Far East emerging fairly soon which would make it possible for both America and ourselves, who do differ materially at the present moment, to join up, and I am quite certain that one of the greatest steps forward towards that would be the adopting of this new policy towards Indo-China.
I have mentioned America, and I must say one word in conclusion about what I found.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point, will he allow me to put a question? I can see the point he is making, that we have got to draw a line somewhere, and there is attraction in drawing the line in Indo-China, where we have got an ally. But what is the position of Hong Kong? If we sent our troops into Indo-China, would that not inevitably provoke an attack on Hong Kong? How would the hon. Gentleman deal with that?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I have said that the defence of Hong Kong is not a physical defence at all. It is indeed an area difficult to defend, but I think its safety lies in its function. I believe that the function Hong Kong performs protects it, and some proof of that lies in the fact that nearly 1,500,000 Chinese went from the mainland to Hong Kong, preferring it as a place where justice is done without payment, a place where a commercially-minded people like the Chinese still find it possible to engage in the interchange of a considerable amount of goods.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Smuggling, if the hon. Gentleman likes. Smuggling is an honourable profession almost equal to that of an M.P. I believe that in America there is a considerable change. I believe that we must not let our minds be static about the Far East, and there is no doubt that the success of our policy, upon which I hope we have made up our minds and shall implement in the Far East, will have a very considerable effect upon American opinion.
Great attacks were made in America on my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. He and those who went with him certainly had the worst possible Press that anyone could possibly have for 10 days or a fortnight before they went to America. But there is no doubt that, from the point of view of the average man in the street, what he did there was to convince the Americans, not that he had come to chisel something out of them, but to have a very real discussion on the great difficulties that confront us both.
What is forgotten, too—and this will be unpalatable to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite—is that he also went to Canada. If there is one debit, it clearly lies against the party opposite in their treatment of Canada during the time they were in power, and in the immense resentment they provoked in the hearts of most people in Canada. It is a very important point that the Prime Minister was able while there to reverse that to a very great extent.
The loose talk about China as a nation and about the Far East by those who do not know its immense complexities in the present grave situation should, I think, be changed for a more specific examination, to seeing how we can give aid to those who really are putting up a fight against the over-running of the whole Far East, and then, in one great blaze, of the Middle East which really threatens. We have seen these things before, and it is only those who have examined them, who know the facts and who have planned beforehand and taken the calculated risk—not by trying to avoid risk—without which we cannot live, who are worthy to carry on the Government of this country.
I hope that His Majesty's Government will not listen to the cheap jibes such as 904 I have heard once or twice during my remarks from hon. Members opposite, but will realise that we have to do what we have done before—supply the knowledge and imagination to help in the great task of keeping the Far East and China from Communist domination, which would be fatal to everyone.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
If I understand the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher) aright, what he would have us do is follow the example of France. France, having been bled white, should be followed by Britain bled white. He has given us figures of the losses suffered by France in Indo-China. It is true that she has suffered these losses, but even that is not all the story.
Eighteen months ago, France was promising to make a contribution to Western defence of upwards of 10 divisions. Today, those divisions are bogged down in Indo-China. At the moment, France has some 32,000 n.c.o's. and 8,000 officers tucked away in Indo-China, military experts who ought to be used in training the new divisions which France must create if Western defence is to become a reality.
Last week when the Prime Minister made his statement to the House he introduced a different emphasis from that of the hon. Gentleman by placing the defence of Western Europe as first priority. Yet the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe, if he had his way, would pour out the military strength into Indo-China which we have built up over the last six years without any regard at all to the consequences. Indeed, when he advocates that policy, I think he is in full accord with what has happened in the last three months, because the advent of a Tory Government has resulted in a weakening of our military strength by the addition of commitments.
When the Conservative Party were in opposition we heard from them in speech after speech in defence debates about the military weakness of this country. Now that they are the Government they have, of course, changed their tune. They are now saying, as, indeed, the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon, that this country was not being put in the dock at Lisbon as a result of the examination of the findings of the "Three Wise Men."
905 Great Britain has done her share. But in assessing our military strength or weakness we must take into account not only the military contribution which a country makes, but also the commitments which those Forces have to undertake. The hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe, without adding anything at all to our military strength, would undertake another liability at the very moment when, Heaven knows, enough liabilities have been placed upon us during the last three months.
I do not share the optimism of the Foreign Secretary. I think that during the last three months we have seen a marked worsening of the situation. I also think that the appointment of the present Secretary of State for the Colonies was a deplorable one, and that his handling of the Malayan situation will reap a terrible harvest. The one point on which the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe carries me with him completely is that if anything goes seriously wrong in Malaya the effect upon the economic position of this country will be disastrous.
At all costs we must try to find a solution to the Malayan problem, and that cannot be done merely by sending troops there. What is needed is a wise handling of the political situation. I do not think any hon. Member in any part of the House can say that much wisdom has so far been shown by the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton).
§ Mr. W. Fletcher
Would the hon. Gentleman state a specific point on which he joins issue with my right hon. Friend?
§ Mr. Wigg
As much proof as the forecast that Lord Alexander was to become Minister of Defence. Indeed, if anyone wants further proof, what about the appointment made by the Colonial Secretary? Surely, if he was going to appoint General Templer, he would not have waited as long as he did; he would have appointed him as soon as he came back from Malaya. It is common knowledge that he had the greatest difficulty to find 906 somebody with the right qualifications to undertake that job. But I do not want to spend too much time in dealing with what I regard as the irresponsible and stupid speech of the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe. I will not join with my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) in calling it a scandalous speech, but will be charitable and simply say that the hon. Gentleman is looking at the world in blinkers.
I believe that the Middle East is just as important to the well-being of this country as the position in the Far East. Indeed, I do not think one can separate foreign policy in terms of Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. They all hang together. What Forces we have must be deployed in accordance with the needs of the situation, but we must also always remember that it is vital that a strategic reserve which can be used if things go wrong should be maintained at some point.
When the Conservatives were the Opposition we used to hear a lot about the need for the maintenance of a strategic reserve. I wonder if, when he comes to reply, the Minister of State will tell us what strategic reserve remains at the present time which could be used if things become seriously worse in Indo-China, in Malaya or in the Middle East. I believe that the last reserves have already been committed, and therefore, we have to be very cautious indeed before we undertake any further commitments.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
Is it not a fact that the barrel was scraped during the early days of Korea, and that that is an indication of how the reserves have been run down under a Socialist Government?
