§ 3.58 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)
It is almost exactly seven years ago today that the people of this country were celebrating victory in Europe. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and I were not here at that time. We were in San Francisco trying to lay the foundations for the United Nations. Hon. Members will recall the relief which we all shared at the news of the final surrender. There still remained the war in the Pacific, but all of us sincerely hoped that with peace in Europe a new era might be opened for genuine and far-reaching co-operation, especially between the great Powers.
Maybe we were too optimistic. In any event, these hopes have been sadly disappointed. The House will need no reminder of the unhappy events through which relations between East and West have come to their present pass. This has remained a deep disappointment to the British people. After all, the Russians had fought with us as allies, and there was an immense volume of good will in this country and throughout the Western world towards the Soviets. There was a sincere admiration for their 1449 armies, for their courage and for their endurance.
As for our two countries, we were bound by the 20 years' Treaty of Alliance. The late Government, I have no doubt, felt that they had fulfilled both the letter and the spirit of that Treaty. No one regrets more than I that this offer of friendship was not reciprocated. It almost seemed at times as though our friendship was more feared than our enmity.
But this refusal of the Soviet Union to co-operate took on an added significance in the light of some other aspects of Soviet policy. The most important of these was the failure to disarm. Let me quote from the figures given to this House nearly two years ago by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shin-well). At that time, he said, speaking on 26th July, 1950, Russia maintained 175 active divisions of which a third were mechanised, the tank divisions comprising about 25,000 tanks. She had about 19,000 military aircraft to back that force, and considerable naval forces, including strong submarine fleets, many of them of modern design.
That was in the summer of 1950. Since then something has been done on our side to redress the balance of force between East and West, but of course the Soviets and their satellites, perhaps particularly the satellites, have not been idle in the meantime. A grave disparity remains. It is a permanent threat to our security.
Secondly, we have seen in recent years too many examples of the aggressive doctrines of Communist imperialism in action.
§ Mr. Davies
I think that the words I used were that it was not true. I will withdraw that word and say that it is known to be incorrect.
§ Mr. Eden
I am not moved either by the original suggestion or by the amendment. To most people the facts are fairly well known.
I move on to the next category. I may have more fortune in carrying the hon. Member with me there. There have been other occasions when that imperialist ambition has been fulfilled merely by the threat of force. I give one example of that—Czechoslovakia.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
At the beginning of this very interesting discussion, ought we not to have some clear definition of what the right hon. Gentleman means by imperialism? Does he mean imperialism in the sense in which we have exploited other nations during the past 200 years?
§ Mr. Hughes
The right hon. Gentleman is always bursting into righteous indignation when he knows that his arguments are unconvincing.
§ Mr. Eden
I should not like to interrupt the hon. Member much longer.
Or again, there is another method there is the insidious form of incitement to disruption. To divide people from their Governments is a first aim. The final one is world domination. Hon. Members who question the need for rearmament should ponder these things.
It was the combination of aggressive policies with this overwhelming strength which some years ago became so clearly menacing to the free countries of the world. Repeated efforts were made. 1451 Meeting after meeting was held by the late Government, by the Foreign Secretaries and other Ministers, to break this dilemma. We were slow to give up our hope that our fears were groundless. Over and over again the Western nations tried to build reasonable civilised relationships, at least of mutual forbearance, with our former allies. We got nowhere.
These events gave a forceful impetus to the desire of the peace-loving nations of the West for a closer association amongst themselves, a desire born of common suffering during the war, whichever side they were on. So it was that the late Government reached the conclusion, which I think was inevitable, that the Western countries just had to unite more closely and try to redress the balance of force between East and West.
Hence that long series of instruments with which the Committee is familiar, starting with the Brussels Treaty, and leading up to the North Atlantic Treaty and all that has flowed from it—first, to unite the freedom-loving countries in a natural association which would take account of the conditions of the modern world; and secondly, to build up the forces for their joint defence. That has been the purpose, but we could not get very far in that work without being brought up against the problem of Germany.
On 29th November, 1950, the late Mr. Ernest Bevin put the issue very well. He said in the House:If, unhappily, aggression were to take place in Europe, we are satisfied that its defence would have to take place as far East as possible, and that means that Western Germany must be involved; and if Western Germany is to be defended, it seems to us only fair and reasonable that the people of Western Germany should help in their own defence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1950; Vol. 481, c. 1172.]Those were Mr. Bevin's words. So that was the late Government's policy. It is the present Government's policy, and I must ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite, when he replies, if he will tell us whether or not that is still the policy of Her Majesty's Opposition.
So the late Government sought to find, in accordance with those words, a means by which the German Federal Republic could be brought into these plans for 1452 closer Western association and could make a contribution to the common defence. They pursued this through a series of international conferences and meetings.
Various arguments have been brought forward against this policy, some to correct it and some to delay it. I shall ask the Committee to examine them with me for a moment. We should bear in mind, after all these months and years of effort, that to attempt to impose major new conditions now is to wreck the chance of agreement; we must not deceive ourselves about that.
A suggestion has been made in a recent declaration of policy by the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party that fresh elections should be held in Western Germany before any commitment is undertaken by the Government of the Federal Republic for a German contribution to the European Defence Community.
No such condition figures in the Washington declaration of last September, approved by the late Government, or in any other previous allied declaration to which the late Government subscribed— never. This proposal seems to me to be an unusual and an improper interference in the internal affairs of another country. The elections of 1949 in Germany, which brought the present German Government into power, were held under conditions approved by the Allies and by the late Government. The present German Government are as fully entitled to speak for the people of the Federal Republic as are any other democratically elected Government. If it is not so, the late Government should not have approved the terms and conditions of their election. Their majority, we must agree, is respectable, at least by recent British standards.
Quite apart from these considerations, will the Committee please examine quite seriously for a moment the practical consequences of this extraordinary and novel proposal? Look what it will mean. Under the Federal Constitution, an election cannot take place before the autumn of 1953, the late summer or the autumn of next year, except in very special circumstances. Let us look at those circumstances. They are that the Federal Chancellor should have failed to secure a majority on a vote of confidence, 1453 and that thereafter the Bundestag should have failed to elect another Federal Chancellor. That is in Article 68 (1) of the Basic Law, with which the late Government must be very familiar. Then, and then only, and only on those conditions, can the President, on the proposal of the Federal Chancellor, dissolve the Bundestag and thus bring about an earlier election.
As the Committee will see, there is little, I might almost say no, likelihood of such elections being possible before the autumn of 1953. In fact, the proposal seems to have been made without any understanding at all of the workings of the Constitution of the Federal Republic. If elections cannot be held before July to October of next year, what are the consequences of that? The only practical effect will be to delay the signature of the European Defence Community and all the contractual obligations by over a year. Until this document is signed by Western Germany, as well as by all the other members, it cannot be ratified by any of the parties.
Consequently the whole structure of Western defence, of which the E.D.C. and everything in connection with it—the contractual negotiations with Germany and every one of the proposals which were approved and pursued for years under the impetus of the late Government—would have to be held up indefinitely. They could not hope to be reached by the autumn or winter of next year. They could not hope to be signed. That would be an inevitable result of giving effect to the recommendations of the Labour Party. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] That is the position.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
I think the Foreign Secretary is confusing signature with ratification of the E.D.C. There is nothing in the National Executive statement which objects to signature of the agreement. It objects obviously to ratification.
§ Mr. Eden
All right. I will accept the hon. Gentleman's novel doctrine that a signature is not a commitment. According to this, we need not have all this furious indignation about Her Majesty's Government signing all these papers. [Interruption.] Let me answer one argument at a time. I will accept the argument, although I do not think it is very valuable, that signature is no commitment to a Government. It is a pretty strange doctrine, which is not accepted at the Foreign Office, but let it be. Does not the hon. Gentleman see that it has absolutely no effect on the weakness of his argument. The hon. Gentleman says: "I am not delaying signature, I am only delaying the ratification of the proposals." But they cannot come into force until ratification, so simply delaying the date of ratification, which may be this autumn or winter, will delay until the autumn or winter of next year.
I say let us face that, if the Opposition want it. If it is their belief that these things should be put off for at least a year, they should tell the Committee that they would rather these things were never ratified at all. That is the inevitable result of their recommendation. It would be disastrous for this Government at this time to say to all the nations who have put in all the hard work in the E.D.C. with some of which work we are not directly connected: "We cannot ratify these things until the German Government have had an election." To say that is equivalent to sabotaging the whole plan.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
It is rather important that we should get the facts right at the beginning of the debate, or we shall be going wrong all through. We should try to understand each other. As we understand the position, the operative action in order to start a German contribution towards Western defence must be ratification. If ratification does not take place, no men or guns can be committed by the Germans to Western defence. Therefore, the Executive's decision is not one that says that no preparation should be made towards that end, but that the actual physical contribution should not take place until the German people have been asked.
§ Mr. Eden
There are two points in reply to the right hon. Gentleman. The first is that I am sorry that the first part 1455 of what is intended was not more clearly expressed. The word "ratification" does not appear in the Executive's policy statement. That is a pity, if that was intended. I repeat that I think that a signature is a commitment. Therefore, this mistake, if it is admitted to be a mistake—
§ Mr. Eden
I was dealing, I thought in a perfectly rational manner, with a point made in this party resolution. The right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, rather more courteous than the hon. Gentleman above, was following my argument. [Interruption.] Let me at least finish a sentence. I was dealing with the question whether or not a signature is a commitment. In our view it is, but granting that that is a mistake, or that a different point of view is held—let us put it that way—and that signature is not a commitment, then what is intended by this word "commitment" is ratification.
Then I say to the right hon. Gentleman: What you are in effect saying is that these arrangements cannot come into force until there has been an election in Germany. I cannot tell, and nobody in the Committee can tell, how much delay there may be before ratification by all these countries. There may be ratification by this autumn or winter. It is perfectly possible. There could be further delay. What I am begging the Com- 1456 mittee to realise is the immense responsibility we take if we say: "There shall be no ratification of these matters, not even the E.D.C. six-Power arrangement, in which we are not directly involved, until the autumn of next year." That is what those words inevitably mean. Have I made that plain to the Committee?
§ Sir Lynn Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester, North-East)
The right hon. Gentleman said that a signature was a commitment. I am a little puzzled to what extent he considers he is committed by signature when the signature is subject to ratification. What I should like the right hon. Gentleman to deal with is the extent to which he considers himself committed by signature when the signature is subject to ratification. Is not the whole purpose of making the signature subject to ratification to ensure that the people of the country shall be behind the signature? Would it not be best carried out in the case of Germany today by having elections in Western Germany?
§ Mr. Eden
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me saying so, that is confusing two things. It is arguable to say that a signature is not a commitment. I am prepared to concede, for the purpose of clarity of discussion, that it is not a commitment. I never suggested it was. The final commitment is ratification, and for this purpose I am accepting that this document means ratification. We are all agreed about that. I accept that.
What I am putting to the House is that if we say to all these countries that ratification means ratification by Parliament in a freely-elected democracy, we could not say to any freely-elected democracy, "You cannot ratify an agreement if you have got a majority to do it." What the hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. and right hon. Friends are saying to Germany, and to all the other European countries is: "Though you might reach agreement and all ratify it by the autumn of this year, we say this is utterly wrong, and you ought not to ratify in one particular country out of the seven or eight until you have had a general election." I say that is an utterly indefensible doctrine.
I seriously beg hon. Gentlemen opposite to look at it again and to see where it may lead. It may lead them into the greatest folly. Are they quite sure it is not based on the fact that there is in 1457 some of their minds perhaps more sympathy with the opposition in Germany than with the Government? Beware of that. Nothing is more dangerous, I beg the House to believe, than to pursue a foreign policy on the basis of whether one likes this party or that in a foreign country. If there is one tribute above all others that I would pay to the late Mr. Bevin, it is that he never, never did that. We must be extremely cautious in this matter not to try to impose our will upon other freely-elected Governments. I hope that that argument is now in a fairly acceptable state.
I repeat, the result of accepting that part of the proposal would be the final and certain failure of these instruments. I must ask the Leader of the Opposition whether that is really what he wants; whether he wants this tremendous work, in which he and his colleagues played such a part, to come to an end; whether he believes that, after a deliberate postponement such as this for more than a year, at this particular time, we should be able to get the whole impetus moving again. It is out of the question. I am quite sure that could not be done; and I am quite sure that a year's deliberate postponement now, whatever the motive, would mean the end of all these efforts. If they want to end all these efforts, I understand. If they do not want to end them, I do not understand their support of this proposal, because so much endeavour has been spent upon this by the free nations of Europe.
I would remind the Committee of something else. This country has a very serious commitment, accepted as long ago as 19th September, 1950. It was a commitment in the communiqué issued after the three-Power meeting in New York, to treat any attack against the Federal Republic or Berlin, from any quarter, as an attack upon ourselves. That commitment stands. Are we to carry it out without any assistance from the Germans? Are we to take up the position that our resources and our manpower shall be devoted to defending the Germans and to giving them security, while they themselves devote their entire efforts to civilian production?
Is it suggested that our men should fight and, perhaps, die for the protection of Europe, including Western Germany, while the Germans themselves play no part? Is German industry to be allowed 1458 to compete with that of the Allies in the markets of the world without any of the burdens and restrictions which rearmament plays upon our own export drive? Surely none of this is realistic. It was clear to the late Government, and it is clear to us, that in some way the Germans must play their part. I think on that we are overwhelmingly agreed.
The question is: What does this involve? I think it involves, first, that if the Germans are to play a part in defence the occupation régime must be brought to an end. I do not think that can be disputed. We cannot ask the Germans to prepare themselves for defence tasks alongside the troops of the Allies while at the same time treating them as an occupied country. I do not think anybody seriously disputes that.
§ Mr. Eden
Exactly. That is all the more reason. So it was that the late Government initiated the series of discussions leading to the establishment of what is called the contractual relationship with the German Federal Republic. These discussions began after the Brussels meeting of N.A.T.O. in December, 1950—quite a while ago. They began with informal negotiations between the three High Commissioners and the German Federal authorities. The results were reviewed again when the three Foreign Ministers met in Washington in September of last year. After that, formal negotiations were opened, even before we assumed office.
The accepted basis for these negotiations from the outset was that if Western Germany was to make a contribution to defence, a new relationship must logically be established, and the communiqué issued in Washington last September explained that the purpose had been to establish relations between the three Powers and the Federal Republic on as broad a contractual basis as possible in the light of German participation in Western defence. That is the position which we inherited.
The complicated negotiations which were begun when I went to the Foreign Office are now approaching their conclusion, and the agreements will, of necessity, be long and very complicated. They will run to several hundred pages: 1459 they will be laid before the House as soon as they are signed, and they will enter into force—I assure the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew)—only when they have been ratified by all the countries concerned, and when the treaty providing for a German contribution to the European Defence Community has also been ratified. The two chapters have to be ratified, both of them, before either comes into force. That is the present arrangement. There will thus be ample opportunity for full discussion in our Parliaments.
These agreements will not be a peace treaty with Germany, because such a treaty can only be reached with the Soviet Union, and when there is a united Germany. Meanwhile, there are certain rights which, in view of the international situation and in the common interests of the Germans and ourselves, the Allies must keep in the interval. These are, for instance, our right to station armed forces in Germany and to protect their security, and our rights in relation to Berlin. In addition, it must be remembered that the Allies have been exercising certain special powers in Germany, and that arrangements must be made for winding those up in an orderly manner and transferring them to the German authorities.
Subject to this, the aim of these agreements is to restore to the German Federal Government the fullest possible measure of sovereignty and freedom.
§ Mr. Eden
There are certain rights which will have to be reserved, for instance, in respect of Berlin, where there is a special position. We do not feel that we should attempt to negotiate a peace treaty until we can do so with the whole of Germany. If we were to negotiate a peace treaty with a part of Germany, there would be a very proper grievance in respect of that.
§ Mr. Silverman
If the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to set up a Government, to give it sovereignty, to make arrangements with it about the armament of its people, and arrangements with it about incorporating it into, and allying it with, the North Atlantic Treaty 1460 Organisation, what difference is there, except one of mere verbiage, between doing that and making a peace treaty?
§ Mr. Eden
There are differences, particularly the difference about Berlin, where there are four-Power interests at the present time which I am sure the Committee would not wish us to abandon. That is one of the principal matters. There is also the right about our forces remaining in Germany, which could only be finally liquidated by agreement between all the four Powers. There are things which, in our view, should be kept to a peace treaty, in accordance with the Potsdam decision.
I was saying that these agreements as a whole will clearly bring great advantages to the Germans, in that they will end the period of the Occupation Statute and they will replace it with an arrangement by which frank and full partnership between ourselves and the German people, and the Western peoples as a whole, can be realised. I have no doubt the German people would feel that it would be a misfortune if this opportunity were to be missed.
So much for the political half of the programme. On the defence side, I should like to give a few explanations. As I have said, a German contribution has long been recognised as necessary. That, broadly speaking, is not an issue between us. I understand very well the point of view of those who feel reluctant to see any form of German re-armament after the experiences which we have all suffered during our lifetime. That sentiment is naturally deep among Germany's neighbours—
§ Mr. Eden
Yes, I was just about to mention them in the same context. It was argued in strong opposition to the formation of German national forces, which was the original proposal. It also led to resistance to the idea of the direct entry of the German Federal Republic into N.A.T.O.