§ Mr. Wigg
I do not see the point of the intervention. It is a fact that during the last few weeks, when things became very serious indeed in the Middle East, reserves were available to deal with that situation, although it was the popular cry of the Conservative Party before the General Election that these reserves were non-existent; but, so far, all commitments have been met. My first point is that the job of the Foreign Secretary at the present time should be to liquidate commitments and not to undertake others. That is why I regard the seeking after a permanent solution of the Middle 907 East problem as absolutely vital to the security of the British Commonwealth and the well-being of this country.
Quite frankly, I am a little alarmed to find that once again the change of Government in Cairo has been heralded as something that is of tremendous importance and very welcome, and the kind of foundation on which we should build our future policy. I have spent many years in Egypt in a very humble capacity—indeed, it could not have been humbler, unless I had swept the roads—but, after all, when one is living in a barrack room one sees a little bit of what goes on. I lived through the days of the murder of Sir Lee Stack and the use of military power which followed, and the glorious days of the Tory Party when the High Commissioner was Lord Lloyd.
I am one of those who believe that the last chance of a really peaceful settlement with Egypt went in 1920, when the Coalition Government, of which the present Prime Minister was such a distinguished member, deported Zaghloul Pasha. At that time, immediately after the First World War, it might have been possible for an understanding to have been come to with the Wafd party, but as a result of the deportation of Zaghloul, the Sirdar was murdered, and the Egyptians were driven out of the Sudan. That means, of course, that any British Government, as the Foreign Secretary said today, has to exclude the subject of the Sudan from the agenda, while any Egyptian Government has to put Sudan at the top of the agenda. That is the heart and core of the problem.
I am afraid that the Foreign Secretary will once again try to do what previous Conservative Administrations have done, and that is to get a treaty based upon agreement with the Egyptian Government but which ignores the wishes of the Egyptian people, whereas what he ought to be seeking to do is to try to get an agreement based upon the legitimate needs and feelings of all the peoples who live in proximity to the Nile delta. If that is not done, it may well be that a treaty which will look like a political success to the present Foreign Secretary—and it may even be dressed up as a political success for the present Egyptian Government—will, in fact, be preparing another source of trouble for us in the future. I 908 believe that we have to look a little further.
One thing that struck me today about the Foreign Secretary was that he seems to have changed a bit. He seems to have got into the habit of making, under his breath, a continuous series of interruptions of whoever happens to be speaking, and easily losing his temper. It may be that today he was batting on a sticky wicket and was seeking to defend his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in a very difficult situation; but he did seem to lose his temper very easily and to be substituting what I might call ephemeral history for principle. I thought that we were going to get an exposition, particularly when the right hon. Gentleman was dealing with the Middle East position, of the principles upon which this country bases its policy, but all we got was a little history and a lot of bad logic.
In reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), the right hon. Gentleman said that, in the first instance, this country must have discussions with Egypt and that it was not appropriate that other Powers should come in initially. But it seemed to me that when he said that it could not have been in his brief, because he could not have forgotton that in Washington the Prime Minister invited two other Powers to join in our occupation of the Canal Zone. Why this change of front? Why is it wrong to associate the United Nations, or any interested Power, with a settlement of the Canal Zone dispute when, at the same time, it is right for the Prime Minister, without consultation with the Egyptian Government, to suggest that France and the United States should send token Forces to the Canal Zone?
§ Mr. Wigg
In a moment, I said. I hope that the Minister of State will be kind enough to explain to the House why there has been different treatment by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary of the very important question of other Powers being associated in the 909 discussion about the Egyptian difficulties. I will now give way to the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Major Beamish
The hon. Member is being completely unfair to my right hon. Friend. Has it not occurred to him that there might be two stages in the negotiations? Is he not aware that the Four-Power approach was to a large extent organised by his own party?
§ Mr. Wigg
I will tell the hon. and gallant Member of the stages with which I am dealing. The principal matter before the House today is the speech of the Prime Minister in Washington. Without consultation with the Egyptian Government and, as far as one knows, without consultation with either the French or the American Governments, the Prime Minister suggested—the Foreign Secretary, too, I suspect—that France and the United States should send token Forces to the Canal Zone. That is the first stage. That was the first the world knew of it. We are told that it was received by Congress with stony silence. There was no American or French reaction, although there was violent reaction from the Egyptians. Now we are told by the Foreign Secretary—apparently this is the second stage—that any talks with the Egyptians must, in the first place, be between Egypt and ourselves.
§ Mr. Wigg
The answer may be easy for the hon. and gallant Member and it may also be easy for the Minister of State. If the hon. and gallant Member will forgive me, I should prefer to have an answer with the authority of the Government rather than an answer from the hon. and gallant Member. I am asking for an answer from the Minister of State. If it is an easy answer, we shall no doubt hear what it is. We await it with great interest.
It is clear that the difficulties facing us in the Canal Zone are a legacy of the past. The 1936 Treaty was not a great political triumph; it was an admission of the failure to come to an understanding with the Egyptians. One can perceive the extent of the misunderstanding by looking at the Convention of 1888 and the 1936 Treaty. The failure to solve the 910 problem of bringing the 1888 Convention up to date had the result that no sooner had the 1936 Treaty been signed than this country was breaking its conditions, and we have stood in violation of the 1936 Treaty almost from the very day it was signed.
Of course, it is quite impossible for the 10,000 men we are allowed under that Treaty to effectively live as a military Force in the area which they are supposed to occupy and at the present time the major bases in the Canal Zone are miles outside of the Treaty areas. One of the difficulties at present, even assuming we could come to a speedy understanding of our problems with the Egyptian Government, arises from the fact that there are hundreds of millions of pounds worth of stores in that great base at Tel-el-Kebir which could not be evacuated under a period of two or three years. That is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to talk about immediate evacuation of the Canal Zone.
I am one of those who believe that in the long run we shall have to leave that area, and I believe that those who negotiated the 1936 Treaty believed that ultimately we would have to leave. If we stay and there is no permanent settlement—and by that I mean a settlement acceptable not to the current Egyptian Government but to the Egyptian people—we shall find ourselves in a position of very great difficulty. Indeed, we shall run the risk of being labelled aggressors before world opinion unless we can find a solution by 1956, when the Treaty period expires.
Again, even if we manage to survive that, what will be our position when the Suez Canal reverts to the ownership of the Egyptian Government, as it will do in 1968? I do not accept the Foreign Secretary's view—perhaps he does not accept it himself—that, as he said last week, our position on the Suez Canal arose because we were the guardians of an international waterway. That is not true. No Egyptian believes it, and with very good reason. We did not build the Suez Canal. It was built in the teeth of British opposition, and it was built by Egyptian forced labour. There, again, is a legacy of the past and one of the memories we have to live down if our position in the Middle East is to be recognised.
§ Mr. W. Fletcher
I am sure the hon. Member is trying to be fair, so will he also bring into the picture that it was thanks to this country that the Assuan dam was built and the whole Nile delta was made fruitful to the benefit of the fellaheen?
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. Member carries me completely with him on that point. I agree absolutely that there was a benefit brought to the area by British rule. I would that the picture were all like that and that it had not been bedevilled by the present Prime Minister when he supported Lord Lloyd and by Lord Lloyd himself and other gentlemen who have been distinguished members of the Conservative Party but have made no contribution to their country's well-being in that area. Virtue has no publicity value. It is the bad things one does that are remembered, not the good things.
§ Mr. Wigg
That is just the kind of cheap, "smart-alec" remark we would expect from the hon. Member. A moment ago I treated his intervention with courtesy. I gave way because I thought he was making a serious point. If he wants to play that game I can assure him that I can give as good as I get. [An HON. MEMBER: "Take his pants off."] No, I want to engage in more serious matters than the formidable task of taking the hon. Member's trousers off.
I agree that we have made great contributions to the well-being of that area. I entirely support, and I am sure all my hon. Friends support, the declaration of the Foreign Secretary this afternoon that so far as this country is concerned the Sudan belongs to the Sudanese and not to Farouk or anybody else. Certainly, in any discussion with the Egyptians the well-being of the Sudanese must be a matter of paramount importance.
Let me turn to the question of the future of the Canal. I should have thought that, in any discussion about the future relations of this country with Egypt, Israel had to be brought in at a very early stage. If Israel is not brought in there can be no permanent settlement. I am convinced that the new State of Israel, despite its great economic difficulties, is a permanent factor in the Middle East situation I would go further and 912 say that to a world which forms its judgment on the basis of power politics, Israel has at the present time the most formidable army and air force in the Middle East. If anyone wants proof of that he has only to look at what happened when the Israeli army took on the Egyptians.
We have to find a bridge which will bring stability to the Middle East. That is the first thing we have to do. We must find something which will last not simply for this Parliament, to enable the Foreign Secretary of this country or of Egypt to claim some credit, but to last, so far as one can see, for the rest of this century. I have been very much impressed by the suggestion, made by Dr. Weizmann in his book "Trial and Error," that one of the solutions to the problem of the southern frontier of Israel, which marches with Egypt, is that a second canal should be built. There may be some who think this to be a wild suggestion, but if one looks back into history a little one finds that when the battle of Tel-el-Kebir had settled the future pattern of power politics in the Middle East for nearly 70 years, the British Government of the day searched round and seriously thought about building a second canal.
Up to that time there had been opposition to the original canal, but once it was opened and was a going concern there was, in the years from 1888 onwards, serious consideration for the building of a second canal. Dr. Weitzmann tells us that in recent times the possibility has been adumbrated by Swedish and American engineers of cutting a canal from the Mediterranean down to Aqaba. He says that the route they have in mind would shorten the journey to India by a day.
Rather than that we should be committed to an unlimited military expenditure, only, at some date, to have to get out—and heaven knows where we are going to if we have to get out—it seems to me to be far better for His Majesty's Government to take the initiative and see whether it is a practical engineering and financial undertaking that a second canal should be cut. Such a canal would provide an alternative base which would enable this country to maintain its position in that area, at much less cost.
§ Mr. Wigg
No. I think that Dr. Weitzmann had in mind the cutting of a canal which will begin north of Gaza and go down to Aqaba. It would cut across the Negeb and not cross Egyptian territory at all. It does not seem such a formidable undertaking as was the cutting of the original canal, which was done in 10 years. Surely, with the use of modern mechanical appliances, such a canal could be cut in a much shorter period.
If the Prime Minister, when speaking to Congress, had made the suggestion that the United States should associate themselves with a project of that kind, had he put forward a constructive proposal of that character, it would have had an immediate effect upon the Egyptian situation. If we could say, for the first time, with absolute sincerity to the Egyptians that we were going to build a canal, and that when it was built, or as soon before as we could, we would go out and they could have their canal and all the problems associated with it, that would be a sane and sensible thing to do.
The wise thing to do is to examine the possibility of a second canal and see how far it is practicable. I cannot believe that a man of the wisdom and intelligence of Dr. Weitzmann would have put forward a proposal of that kind without justification. Overnight, such a step would change the atmosphere of Middle East politics for the better, for the first time for a very long period. I hope very much that, when he replies, the Minister of State will have something to say about the feasibility of such a project.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
Would not the hon. Member agree that the real problem with regard to Egypt and ourselves is the problem of the Sudan, and that the question of the Canal is a side issue?
§ Mr. Wigg
Yes. It is because, on the one hand, there is the greatest poverty in the world and, on the other hand, the most irresponsible and the richest class, that there are these enormous social 914 tensions, which cause Nahas and his friends to deflect the attention of the poverty-stricken fellaheen either on to the British or on to the Sudanese problem. If the problem of poverty inside Egypt was solved, there would not be a Sudanese problem that could not be discussed in a rational way and there would not be a Suez Canal problem that could not be solved by rational men sitting round a table.
The great tragedy of Anglo-Egyptian relations, right from the days of Cromer and, I regret to say, up to the present day—history looks like repeating itself—is that we have backed the wrong horse. When we had time, when we could have built up democracy in Egypt, when we could have built up their social and political institutions to give a decent standard of life and a sense of responsibility to the fellaheen of Egypt, what we did was to back the old corrupt Pashas, and the mouth we have to feed has turned round and bitten us, for the very simple reason that for them there is no political escape.
If the Foreign Secretary or the Minister of State came to the Box tonight and announced that Britain was evacuating Egypt, the greatest consternation in the world would be in the Abdin Palace. The effect upon Farouk and upon the pashas would be, probably, to give them a heart attack. I am not concerned about the well-being of Farouk or his friends. What I am concerned about, as, I am sure, every hon. Member is concerned, is the well-being of the British people and of the Egyptian people.
That is why I am very suspicious indeed of the Foreign Secretary's statement this afternoon that he thought things had become better merely because there had been a change of Government in Egypt. We have to go much deeper than that, right down into the homes and hearts of the Egyptian people, and make them feel for the first time that we are on their side and are building up a better standard of life and some hope for the future.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)
I am glad that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has brought the debate round to the subject of the Middle East. This is the first time today that it has been touched upon, apart from 915 specific references to the Egyptian problem, and I should like to go a little further afield in the Middle East and to consider one or two points which are of great importance to this country and the countries concerned, but which, perhaps, are not widely appreciated.