Finally, we all desired—and this includes the German people themselves and the Government of the German Federal Republic—that the contribution of Western Germany should be made in the 1461 manner least likely to revive those forms of militarism and nationalism from which Europe has suffered so much in the past.
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Gentleman says, "What nonsense." But this was the policy of the late Government and I am trying to explain the stage at which it is now. There is nothing novel in it. If the hon. Gentleman will be a little patient, he will see how the safeguards have been built up. It is a complicated matter but it is sufficiently important for me to worry the Committee with it. We were anxious that it should not take a form which could appear to threaten the security of Eastern Europe or of the Soviet Union. On the contrary, we wanted to make it clear to all that the whole exercise was designed only for defensive purposes. That was the motive. Out of all this grew the idea of the European Defence Community—the Pleven Plan, as it was called at first. That was essentially a French initiative, and the idea fitted naturally into the general demand felt throughout Europe for new forms of integration and unity amongst its people.
This continent of ours has been reduced by internal divisions and struggles to, in some respects, a pitiful shadow of its former greatness. We all want to help to build it up again, but the great obstacle to these endeavours in the past—all through our lives, including the lives of the oldest in this Committee—has been the constant conflict between France and Germany which has involved us in two wars within our own generation. To me, by far the most encouraging feature of all this endeavour—we can argue about the details, about whether it is good or bad in its conception—but the most important factor in all this is that French and German statesmen should have worked out together this entirely novel and wholly imaginative pattern for their future relations.
As a result of that, such conflicts can, I really believe, become a thing of the 1462 past. Surely we who have been involved so much in these struggles ought to be the first to welcome this new spirit. It seems to me that these efforts are part of a logical plan. It is not by chance that at this moment the European Defence Community, the Schuman Plan, the contractual relationship with Germany, the re-organisation of the North Atlantic Council—all are coming into being at one and the same time. That is not an accident. Together they can be, they must be, the opening of a new era of Western solidarity.
Of course, we have a special part to play in all this. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said in the House a little while ago, in regard to our relations with the European Defence Community, that they were the logical continuation of what had gone before. I agree with him. At our meetings in London and Lisbon last February, we took certain important steps forward. We started to solve two stubborn problems: the extent of the German financial contribution and security safeguards.
At Lisbon we accepted the general basis on which the E.D.C. was being worked out in Paris. We approved the principles which would govern the relations of that body with N.A.T.O. These include the exchange of guarantees, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, joint meetings of the two Councils, and close working links between the two organisations. All that is designed to permit us to work in unison for a common objective—the defence of the Atlantic area. Since the Lisbon meeting, the Paris Conference has continued its work and has now practically completed the draft treaty establishing the European Defence Community.
It is impossible to attend any of these gatherings, whether it is the Brussels Treaty, which right hon. Gentleman have attended, or the Council of Europe or N.A.T.O., without being conscious that unity and confidence are living and growing within them, and that there is a common purpose amongst those countries. It is very good that there should be, because it does not threaten anyone. And all this, in its turn, has had its effect upon the policy of the Soviet Union. It has brought certain reactions from their supporters. Let us now consider Soviet policy in relation to all this. 1463 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker), suggested in the House on 7th May that it was the policy of Western defence, carried through at Lisbon, which had induced the Russian Government to put in their note about German unity. It think that is very near the mark. There can be little doubt that our policy is beginning to show results. It is possible to argue, of course, that these Russian notes were designed solely to delay us in the conclusion of our arrangements. On the other hand, it may be that they indicate a change in Soviet policy, and even a hint of a desire for a settlement of some points. We cannot tell.
What is essential is that all such approaches shall be carefully examined and probed. It would be inexcusable not to take every action in our power to find out exactly what these moves do mean and whether they can be made, or whether they cannot be made, the basis for an understanding and some relaxation of tension. That is precisely what we have tried to do in our latest reply to the Soviet note.
There may be sonic who, in the face of this situation, will be tempted to think that this is a moment in which we can relax our efforts. I am convinced that would be a catastrophic mistake. By such tactics we could easily lose all the ground we have gained. In this respect, I want to repeat my full agreement with every word of what the Leader of the Opposition said on foreign affairs in a remarkable speech a few weeks ago, only two sentences of which I quote now. I liked the whole speech. This is from the "Daily Herald":Mr. Attlee would like to believe that the danger from Russia has gone but he has no evidence of it. He said, 'Any improvement is due, I think, to the Soviet leaders recognising that the West is in earnest in building up adequate defences. A failure to carry out our plans now would render useless the sacrifices already made.'I am absolutely convinced that that is wise and true. That is still our position. It is still, I hope, the position of the right hon. Gentleman.
And so it is that we have to continue our programme of re-armament. We have to continue our plans for unity in Europe. But the Committee could ask—perhaps, should ask—whether the signature of 1464 these agreements will prejudice negotiations with the Soviet Government.
§ Mr. Eden
That is the point. What happens if four-Power talks can be begun with a view to elections in Germany and the creation of a united German Government? I do not believe that either the conclusion of these arrangements or our own growing strength will make it more difficult to reach an arrangement with Soviet Russia. As we said in our note this morning—it is an inescapable truth—Germany is today divided because Europe is divided. And if there could be a real relaxation of tension between East and West in Europe, if our purely defensive arrangements could be understood and accepted as such, a very different situation could quite soon develop.
This could equally be brought about if once we could make real progress wtih the disarmament talks in New York; or it could be brought about by settling even one of the many issues, like Austria, which have been dividing us for so long. That is what I meant when, in my opening speech as Foreign Secretary to the Assembly of the United Nations last October, I said that our policy must be to grasp definite problems and work for their practical solution one by one. I am certain that that is true.
The truth is that no one can tell—I certainly do not pretend to be able to tell—how the position might look once tension were relaxed between East and West in respect of all these agreements. But of this I am quite sure: the whole picture would look very different, and it would look much better.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the main issue at stake in the international situation is a satisfactory settlement in Europe? While he is right in mentioning these other points, is it not a fact that a satisfactory settlement in Europe could provide the basis for a successful international settlement? If the right hon. Gentleman agrees with that reasoning, has he read "The Times" this morning, which reinforces our ideas that nothing should be done in Europe which may prevent that taking place?
§ Mr. Eden
I certainly believe that the whole object of all we are doing is to 1465 secure this European arrangement. I agree with the hon. Member, but I am also maintaining what I believe to be true, that the growing strength of our armaments and the growing unity of the West are not in themselves impediments to better relations with Soviet Russia. On the contrary, as the right hon. Gentleman said in the concluding passage of the speech which I have already quoted:The Russians look only to strength.I think that that applies to strength whether in the sense of arms or whether in the sense of international unity. And so I repeat that I see nothing in the work we are doing which should delay arrangements—rather the contrary.
Of course I am very conscious of what is in the hon. Member's mind and what has been expressed in the House and elsewhere about the policy which has been followed in recent years as regards Germany. There is the fear, and I have no doubt that it is shared by the Soviet leaders themselves—I am pretty sure that it is—that the proposed German rearmament might constitute a threat in its own right that it might lead to a repetition of past threats. How much reality is there in this? I must ask the Committee to look at this for a moment, because it is of great importance to us all.
These German units, if and when they are formed, after all is ratified—they cannot be formed before—will be part of the European Defence Force. They will be only formed as part of those forces. They will be organised in such a way that no one of the participating countries will have a self-sufficient fighting force—not one of them. Hon. Members will have seen, perhaps, from the White Paper which I laid last March, that the largest national unit will be equivalent to a division. But even the division will have only very small supporting services, and will thus be dependent for tactical and logistic support upon the higher formation—the corps—which will be an integrated formation.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the defensive character of these arrangements would be a good deal more obvious if they were based on a frank acceptance of the present territorial settlement?
§ Mr. Eden
Of course, as the hon. Member knows, what he calls the "present territorial settlement" has not been universally accepted. That is one of the difficulties of calling it the "present territorial settlement." The position is still being reserved, and was so reserved by the previous Government.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman sees my point, that if there is a disputed frontier and disputed territory and Germany is making it perfectly plain what her attitude is to them, then if we build up armaments and make Germany our ally in the use of those armaments, it becomes all the more difficult, although it may still be true, to say that the armaments are purely defensive.
§ Mr. Eden
I think I should accept the hon. Member's argument to this extent, and I put it in this way: the fact that the frontiers are not settled makes it all the more important to take certain precautions. I think that that is right, and that is why the precautions I am now outlining have a very real significance for us all.
§ Mr. David Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
I take it that the right hon. Gentleman means an all-in Germany—the German nation as we know it?
§ Mr. Eden
These present arrangements are, of course, with the West German Federal Republic. Perhaps I may continue for a moment the description of how this is to be carried out. I will not detain the Committee for more than five minutes, and perhaps hon. Members will follow me closely because this is very tightly tied up indeed.
Look at the next step. As I say, there will be an integrated corps staff. The training, administration and recruitment of the European Defence Force will take place under the control of the executive agency of the whole Community, the whole six Powers, called the Board of Commissioners. The Board will also prepare and administer a common budget and a common armaments programme for the forces as a whole—all of them. That is the answer to those who think that the Germans are going to be armed before the French. Once this arrangement is signed and ratified, the arms would not go to Germany or to France. They would go to the Community and be distributed on their instructions.
1467 This is something which the Committee ought to try to grasp for its significance for the future if it goes through. Never before for a generation have we seen a situation in which the Germans and the French agree with the Dutch and Italians that they will sit down together and apportion the arms which are going to be given to them by the United States of America. It is a very remarkable fact
§ Mr. Eden
Yes, Sir, that is a very good question. [Interruption.] I am being serious; it is a very good question, a very important question. The relation of the Board of Commissioners has not been finally determined. The right hon. Gentleman may remember that there are various suggestions. We suggested that, for instance, the Council of Europe might be a useful organ for dealing with part of this responsibility, or that a subcommittee of a Council of Europe might handle it. I am afraid I could not give the right hon. Gentleman the detailed arrangements; I am not even sure that they have been finally agreed, but when they are agreed they will be the result of what the six Powers are doing.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
Is it not the case that in the E.D.C. at present it is envisaged that the Board of Commissioners shall be responsible to a Council of Ministers—
§ Mr. Eden
That is correct, but what is not absolutely fixed is the relation of the Council of Ministers to the international body as a whole and we do not know whether the Council of Europe may have a part to play in that. That is the point the right hon. Member was on, I think.
I want the Committee to follow these arrangements, which I think are immensely important to an island Power 1468 like our own. Care, very great care, has been taken to ensure that national contributions are so balanced that no one Power can dominate the Community by force of numbers. Moreover, the Committee will remember that these European defence forces as a whole form only one element in the total N.A.T.O. forces entrusted to S.H.A.P.E. for the defence of Western Europe. All these national elements will thus be well diluted. I submit to the Committee that that is a much better method of handling this difficult business than by German national forces in an isolated Germany, which is the proposal of the Soviet note.
There is another factor which the Committee ought to bear in mind, the enormous cost of modern arms and the effect this has on national planning—
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Before the right hon. Gentleman proceeds, may I raise a point of elucidation, because he was on a very interesting point preceding that with which he is about to deal? Are we to understand—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will make it clear—that. apart from German units integrated in the European Defence Force, there will be no German forces in N.A.T.O. or separate German forces?
§ Mr. Eden
That is absolutely clear and correct. The right hon. Gentleman has got it absolutely right. The only exception I ought to make, and I should like to make it to be quite certain, is that there are special arrangements about police. All the same, even there it was thought right to take certain precautions as to numbers and I think they have been taken, and that the right hon. Gentleman can be completely reassured on all these points.
I merely add a point on finance; I do not want to belabour it, but the Committee might like to hear it, as it is not uninteresting. It has been calculated that Hitler's defence budget in 1938 was about £1,400 million. That is just about twice, nearly twice, what the "Wise Men" have calculated Germany could now contribute. This, I admit, is a very rough calculation and I should not like the Committee to take it as absolutely certain, but I have corrected it as far as I can. Even twice that sum which the "Wise Men" say Germany could find would not meet the cost of equipping 12 divisions, plus a tactical air force and 1469 without any other arms. That is the kind of figure we ought to have in mind when assessing this problem.
I submit that these E.D.C. proposals do meet European needs because it is only in combination with the general Western defence forces that the Germans can make a significant contribution and help to defend themselves. The plan to pool resources is not only desirable from the Western point of view; it corresponds to what is possible. [An HON. MEMBER: "War."] How can it be war to build up forces in defence very much less than the Soviet Powers now possess? It is the most reasonable action of self-defence. It is providing the maximum security we have been able to devise for the free world.
Let me sum up our policy as I see it. We are not prepared to relax our efforts to promote the unity of the West and to consolidate its strength. Progress has admittedly been slow. That could have been a possible criticism, but I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that deliberately to postpone a decision until a remote date when a further German election may be held is to invite, is not to compel, the failure of the whole plan. I do beg hon. Members opposite to reconsider that. It is still our intention that the E.D.C. proposals and the German contractual negotiations shall be signed this month and that thereafter they shall be ratified by the Powers concerned and come into force. We do not think that Communist threats, now becoming more violent, should influence our action, except perhaps to consolidate our purposes. They will not weaken our decision now any more than they did at the time of the Berlin airlift.
The Committee will have observed in this connection the statement by Herr Ulbricht of the Socialist Unity Party in East Germany two days ago. He warned those people who support the Contractual Agreement, particularly members of the Bundestag, that their names would be noted and that they would not escape punishment at the hands of the people. What a commentary on Communist views of free Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or free elections."] Or free elections. I would only add that language of this kind shows how far we have to travel before we can ensure really free elections in Germany.
1470 Our view on all these matters has been set out in our note to the Soviet Government, published today. I am glad to say that it has been well received not only in this country and in France and the United States but also in Western Germany, both by the Government coalition and by the Social Democrat opposition, whch I hope the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) will note with satisfaction. The Federal Government described the note as entirely satisfactory and recalled that the Federal Government were consulted in advance and agreed. In particular, they welcomed the emphasis on necessary freedom of action for an all-German Government. They said, "It is now up to the Russians."
The leading Social Democrat paper. Westdeutsche Neue Presse, contains a statement to the effect that leading German Social Democrat circles welcome the agreed answer from the Western Powers to the Russian note. Later it was said that that publication reflected the opinion of the party and that they approved of the note. Herr Heine added that the S.P.D., like Her Majesty's Government, are in favour of using the United Nations Commission if possible and share our view and are glad we have not been too rigid in this but have left other possibilities open. It will be interesting to discover if that finds an expression of opinion in the course of this debate.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
Before the right hon. Gentleman ends. would he explain what is meant by the last words in paragraph 7 of the note where it is said that Her Majesty's Government must ask the Soviet Government whether they considerthat an all-German Government, resulting from free elections, would be under four-power control until after the conclusion of a peace treaty or whether they agree that it should have the necessary freedom of action and powers of government.We would like to know a little of what is meant byfreedom of action and powers of government.
§ Mr. Eden
That meant that we thought that the German Government, before as well as after, should have the powers of government, for instance for concluding arrangements with their neighbours if they wished or for coming into the United Nations, or anything of that kind. It would not, of course, deal with armaments, 1471 but it is the sort of matter, as the Committee know, which is related to discussions going on. That is what we have in mind. I am only giving my thoughts regarding this. What was in our minds was that the German Government at that time should be at least as free as the Government of Western Germany is now, and not tied and restricted as the Government of Eastern Germany is now. I think that is absolutely how we stand.
§ Mr. Eden
No. I am sorry. The paragraph does not mention, and was not intended to deal with armed forces. What we wanted to ensure was that this new German Government, before coming to a treaty or anything else, should be free in the sense that the present Western German Government is free to make its own engagements, and should not be restricted as the East German Government is in that way.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
May I ask the Foreign Secretary one question? Will he make it clear that in the future the German Government would be perfectly at liberty to associate either with the West or the East, as that Government desired, and that we are not in any way seeking to force the new German Government to accept or differ from any other Western arrangement?
§ Mr. Eden
That raises any number of questions and I will deal with one or two straight away. It would depend, according to the Basic Law—which is the present German constitution—very much on how that German Government came about. If it came about as provided by the Basic Law which the right hon. Gentleman's Government approved, that is to say, by the junction of the Länder elements outside the Federal Republic with the existing Länder, then it would assume the obligations of the present Government. If, on the other hand, it came about through some other way, it would be a matter for discussion and arrangement. Certainly there would be in that case no obligations, and it is also 1472 the fact that the Contractual Agreements themselves allow for revision at the request of any one of the Governments.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
That really would mean in practice just this, that such a German Government would not be permitted to function at all, unless it carried out the orders and instructions of the Western Powers?
§ Mr. Eden
It is just exactly the opposite. I do not think there is very much dispute in this Committee that the Government of East Germany now has to carry out the instructions of Soviet Russia. What we want to ensure when we have a Government of all Germany is that there would not be any part of it in that position.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Can the right hon. Gentleman answer specifically this point on this passage about which he is being cross-examined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker)? Does it mean that if there were a freely elected Government of all Germany, as a result of preliminary investigations as to the possibility of free elections and then the holding of free elections and the formation of a free German Government of a united Germany in that way, would such a Government be free to repudiate these contractual arrangements, or would it be bound by them?