I feel that the prestige of the British in the Middle East has reached a very low point. I am afraid we have lost very much of the honour in which we have been held in the past and this undeniable drop can be related to two main reasons. The first was the action, or lack of action, in the Palestine dispute and the second was the appalling fiasco connected with Abadan. This loss of face is a very great pity for this country in a serious way, not merely from any sentimental point of view, but because there are solid reasons why we should not have our reputation standing so low in that part of the world. It is to the interests of this country to be well thought of in that part of the world.
I suggest that the oilfields and our interests in them should demand that we should endeavour to keep our prestige as high as possible in those parts and earn that prestige. With that in view, I feel there is a great deal we have to undertake to improve our position. I wish to draw attention to one or two of the difficulties which have contributed to that position and which need correcting.
First, there is the problem of Palestine. The British have come in for very fierce criticism—some of us in this House have had an opportunity of hearing it fairly recently—throughout the whole of the Arab world because of the failure of the United Nations to take action about Palestine, although they took action so readily about Korea. That is the view the Arab people hold from end to end of the Arab world. I feel that we have allowed the United Nations to be flouted, and it will be a long time before the Arab world will trust either us or the United Nations again.
As a consequence, we—that is, the whole of the Arab world, the whole of the Middle East and the United Nations and the British in the foreground—now have on our hands the problem of three-quarters of a million Arab refugees, a problem which is now of four years stand- 916 ing. These people have been living in a state of misery with which it would be difficult to find anything to compare.
The problem of Palestine simply has to be attacked with determination before we can hope to restore what trust the Arab world have ever had in this country in past decades and centuries. It is our duty in this country to try to get a radical cure of this situation. We must try to see whether the United Nations and its original scheme, which I admit was not backed by the Arabs at first, can be applied. If not—if everyone has to cut his losses—we must see a very great increase in the energy and the financial and material scale on which this refugee problem is attacked. The refugees simply must be rehabilitated; it is the duty of the whole civilised world, out of sheer humanity, to help in their rehabilitation. If they cannot be re-absorbed, let us get on with the alternative, because I do feel that, four years having passed, the continuation of all this is an outstanding discredit to the United Nations and to this country, as well as to leading members of the United Nations.
Arising out of this Palestine situation, a point which is, perhaps, little understood in this country is that in Europe, owing to the events with which we are all only too familiar, the Jewish people are regarded, by and large, as being martyrs. They had a shocking handling in Europe in recent years, and they have the sympathies of the world; but I regret to say that in the Middle East that is not the way in which they are regarded by their neighbours.
I am not speaking just of animosity or hostility or anything like that, but I certainly feel it is not generally understood that Israel is regarded as an extremely dangerous neighbour—as a very powerful State and one with whom its immediate neighbours can only live with a good deal of apprehension. It is a vigorous State; it is an overcrowded State, and I can give some assurance that the neighbouring countries are genuinely afraid that the time is coming when another invasion will be contemplated by the extremely well-armed Israelis.
I am not concerned with the question whether or not their arms are there officially; the fact is that they are, as the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) remarked, extraordinarily well-armed. 917 This is rather in contrast with the fact that the adjacent Arab States have been affected by our boycott on the export of arms. They fear another rapid expansion of Israel while they are prevented from having any arms, and I do not think they have the ingenuity to get them in a clandestine way.
I feel that one great thing that we could do in this country to assist a settlement in the Middle East would be to obtain, through the United Nations or in any other way, firm assurances that no such invasion or expansion of Israel can take place at the expense of the adjacent Arab States. That would be one way in which our prestige would begin to be restored.
On the subject of defence, we know that the Arab States are not in a particularly good state of unity with one another. They do not have that concord which we might like to see. They are rather like the neutral nations of Europe in 1940, in the face of the advance of a threatening Power. I should say that a good Moslem cannot be a Communist; that the Moslem States are very unlikely to develop Communist ideas, provided that they are reasonably and properly treated. I should say that if they are essentially anti-Communist countries, they are potentially pro-Western, if given half a chance.
If we could recognise the existing nationalism of those countries, we could help to develop that nationalism in a reasonable way, accompanied by a dependence on their own resources which many of them now have, and we could allow them to be armed as friends of the West, thus bringing about a Middle East defence system with the acclamation of all the countries concerned. I think that in the Middle East there is a good deal of mistrust of Turkey, owing to the experiences of the last 100 years, and when Turkey is included in any interventions in the Middle East, it arouses fears which are not wholly irrational. I say it is time for us to reconsider our attitude towards the arming of the Arab States in their own right.
In particular, I should like to mention what is, in material fact, an extremely small matter, but one which looms internationally out of all proportion to its size. That is the matter of a couple of trainer aircraft which Syria paid for, 918 which were painted with Syrian colours and flown by Syrian pilots and which, then, as a result of the boycott, were taken and prevented from going to Syria. That has produced a profoundly adverse effect in Syria. If only we could find a way of saying that the door is not entirely shut and that there is hope of Syria getting, not necessarily these aircraft now—perhaps they are obsolete—but some other aircraft, even if not the newest, I feel that we should produce a real improvement in our standing in the Middle East.
As for Egypt, I believe that the clouds are beginning to lift there. This terrible issue has had its repercussions throughout the Arab world. We know that a new agreement must be reached in four years and that negotiations must, therefore, begin within a couple of years. We know that any such agreement must be reached on a basis equally acceptable to the Egyptians and ourselves. That surely makes it quite clear what the nature of the agreement must be.
Although we should certainly resume these talks if we can—they are initially talks between ourselves and Egypt—there is a chance of making an accord international. We could, if the United Nations recovered the confidence of the Middle East States, bring the United Nations into the talks, or the Western Powers in some combination; and the Arab States, which are so deeply interested in this Egyptian problem, could have an opportunity of becoming partners with Egypt round the conference table.
I believe that out of this Egyptian trouble a big opportunity is arising and that if we can handle it aright we shall succeed in making a great widespread accord where at present there is only the most savage strife. The friendship of the Arabs is there for the asking. In spite of all the recent aberrations, it is my belief that the Arabs still have a soft spot for the devil they know rather than the many devils they do not know. I feel that if we can ally their fears about Israel and about any attempt at suzerainty of which they might suspect us, we might restore their trust in us and at last produce in the Middle East a position of strength very unlike what it has been hitherto.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
I hope that the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) will forgive me if I do not deal with the points he has raised as time is rather short and there are some other points which I desire to make. It is most important that the Government should recognise that a consequence of the Prime Minister's visit to Washington is that there has appeared in this country now a sharp cleavage on foreign policy between the two parties.