§ Mr. Eden
There are two ways in which this may come about, that is to say, the unity of Germany. It may come about under the existing Basic Law—my right hon. Friend will give fuller details later on today, I have not got them by me—under which it is possible that Germany may become united, with, as it were, the free magnet of the West drawing the East in. If it were like that, then the existing obligations, though they have various clauses to limit them, would be inherited by the new Government.
If, on the other hand, the new Government came about by some entirely different arrangement, clearly new circumstances would exist. In any event, I 1473 repeat that the contractual obligations do contain clauses which, as Herr Adenauer said the other day, allow for their revision at the request of any one of the parties. I think that is both fair and right, and I hope it will receive general endorsement.
Our note tries to show that we are ready to make progress with the preparations for German elections. But these must take place in real conditions of freedom before, during and after the elections. The United Nations Commission, we think, is as far as possible the speediest means to achieve this result; but if the Soviet Government are not prepared to accept that Commission which is already on the spot and which—if I may with respect correct "The Times" this morning—has power to report and make recommendations, we are ready, if they do not accept this, as is stated in the note, to examine any alternative means of achieving the same purpose, any alternative means—
§ Mr. Eden
With proper arrangements. We propose to continue with our preparations for European unity and for common defence. I think we have offered in our Note a reasonable basis for practical discussions with Soviet Russia, which is the real foundation of our policy, and I invite this Committee to endorse them.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary has asked me to make clear the position of the Opposition on certain points, and I shall do so in the course of my speech. I propose to begin with the correspondence with the U.S.S.R. I am quite sure that it is right to seize every opportunity of getting discussions, though I entirely agree that it is perfectly futile to enter into long discussions ranging over every kind of subject and giving every opportunity of delay; and that it is a mistake to enter into any conference without due preparation.
There has been some criticism about the length of time which has been taken to make this reply. I know something of the difficulties where one has to agree a reply with other Governments. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has been impatient—as I have no doubt he has 1474 been—and pressing in order to get it agreed. I recognise the difficulties, but it is important, I think, where an approach is made, that the opportunity should be seized as soon as possible.
It is anybody's guess as to what this Russian approach means, but we should not neglect any opportunity. After all, the overall interest of the whole of us is to get a peaceful settlement in Europe and to do away with the division of the world into two parts. Of course, it may be that this is a manoeuvre merely to delay our build-up. On the other hand, it may that the Russians are beginning to realise that our strength is growing.
They may also be realising that the progress of their doctrines is not very great in the free countries. It is even possible that they may be considering other Governments by their actions and their own professions, and not by what they imagine their policies and professions would be due to the deductions drawn from the sacred books of Communist theology. Therefore, I say that on all counts we should take this matter up. We all hope that we shall get these talks.
With regard to the correspondence itself, I am glad that we have not been too rigid on the question of the supervision of the arrangements for ensuring free elections. Provided one can get that supervision, we should not stand on any minor point; but it is, of course, perfectly clear that it must take time if we are to get those conditions for free elections. One cannot get freedom in a few days in a country that has been for years behind the Iron Curtain.
§ Mr. Attlee
I am afraid that my hon. Friend did not realise that I was referring to Eastern Germany. I was dealing with the part of the world where we are contemplating having these free elections.
I welcome this note. The right hon. Gentleman will see that there were certain points which required elucidation both from this side of the Committee and from responsible journals. Therefore, he must not be too severe when others say words which he thinks are ambiguous. There was a good deal of disturbance of mind caused by the phraseology of paragraph 7, which, I think, he has now cleared up.
1475 While we welcome every approach to Russia I believe, as I have stated, that if there is a more favourable attitude it is due to the fact that we have been getting together in the West and building up our strength. N.A.T.O. is an entirely non-aggressive organisation. It is a strictly reasonable organisation for security. If it is unreasonable, what are we to say of the satellite countries that surround the U.S.S.R.? I believe that it has been acknowledged to be reasonable and that it is in the general spirit of the United Nations.
But we have to meet this problem of Germany. There are people who think that we can leave a vacuum in Central Europe. I do not believe that that is possible. We can have a Switzerland, but we cannot have a Switzerland about 20 or 30 times as big. Therefore, somehow or other, I think we all hold the view that it is essential that Germany should be brought into the European comity of nations. We have never accepted as a principle that Germany should be split into two separate States.
I think it is obvious that the Germans, whichever side of the line they may be on, will not submit permanently to having their nation cut in two by this line. We have always believed in working for German unity. At the same time, I think all of us, to whatever party we belong, are most conscious of the events of the last 40 years and the dangers of a resurggent Germany. That is why, in all our thought on this matter, we have considered not merely recreating a Germany as a menace. I sometimes think that that is what some of the Soviet people imagine that we are trying to do-to set up an armed Germany as an offset to an armed U.S.S.R.
That would be a terribly dangerous and risky experiment to make, and, in our view, it would not make for the peace of Europe. Therefore, we have believed in the need for bringing Germany into the comity of nations. Then we had to consider the matter from the very practical point of view of defence. The right hon. Gentleman said, and I have said it myself, that no one can expect that the Western Powers should spend their blood and treasure defending the eastern frontiers of Germany if Germany were to do nothing about it itself.
1476 On the other hand, we had to face the fact that there is a widespread distaste for putting arms into the hands of Germany again. It is strong here and it is not confined to any one party. It is strong in other countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and I believe that there is a good deal of feeling in Germany on the part of a number of Germans who do not want once more to be made part of a military machine.
The problem has always been how to get a German contribution in terms of safety. In course of time we welcomed N.A.T.O. Then came the question of the European Army. Frankly, there were a good many people, and I was one of them, who were rather sceptical of the possibility of making this force. It has proceeded now, and I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman on the vital importance of ending the longterm feud between the Germans and French and getting them in the same organisation.
Therefore, as I am making clear, our view is that we have to have strong defensive forces in the West and that we have, under conditions of safety, to have a German contribution. When I use the words, "strong forces," the strength of those forces is always conditioned by the strength of the menace. If there could be a successful reduction of armaments, and if that were really applied to all countries, we could see to our immense relief, a reduction of armaments here, but it is not one of those things which one can begin without knowing what other people are doing.
Undoubtedly, we set the example at the end of the war, in reducing our forces but, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that was not followed up. Therefore, we have this enormous disproportion of strength, and we are right to build up our forces. The E.D.C. is, in my view, a way of integrating the German contribution of force without raising the danger of a German army. But that was a condition which I laid down in a statement I made of certain conditions which I thought should be fulfilled. That is one of the essential conditions. We should not again start building up a German national army.
The right hon. Gentleman has been explaining to us how this integration is to take place. Frankly, we are anxious 1477 as to who are the actual people who are to be given arms. There is a history in this matter. We cannot help remembering that the democratic parties at the end of the 1918 war made the great mistake of resting their Governments on forces which were staffed by their enemies and the undemocratic elements in Germany. Eventually, we reached a stage where there was built up the undemocratic conception of the superiority of the military man. Many people pinned their hopes on the general staff and thought it would resist Hitler, but eventually it became Hitler's instrument.
We remember that with the best of intentions the Allies reduced the German army to very small numbers, but it became part of a highly efficient organisation and they were able to build up great forces very rapidly through the use of that central military organisation. We want to watch closely the nature of the German contribution. There is the danger that if it consists solely of volunteers they will be ex-Nazi types.
§ Mr. Eden
This is mainly a matter for E.D.C., but I think I can give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance that it will not consist mainly of volunteers. [HON. MEMBERS: "How does the Foreign Secretary know?"] I am trying to help by giving information. Hon. Gentlemen ask how do I know. Because the E.D.C. Powers have given us to understand that.
§ Mr. Attlee
That is a very important point.
The second point is that we have always considered there was a danger in raising German forces before the forces of the West were built up to sufficient strength to prevent a German preponderance. I think some of our Allies have been wanting to push on too quickly with the raising of German forces, and that is the danger. At present, unfortunately, our forces in the West are not yet very strong, and the National Executive on the Labour Party stressed that point in the resolution which they passed. As we understand it, there is a great lack of equipment for French units that are in training, and one of the facts in the situation is that owing to so much of their trained manpower 1478 being in Indo-China, France's contribution is not what we could wish at the present time.
On this side of the Committee we feel very strongly that it is essential that the forces of the Western democratic Powers should be strong before there is anything in the way of German units, and especially if large contingents are being considered. The right hon. Gentleman has explained that they are small at present, but there is that danger and we have stressed it.
A point has been raised about tilt; part of the resolution from the National Executive, which asks that there should be elections in Germany. It is open for anybody to make that suggestion, but there is a very important point here. The Bundesrat were not elected specifically with these points in mind. I am not denying the competence of the Government, but the fact is that unless the mass of the German people express their opinion and go willingly into this, we will not have a very strong force.
The right hon. Gentleman has raised certain points as to the possibility of having a German general election. I know that these legal points are very difficult. I am told there is a question now before the courts as to whether the present German Government can carry this agreement through without a two-thirds majority. That, I believe, is sub judice. I thought the right hon. Gentleman went rather far in pressing the legal position, because what is to happen if there are general elections for the whole of Germany? Are they to be held up by this basic law? It is not entirely true that we have never insisted on elections. There was one, I think, in Greece, but I am not suggesting that one should insist on them. I think it is important, however, that in this matter there should be as far as possible an expression of support by the German people for this linking up with the West and with E.D.C.
It is three years since the present German Government were elected, and, as I understand, there are doubts. What I am concerned with much more than anything else is that we should not have Germany coming into this scheme and then see the whole thing overthrown. If we are to have strength, it should have the weight of German opinion behind it. I do not suggest for a moment that we can 1479 do it, but this was not a Government statement but a statement by the Executive Committee of a political party. We are entitled to make statements.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two questions. We want to be very clear as to our own obligations. We are already bound by N.A.T.O. and the Occupation Statute. We shall in future be bound by E.D.C., and we want to have a very clear statement as to where we stand. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of State, when he comes to reply, will deal with that point.
The other point on which we want information is what is now the position of the United States in this matter? They are in N.A.T.O. E.D.C. is an essential part of N.A.T.O., but there is rather a tendency to exaggerate the important of E.D.C. I grant its psychological importance and I grant the value of this new experiment, but in actual force it is not very big. Unless it is underwritten by the strength of the forces of Britain, Canada and the United States it is not a very big defence for Western Europe.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North)
But is it not a fact that the force which E.D.C. contemplates will be something like three-quarters of the total of the Western forces?
§ Mr. Attlee
But that is on the ground. The point is, what is the potential behind it? That, I think, is much more important. For the defence of the West to be effective, it is essential that it be an Atlantic commitment. It is my belief that the people on the other side of the Atlantic have a vital interest in the support of democratic Europe.
The right hon. Gentleman has given us fully the views of the Government. I have stated our general view. The building up of the forces of the West is inevitably a thing which must take time. I do not think it can be rushed. There must be ratification some time. I have consulted my colleagues and our view is that it is ratification which is intended. I do not think we are going to get ratification very soon, and in this matter we have to move fairly slowly. Things have to march together, including the actual preparations for the organisation.
1480 Let us make no mistake about it, I want these preparations to go right ahead, and I want to see that the conditions we are suggesting about the strength and the integration of the West are satisfied before we start on the hazardous business of actually raising German units. The question of elections is one which may depend on technicalities, but, there again, we feel it vital that there should be the full support of the German people behind it.
We believe it is essential that we should build up our Forces in the West, because, as I stated in a speech the other day, I think the Russians are moved by the existence of armed strength and are not moved by beautiful ethical considerations that appeal to very many people. I hope that they are realising the growing strength of the West and that these talks will produce results. If they do, it will be an enormous relief to the whole world.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
Since I have been fortunate enough for the first time to catch your eye, Sir Charles, on an occasion so eminent, and in doing so to follow a former Prime Minister, it is hardly for me to attempt to enlarge upon or in any way to extend or develop the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Attlee). I am told that in ancient days when this House first had its origin in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey it was customary for speakers to begin with a plea for a blessing and to end with a plea for mercy. I plead for the customary indulgence of the Committee as I attempt, like a maiden, to tread carefully, and amid controversy to emerge, I hope, tolerably intact.
In this endeavour I propose to keep to some generalisations which have caused me to seek to catch your eye, Sir Charles, because I have spent the last 20 years in endeavouring to equip myself to speak in this place by travelling the globe as a newspaper correspondent and in seeking to inform myself upon foreign affairs. With those generalities and this situation in mind, I suggest that we are confronted today with a conflict between, on the one hand, the creative society, and. on the other, the slave State. The one is broadly attached to and based upon 1481 the maritime system, and the other is broadly based and embedded in the landward Powers of Asia and Europe.
The issue has been raised, and will inevitably be in the forefront of the debate tonight, of the possibility of a revival of German militarism and the association or otherwise of Germany with Western Europe and the Atlantic Powers, and, above all, of the possibility, dear to many minds, that Germany might by some trick he reduced to the position of an impotent neuter. On the contrary, I submit that the opportunity to neutralise Germany was offered and rejected in 1946. It was offered by Secretary Jimmy Byrne of the United States when he proposed a Four-Power Treaty of the great European Powers to keep Germany disarmed.
As I have said, and as the Committee will remember, that proposal made in 1946 was rejected by the Soviet Foreign Secretary, and that rejection was followed consecutively by a series of developments in completing or advancing the natural association of the Atlantic Community, starting with the British-French Treaty of Dunkirk in 1947. There followed, it will be remembered, the Five-Power Brussels Treaty of 1948, followed in turn, by the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949. That was the result of a series of negatives from behind the Iron Curtain, so that the situation confronting us today as regards the incorporation of Western Germany, or of, as we may legitimately hope, a united Germany, into the Atlantic association is indeed a product of a string of negatives.
It has been widely suggested that we must beware of German militarism. But militarism is not and has not in history been the monopoly of a single country or people. We need only look back to the days of Napoleon to see when militarism was seated elsewhere. The danger in modern times is surely that a country which might seek to rearm might find that it was economically an unbearable burden and might seek an alliance on one side or another to lighten that load.
Since the neutralisation of Germany would have been possible in 1946, but was rejected by the Soviet Government, we are now faced with the choice whether Germany's broad association shall be, roughly, with the West or, roughly, with 1482 the East. If that, indeed, is the case, I suggest that we have a serious and complex course to pursue. There has been a series of notes exchanged between the Soviet Government and the Western Powers. One feature of those notes appears to have passed without general notice.
It appears that whereas the desirability of free, nation-wide elections was foremost in the earliest of the Russian communications, that and the possibility of guarantees for supervising such a survey of opinion have progressively receded. Of course, if that were the greatest of our worries we need not, I suggest, worry very greatly until this correspondence has been brought to its proper and, I hope, felicitous conclusion. None the less, it has been accompanied by other developments to which we cannot turn a blind eye.
I submit that we should take note not only of the warning view of Doctor Ulbricht, to which my hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has already made reference. There has been the blockage of traffic towards Berlin. That is in progress now. There has also been an air incident close to Berlin horribly reminiscent of that which occurred over Gatow airfield just before the blockage of Berlin, followed, thank heaven, by the relief of that siege.
There are reports—let us hope they are unfounded, but it is absurd to turn an altogether blind eye to them either—of further military reinforcements in the East. If that indeed is the case, and if those reinforcements do not prove to be, as let us hope is likely, a mere matter of summer manoeuvres, the whole exchange of Russian and Western notes, with the issue of free German elections, receding into the background, may confront us with a situation of gravity.
We are bound to ask ourselves whether this voluminous correspondence is in any degree the diplomatic cover for some other objective. I believe it is proper that in the conduct of defence one should be as gentle as a lamb but indeed as wise as the serpent. Let us therefore miss no possibility that could occur. Naturally enough we take any suggestion or rumour of troop movements with reserve; but should we not bear in mind the possibility that these reports have a basis and the possibility that they may 1483 continue and, with that in mind, consider the results of the North Atlantic Treaty Council at Lisbon in February?
The extensive report of that conference which I have in my hand numbers about 40 pages, and from the fact that it was not to be found in the House of Commons Library I bid fair to guess that it had not been very widely read from cover to cover. That communiqué does not state more than the bare facts that the Atlantic Powers propose to have 50 divisions on the ground by the end of this year. Such a proposition, however, appears to have been somewhat dimmed by subsequent disclosures.
The Norwegian Foreign Secretary was telling the Storting at the beginning of March that this was an aim and not a positive, definite, irrevocable intention. We learned from Secretary Lovett of the United States, when he addressed the appropriate committees of the Senate and the House in the United States Congress early in March, that of those 50 divisions 25 would be active and 25 in reserve.
We have since learned from General Gruenther, Chief of Staff to General Eisenhower, who was addressing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 24th March, that the purpose was not simply to have 50 divisions by the end of this year but to make sure that whatever might be the reinforcements on the other side the West would keep pace and that it would never be possible—so the plan was—for the other side to mount such reserves and have them on hand at any moment so that a blitz offensive could be mounted as indeed, if it had been intended, might have been mounted at any time in the past four years.