If I am right in that analysis, it seems to me desirable that the fact that that is so should be widely known in the United States and in Europe because if wrong impressions get around, particularly in America, of what the state of public opinion in this country is, very grave consequences may follow. At an earlier stage in this debate the noble Lady the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), referred to the fact that she had met a Congressman in Washington who had been greatly impressed by the spectacle of the Prime Minister entering the Chamber, and who had said that it was like seeing the British Empire coming into the room.
There may well have been a time in the history of the Prime Minister when he did to a remarkable extent personify the British Empire and much that is inherent in British character, but that is not true now. Those great days in his record are, unhappily, past. Now it is not a question of seeing the British Empire coming into the room but of seeing the British Tory Party coming into the room, and that is a very different and much less encouraging spectacle.
I feel it is of importance that the Government should face up to the fact that now, regrettably, and certainly through no fault of anyone on this side of the House, there really is this division upon foreign policy. It is one of the outcomes of these first three or four months of Conservative rule.
What has occurred which has had this result? I see it in this way: that the high-light of the post-war foreign policy of this country was the conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers presided over by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition before he visited Washington when he was Prime Minister. Hon. Members opposite may smile at 920 that, but I am expressing a view I hold myself and which is widely held in this country. And why? Because the communiqué published at the end of the Commonwealth Conference set out an independent policy which in itself was a welcome thing. It divorced our Commonwealth foreign policy from any ideological anti-Communist crusade. It emphasised what is and always should be the objective of foreign policy: that within a system of collective security we must play our part in punishing the aggressor and deterring aggression.
These were the matters made abundantly plain in the famous and distinguished communiqué issued from that Conference, and as I say, it set out our position independently and clearly. The fact that India was within the Commonwealth made it possible for us to make this contribution of immense world importance. We spoke in a language distinct from the language spoken by American statesmen. We had our own independent contribution to make and many of us believed it was just the contribution which would save the world peace.
I regret to say—one must be honest and say what one thinks about these things—that it is my own view that before the General Election, before hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite came into power, one or two retrograde steps were taken which constituted a retreat from that admirable position. The first was very soon after the meeting of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers when there appeared to be a loss of cohesion in Commonwealth policy. The consequences were apparent in the mistake, as I saw it, which was made of passing the resolution which branded China as an aggressor. The view I take is that it should never have been passed.
There followed the Japanese Treaty. I and a great number of my hon. Friends did not like that Treaty, and some of the consequences which have followed from it have made us like it even less. But these were small movements away from that position taken up by the Commonwealth Premiers. What we regret is that now the movement away from that position has become a rout; and that is the impression given to the Americans.
The real significance of the visit of the Prime Minister to Washington was 921 that the Americans interpreted what he had to say as indicating and meaning that this country had abandoned the position that it had formerly taken up. The Americans were as conscious as anyone else that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers at their conference had expressed an opinion upon world affairs which was distinct from the American opinion. They were conscious also of the influence of British foreign policy upon Korea and upon the policy of General MacArthur.
They recognised that the attitude of the Commonwealth to China was largely influenced by the belief that the effect of United Nations Forces going so far north as the Yalu River and the Manchurian border might have been to give rise to legitimate fears on the part of China that action was intended against her. That fact dictated a caution in the policy of this country and the United Nations towards China.
These circumstances were recognised by the American people. They recognised the part which the late British Government played in the discredit which befell General MacArthur and his policy. With that background, with that knowledge that the British Commonwealth was taking an independent position distinct from their own, they waited to hear what the present Prime Minister would say. And he said all the things that the MacArthurites wanted him to say. He did not say anything to encourage the wiser and more cautious elements in the United States. His words were selected to give consolation, satisfaction and encouragement to persons in the United States sympathetic towards General MacArthur. That was lamentable.
When the Prime Minister was doing that he was not speaking for this country. He was not expressing accurately in any sense of the term the state of British public opinion. He went out of his way to make a gratuitous reference to the satisfaction which he felt at the circumstance that the Chinese nationalists in Formosa were being protected by the American Fleet. He indulged in martial language in describing what was to be done if either the truce talks failed or, a truce having been arrived at, the truce was broken.
All this was joyful material for the MacArthurites. It was just the very thing 922 they wanted to hear. The danger of the situation consists in the fact that not only were they glad to hear it but many of them believed that this voice to which they were listening expressed the real state of public opinion here. A possible cause of a third world war is the influence which may be exerted by certain adventurous elements in the United States. That is a real danger. Our job and our policy is to discourage that adventurism in the United States and to restrain it.
But under this Government we do just the reverse. We send over the Prime Minister precisely to encourage those adventurous elements which may cause all the trouble. We have abandoned—let us hope it is only for a short time—the policy of restraint, and we have adopted a policy of encouraging the adventurous and dangerous elements in American life.
It is wrong to assume that because the Prime Minister's foreign policy has been proved to have been very nearly correct between the two world wars—which, in the light of events, I would concede—he is right now. At least, it does not follow; it may be an indication which one should take into account, but it does not follow that because he was right then he is right now. [HON. MEMBERS: "He is."] The reason why he is less likely to be right now is that his views on affairs have always inclined to be bedevilled by the violently anti-Russian outlook which he has adopted.
For reasons which have seemed good to him, he has always been hostile to the Government of Russia, ever since the present Government of Russia was first established. He is thoroughly hostile, as we all know, to the whole movement of nationalism in the Middle East and the Far East. What is happening in China, what is threatening from Russia, is not repugnant to the right hon. Gentleman merely because it constitutes either aggression or the threat of aggression; it is repugnant to him because it derives from a form of Government which he profoundly dislikes.
§ Mr. Irvine
In his intoxication on this point the Prime Minister has been followed by his less responsible friends 923 behind him. They all become "bomb happy" when Russia and China are mentioned. They have to restrain their true feelings about India. I am not saying more at the moment than to suggest that that ideological obsession of the right hon. Gentleman and of the less formidable hon. Gentlemen behind him may well be enough to dim his judgment and to diminish the value of the conclusions which he reaches on this great question of Far Eastern policy.
§ Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
Since the hon. Gentleman is following so slavishly the line of his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in putting into my right hon. Friend's mouth words he never used, could he give a clear answer to this: Does he or does he not agree that the Chinese on Formosa should not be allowed to be massacred from the mainland?
§ Mr. Irvine
Surely the hon. Gentleman recognises that the significant thing was that the Prime Minister selected Formosa as a subject to mention. That is the point; not so much what he said about it as the fact that he chose that very controversial subject to mention, one upon which, as he well knew, the Americans were so concerned and so anxious. He did not stress, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition quite rightly pointed out,—and as he might well have done—that if the Chinese on Formosa were under threat from the mainland, it may well be that the Chinese on the mainland were under threat from Formosa. That is indeed true. I have no doubt whatever—and all the evidence suggests it—that the Government of China regard the possibility of a movement against them by Chiang Kai-shek's forces from Formosa as a dangerous possibility.
§ Mr. Irvine
The hon. and gallant Gentleman's interventions are normally more helpful than they are tonight. I should be astonished if he were to take 924 this stand upon the position that the Chinese Government regarded themselves as under no danger or threat of any kind from the presence of nationalist Chinese forces on Formosa. That seems to be the point he is trying to make.
§ Mr. Irvine
I suggest that the ideological prejudice of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, has dimmed his judgment and spoiled his utterances upon this issue, and has done the same for hon. Gentlemen behind him.
It seems to us that if restraint is necessary in the Far East it is equally true that it is necessary in Germany and in Europe. But what do we find happening there? The proposal to arm German units, the proposal to incorporate in a European Force German formations should have been from the outset used as a bargaining counter with the U.S.S.R. That is and should be the whole significance of the policy of building up armed German units and incorporating them in a European Army.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) said earlier in the day, in a speech which I thought, if I may say so, was full of interest and constructive thinking, it does not follow at all that because the U.S.S.R. has been intransigent upon so many issues, at a period when it was relatively possessing great military strength, it is going to remain equally intransigent when a situation develops where the Western Powers are relatively increasing their strength.
The whole reasoning behind the army of the West is that it is hoped that a consequence will be that Russia will become less intransigent as a result. If that is not its objective I do not understand what the policy of re-armament aims at or seeks. It may well prove to be the case that the U.S.S.R., faced with an accumulating military strength in the West, will become less intransigent than it has been hitherto, and if there is one thing that the U.S.S.R. fears, it is German re-armament, and it may well prove that the incorporation of German units in a European Army will be a bargaining factor of immense importance and value to our policy in Europe. It ought to be used in that fashion.
925 I seek in vain for attempts being made with any effect or force to discover just what the U.S.S.R. will abandon, if anything, in order to avoid the threat of the re-armament of German units. They should have been given an opportunity, anyhow, of making it clear what they would concede, if anything, if we were to abandon that policy. They might be prepared to make a practical offer of free elections in some parts of Germany. But it has not been tested. They have not been given, as I see it, an opportunity.
Therefore, I suggest that, both in respect of our policy in the Far East and in respect of our policy in Germany and Western Europe, there has been a tragic change for the worse in the last three months. There has been a cleavage between the parties on foreign policy on a scale which would never have been allowed to occur and which never did occur in this country while the Labour Government were in power. The Prime Minister, as he goes from one hemisphere to another, may be doing all sorts of admirable and likeable and charming things, but he is not expressing accurately the state of public opinion in this country on foreign affairs.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
May I ask the customary indulgence of the House in making my first speech from this place and in this Parliament? I returned this morning from the United Nations' meetings in Paris after three months of exile and hard labour. Many times during those three months and during the rather laborious debates—and on this point I know I shall have the sympathy of my predecessor in my present office—I longed for the atmosphere of this House with its interruptions and its rather shorter speeches. However, we have not yet achieved in this House what happened on Saturday in the Plenary session of the General Assembly, when an egg propelled by an anarchist missed the head of a British delegate by a matter of inches.
Many interesting points have been raised during this debate, and I hope that those who raised them will not regard it as lack of courtesy on my part if I do not answer them. But note has been taken of them and answers will be provided in due course to as many as time 926 permits. What I really want to talk to the House about tonight is what has been happening at the United Nations, and I say straightaway that what I have to say is not altogether really appropriate to this atmosphere of censorious opposition and party points, because in Paris we have made great efforts to impress the Soviet bloc with the peaceful intentions of this country and to establish some kind of common ground with them, in spite of their constant and abusive rebuffs. We have tried to damp down all the time the propaganda war between East and West and to reduce the tension subject by subject. I am not sure that this debate today has been calculated to reduce tension, either between the parties of this House or in the world as a whole.
We sought, in pursuing the lines I have indicated, to speak for the vast majority of the people of this country, and I believe we made some progress along those lines. I think it would be a very bad thing for the free world if the vast majority of us in Britain cannot continue to agree upon the aims and the methods of our foreign policy.
What has this series of meetings achieved? It is very easy to be cynical and sarcastic about the United Nations and the enormous amount of "hot air" generated there. I do not propose to try to answer any frivolous or cynical comments; I think more importance should be paid to the feelings of dismay that a good many people have at the constant reports of angry and abusive debates and the feeling that many have that these meetings at the United Nations, far from promoting peace, actually aggravate tension. I think that is a substantial point of criticism which requires some treatment.
One of my hon. Friends said today something about a "high sounding international super-structure." I believe that the United Nations is the essential framework within which to endeavour to secure the lasting peace of the world, and that on all sides of this House we must do all we can to sustain and strengthen it. I also think—and I hope the House will not think I am being at all smug in what I say—that this series of meetings has been helpful rather than harmful. There are certain general reasons. Not only do we get the opportunity of meeting those with whom we are in violent conflict, 927 both personally and in debate—and I think that is good in itself—but we also have a chance to consolidate our good relations with our friends and allies both within and without the Commonwealth. After three months of close and constant co-operation and of working together, I do not think we can help having a much wider knowledge of the problems which confront our respective States.
May I just say one thing which may be thought to be controversial? An allegation was made, I think, by two hon. Members today, that we were now nearer a third world war than we were three months ago. I do not believe that to be true, and I do not believe that to be the view of a vast majority of those people from all nations with whom I have been associated in the United Nations. I think that this country can take some credit for that fact, because, to begin with, the effect of the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in the general debate had a most profound influence upon damping down the propaganda and the tension between the countries.
I thought, if I may be allowed to say so, that very much more objective comments on the general situation were made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), when he pointed out that his feeling was that Russia was not yet ready to talk, but was beginning to realise that we meant business in our re-armament. He put the view, which I share, that Russia does not want war, and said he felt that as their confidence in our determination to re-arm grew the stronger would be the chance of negotiation. That is a much more objective analysis of the present situation than the very dangerous, inflamatory and harmful remark that we were very much nearer war than we were three months ago.