But is it not a pity that we should learn these essentials of the North Atlantic Treaty Council decisions not from official communiqués but from N.A.T.O. officials and, indeed, from the Chief of Staff to General Eisenhower. More is the pity when, if we look back over the course of the whole series of meetings of Defence Ministers and Foreign Secretaries of the Brussels Treaty Powers from 1948 to the end of 1949 and of the North Atlantic Treaty in its early days, that we find platitude after platitude. I will quote only one. In July, 1948, the Brussels Council announced that it had agreed—after the Treaty had been signed—to a common 1484 defence policy to secure Five-Power security. Not until some four years later comes a hard plan for real defence.
I submit that we are faced with the unreality of paper agreements but with the reality of tension; that we are faced with an issue for Germany which is already too far awakened, nervous and alert, and in connection with which events have passed too rapidly, to make her reduction to the position of an impotent neuter any longer possible. But the issue we are bound to debate in that context is whether Germany, united or truncated, as history may yet reveal, shall in general be associated with the Atlantic community and the maritime Powers—indeed, with the creative society—or with the society of the East, the slave State.
Bearing that in mind, and pleading finally for the indulgence of the Committee, may I say that behind the complexity of this whole matter, which one can study indefinitely, I cannot help thinking of shepherds on the hillside in Lanarkshire, the people who work far from the open air in the pits, the railwaymen at their grimy toil, people living in squalor, in degrading, contemptible surroundings up and down my constituency, from the epic slopes of Beattock Hill to the suburbs of that great city of Glasgow itself. And upon all their lips is one word, all the time. It is a plea for peace.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
It is one of the more pleasing features associated with long membership of the House of Commons that sooner or later, according to the law of averages, one is bound to be called to follow a maiden speaker. In saying what I am about to say I think I shall carry the whole Committee with me in this connection. I congratulate the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) on his well-informed speech, which conformed to the usual conventions which a maiden speaker generally follows.
Perhaps I may be permitted to say that I was associated with the hon. Member in a journalistic capacity before he entered the House of Commons inasmuch as for some time he used to send me his weekly report on foreign affairs, a subject which he has studied so closely. The Committee and the House will look forward to future occasions when the hon. Member will be more free to enlarge upon his experience and perhaps to be a little 1485 more controversial than he has been today.
I think the Committee will echo the reflections of the Foreign Secretary today on the sadness of the times in which we live, inasmuch as seven years after the defeat of Germany by the submission of the German naval, air and army forces to the will of the Allies in unconditional surrender we should be considering once again her incorporation into Western defence with all the military consequences that that implies. But very few hon. Members will deny that only hard and undeniable facts force the Western Nations to take this step.
We might spend a little time considering what those facts are. The Foreign Secretary has referred to some of them in his speech. Speaking for myself, as all hon. Members are entitled to do—at least, if they occupy a less official position than my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition I think that nothing less than a policy of Communist aggression, cold war or whatever one likes to call it, threatens to submerge Western civilisation as it has done in fairly recent times in Czechoslovakia alone.
This has led us to the conclusion—and when I say "us" I do not distinguish between the Government and Opposition Benches—that there is only one answer to that. No amount of glossing over these facts in appeals to peace, which are so easy when it comes to words or writing, will disguise this blunt truth which, so far as I understood my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, is a matter of agreement between Her Majesty's Government and the Opposition, whatever differences there may be in drawing conclusions either near or distant.
If one wants evidence, Russia's attitude to the Marshall Plan —if anything that came from America was beneficial, that was—shows her determination to sabotage European recovery, except it he subsidiary to Russia's military and economic hegemony. As far back as 1947 we had it on the authority of a prominent member of the Soviet Politburo, namely, General Zhdanov, who, speaking to a meeting of the Cominform in Poland, said:As to the U.S.S.R., it will bend every effort in order that the European Recovery Plan be doomed to failure.That comes from the Cominform Journal of 10th November. 1947, and, strangely 1486 enough, I came across this the other day in an official Labour Party pamphlet issued from Transport House.
In the face of these facts, what can we do? Previous Governments—post-war Labour Governments and Her Majesty's present Government—have given precisely the same answer, and the answer is: organised collective defence for collective security—a very good principle that was enshrined in the old Covenant of the League of Nations which, if it had been followed as we have attempted to follow it since the war, might have saved us from the holocaust of the Second World War.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the other arrangements which are the outcome of this principle have one purpose only, as hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have indicated, namely, to prevent civilisation from being submerged in a flood-tide of serfdom. We refused to bow the knee to Nazism. In spite of the fact that we were weak militarily and in spite of the almost impossible guarantees that we gave to Poland and Roumania before the war, we stood up to Nazism because we had a moral purpose behind it all. We can do nothing else today but to accept the same grim choice in face of Russia's threats.
What is the real issue that the Committee is debating today? Is it merely the re-arming of Germany? If it were, then I go so far as to say that hardly anybody here in Britain or in America would trouble to argue the case at all. German re-armament of itself, as some of my hon. Friends have said, and as the Foreign Secretary himself has admitted, could be a danger, as it has been twice in our generation. It is not German rearmament in isolation that we are discussing today.
The material issue is this: can Western Defence be complete or effective without Germany? That question has to be answered by all hon. Members, whatever views they may express on this matter. Having undertaken re-armament in Britain with the approval, in the main, of this House and of the country, is it possible that that re-armament, in association with America and the other Western nations, can be really effective in deterring possible aggression from Russia without Germany?
1487 Who can answer that question better and in more moderate language than General Eisenhower himself—a man who has a following not only in his own country but everywhere, who has the respect and admiration of all classes of society, of all soldiers who served under him during the war, of whatever nationality they were and who has been in a unique position during the last year to assess this problem and to answer it?
I should like to quote a few of General Eisenhower's words. I came across them in the first Annual Report of the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, copies of which were placed in the Library of this House. The report is made to the Chairman of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and it is dated as recently as 2nd April, 1952. This is what General Eisenhower says in answer to the question which I have posed to the Committee:As the geographic centre of Europe, Western Germany is of great strategic importance in the defence of the continent … As of today, our forces could not offer prolonged resistance East of the Rhine barrier. Thus we might lose, by default, the considerable resources of Germany and suffer, at the same time, direct exposure of Denmark and the Netherlands. With Western Europe in our orbit, N.A.T.O. forces would form a strong and unbroken line in central Europe from the Baltic to the Alps.Later, he says:Surely, it would be foolhardy to assume that a great country like Germany could long remain a vacuum.My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition used almost identical words.Unless Germany becomes a partner of the West, we might, eventually, see a repetition of the disaster of Czechoslovakia.Those are the words of General Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander placed in charge of British Forces as well as of his own United States Forces. If we have any confidence whatever in him as a Supreme Commander, we must pay attention to those pregnant words.
The Foreign Secretary, I think, would agree with this sentiment; indeed, in his speech I think he paid a tribute to what the previous Labour Governments have done to heed these wise and urgent warnings. The right hon. Gentleman constantly referred to the work that has been done in the present negotiations which are reaching a conclusion, by Labour 1488 Governments since the outbreak of the war and especially by the late Mr. Ernest Bevin. Others can interpret facts as well as, and sometimes better than, we ourselves can, and Russia has, no doubt, understood quite clearly the meaning of these facts.
She knows the danger of the policy of Western defence to her own far-flung empire of satellite states. That is, perhaps, why we have heard so many bitter and vitriolic outpourings against Yugoslavia—a Communist State, once within the orbit of Russia—because Yugoslavia sought her own freedom and broke away from Russian control. Yugoslavia preferred not to be a cog in the Russian machine but, as far as I can understand, that did not mean that she threw overboard all her Communist doctrines. I only hope that in association with the West she may modify her political outlook as time goes on.
It is said that Russia wants peace. Indeed, it is sometimes said with great vehemence that she is pursuing the same. She organises and subsidises vast conferences at which the peace banners are paraded before the peoples of the world. She made certain proposals on 10th March of this year which seemed to indicate, on the face of them, that she was trying to break the deadlock between East and West. There are many people who do not believe that that was her purpose but—as I hope nobody will accuse me of not wanting peace as ardently as anybody else—I am prepared for the moment to assume that those proposals were genuine.
What were they? German unity—East and West. Who created disunity in Germany? Perhaps I might be permitted to ask that, in parenthesis. Then she suggested a German national army. What a cynical suggestion, bearing in mind the Potsdam Agreement. What does she mean by a national army? Poland has a national army—with a Russian commander-in-chief and a Russian general staff. Is that what Russia means by a German national army? Then she said that there must be no contractual agreements with other nations. What does that mean? It means nothing more or less than the creation of a huge German eunuch in the midst of a Russian harem.
Some hon. Members have been to Germany recently and have engaged in 1489 conferences with leading German politicians, journalists and professors, and it was quite obvious that there was a feeling that Russia's bona fides in connection with these proposals should be tested—and tested quickly. The latest note of the Allied Powers expresses the willingness to test, as far as possible, whether Russia means what she says; but I would warn the Committee—I am sure it is not necessary to warn the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary—that it would be useless to go into any negotiations conducted on the lines of the negotiations in Paris, at the Palais Rose.
We obtained strong evidence there that it was impossible, from the outset, to get agreement with Russia. If we want addition evidence we might occasionally look at the negotiations for an armistice which have been going on in Korea. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition explained that portion of the statement by the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party as to limiting the subjects for discussion to one—free German elections. I doubt very much whether Russia would accept anything of that sort. I do not believe—and we shall soon know, if we test her—that Russia will go into a conference concerned only with the question of free German elections. whatever they may mean.
Nevertheless, however hopeless the task may be we must make an effort, if only to convince some people in Germany and a few more in this country that we are willing to try to come to reasonable terms with Russia. If we do go into that conference, what happens to Western defence, including the European Defence Community? The Foreign Secretary has told us—and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has expressed similar views in different language—that European defence cannot be put into cold storage, even if these negotiations are successfully brought about.
If we did away with the European Defence Community project—as was suggested, I regret to say. by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), who, unfortunately, is not here, owing to illness—we could be quite certain that these negotiations with Russia, whatever the agenda, would fail utterly. Who believes that Russia would have taken this initiative if there had been no North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and no suggested settlement between 1490 Germany and the Western Powers? There may be some, but I think they are very few and far between, and they are living in a world which has not yet been discovered—certainly not charted on any map that I know of.
Nothing can more hasten another war than a policy of appeasement, such as that which those who were then Members of Parliament knew so intimately before the last war broke out. A policy of resolute resistance to aggression will not necessarily guarantee peace. There is no magic solution for peace, and nothing can guarantee peace as long as Russia continues her cold war.
The only effective guarantee of peace would be disarmament. Russia holds the key to that door. She can unlock it at any time she likes, and if that door were to be unlocked nobody would be more grateful that the British public—to say nothing of the other nations who are bearing the tremendous burden of rearmament today. It may be that she will unlock that door one day—when she is convinced that aggression does not pay. In the meantime, we have to build up—
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I very much appreciate my right hon. Friend's point of view. He said that Russia possesses the key and that one day she may be prepared to unlock the door; but every time that country tries to unlock the door a few people seem to say, "Oh, you can never trust her," and now there is this business of the note to Russia. I appreciate and honour my right hon. Friend's point of view in questioning whether Russia intends a peaceful approach to the German problem; but does not he think that it would be better, rather than questioning her all the time, for the party opposite to hurry up and do its utmost to make a success of these conversations?
§ Mr. Davies
I will qualify my statement and ask if he does not think it would be better to try to make a success of these conversations?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary would disagree with the last point of my hon. Friend's intervention.
1491 I think that the note which the Allies have now sent to Russia indicates as clearly as anything can do that we are prepared to talk with her; but it takes two to make a bargain and a contract, and if my hon. Friend wants any evidence of Russia's possession of the key of the door—and, so far, keeping that door locked—he has only to read some of the reports of the Military Security Commission in America to see that although the Western Powers have agreed in certain circumstances to control the atomic bomb or atomic power, Russia, time and again, has prevented that agreement being put into effect.
§ Mr. Bellenger
If my hon. Friend will not believe that, nothing that I say will convince him.
All I am saying is what I think we should do as a free nation devoted to peace and prepared to walk through any door that is unlocked on the way to disarmament. If anybody doubts that that case—and a very substantial case it is—rests in Russian hands, they have only to read the statements which have been made in the House today from the Government Benches, and which were made by Ministers in the Labour Government, of the size of Russia's armed forces, far more overwhelming than any forces we can put against Russia at present. No sensible or reasonable Member of the Committee would deny what I am saying, that Russia can unlock this door any time she likes.
That is the central issue which dominates all others today. Do not let us think that we are discussing German rearmament in isolation, but do not let us diverge or be deflected from our course. By all means let us set our sails to take advantage of any favourable wind, even an east wind if it is coming. But make sure that the rudder of the ship is undamaged and that the charts and compasses are in good order. Only then may we be able to reach harbour and peaceful waters.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
I count myself fortunate in having caught your eye, Mr. Hopkin Morris, following the last speaker on this side, to whose maiden speech we 1492 listened with great pleasure. I listened to it with special pleasure, since my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) represents a constituency which once I had the fortune to represent myself. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the misfortune."] I had the misfortune to lose it. My hon. Friend, more fortunate than I, still represents that constituency.
I have not for some considerable time troubled the House upon foreign affairs, and I should not have ventured to do so now save that this is an occasion where those who are not so immediately connected with these great debates may reasonably come in. I had, like the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), an occasion recently of discussing some of these great matters with Germans themselves.
But this is a matter which goes far outside immediate conversations with the Germans, or, indeed, Europeans, for it concerns ourselves very closely indeed, and it concerns great issues which are of the most immediate importance to every single Member of the Committee. "Immediate" is the word, because we are not discussing now the question whether under proper security a certain amount of re-armament should be allowed to Germany. I think that that is conceded on both sides of the Committee. It is indeed remarkable that the bi-partisan policy which seemed in jeopardy a little while ago, is apparently, judging by speeches we have heard from both sides, re-establishing itself. We are on the narrower question of delay: should this proposal be held up?
We are speaking with difficulty in the absence of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), who represented very strongly that point of view. I have no doubt that there are other Members, possibly other right hon. Members, who will represent that point of view before the debate comes to a close. That is the great and immediate issue. It is the real issue with which we are concerned. On this, the division does not necessarily run down the Floor of the House—it runs across. There are Members on both sides who feel uneasiness about this proposition—the proposition to proceed forthwith—and there are Members on both sides who are passionately devoted to forwarding it.
1493 As I said when discussing this with the Germans, I have as much reason as anyone to fear German armed might. I have run away from the Germans for hundreds and hundreds of miles, and I know that when one says the word "German" to the ordinary European, the associated word with that which rises in his mind is "soldier." All the other great achievements of the German race have been dwarfed by the actions of the Germans and their leaders in the past years.
But that is not the problem which we have to deal with immediately. The problem of eventual German arms has been conceded. The scheme outlined by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs indicated in fact a pooling of national sovereignty which was of very great interest and went to very great lengths. The fact is that arms are not, so to speak, to be given to any individual nation. They are to be put into a pool—to be credited into a bank—from which they can only be drawn by a cheque countersigned by every single member of the board of control in question, a board of control which is being set up with six vetoes upon it. One may say that it will operate too slowly. It would be difficult to contend that it could operate too quickly.
But the practical point is—should the whole of these proposals be put, so to speak, into cold storage while argument is conducted with the Soviet Union as to whether free elections can he permitted in East Germany—or, as the Germans call it, Central Germany, for they say that East Germany has long since gone. The Oder-Nisse line is East Germany. What we are discussing, they contend, is the heart and centre of Germany; and there is a great deal in what they say. The difficulty about that is the difficulty which we have all experienced of the interminable delays which can take place in round-table discussions with the Soviet Union.
I am very interested indeed in the proposal—it is a very important one—of clause 11 (iii) of the note which the Powers have sent to the Soviet Union. In this they say that they have a preference for the procedure by the United Nations Commission, but that:Her Majesty's Government are ready to consider any other practical and precise proposals for an impartial commission of investigation which the Soviet Government may wish 1494 to put forward, on the one condition that they are likely to promote the early holding of free elections throughout Germany.I am not very hopeful as to the chances of the United Nations Commission being accepted.
I have been reading some of the Press comment which the Soviet Union and its various organs put out about the United Nations Commission. It is not, one might say, of a very forthcoming character. The East German Government, of course, refused them entry into their zone. The official paper of the Socialist Unity Party described the Commission as aBrazilian masquerade to divert the attention from the peace treaty issue.It went on to say that they werea few fortune hunters in United States pay who had hurried to Germany to help the sorely tried gentry of Western Germany.The paper of the Soviet Control Commission went one better and attacked the countries from which the members of the Commission came. Pakistan was ridiculed for having held elections only once, which was a little hard, considering that it had not long been in existence as a separate country. And Brazil, we were told, was to be ruled out becausesemi-fascist Vargas has been in power for a long time. …Then they denounced the Icelandic member. I do not need to go over the other usual descriptions. They are of a familiar kind, of which perhaps the finest example was earlier on, when one of the Soviet papers said that if hyenas could use fountain pens, they would write like T. S. Eliot, an unusual tribute to the literary powers of hyenas. Therefore, we must look to the procedure under Clause 11 (iii) being adopted. That procedure will inevitably take time.
Now, the question before us all is the second point advanced by the Leader of the Opposition—have these proposals for a defence contribution the backing of the German people? These proposals for a German contribution should undoubtedly have the backing of the German people. That is the second main point that we have to consider. The point about relative priority in armaments is covered, and more than covered, by the procedure outlined by the Foreign Secretary. But the other is perhaps the cardinal point—the support of the German people for such proposals.
1495 Let us face it: there is no overwhelming body of support amongst the German people for any constructive proposal just now. They are dazed and baffled by the outcome of events, and there is no positive support for any set of proposals—either for re-armament or for anything else. That is precisely the danger. One of the dangers which Europe faces is that the Western European Powers, of which Germany is one, have been battered and smashed into a punch-drunk condition, in which it is very difficult to find any line of country which will lead them to the positive efforts necessary if Europe is to regain her ancient predominance; or other, I should say, her ancient pre-eminence, for predominance is not the word we should use nowadays.
Now, there is a vote, and a considerable vote, and there is one word in which to describe it: Berlin. The Berliners are standing up to the perils amongst which they live in a wholly admirable way. There, it is as though one walked down Oxford Street and came to Moscow at the other end, for East Germany is the Soviet Union. The note speaks of the increasing divergence of East Germany in recent years from the development of other parts of Germany. Indeed that is so. The schoolchildren of West Berlin are taught English as their second language. But the schoolchildren in East Berlin are taught Russian as their second language. It is becoming a more and more marked distinction for a child in the Eastern zone not to know Russian.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I also have been in schools in Moscow, and I would not say that the language the schoolchildren are being taught at the time of the visit is the one which is the main subject when the visiting commissions have gone away. Even if that is so, we are not at the moment discussing education in Moscow. We are discussing education in Berlin.
I think that the divergence is great and growing. Yet in spite of that the Berliners hold to their way of life. Thousands of children cross the line from East Berlin into West Berlin to be educated in the way of life which they prefer; and under heavy penalties, for it 1496 is an illegal thing to do. It is one of the things which the Russian-inspired German administration is doing its best to stamp out. In spite of that, the Berliners remain.
No German Government could last for a day which proposed to desert the people of Berlin; no German Government could last for a day which proposed to abandon the stand the Berliners are making, although the Germans are well aware that that is a risky and troublesome business, and brought them on one occasion to the verge of actual hostility, for the airlift was not very far removed from that—and it might do so again.
Yet the Berliners are gay; they are courageous. The people in New York are building air-raid shelters. The people in Berlin are building hotels and shops; they are doing their best to reconstruct their city—and doing so in the confident belief that they will not be abandoned by the West. To accept a proposal of delay would be interpreted universally as abandonment: as their abandonment and the abandonment of East Germany. It would be interpreted as a sell-out. Now, I say that there in Berlin is evidence of popular support—the touchstone of popular support for which we are looking.
I do not think that a general election can be held in Germany just now. The technical difficulties have been explained by the Foreign Secretary. But it goes deeper than the technical difficulties. The ancient mediaeval sin of sloth, accidie, is the peril from which the West is suffering at the present day. Robert Birley, at the Conference which we attended, used a phrase to express it, in which he said that the "include-me-out-ishness" attitude is the danger, ohne-mich-lichkeit. Dr. Adenauer is pressing ahead under the undoubted difficulties of a small majority and of a Parliament elected some time ago. I am sure he is right to do so, and I am sure that we are right to back him up in so doing.
We must enter into this conference with the Soviet Union—even a conference about a conference—for that is what Clause 11 (iii) suggests. But that will take time, and to embark upon a procedure of indefinite delay will be interpreted everywhere as the proof that we have abandoned the proposal for an integrated Western Europe, on which we 1497 all believe the future of Europe really depends. That is the problem before the Committee this evening. I very much hope that we shall hear views expressed strongly from both sides to clear this up. This is a great issue—no greater issue has come before this Parliament—because it may lead to a parting of the ways.
I believe that the integration of Germany into Western Europe is indispensable if Europe is to live. We have to live with the Germans sooner or later, and the Germans have to live with one another sooner or later. I do not deny that Germans fear the generals, but they cannot live for ever as a country so terrified of uniforms that they dare not even see one in case they fall down and worship it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I know as much about the two world wars as any hon. Member. As I said, I ran for miles from the Germans in one world war and cowered shaking in my basement in the other. They have followed me about with bombs and guns for nearly the whole of my life. I do not under-estimate the danger of the Germans or the unpleasing nature of world wars. I only say that some day or other the Germans have to live with the Germans, and we have to live with the German unity as a whole. This is a step towards it. Let us take it.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, South-East)
In rising to address the Committee for the first time, I am very conscious of the need for that indulgence which the Committee is accustomed to afford so generously to maiden speakers. I have noticed that long familiarity with this peculiar ritual of the maiden birth has given the Committee the somewhat clinical attitude of a midwife towards a maiden speech. But I can assure the Committee that for the initiate concerned the act of parthenogenesis is quite as painful an experience as any that he is ever likely to endure in his life. And I count myself very fortunate in enduring this agony at a time when the midwife is in a state of twilight sleep induced by an all-night Sitting the night before.
Although I have chosen to speak on a subject which is bound to be controver- 1498 sial, I hope that I shall not be considered unduly partisan in anything I say, because I agree very much with the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvin-grove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) that opinion on the problem of Germany is divided irrespective of party lines, and I hope I may succeed in steering a course some way between the obvious and the offensive.
The present policy of the Western world is to prevent a third world war by deterring Soviet aggression. I suggest that this policy will not be possible if the manpower and industrial resources of Germany are lost to the Western side and become available to the Soviet side, because if that happens, the balance of world power would shift to the Soviet side, and a third world war would become inevitable.
The Western world might lose Germany either through force or through the free choice of the German people themselves. The immediate danger, of course, is that we should lose Germany through force, and it is because of that danger that we of the Western world are committed to build up on the ground in Europe sufficient armed strength to defend Western Germany; that means very heavy burdens on us now, and I fully agree with those hon. Members who have expressed the view that sooner or later the Germans themselves must carry their share of that burden.
But we can also lose Germany to the Western camp through the free choice of the German people themselves, and we should be very unwise indeed to underestimate that danger when we look at the history of the last 30 years from Rapallo to the German-Soviet Pact of 1939 and watch the activities of the Soviet Union with certain nationalist and right-wing German circles at the present time.
I do not think that it is sufficiently recognised in this Committee that the destiny of Germany, now that seven years have passed since the defeat of Hitler, is certain to be decided in the last resort by the German people themselves. The victorious Powers are no longer in the position of deciding the destiny of Germany against the wishes of the German people—indeed, Western Germany alone is already, in fact although not in law, 1499 the strongest single Power on the continent of Europe—and if and when Germany is united, as in my view is certain and is desirable, Germany will once again be a world Power of the same order as Britain herself.
The problem we face in the Western world now is not, as once it was, to ensure that Germany will never be powerful again. The time for that has gone, if it ever existed. The problem we now face is how to ensure that a Germany, which is certain to become powerful, works with the Western side by its own free choice and not with the Soviet Union. As I say, it is only the German people themselves who can make that choice.
No one has realised that better than the Soviet Government because its recent notes, although ostensibly addressed to the Western Powers, were in fact directed to the people of Germany herself. We should be unwise also to underestimate the difficulty of keeping Germany on the Western side. National unity will soon become the over-riding aim of the Western German people, and Germany will go to the side which offers her the best chance of getting national unity on acceptable conditions, and she will leave any side which denies her the chance of unity under conditions which she considers acceptable.
In the long run, Russia holds all the cards because it is only Russia which can give back to Germany her unity, including not only the Soviet zone but also the provinces lost to Poland. And she would not hesitate to do so if she thought she could get an agreement with Germany.
Moreover, we have to face the additional difficulty that any agreements we make now with the Western German Government are bound to be provisional. The Germans themselves do not regard the Federal Republic as a permanent affair any more than they regard Bonn as the permanent capital of Germany. Dr. Adenauer has recently stressed this point, greatly to the dismay of the French, that any agreement accepted by Western Germany will have to be negotiated again if and when Germany becomes united, even if unity comes about under the Basic Law, because we cannot bind 70 million 1500 people to agreements which were accepted by only a majority of 47 million people.
On the other hand, the cards which Russia holds are by no means so strong at the present time, because Western Germany is extremely conscious of its weakness and its inability to defend itself. Hatred and distrust of the Soviet Union are the dominating emotions throughout Western Germany, and for that reason the German people would not at this time accept national unity if the price of national unity were the rupture of their lifeline to the West.
Like the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove and other hon. Members, I also visited Germany recently and had an opportunity of discussing this question with members of all German parties. I was surprised to find that there was almost unanimity between the Government and the opposition on the fact that a united Germany at this time could not afford to be neutral, nor could Germany accept unity without the guarantee of security.
The only thing I would suggest, and on which there is disagreement in Germany, is that we should not now commit ourselves to a united Germany having security in the form of a military alliance with the West. One criticism I would make, if it is permitted to a maiden speaker, of the reply to the Soviet note is the reference to the all-German Government being allowed to make "such defensive arrangements as it wishes." I think that we would be unwise to insist on that, if the phrase means a military alliance. If, on the other hand, it means security against the possibility of a Soviet coup or invasion, we must insist on it, and the Germans would be united in supporting us in insisting on it.
My conclusion is that, at the present time, German unity will only be acceptable to the German people on conditions that we ourselves would be the first to insist on. Indeed, as the Foreign Secretary has already said, the Western reply to the Soviet note in insisting on these conditions has been welcomed unanimously in Western Germany.
I am extremely glad that I should be able to make my maiden speech on a day when all the doubts created by Western policy in the last few weeks have been dispersed by the reply to the second Soviet note. There has been a great 1501 danger that the Western Powers' reluctance to enter on a new series of Palais Rose discussions with the Russians will be interpreted in Germany as a reluctance to see Germany united again. I would say that at this moment, above all, we can afford to take the offensive on the question of German unity. We shall gain much and lose nothing by doing so.
There has been a good deal of discussion in the Committee this afternoon about the dangers in the delay of the carrying out of E.D.C., and there is no doubt that many people are concerned lest the delays inevitably imposed by talks with the Russians on German unity will lose us what is considered to be the last chance of getting an early German defence contribution to E.D.C. Here I come on to ground which may be considered very controversial, but I assure the House I have no intention whatever of being polemic or partisan, and I hope that my contribution will be received as a sincere effort to think the problem out.
The first point is that if it is really true, as the Foreign Secretary seemed to suggest in his speech, that public opinion is moving so rapidly against E.D.C. that unless we can get the agreement in the bag within the next 12 months we shall lose the chance for ever—if it is a question of now or never—then the agreement will be worthless even if we get it. I apologise if I have misinterpreted the Foreign Secretary's remarks on that matter.
The second point is that both the demand for an early German defence contribution and the agreement to treat E.D.C. as the right framework for a German defence contribution—I hope it is not impertinent to remind the Committee of this—were accepted against the will of the British Government of the day and only under very heavy pressure from our Allies.
The decision taken by N.A.T.O. in 1950 to seek an immediate German defence contribution at a time when almost none of the European peoples wanted it, including the Germans themselves—the only exceptions were the Dutch and the Danes—would never have been taken then had it not been for very strong and insistent—and legitimate—American pressure. The agreement last September to treat the European Defence Community as the right framework for a German 1502 contribution would never have been accepted by N.A.T.O. had not our French ally said that they would not accept a German defence contribution in any other framework.
I hope it is not impertinent to remind the Committee of that fact, because my view is that the present commitment of the Western world to E.D.C. and to an immediate German defence contribution arises out of the panic induced by Korea. It represents a false start in solving the German problem, and we should be prepared to welcome the pause imposed by events in order to get back on the right road.
On the question of a German contribution, I believe that General Eisenhower was quite right in his immediate and instinctive response to the suggestion when he took up his command, when he said, "I do not want any unwilling soldiers under my command." It is the case that, for whatever reasons—and for very many varied reasons—at present the majority of the German people, and the overwhelming majority of the Germans of military age, do not want a German defence contribution. Incidentally, the Western Powers have got into appalling difficulties by treating the Contractual Agreement, as the Foreign Secretary said, as a sort of bribe in order to buy unwilling German soldiers. We should have got the agreement through without the slightest difficulty if it had not been tied to the European Defence Community.
On the other hand—I disagree with some of my hon. Friends on this point—although public opinion in Germany is at present opposed to a defence contribution, public opinion will change very rapidly and very dramatically, possibly within the next 12 months, and once the Germans want to re-arm we shall not be able to stop them even if we want to. In other words, German re-armament in the short run is impossible; in the long run it is inevitable. It is entirely a matter of timing. "Ripeness is all" in the case of the German defence contribution.
What I suggest we should do is use the time still available to us, before the Germans want to make a defence contribution, in order to consider very seriously and quietly, and not in a panic, what framework will be best suited to contain a German defence contribution. 1503 No one can fail to recognise that, although a German defence contribution would bring great gains to the West, it would also carry very great dangers. We must choose a framework which will be strong enough and large enough to attract the Germans and to hold them for good. It is no good trying to force Germany now into a mould which she will crack when she becomes stronger.
Last September the Western Powers agreed to use E.D.C. as the framework for a German defence contribution only because France would accept no other. However, I suggest that it is becoming quite clear that the French themselves, who were the only people who wanted it in the first place, have now lost faith in E.D.C. as a means of controlling German re-armament.
E.D.C. can control a German defence contribution only if the non-German components are stronger than the German components. It is already evident that Western Germany alone would be stronger in E.D.C., in fact if not in form, than France, because of France's great commitments outside Europe in Indo-China, and, indeed, stronger than all the other members of E.D.C. put together. The result is that the French are beginning to realise that E.D.C., which they first saw as an instrument to control Germany, will turn out to be an instrument by which Germany can militarily dominate Western Europe.
In any case E.D.C. cannot offer a longterm solution to the German problem because, as Dr. Adenauer has said, when Germany is united she will have to renegotiate all the agreements which she has made, whether E.D.C. or otherwise, and it would be very dangerous if we got into a position where the importance of a German defence contribution through E.D.C., once it was set up, became such that we were compelled to oppose German unity for fear of losing that contribution under those conditions.
There is a French proverb—I shall not try to give it in French—which says, "There is nothing which lasts like the provisional." That proverb will not be very popular in Germany, and there is a very great danger in creating at this stage vested interests in a provisional solution which cannot possibly last into the future
1504 The French see only one way out of their dilemma, and that is to get Britain into E.D.C. to balance the power of Germany. But Britain cannot join E.D.C., first, because of its federal structure and secondly, because it has become a cardinal principle of British policy since the war not to accept additional commitments in Europe which might be treated by America as an excuse for reducing American commitments. That principle can be differently expressed as "We should try to avoid accepting new commitments in Europe which we cannot get the Americans to share."
The French are quite right in thinking that, if Germany is to be controlled in the future, Britain and America must have a hand in the controlling, but a guarantee from Britain and America to E.D.C. of such a nature as to prevent a German secession would be both impossible to frame and impossible to fulfil. There is only one way by which the French can get what they want, and that is by having Germany re-armed within the only framework in whose integrity Britain and America have a direct and vital interest, and that framework is the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
I see the Foreign Secretary pursing his lips. He is right. That prospect at the moment dismays the French. But surely it is not beyond the resources of the Foreign Secretary's diplomacy to show the French that, if they really want Britain and America involved in the longterm control of re-armed Germany, they must put Germany into the organisation in maintaining whose integrity Britain and the United States have an absolutely vital and permanent interest.
I do not suggest that we should now invite the Germans to enter the Atlantic Pact. This is entirely a matter of timing. It will be some time before the Germans themselves want to be re-armed under any circumstances. What I suggest is that we should use that time to strengthen N.A.T.O. so that it is capable of receiving this formidable new recruit. On the other hand, we must have more N.A.T.O. troops in Europe and, in particular, more French troops; and, on the other hand, we must tighten and more closely integrate the structure of N.A.T.O. I personally would not exclude tightening the military structure of N.A.T.O. in S.H.A.P.E. on the technical lines already 1505 found practical in E.D.C. That is the only way out of the problem.
To sum up, the problem of keeping a united Germany in the Western camp and out of the Soviet camp is the most crucial and urgent problem facing the whole of the West for many years ahead. In my opinion, in the panic following Korea, the Western Powers made a false start; but a pause is now imposed by events. It is our duty to make it creative. I am one of those who believe that the ever closer unity of the Atlantic peoples is one of the most fruitful developments of the postwar era. And I am convinced that it offers to us the one real chance of solving the perennial problem of Germany.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Fitzroy Maclean (Lancaster)
I am sure that everybody in the Committee will agree that we have just listened to a most remarkable maiden speech. For a maiden speaker the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey) finds himself in a rather unusual position. Hon. Members have often listened to his speeches before, but hitherto they have been delivered by other people, by his right hon. Friends on the Front Bench. Up to now we have known him and respected him as an expert and back-room boy. Now, like other back-room boys on both sides of the Committee, he has made good and emerged as an orator in his own right, and an outstanding orator at that. I am sure the Committee will be in agreement with me when I say that we shall look forward to hearing from him very often in the future, and I am sure that his speeches, like the one to which we have just listened, will always be thoughtful, fair, well-informed and well-delivered, and will constitute a most valuable contribution to our debates.