Apart from these general grounds, there are some particular reasons why, I believe, this session of the Assembly will be helpful. I would like to mention a subject which my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) referred to a few moments ago, which was an example of one of the typical ways in which some good has been done. He referred to the situation of the 928 Palestinian refugees, numbering something like 850,000. Leaving out of account altogether any political question, it is a story of human tragedy that is literally heart-rending. After weeks of patient negotiation and conciliation, a resolution was passed by 49 votes in favour and none against; and if anyone has any knowledge of trying to bridge the differences on this matter he will appreciate that that of itself was something of an achievement—49 votes in favour and none against, with the Soviet bloc abstaining.
That resolution endorses a three years' programme of relief and resettlement which is to cost something like 200 million dollars over the period July, 1951, to June, 1954. The aim was to make the refugees self-supporting as soon as possible, and the United Kingdom has increased its contribution to the relief agency for the 1951–52 programme by an amount equivalent to 4,400,000 dollars. In other words, we have increased our contribution this year from the equivalent of 8 million dollars to the equivalent of 12,400,000 dollars, and this additional amount will be devoted to the provision of homes and jobs for the refugees. Our contribution does not quite end there, because we are also making a loan to Jordan of the equivalent of 4,200,000 dollars, and Jordan has nearly 500,000 refugees within its borders.
§ Mr. Follick
In this settlement, has the right hon. and learned Gentleman taken into consideration that Iraq, which has no refugees at all, has large spaces where vast numbers of refugees could be sent?
§ Mr. Lloyd
Certainly. That is one of the matters which, I know, has been taken into account. I think that it is very much wiser, if we can, to keep politics out of this matter. I am not suggesting that the hon. Gentleman is seeking to make it political, but if we can keep politics out of this matter I think that it will gather strength on its own account.
929 Our contributions—the equivalent of 16,600,000 dollars—compare with United States help of about 50 million dollars. I repeat that I hope that politics can be kept out of this great scheme. There are some who say that there are people who are desirous of keeping the refugees in conditions of misery in order to disturb conditions in the Middle East. I do not believe that is the view of any of the Governments concerned, and I hope everyone will wish this scheme well, because, without its success, I do not think there will be very much chance of political stability in the Middle East.
Another matter is the independence of the new United Kingdom of Libya. Its independence has now been established. It made its way to independence under the aegis of the United Nations. Many compliments have been paid to the work of the administering Powers, France and United Kingdom. So much is said against us in that continent that it is perhaps right to put on record what was said favourably of our work.
I had the opportunity of working with and seeing something of Mahmoud Bey Muntasser, the Prime Minister of Libya and his colleagues, and I was impressed by their personalities and their competence. We all wish well to King Idris and his Government and the people of Libya in their new venture as an independent State.
Another achievement of a practical nature is with regard to Eritrea. It is true that only a technical matter was involved in that case, but it was assuring the orderly transfer of property rights in Eritrea, and it does not need very much imagination for any hon. Member to realise the complication and difficulties involved. Eventually a settlement has been found which is agreeable to the Ethiopian, the Italian and United Kingdom Governments. That also was no small achievement in view of the diversity of interests involved.
I should like to tell the House that, once again, the Ethiopian delegate paid a very handsome tribute in the Plenary Session to the work of the United Kingdom as administering Power. I mentioned those as three practical matters. The activities of many other committees of the United Nations are of great interest, but time does not permit me to mention them.
930 I now turn to the question of disarmament. There are some who think that armaments are just the symptoms of other troubles—my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby), really said that today—and that the proper course is to remove the causes of friction which lead to armaments. I agree that it is highly desirable to remove all causes of friction, but I also think that, concurrently, it is of the greatest importance to seek to reduce armaments. It was suggested that it was a futile operation to try to reduce armaments while there are still causes of friction. I do not believe in that view. I believe that the two tasks should go on concurrently.
The views which we sought to express—I thought they were the views of the vast majority of hon. Members—were, first of all, that we were determined to build up our Forces to secure a position of equality, that we had no aggressive intentions whatever, that we sought no man's land and that we had no desire for any war, a preventive war, or any other kind of war; and, secondly, that we insisted that disarmament should cover all forms of armaments and that we did not propose to give up the form of weapon in which we or our allies have a superiority in order to leave our present opponents with a superiority in some other form of weapon. The idea that it is worse to drop one atom bomb on a town than to discharge into the town a thousand rocket bombs is not really very convincing. I think all these weapons of mass destruction are equally horrible.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
For the right hon. and learned Gentleman to try to put across that point of view when the atom bomb has a biological effect on the reproduction of the race is completely to mislead the public.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I repeat, for it means exactly what I said, that the idea that it is worse to drop one atom bomb than to discharge a thousand rocket bombs on a town is not convincing.
The third point is that we are not content with paper promises or paper conventions on these matters and that disarmament can be secured only if there is sufficient international machinery for verification and inspection and enforcing agreement. Fourthly, so far as 931 atomic weapons are concerned, security can only be achieved if there is effective control of all forms of atomic energy. We believe, finally, that the practical way is to proceed by stages and seek to build up confidence and gradually cover all forms of armaments. We have been very specific to say that no schemes should be barred from consideration by the Disarmament Commission
The considerations which divided us from the Soviet Union were really these. The Soviet Union wanted immediate prohibition of atomic weapons, then a convention to be prepared with regard to the method of enforcing that prohibition and, finally, the implementation of the convention. They also wanted a one-third reduction at once in conventional armaments by the big Powers irrespective of any knowledge of from what strength or to what strength that reduction was to be made.
They refused to accept control of all forms of atomic energy. As hon. Members know, the suggestion was made that we should have a sub-committee to meet in private on that matter and I think the work of that committee, which sat for a week, with one representative from each of the four Powers and the President of the Assembly as an independent chairman, was of great value. The speeches were very much shorter and certainly less abusive and we managed to reach agreement on certain matters; and whatever is said about the merits of open diplomacy this was certainly an occasion when private diplomacy got us very much further in a shorter time.
At a later stage, after that committee had reported and had reached agreement on certain limited matters, such as setting up a Disarmament Commission, the Soviet Union brought forward new proposals, which were twofold. First, they proposed that there should be a ban on the atomic bomb and that a convention on how to enforce that ban should come into operation simultaneously and not at a later stage. Second, they agreed that inspection to enforce such prohibition should be put on a continuing basis. These proposals were represented as a great step forward. We have promised to examine them very carefully, but they do not meet our point about all arma- 932 ments being covered nor is it clear what is meant by "simultaneously." In order that control shall be effective it seems to me that the organisation must be created and be ready to work before any agreement on any particular weapon can be operative.