As to the matter of the speech, I find myself in agreement with very much, if not all, of what he said. Nobody in this Committee welcomes unreservedly the idea of re-arming the Germans. It is too soon after the last war and too soon after the war before that for anybody to be able to take any pleasure in German re-armament. The decision to re-arm the Germans was difficult, and I think the previous Government deserve credit for the courage and the realism which they showed in taking that decision. 1506 Like all decisions nowadays, it involved a serious risk, but a smaller risk in my opinion, than the alternative of doing nothing, of letting things drift, and thus leaving Western Europe inadequately defended in the face of the menace which threatens it there. We have to face the fact that German participation is essential if Western defence is to be a reality. We shall be told that we face the danger of reviving German militarism and imperialism. I think that is quite true. But I, for one, would rather face it within the framework of a United Western Europe and a united democratic world.
We may even, by integrating Germany in Western Europe, help to solve for good the German problem which has so disturbed the world during the last half century. In the past the trouble has always been that Germany has kept out of Western Europe or has been kept out of it, and that has ultimately led to an explosion. We have got to be realistic. The Germans are not going to stay disarmed for ever. If they are going to rearm, it is better that they should re-arm with our help and within the framework of the European Defence Community and N.A.T.O., than against our will and perhaps even under the control of the Russians, as is happening in Eastern Germany.
It is an essential task to fit Germany into the Western Defence system, but it is anything but a simple task. We have not only our own misgivings to overcome; we have got the most understandable susceptibilities of our French allies, of the Americans and of the Germans themselves to consider. But in spite of that, considerable progress has been made. There has been the Lisbon conference, the talks in London, Paris and Bonn and I think it is possible to say that today N.A.T O. is on the way to becoming a reality—but only on the way. As somebody said the other day, N.A.T.O. is like the Venus de Milo, plenty of S.H.A.P.E., but no arms. It cannot be and will not become a reality without a European Defence Community, or at any rate, as the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East, suggested, without some corresponding arrangement within the framework of N.A.T.O. European defence cannot become a reality without the Germans. If the European Defence Community does not materialise or if the 1507 Germans are left out of it, then irreparable damage will have been done to the whole of Western defence.
Now that, of course, is the chief aim of Soviet policy. We want to be quite clear about that. The aim of Soviet policy at the moment is to do irreparable damage to the Western system of defence and to drive a wedge between us and our allies. That, almost certainly, is the purpose which lies behind the latest Soviet proposals for Germany and the complete diplomatic somersault which they represent. Of course, we are bound to give the Russians the benefit of the doubt. The latest answer to the Soviet note does that admirably. It makes our position clear and at the same time leaves the door open for further discussion.
Now there is nothing surprising about the Soviet desire to throw a spanner in the works of our Western defence arrangements. What is surprising is that at this very late hour there are still people in this country and hon. Members in the House who consciously or unconsciously play the Russian game to the extent which they have done; who still believe or affect to believe in the possibility of preserving peace at the present time by any means other than re-armament and reaching a settlement with Russia from any position other than one of strength.
One of the outstanding features of the period of office of the last Government was the change which took place during that period in Socialist foreign policy. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East, from whom we have just heard an eloquent speech, played his full part in that evolution. By what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has aptly called a process of "belated conversion to the obvious," the Labour Government advanced during those six years of office from a Socialist foreign policy based on the ideological affinity which they fondly believed to exist between themselves and the Russians, a policy of "Left talking to Left in comradeship and confidence," a Zilliacus policy—
§ Mr. Maclean
I am well aware that the words were used by Mr. Bevin, but 1508 the policy at that time was very largely the work of the former Member for Gateshead. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Before 1945 he played a leading part in the framing of Socialist foreign policy [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and when the change came it was the Labour Party which deviated from Zilliacus, not Zilliacus who deviated from the Labour Party. I am sorry that the two hon. Gentlemen sitting in their cosy little corner below the Gangway dispute that statement, because I have heard them again and again attack Mr. Bevin for pursuing a policy which was not truly Socialist.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Of course, the hon. Gentleman is right, but we were not accusing Mr. Bevin of departing from Zilliacus. We were accusing him of departing from Mr. Bevin.
I shall not attempt to enter into the internecine disputes of the Labour Party just now.
§ Mr. Maclean
The fact remains that the foreign policy was changed, and I should like to think that the changes were inspired by the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East. It was a change from an ideological foreign policy to a policy of collective security and robust resistance to aggression, which we on our side could and did wholeheartedly support. What has happened to that bi-partisan policy? There are signs that it has been thrown to the wolves, thrown to the big bad wolves from Ebbw Vale and Bishop Auckland and the pack of hungry jackals who came yapping in their wake. Whatever anyone says, the effect of the statement made by the National Executive of the Labour Party is quite clear. It is to postpone for over a year the rounding off, the completion, of the treaties which link Western Germany to the Atlantic system and to postpone the setting up of the European Defence Community. The foundations of those treaties were laid by the Labour Government and the Labour Foreign Secretary, and now we see the Labour Party doing what it can to undermine them.
That is the effect; whether or not that is the intention of the statement is another matter. We have different views expressed Judging by the chorus of 1509 exhilarated screams which have proceeded from the "New Statesman" and other quarters, there is no doubt about it at all in some quarters, but when one listens to the Leader of the Opposition one wonders what the position really is.If the timetable for setting up E.D.C. breaks down this summer,writes the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), exultantly in the "New Statesman,"then the European Defence Community will be as dead as a door nail and no one will dare try to resurrect it.That shows what he thinks.
Now what is the reason for the frantic desire to hold up Western re-armament and to hinder the development of Western security? One only has to read the speeches of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) to see whence the inspiration comes. He said in Jarrow a couple of months ago:The Americans are engaged in the most tremendous re-armament programme the world has ever seen. I cannot see any sense in it, and no one has yet tried to put sense into it.He also said:I say to my American friends "—I do not know whether he will have any after this—that their economic and fiscal policies are doing more damage to Western Europe than Stalin can ever do.That is a totally different conception of the situation from that which inspired the Labour Party's policy when it was in office. The right hon. Gentleman has been called the Tito of Tonypandy.
§ Mr. Maclean
Let me continue. I think that that is a poor compliment to my former associate, Marshal Tito. They may hold similar ideas as regards the conduct of their domestic affairs. When I say domestic affairs, of course, I am not for one moment referring to the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee). I am sure she would not stand any Titoism in the home.
§ Mr. Maclean
I said I did not refer to the hon. Lady. But, if the right hon. Gentleman would like me to do so, I will certainly withdraw what I said.
As I say, they may hold similar ideas regarding domestic affairs, but in foreign affairs, the real Tito certainly holds very different and very much more realistic ideas than the right hon. Gentleman. The last time I saw Tito, he said something which struck me as being very much to the point.
§ Mr. Maclean
The hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Front Bench below the Gangway have a weakness for Communist States. Let them just listen for one moment to something that was said by a Communist statesman. It may do them good. He said, "There is only one argument that the Russians understand, and that is strength. Superior strength is the only thing that will deter them. In Western armed strength lies the only hope of preventing a third world war." In short, Tito has understood what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale has failed to understand, namely, the purpose which lies behind Western re-armament and American rearmament. I suspect that Tito also holds very different ideas regarding the respective danger values of Russia and America. But then he has seen the Russians from closer.
Such a repudiation of a bi-partisan foreign policy, such a reversion to the old ideological Socialist policy, is not surprising in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale, nor, for that matter, in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). It is much more surprising in the Leader of the Opposition. Because, after all, we are told that he approved the statement of the National Executive. I can only imagine that he did that in order to secure unity in his own party. That is a cause which is bound to be very near the heart of the leader of any great party. But it is not everything, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, while there is still time, will reconsider his decision, and repudiate the announcement, and so show that the national interest and his own personal integrity do, after all, come first.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Lancaster (Mr. F. Maclean) is obviously attempting to qualify for promotion, because it has now become one of the accepted means to promotion, as I understand it, that I should be attacked by a Member on the Government benches, and then the Prime Minister will hasten to promote him into an office in which he does not believe. We know the Prime Minister promotes people into offices they are incapable of holding, but he is the first Prime Minister in history to select a Front Bencher for an office in which he profoundly disbelieves.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Will the right hon. Gentleman not agree that that is, perhaps, better than being promoted into an office which one cannot hold?
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. and gallant Gentleman may interrupt to clarify a fact but not to continue an argument. If he rises again I shall not give way to him.
This is an extremely serious matter. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Lancaster has done the Committee the service of making it quite clear that there is a fundamental difference between the statement made by the National Executive of the Labour Party and the statement made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs today. This is a difference which will become clearer as the weeks and months go by. I am not authorised to speak either on behalf of the Labour Party or on behalf of the Executive of the Labour Party, but we were quite clear—at least, I was quite clear—what we had in mind when we issued the statement.
I have no doubt whatsoever—I never have had any doubt—that Western Europe is perfectly entitled to form whatever alignments and coalitions, and take whatever measures, it wishes for its own defence. We are as much entitled to take those measures in Western Europe as the Soviet Union is to take them in Eastern Europe, and it seems to me to be entirely beside the point to try to show that the defensive arrangements of Western Europe are offensive in their character and that those of the Soviet Union are defensive. Every nation, whenever it makes military preparations, 1512 always makes them for defensive purposes. No one has ever yet stated on behalf of his own nation that its arms are for offensive purposes.
The fact is that whenever we approach a problem connected with the Soviet Union it is almost impossible for some hon. Members not to do so in an anti-Christ state of mind. They just cannot see the problem as a whole at all. I am afraid that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs today did not start his speech in a mood which would contribute towards the success of conversations with the Soviet Union. It is not enough to say that the Soviet Union says very rude things. It does not create the atmosphere for successful negotiations if we start attacking the Soviet Union as the principal culprit all over the world.
Every era sees a repetition of the same behaviour. At one time it was Napoleon Buonaparte. Then it was Hitler—although I must say that I never found hon. Members on that side of the Committee, between 1933 and 1939, when German workers were being brutalised in Germany, when German Socialists were being thrown into concentration camps, half as angry with Hitler as they are now with Stalin—and that goes for most of the Members of the Conservative Party. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I sat in the House of Commons all through that period. Indeed, the Prime Minister promoted into office one right hon. Gentleman whose contribution to the pacification of Europe was an offer to buy Hitler off. It therefore is not possible for us, nor is it wise, to discuss defence as though it were a purely military operation.
I cannot understand some of the speeches made by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. There are mass Communist parties on the Continent of Europe, and the reason why they are there is not because the Kremlin is so clever at conspiracy. No one really suggests that millions of Italians vote Communist and millions of French workers vote Communist because of the subtle cleverness of the Kremlin. They do so because they are opposed to the social injustices of their own nations.
What, therefore, is the good of suggesting in a detached and serene manner that, in meeting these dangers, all we need to do is to consider our arms and our 1513 defensive alliances? The same thing is true of Germany. That is why I agree with the remarkable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey). That is why, if Germany goes Communist, it will be because, by the post-war arrangements, we are now re-establishing in Germany the same type of persons who financed Hitler before the war.
What is the use of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War talking as though all that is happening in Malaya is a Communist conspiracy? The fact is that a great deal of what is happening in Malaya at present is happening because for generations the British Imperial Government refused justice to the population—
§ Mr. Bevan
What is the use of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen denying the fact that what we are witnessing in the world at present is the breakup of the colonial Empire? This has become as apparent to a good deal of American informed opinion as it has to us here. If Stalin was not there, the East the Far East and the Middle East would be in a political and social ferment. It is a fact for the modern generation to face, we have to deal with it, and no one will ever be able to frame a satisfactory military reply to that situation.
That is not to say that I subscribe in the very least to the excesses occurring in Malaya or in the Middle East. Nor do I subscribe to what the French Government are doing in Tunisia. Nor do I subscribe to what the French Government are doing in Indo-China. The fact is that the old imperialistic nations of the Western world are prepared to release their hold on colonial possessions too reluctantly for the aspirations of the people concerned. We must begin to have a realistic view of this or we shall never be able to frame the right answers. The answers are not only military, but political and social. That is why I believe this has been an entirely unreal discussion. It has emasculated the social scene and, having done that, it considers what is left as a sort of petrified segment called E.D.C. 1514 There is a fundamental difference between the Labour Party approach to this problem and that of the Government, not because Labour policy has changed. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds. South-East, said, we accepted the principle of German re-armament with the utmost reluctance under American pressure and we are once more faced, for the third time, with a situation caused by panic decisions. We did so with the £3,600 million programme. We did so with the £4,700 million programme, both programmes being impracticable here and in America because each time we accepted soldiers' estimates of the necessities of the international situation and each time their estimates were wrong
The Prime Minister has confessed it [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes, the right hon. Gentleman informed the House recently that the £4,700 million programme was already an impracticable proposition. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman viewed the departure of the programme with equanimity because he said that international tensions were easing; and against a background of the easement of those tensions the Chancellor of the Exchequer has financed part of his Budget by running down British stocks.
So why does the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary try to tell the Committee that there is great urgency about this at the present time? If there is great urgency about going on with the integration of Western Germany into E.D.C., how can that be justified by running down British domestic stocks? The Foreign Secretary himself has paid tribute to the easing of the international situation. Every time he goes to an international conference he says that the situation is better. Nobody suggests it is better merely because he has been there. But it is true that the international situation is easier than it was.
I shall not argue why that is so. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are perfectly entitled to say it is so because of the steps that were taken to mobilise the North Atlantic Powers and the integration of European forces. All we say is that the situation is easier and, if it is easier, ought we not to take advantage of it and try to make it still easier?
Let us look at this proposition a little more narrowly. The right hon. Gentleman told us quite bluntly today that it 1515 was proposed to go on not only with the signing of the agreements but, as quickly as possible, with the ratifications. Is that not so?
§ Mr. Bevan
Exactly. I do not quarrel with that statement which, however, is in flat contradiction to the recommendations of the National Executive of the Labour Party—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes, I will read it. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs did not read it. It says:The National Executive declares that in order to satisfy the fourth condition laid down on behalf of the Labour Party by Mr. Attlee, namely, that before any German re-armament is undertaken there must be agreement with the German people, fresh elections should be held in Western Germany before any commitment is undertaken by the Adenauer Government for a German contribution to the European Defence Community.That is a perfectly clear statement. We are saying that the Adenauer Government should refresh its mandate from the German people before committing them to a proposition upon which they have never been consulted. There is no hurry about it, no hurry at all, because if the situation is easier there is no reason why we should exacerbate it by proceeding with a proposition which many Germans do not want at all and which may cause reactions of the most dangerous nature in the East.
"The Times" has put the whole thing with the utmost lucidity and makes it quite clear that the other part of the Labour Party Executive's pronouncement has been contradicted by the Government. That is, that we should immediately enter into discussions with the Soviet Union to find out what they mean by their note. But the answer of the British Government slams the door. [Interruption.] Come, come. "The Times" says so. Let us examine it. I do not say that it is so merely because "The Times" says so.
§ Mr. Bevan
We had this handed to us at the Vote Office this morning. There will be some reflections upon this still. What is the proposition that the three Powers have placed before the Russians? What they have said is this, "We are prepared to enter into discussions with you about a freely elected united German Government, but that Government must be free to make any alliances which it wishes." In other words, it must be allowed to exercise the full panoply of sovereign Powers before a peace treaty is made, and it must be permitted to enter into alliance, military and otherwise, with the Western Powers.
"The Times" says—I think they are right—that this is a proposition which the Soviet Union cannot possibly accept. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not? "] Because it is a fact that the Soviet Union are, in this manœuvre, attempting to deny the West the use of German arms—we know that. But what we want to ask ourselves is this: Is that situation harmful to us? Is it a fact that if there is a period of time during which Germany is not rearmed, that necessarily will work to our disadvantage? What is certain much more to work to our disadvantage is if we integrate a Western Germany into our defence forces and make ourselves the enemies of German national unity.
Those are the alternatives. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Surely, the right hon. Gentleman has stated that he proposes at the earliest possible opportunity to integrate into E.D.C. a Western Germany military contribution.
§ Mr. Wyatt
Would my right hon. Friend address himself to this, because I want to get the matter clear and I am sure that he would want to answer it? [An HON. MEMBER: "Cross over."] Dr. Adenauer said, and nobody has denied it, that if an all-German Government is formed, all these agreements would have to be revised, thought out and redone again. Therefore, even if the process of integration of the West German forces with the rest of Europe goes on, if there comes about an all-German Government as a result of discussions with the U.S.S.R.—and this would be an inducement for the Russians to allow one to be formed—the new German Government is not obliged to continue the arrangements previously made.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Before my right hon. Friend answers our mutual hon. Friend, will he bear in mind that in the course of the Foreign Secretary's speech I asked him that very question and the Foreign Secretary gave a very different answer from the one attributed by my hon. Friend to Dr. Adenauer?
§ Mr. Bevan
Once Western Germany has been militarily and economically integrated into E.D.C. by an arrangement that is not yet clear, it will be extremely difficult, without the most dangerous irredentism in Germany, to re-establish the whole of German unity—everybody understands that. Other observers, including commentators from the United States, have already pointed out—I think that in the "Manchester Guardian" today it is pointed out by Mr. Lippmann—that it is a very dangerous situation for Great Britain and France to build into their strategical defences the permanent disunity of the German people.
My hon. Friend the Member Leeds, South-East, pointed that out; that in such a case as that, not only will we have the natural resurgence of the German people against the normal exploitations of capitalist life but, added to that, the resurgence arising from the fact that the only people able to bring unity to the German people will be the Russians themselves.
I ask, seriously, is that good strategy? Is it not a fact that what we did was to accept the military calculations of the generals without first exploring the social and political results arising from them? The generals said, "We want more troops. Western Germany will give us 12 divisions." That was all that the generals bothered about. That is the simple little sum they made, like they made it over the re-armament programme in a few days, or in a few weeks; and since then we have been facing the consequences of their behaviour.
As soon, however, as they said, "We want those 12 divisions" and they are to be in Germany, we started to face the consequences of how to fit it all in. What is the result? Nobody knows to this day what political organisation is to correspond with E.D.C. We are trying to work it out. We have got something called a Commission, which is to control it, and behind that a Council of Ministers. Why, it is a European Praetorian guard, without even an Emperor.
1518 Here is a completely detached military organisation. It is like creating a police force before we have a court. It all arises from the fact that we had to devise that ingenious constitutional machinery to find a means of getting 12 divisions from the Germans without frightening the French. We are left in a situation about which not even up to this day can we say with any clarity what political Parliamentary control will be exercised over the military ogre that we are creating in the West.
Surely that is a most dangerous situation, and is the result of completely slipshod thinking and over-hasty action. Therefore, what we plead is this: Let us give some evidence that we are trying to make efforts to make a peace as well as to make arrangements for a war. When I am told by the Foreign Secretary that if Germany is not re-armed she will be able to compete powerfully with the rest of us and not have to carry the burdens, there is a solution to that, too.
If we are really to make peace in the modern world, it is not only by having our defence forces strong enough. It is by the Western nations pooling their resources more intelligently and helping those parts of the world that are boiling up all the time because of unendurable hunger. The Germans could be asked, and could be made, to make a contribution to that pool. [HON. MEMBERS: "How?"] Well, the Government are making them do this now. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes, they are.
It is no use pleading the helplessness of the British, French and American Governments in face of Germany, because under the Occupation Statute they could dismiss the Adenauer Government tomorrow. I do not want to do that, but is it not an insane suggestion that because we cannot get economic and financial co-operation from a country we must necessarily encourage it to make guns aeroplanes and tanks?
§ Mr. Bevan
Let the hon. Member suppress himself. After all, a weak engine ought not to need such strong brakes.
It seems to us that we ought not to pursue a line with regard to this effort which may have the effect of causing the Russians to believe there is no possibility at all of a relaxation of tension at the 1519 present time. I believe that our people will be profoundly disturbed by this overhasty attitude on the part of the Foreign Secretary. We believe—I sincerely believe—that the Soviet Union are as frightened by the international situation as we are—
§ Mr. Bevan
So is Tito frightened by it. We are coming to a dangerous state of mind in this island of 50 million people, faced, as we are, with the possibility of atom war, if we are to be jeered at because we say we are afraid. Of course we are afraid; we are all afraid. Only a fool is not afraid. Therefore, it seems to me, and it seems to a good many others, too, that there is no need at all to hasten in this matter—
§ Mr. Bevan
There is evidence that the Russians are coming to the view that there ought to be a reasonable attempt to relax the tensions. Only by a relaxation of them, only by the creation of confidence, shall we ever be able to begin to approach the problem of disarmament. It is nonsense to imagine that in a world full of tensions people will he prepared to throw their guns away.
§ Mr. F. Maclean
Will the right hon. Gentleman say who was responsible, in the first place, for creating the situation to which he refers? Who created the tension? Who forced us into the armament race?
§ Mr. Bevan
Even if I attempted to answer that, and even if it could be shown beyond a peradventure that the guilty nation was the Soviet Union, that would not alter the reality of the situation with which we are faced. It is no use trying to blame nations for anything. That is idle, because nations are caught up in circumstances over which, collectively, they often have no control at all. It is no use blaming the Soviet Union because, if we were to start fixing blame, there would be some names mentioned by the present generation of young men who are having to bear the burdens of the follies of the party opposite for 25 years.
1520 What is the use of us talking about who is to blame? All I am anxious to do is to find out if it is not possible at this hour to try to obtain from the Soviet Union some accommodation—through amicable discussions and not by flinging taunts at each other and blaming each other. As the Foreign Secretary himself has said, if we could only make a start, no matter how small—if we could get some cooperation, if we could only build a bridge, no matter how slender—that very thing might itself be a watershed in history.
It might turn us into an entirely different direction because, from that start something else may be done. When self-confidence returns, and mutual confidence and mutual co-operation, then we can approach the problem of disarmament; but not by the present silly attitude, not by the acceptance of the political consequences of ill-considered military opinion. It is only by statesmanship that we shall bring sagacity to bear on the problem.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North)
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said at the beginning of his speech that he regarded any attacks on himself or what he was saying by back benchers on this side of the Committee as attempts to achieve office. Whether from modesty, however, or because I found little to bite on in the right hon. Gentleman's flocculent utterance, I will certainly not try to follow him in the attacks he made on our record in Malaya and on our French allies in Indo-China. Nor shall I follow him in the very unworthy attack which he made on the party on this side of the Committee when he said that at the time of Hitler we had been slower to condemn than we have been to condemn Marshal Stalin and his policy.
§ Mr. Amery
The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) said that of course we were. Let him look at the Front Bench on this side at this very moment. I will not, however, proceed to follow these points, because I thought them irrelevant in this debate and unworthy of the right hon. Gentleman. What I shall try to do is deal with the more serious arguments the right hon. Gentleman put 1521 forward and thank him, because I think he deserves the gratitude of the Committee for having shown us what is in the mood and in the mind at least of the section of the party opposite which he leads.
First, I should like to consider one aspect of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. I think he has often been misrepresented. People have said he is pro-Russian. As I understand it—and I have followed his speeches and the speeches of his supporters with some care—he does not deny that there is a certain danger from the Russians and does not deny the need for a measure of rearmament. What he does say is that by re-arming as much as we are at present doing we run the risk of over-straining our economy. I can understand this contention that the British should have a smaller arms programme on one condition alone, and that is, if other people had a larger arms programme.
If one had more German troops one would have a case for saying we needed fewer British troops. That is not a case I support myself but it is logical. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends, however, call for the opposite. They want fewer British and no German troops at all. That is nonsense unless they deny there is a Russian danger. What is the truth? Either the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are fellow travellers but will not admit it; or they are so irresponsible that they regard the struggle for the soul of Europe as a pawn in the struggle for the soul of the Labour Party.
Students of military history will, I think, agree with me that a retreat is often the highest test of generalship. I should like, therefore, to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on the skill with which he attempted to withdraw from the untenable position into which he had been led by his clumsier lieutenants. I think he was helped in that by the influence of steadier elements behind him, including the right hon. Member for Bassettlaw (Mr. Bellenger) and the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey), on whose maiden speech I should like to add my congratulations.
But I fear that the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, although moderate in tone, will not have much 1522 effect on the world outside. What will be remembered, and what has been underlined by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, is the statement of the Executive, and I must say I have been staggered by that statement. It is a complete repudiation of the policies of the late Ernest Bevin and the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison). I would say to right hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite and those who cheered or supported the speech of the Leader of the Opposition: "Would you have dared to do it if Ernest Bevin had still been here?"
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
The speech of my right hon. Friend contained very largely the same ideas as the late Foreign Secretary announced at Blackpool and which he endeavoured to carry out in his own quiet way.
§ Mr. Amery
If the hon. Gentleman believes that, he will believe anything.
I would say to the party opposite, "You are a great party in the State. Until the last Election you were the Government of Britain for several years. You claim to be ready to govern this country again. You claim, and it is true, and have, considerable influence with the international Socialist movement. Well, you cannot disclaim responsibility in the conduct of the Foreign Affairs of this country."
The statement of the Executive asks us to postpone the signature or ratification of the E.D.C. until the Germans proceed to fresh elections. The Foreign Secretary has pointed out that there cannot be any question of elections in the ordinary course until the late summer of next year. Do they then want emergency elections in Germany? That is a pretty serious intervention in the internal affairs of Germany if that is what they are asking for.
§ Mr. Amery
There have been a good many interventions, but never one of that kind. I would point this out to the right hon. Gentleman. Parliamentary Government is not strongly established in 1523 Germany. The Germans are only beginning to learn again the rules of the democratic Parliamentary system. Are we going now to ask them to break away from the constitutional machinery they have laid down and to have a plebiscite? That is what Hitler based himself on.
This election proposal is not all, because it is coupled with the demand for immediate Four-Power talks which must mean the postponement of the E.D.C. proposals. They should be postponed for what? For discussion of the Russian proposals for German union. These proposals have been said to centre on the question of free elections. I believe that is only partly true. The real issue surely is that the Russians want a neutral Germany, a Germany tied to neither side; and if I understood the right hon. Gentleman right, he wants that, too.
§ Mr. Amery
I shall deal with that point if the right hon. Gentleman will allow me. I do not think that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on that side of the Committee support that idea of a neutral Germany for any sinister motives. They do so because they hope to see a delay in German re-armament. But have they considered the further effects that neutralisation or an attempt at the neutralisation of Germany would have?
There are many people in Germany who would support the idea of a neutral Germany. There are some among the Social Democrats. I have been very glad to see that the Leaders of the Social Democratic Party have welcomed the rejection of neutrality contained in the Western note.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
It will not be forgotten that there was a time when a great many people accepted an idea of a unified, neutralised and de-militarised Germany. That was a proposal to which everyone agreed, though I understand the argument why that was not carried out. But it is not possible to say today that the idea is obviously an impossible one or an obviously undesirable one.
§ Mr. Amery
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge in the last seven years. I would say to right hon. and hon. Members who like the idea, or who are 1524 attracted to the idea as a last resort—who are the Germans who believe in it with them? They are the German nationalists and the neo-Nazis. Why do they want it? Because they believe that a neutral Germany would hold a balance between East and West. They believe a neutral Germany would be a kind of third force.
I have some sympathy with those who would like to see this country a third force. I do not believe it to be practicable, but I see the appeal of the idea. But I would not like to see Germany as a third force. We have had experience of what happens when the Germans are the arbiters of Europe. I am glad that the Foreign Secretary has rejected the idea of a neutral Germany. It would be very dangerous even if it were possible. But is it possible? All Germany's economic interests point to the East. That is where she used to obtain her raw materials, her food and her markets. As I would say to the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale: I do not believe a neutral Germany would provide much economic effort to help develop the backward countries of the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Amery
I shall come to that point.
Germany may also develop a close political link with the Soviet world because of the lost provinces to which reference has already been made and which the Russians may offer to cede to her. Once we begin to neutralise Germany, there is every reason to fear a junction between Germany and the Soviet Union, if not a total sovietisation. Is that our idea of a settlement?
The outcome of the struggle between East and West turns on the future of Germany. Germany holds the key in a great many ways to the future of the struggle between East and West. There is the Ruhr, the great industrial centre of Germany, there is the skill of the German people and their martial qualities. Here is the biggest bone of contention between the two blocs in the world today. If Germany were in the service of the East the prospects of peace would be hopeless. If Germany were neutral, few of us would sleep easy in our beds, from 1525 wondering if she would still be neutral in the morning. But Germany with us could be a great force for peace and good.
This is the problem which the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) raised a moment ago. How are we to win Germany for the West of her own free will and keep her in the camp of peace and freedom? There will be no lasting peace unless we do. I think that the Prime Minister found the answer in his great speech at Zurich in 1946 when he called for a united Europe and produced a conception which offered a framework not only for a political and economic solution of Europe's problems, but for a solution of moral problems as well. That is a conception which we on this side supported and have supported from that time.
§ Mr. Amery
No, we did not run away from it. We always made it clear that there could be no question of Britain coming into a European federation. What we did want was a United Europe, developing on what we might call Commonwealth lines in which this country would join as a full member. In it we would hold the balance between the French and the Germans, we would be a safeguard to both and, in the tradition of the old Locarno Treaty, could work for their reconciliation.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
The hon. Member has made an important statement. Is he, in fact, speaking for the Prime Minister when he says that the Conservative Party's conception of a united Europe is a Commonwealth conception, with mutual obligations and so on, in which we will be a full member along with the others?
§ Mr. Amery
The hon. Gentleman must recognise that there is a Gangway between my right hon. Friend and the place where I sit. I express only my personal views and no one else's. But I should be very surprised if the view I have expressed were denied. The truth is that it was the party opposite which refused the leadership of Europe and which refused to take the responsibility of bringing this European Commonwealth into being. It was a tragic refusal. To their eternal credit the French Government 1526 took over the lead which we refused to take. They produced the Schuman and Pleven Plans which the party opposite refused even to discuss. As a result of their refusal, there arose a purely continental community from which we were separted.
I must confess that I am not very much enamoured of the idea of a purely continental community. If it came, of course, under the leadership of France all would be well. France can never be too strong for Britain. But there is a danger that the continental community could come under the leadership of Germany, and if that happened the situation would be pretty black for us. The Foreign Secretary expressed the situation more clearly than anybody else when he said that in all its dreams of wedge-driving, Russia could hope for nothing better than the reduction of Britain to the status of an observer in Franco-German relations.
It has been made clear in the French Parliament that the French themselves will not accept a tete-à-tete with Germany. They will not accept a community from which Britain is altogether excluded. It is a little late now for us to start talks to try to join E.D.C. or the Schumann Plan as full members. The negotiations on these matters are all but concluded. The treaties, indeed, were all but signed when we came into office. We have, however, offered to associate ourselves as closely as we can with these communities. That is at least a step in the right direction.
§ Mr. Amery
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman raised that point, because right hon. Gentlemen speaking from the Front Bench opposite have indicated in the last few weeks that they did not think that Britain should go more closely into Europe or enter into closer commitments with Europe than those into which the United States enter. We have taken a much more positive line.
It rather surprises me that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who often talk about having a policy different from that of the United States should be afraid of making the effort which alone can give us independence. Besides, they seem 1527 to forget that God in his infinite wisdom put us on one side of the Atlantic and the United States on the other. If there should be, and we all pray that there will be, an agreement with the Soviet Union, we must accept that the United States will withdraw their forces from Europe. When that time comes, the German problem will still be with us. It is most important, therefore, that we should be, if not right inside, at least much more closely associated with this organisation than the party opposite want us to be.
I am much encouraged by the steps which have been taken in the last few weeks by the Government, the declarations which the Foreign Secretary has made on technical co-operation with E.D.C., by Lord Alexander's visit to Paris and not least, by the proposal made to associate Britain, through the Council of Europe, with the political direction of the E.D.C. and the Schuman Plan. The issue whether E.D.C. is to be accepted by France and Germany is not in our hands. It is still unsettled. Certainly nothing that has been said on the opposite side of the Committee today will do anything to help make the E.D.C. a reality. The German Socialist Party will have been encouraged in the wrong direction. The French Socialist Party will have been discouraged by being thrown over for the Germans at Bonn by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton).
Yet, in spite of all the mistakes of the past, I believe that the initiatives taken by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary can still, if they are pressed home, make a reality of E.D.C. They can do more. They can still revive that great conception of a united Europe upon which so many of our hopes have been placed.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
I should like to start by making an observation on the subject of the reply to the Soviet offer. I would only say about this that I think that the fears of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), whose speech I thought in almost every other respect was unexceptionable, were exaggerated on this question of what will happen at the talks as a result of leaving Western 1528 Germany free to make a military alliance with the West if she wishes.
It has been clearly said by Dr. Adenauer that the Western German Government cannot commit the new Government of Germany, if it comes about that there is an all-German Government which has a writ which runs over the whole of Germany. Therefore, this fear is misplaced. If, as a result of the talks with the Russians, an all-German Government emerges, it can look again at any military agreements or preparations for a contribution to E.D.C. which have been going on in the meanwhile. So there is no fear that the Russians could possibly think that this could be an obstacle to reaching an agreement.
Indeed, as my right hon. Friend so rightly said, it is very largely because of this fear that the Russians have been induced to have the talks at all. Therefore, it would be unwise to remove the potentiality of a German contribution to the European Defence Community before coming to the talks. There are two things which can happen at the talks, if they ever take place. One is that the talks may break down, and the other is that the talks may succeed. In either case we shall still have to deal with the problem of some element of German re-armament.
If the talks break down, we shall still have to deal with the question of the German contribution to the European Defence Community. If they succeed, equally the Germans are bound to have an army of some sort. It may well be—in fact, it is very likely—that there will be some sort of alliance with the West. The point I want to make is that it is a complete illusion to imagine that N.A.T.O. can be strong enough in its present form to contain German rearmament. That is where I profoundly disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey), who made such a brilliant maiden speech.