Some progress has been made with regard to inspection, I think, but the new proposal of the Soviet Union was qualified by the statement that there must be no interference with domestic jurisdiction. How can one possibly have any system of inspection that will work without some interference with national sovereignty and without some interference with domestic jurisdiction? I hope that on that matter there may be some misunderstanding, because we found that on one or two matters in the course of the sitting of the sub-committee there was quite genuine misunderstanding of the meaning of terms used. I hope there is some misunderstanding on this, because I do not think it is a proposition which can be sensibly put forward.
We welcome the fact that new proposals are being put forward and we promise to examine them in good faith. I think it augurs well for the new Disarmament Commission that there is a desire on both sides to use it and to work in it and, I hope, try to come to some agreement.
§ Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
Am I right in thinking that it is intended that the Disarmament Conference should operate in public? Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman care to say what his attitude on that point is? I am inclined to agree with what he said about the private deliberations of the previous committee.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The right hon. Gentleman has anticipated my next sentence. I was going to express a personal view that the more that can be done in private the better. It will save a great deal of time and there will be more chance of ironing out whatever differences of opinion there are.
The next matter to which I wish to refer is a rather tangled and complicated one, and that is the question of new admissions. Five proposals have been put forward for new admissions to the United Nations. There is a Soviet resolution before the Security Council for the omnibus 933 admission of all countries now seeking admission, except Libya, South Korea, North Korea, Viet-Minh and Viet-nam. Secondly, there is a Peruvian resolution, which has passed the Assembly, suggesting that the Security Council should examine in relation to each candidate the facts and the evidence showing the extent to which it fulfils the conditions laid down in Article 4 of the Charter. Those conditions are statehood, that the State is peace-loving and is able to carry out the terms of the Charter.
The Peruvian suggestion is that the Security Council should examine the credentials of each candidate having regard to those facts. It has passed the Assembly, and presumably the Security Council will now take action upon it. The Soviet resolution in the Assembly is along similar lines to their resolution in the Security Council, except that Libya is included. That resolution, already covered by the Peruvian resolution, pre-judged the work of the Security Council.
Fourthly, there is a French resolution with regard to the admission of Italy, recommending the admission of Italy because it is an administering Power. Finally, there is a Latin-American resolution referring certain matters to the International Court of Justice.
Our feeling is that on the whole the discussion has advanced the matter to some extent. We wish to broaden the basis of the organisation of the United Nations. I think there are two particular respects which would appeal to hon. Members in that connection. First, there is the question of the admission of Ceylon, one of our Commonwealth countries and, second, of the admission of more European countries. We feel that it is important that Article 4 of the Charter should not be disregarded and torn up, but I repeat our desire to see the basis of the organisation broadened. The United Nations must not be permitted to become an anti-Communist or an anti-American organisation, but should contain within it as many nations of the world as possible.
Then, and very nearly finally, I would say a word about Korea. Repeated efforts have been made by the Soviet Union during our debates to open discussion in Paris of the armistice negotiations in Korea. We feel that such 934 discussion would do more harm than good. The right hon. Gentleman who preceded me in my office will agree that the United Nations is rather good at discussing most things and does not show any lack of competence in discussion, but we feel that for it to start discussing airfield reconstruction in Korea or the exchange of prisoners would not be suitable to that organisation. It would mean that while we were doing that in Paris with all the experts and with the difficulties caused by transmission of the necessary information, the armistice talks in Panmunjom would have to stop. We have been willing to initiate full discussion of all aspects of the matter as soon as the armistice is signed.
Our objectives are these, and I repeat them: we want a successful outcome of the armistice negotiations. Their ventilation in Paris would not assist that successful outcome but would delay it. We want political settlement and economic rehabilitation of that unhappy land. Our debates upon this matter were marked by a certain amount of recrimination, but the House may be interested to know that at seven o'clock on Saturday night, in the First Committee—or rather at a joint meeting of the First, Second and Fifth Committees—the resolution which we had sponsored and originated with regard to the way to handle this Korean matter was passed by a vote of 52 in favour to 5 against, with two abstentions. It received very much the same support in the Plenary Session of the Assembly today; so that in the way in which we suggest the matter should be handled, we really speak for an overwhelming majority of the nations of the world.
What we had in our resolution was that as soon as there is an armistice, there should be a special Session of the Assembly to consider further steps. We were challenged today by the Leader of the Opposition, and it was suggested that we had no plans to do anything whatever in Korea after an armistice was signed. That is not correct. We have agreed the procedure, as I have stated, of a special Assembly, and we have gone a very long way to agreeing with our friends and associates the use to be made of that procedure. I have had many consultations on the matter with friendly nations and with Commonwealth countries, and we have reached a large 935 measure of agreement as to how to proceed next. Broadly speaking, what we desire is, as soon as possible, a fact-finding commission to decide how best to bring the parties together.
There are many complications, of which hon. Members who have served in the Foreign Office will be aware, in that apparently rather simple statement I have just made; but we have, as I say, reached agreement on this method of procedure as being the best and most constructive way in which to proceed with the matter. At the same time, we have the Relief Agency ready to undertake its work of rehabilitation and very large sums of money have been placed at its disposal.
If, in conclusion, I may sum up what I feel about the work we have been trying to do, I do not think there have been any spectacular developments. I do not think the tension is worse. We have gone some way to convince the Soviet Union that we shall not be deterred from our determination to rebuild our defences. That, in itself, is an advance, and now that they are beginning to realise that I think that negotiations will become increasingly more possible.
We have striven, in the name of all sections of the community, to make it quite clear that the people of this country, as a nation, passionately desire peace. We plan no aggression, we plan no preventive wars. We desire to preserve our freedom and the freedoms of other freedom-loving countries and to cooperate with everyone, including the Soviet Union, to build a lasting peace.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
While we on this side of the House are grateful for the summary of the actions of the United Nations in Europe, we would have liked to hear something of the report of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East in connection with the United Nations' action. There, more than anywhere else at the present juncture in our history, eyes are turned towards the hunger and the backwardness of Asia and the Far East, and from the reports that we read we discover that not enough is being done because nations often block the constructive work of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East.
936 Had the right hon. and learned Gentleman been present earlier tonight, he would have heard one of his well-informed supporters behind him, to whom usually we listen with interest, suggesting that we take British troops into French Indo-China, even without discussion with the United Nations. Consequently, in view of this, as well as having the report of the United Nations' actions in Europe, the House should have had a report about the actions of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East.
I sincerely hope, therefore, that tomorrow we shall hear from the Minister's right hon. Friend an account of how far we are supporting the Economic Commission, because it seems to me that, more than anything else, we in Europe and America have distorted the economy of Asia, as illustrated by these facts, which have been given time and time again: that the rice production, for instance, in Asia is down, while the production of rubber and tin are going up. That means that European nations—
§ It being Ten o'Clock the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.