It is wrong to suppose that N.A.T.O. can have the detailed control and supervision over a German army which is necessary to prevent the re-creation of a German general staff and a possible resurgence of neo-Nazism and some kind of military adventure by the new German Government. It cannot do that because every army in N.A.T.O. is an independent national army, and independent national 1529 armies recognise no surveillance of any sort over what they are doing within their own territories by officers of any other country.
So it is unthinkable that we can get any kind of safeguard against the dangers of German re-armament within N.A.T.O. E.D.C. is so far the only sort of organisation yet devised which holds out any possibility of containing German rearmament within bounds should it become threatening to the rest of the world. It may not be a very effective one, but at any rate it has got the elements of control over German rearmament.
What is E.D.C.? E.D.C. is primarily France and Italy. That is what it is. The European Defence Community is France and Italy, with Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg tagged on behind. The last three countries will obviously not be very effective in restraining the Germans. The former two may be better at it, but is everybody in this country really prepared to hand over the effective control of German re-armament to France and Italy—to France and Italy who have the two largest Communist Parties in Europe and who have perhaps the two Governments which are the least able to build up morale within their territories to resist aggression from outside?
This is what we are doing. The provisions of the European Defence Community lay down that the E.D.C. will control the German arms industry. That will not be done by Britain or America. We shall have no say in that at all. It will be done entirely by the other States in the European Defence Community. It will not be open to us to prevent the Germans making any weapon, or whatever they want, in their arms industry, provided they have persuaded the other members that it is all right.
Again, this will be the only body which can exercise any kind of supervision over the recruiting, training and organisation of German soldiers. I do not believe that, with the best will in the world, the staff officers of France and Italy are competent to deal with their equivalents in the German army. I do not believe that, if there are French staff officers trying to control German staff officers who are up to no good, they will succeed in defeating the Germans at this. The Germans will make rings round them.
1530 Again this body is to have control over the disposal of that amount of money provided by Germany for defence which is left over after paying for the direct German arms contribution. This is a serious matter, and I am sure the Foreign Office must be very worried about it. At the moment it costs about £150 million a year to keep our troops in Germany and it is paid for by occupation costs. All that is going to disappear when E.D.C. is set up. After all the various amounts which Germany has so far been paying for occupation costs have been added up then, first of all, the amount which it actually costs Germany for re-armament has to be deducted.
But the surplus will not come to Britain in equal proportions with the other nations. It will go to the European Defence Community, who will decide how it is to be disposed of. We may not get a very large share. In fact, France is likely to collar the largest slice of the cake because she will be there to say how it is to be disposed of. We are going to suffer acutely by not being there.
I should like to suggest an interim step between what is called close association, which means not very much, and direct participation as a member of E.D.C. This is the interim step I should like to propose. At present, although we shall have close association, and we shall have observers at E.D.C., we shall have no voice in what happens there. The Germans and Italians are already making it clear in the preliminary discussions that they do not think Britain has any right or justification to sway the views of E.D.C. on any matter at all.
If we were to say that, supposing tension were altogether removed from Europe as far as Russia was concerned, and the danger from Russia over the next 20 years or so were removed this is a long-term matter—we would nevertheless still keep some troops on the continent of Europe, this would go a long way to allay the fears of France and Italy who wonder, once the Russian menace is removed—supposing it is—what guarantee there is going to be against a resurgence of Germany. American troops will have gone, and if we remove our troops there will be no guarantee at all against a resurgent Germany in Europe. If we were to give a guarantee to E.D.C. that even if a time were reached when we thought 1531 the Russian danger was lifted, we would nevertheless keep our troops in Europe in order to assist the European Defence Community on the Continent of Europe, it would entitled us to have a real voice in what goes on in E.D.C.. This will be increasingly important for us.
I think the ultimate solution of this matter is for us to join the European Defence Community as a participating member, and I think there is still time for us to do this. I do not think all is yet lost, although the longer we leave it the more likely we are to lose our chance. I know there are many objections to our direct participation in the European Army. I shall not mention all of them, but I will mention one or two. The first one is that this will be the end of the British Army as we know it, and we shall be unable to fulfil our overseas commitments. That is completely ruled out, first of all, by the nature of the European Defence Community Treaty which allows France to deal fully with her overseas commitments in any way that she wants to, and it would allow us to do the same.
In any case, it would be possible for us to enter E.D.C. on a different basis from that of the other countries, as indeed France has done. Germany is to have no other troops than those which are contained in the European Army. France is to have her troops overseas which are not contained in the European Army. So they are all on a slightly different basis. It would be possible for us to say that we would allot three or four of our divisions in Europe at the moment to the European Defence Community, that we would rotate those units as required, and that we would allot reserves to back them up. But that would not commit the rest of our forces at home, overseas in the Commonwealth, and in the Colonies.
The next objection is that there is too tight a control envisaged in the European Defence Community to suit British requirements. I would say two things about that. I think that many people who say that have not read the document very closely. It is very clearly laid down that the approval of the Council of Ministers shall be obtained before decisions are taken or recommendations are made. Again, the Council of Ministers will take decisions directly covering a wide sphere, and it is provided that in such cases the 1532 decision of the Council must be unanimous. Those Ministers are all Ministers deputed by their respective Governments.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale talked about "this praetorian guard without an emperor." What is S.H.A.P.E. but another "praetorian guard without an emperor"? This E.D.C. is not very different from S.H.A.P.E. There is the standing group presiding over the affairs of S.H.A.P.E., in exactly the same way as this Council of Ministers will be for the European Defence Community. As the decisions on major matters must be taken unanimously, there is a perfect safeguard for Britain against anything happening which we do not like.
In any case, if we were to enter the European Defence Community the whole nature of it would be changed and modified because we could not have a Power like Britain entering the European Defence Community and leaving it unchanged. If we entered it over the next two years, there would be plenty of possibility to make alterations, to modify it and make it suit our requirements.
I should like to try to get out of the present E.D.C. something which is halfway between N.A.T.O. as at present organised and the European Defence Community as at present envisaged. It is objected that this might lead to too close a federal structure. One of the best ways of seeing that it does not lead to the sort of federal structure we do not want is to be in it. If we are not in it, all sorts of things may happen that we do not like, but if we are there we can help to guide it in the direction we desire. If we guide it in the direction of a close community of Europe which is built up loosely but in a way which is functional, it will be all to the good.
The last objection with which I would deal is that relating to the Commonwealth. A tremendous amount of rubbish has been talked about Commonwealth objections to joining the European Defence Community. No Commonwealth country has ever made the slightest complaint about it. It is a myth put out by those people who dislike the idea of Britain joining E.D.C., without any foundation in fact whatever.
I agree that these objections may seem very valid to many people. This afternoon the Foreign Secretary made play 1533 with a document issued by the National Executive of the Labour Party, as he was entitled to do. I am sure it will not be taken amiss if I refer to what the Prime Minister, who was not then the Prime Minister, said at Strasbourg on 11th August, 1950. He said that we should make a gesture of practical and constructive guidance by declaring ourselves in favour of the immediate creation of a European Army under unified command, and in which we should all bear an honourable and worthy part. Not only did he say that but he moved a resolution to give effect to it.
This resolution called for the immediate creation of a unified European Army subject to proper European democratic control. Did he or did he not know what he meant when he was saying that and moving that resolution? Surely a statesman of his eminence must have had some idea of what he meant by proper democratic control and by a European Army in which we should all play an honourable part. He must have known what he had in mind.
It is open to right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench to disagree with what I am saying, but it is not open to the Prime Minister to disagree with it, because he must have had some idea of what the European Army was to be. He himself gave birth to the idea of a European Army and it was because he backed it so strongly that France and Germany were willing to engage in talks upon it. It was not only a question of American pressure, as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East, but of pressure by the Prime Minister.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)
The hon. Gentleman has carefully avoided the other objection—which is surely the principal and ruling objection in this case —of the time factor, namely, that if we were now to go into the E.D.C. the whole of the agreements would have to be negotiated over again.
§ Mr. Wyatt
There is something in what the hon. Gentleman says, but I am sure that he will agree that there is perhaps no violent hurry about this matter, and that if we did go in in a year or two, these agreements could be modified. Although the agreements are formally written out, they are quite simple in principle. The organisation which is envisaged is not 1534 very different from that of S.H.A.P.E., and it can be modified to suit our requirements. I do not think it is a permanent objection, although the difficulty does increase with time.
With regard to some of the advantages of joining the European Defence Community, I think that probably the whole of Europe, with the exception of Germany, would like us to join. The very fact that Germany does not want us to join makes it all the more necessary that we should do so, in my opinion, because the reason Germany is against our joining is that she believes that she can dominate that organisation and use it to her own ends if we are not in it. France feels that we are dragging our feet and there would be tremendous joy throughout France if we said, "We have changed our minds and want to join E.D.C." If we said that, all these little modifications of the agreements to suit us would be very small objections in comparison with the explosive effect of our agreeing to participate.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South- East talked about the question of faith in Europe. If we were to join E.D.C. it would show a tremendous increase of our faith in Europe and it would do a great deal to boost the morale of Europe, which is not even now anything like as good as it should be in order to fight another war, should it be forced upon us. I think that British aloofness in Europe has probably been a large part of the cause of the last two wars—the fact that we always seem to be on the perimeter of Europe and never willing fully to back up those threatened by aggression.
The second advantage is that we would be able to make E.D.C. a very effective military organisation, which I feel it may not be without our presence. Perhaps the most important advantage of all is that it would enable us to take the lead in Europe. There are many people—and I am afraid they are not always of one party—who feel that Britain is entering into a decline; that we are caught up between those two vast forces of America and Russia, and that there can be no half-way house between complete subservience to America and a complete breakaway from her, which would leave us at the mercy of Russia.
I do not accept that defeatist view. I think it may come about if we allow 1535 ourselves, through inertia, not to take part in the European Defence Community, but if we were to join the European Army we would undoubtedly be taking a lead in Europe, and strengthening ourselves in our relations with America and, as far as that is concerned, with Russia.
I believe that the whole of our future is bound up with our making a decision, in the next year or two, to join the European Army, so as to make it an effective force and take the lead in Europe. It would be an effective counter to the extremes on both sides, without forming a third force. It would be a force which was able to co-operate with America on more equal terms.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. W. W. Astor (Wycombe)
It is extremely pleasant to be able to follow the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) in a speech with every word of which one agrees. We have heard some remarkable speeches in this debate. The Leader of the Opposition made a speech which made Agag look like a bull in a china shop, as he trod delicately between the path of his National Executive statement of policy. the views of the Welsh mountain behind him, and everything he stood for when he was Prime Minister—while the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) made the bull in the china shop look like Agag, as he threw overboard everything for which the Cabinet of which he was a member for so many years stood.
It is rather disgraceful of him to say that the Cabinet in which he sat produced a policy only under the pressure of the United States, and that all the time they never believed in it. If that is true they should have told the country so at the time, and said, "This is wrong. We will chuck in our hand." The attitude of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale now appears to be that Stalin does not believe what he wrote and what he said, and that we must not draw the obvious deductions from the present fantastic rate of Russian re-armament.
We gave Hitler the benefit of the doubt on exactly the same points before the war. We thought that perhaps he did not mean what he said, and instead of looking at the speed at which he was increasing his armaments 1536 We thought that he would be guided by common sense and the obvious interests of his country in peace, and by his own placatory manœuvres. For heaven's sake let us not make the same mistake again. Let us face the reality of the Russian menace. If we are to do that we must have a German contingent in the defence of Europe. Anyone who denies that is either an ostrich, hiding his head from the obvious military facts, or is a secret sympathiser with Russia and wants to see Western Europe naked before the vast number of Russian divisions east of the Iron Curtain.
In discussing Europe we must pay a tribute to France. France has assumed in Europe the lead which the last Government failed to take. France took the lead with the Schumann Plan, and she has picked up the idea of the Prime Minister—when he was in Opposition—of a European Army. At the moment, France feels that she has been let down by the United Kingdom. She feels that what is being done by the present Government is a vast improvement on what was done by the Socialist Government, but that we have not yet gone far enough, and to leave her and Italy virtually alone with Germany in the European Army puts her in an uncomfortable position. I believe that the Prime Minister owes it to France—in view of the initiative he took—to go further into the European Defence Community than has been done already.
One thing we know—all regional organisations are always disliked by the officials of Government Departments, because anything which takes the effective decision out of a room at Whitehall and into a room abroad which contains a good many foreigners, is naturally disliked by them. We saw the same thing in local government, in the way in which local authorities hated the regional commissioners during the war. They all liked to be on their own, dealing directly with Whitehall; yet these regional organisations are necessary in great crises.
Let not the Government misjudge public opinion on this matter. When I was fighting two election campaigns I made the basis of all my remarks on foreign policy the fact that we should go further, and more boldly, into integration with Europe and the Atlantic Community, as well as with the Empire, than had been done by the party opposite, and I am 1537 quite certain that many people voted for the present Government because of the bold lead which the Prime Minister gave on these matters when he was in Opposition.
Another nettle which must be grasped is that of Spain. If we believe that there is a Russian menace, we must face the fact that the European Defence Community would be immensely stronger if we had the geographical advantage and the manpower of Spain on our side. It is about time we stopped re-fighting the Spanish Civil War. Being the son of a Virginian, I know how long a defeated side can re-fight a civil war. We must stop this unprofitable attitude if, quite clearly, the British strategic needs of the moment would be assisted by a change of policy.
Should we not be stronger, and would not Western Europe be more able to face the East, if we had the bases and the manpower of Spain on our side? Many people dislike the Spanish Government, but in matters of defence we sometimes have to associate ourselves with Governments which we dislike. Not many people on this side of the Committee think the internal regime of Marshal Tito and his persecution of the Church are very desirable things.
During the war, too, Conservatives sank their prejudices about Communist Russia because of the necessity to have her as an ally. Similarly, it behoves the party opposite to sink their very proper prejudices against the Government of Spain if, in return, we can get the great strategic advantage of having Spain on our side. This is a thing to be done gradually. We can at least ask the Government not to prejudice what the Americans are doing. We can visualise a time when we may achieve a greater integration.
Another point which the Government will, I hope, consider is this: what should be the basis of our propaganda towards those countries behind the Iron Curtain? We must neither let the people behind the Iron Curtain think we have forgotten them and have written them off to permanent Communist subjection, nor must we incite them to premature rebellion which would only mean the massacre of the finest elements in those countries.
There is grave danger that the broadcasting services now run in Europe by 1538 certain United States organisations may encourage too much active resistance behind the Iron Curtain. I believe that during the last war the resistance movements of Europe had little more than a symbolic military importance, except on the eve of an invasion. What is done, all too often, if we encourage a resistance movement to show itself too soon, is that all the possible leaders of the resistance and all the best elements are discovered and massacred.
I believe we can avoid this danger if we achieve a much closer collaboration between the overseas broadcasting services of the United States, on the one hand, and those of Her Majesty's Government, on the other hand, as well as with the unofficial United States broadcasting stations which, in their own way, are doing a fine job. I hope that the Minister of State, who, I understand, takes an interest in foreign propaganda, will try to bring about closer integration and a more unified policy between the British and American broadcasting services directed behind the Iron Curtain so as to get the utmost wisdom into our political strategy.
May I follow one point made by the right hon. and absent Member for Ebbw Vale—his great line about the poverty of Europe? I am fed up with the inferiority complex which all too many people in all parts of the Committee take regarding the United States, and with the low view they take of the possibilities of Europe. If the metropolitan and colonial territories of Great Britain, France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany and Italy are united, is there anything the United States have got, either in manpower or raw materials, which we have not got?
If we have that same free flow of trade, if we have the same free opportunities for enterprise—not with the threat of nationalisation and confiscation and too much Government control held over our heads—within that area, we can achieve in United Europe that same high standard of living and that same strength in armaments which has made the United States the hope of the freedom-loving nations of the world today, and an example of what can be done by raising the standard of the living of the common man.
1539 My few words are a plea to the Government to be bold and not to go back on what the Prime Minister said when he was in Opposition. If they take bold action in uniting Europe they will receive the support of the people of this country in a measure they may not now believe.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
I welcome the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), and if I do not follow his exact theme and do not repeat his arguments it is because I feel that he has already put them very ably. In listening to the opening speeches of the debate I gathered the impression that there was a large measure of agreement between the Foreign Secretary and the Leader of the Opposition, but according to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) I must be mistaken. Certainly, my impression was that there was a considerable measure of agreement, and I welcomed it. I have always advocated a bi-partisan foreign policy. I did so in the last Parliament and I have done so in this.
§ Mr. Wade
If the hon. Gentleman wishes it—tri-partisan.
Be that as it may, it is clear that there are some hon. Members who do not accept the view of the Foreign Secretary, and I gather that they wish to see a postponement of the signing and ratification of the agreements which will follow the contractual negotiations and the agreements for E.D.C.—a postponement not merely until elections have taken place in Western Germany but until there has been unification of the whole of Germany and until some kind of treaty has eventually been achieved between a united Germany and the Soviet and the Western Powers. I gather that that is their viewpoint.
That being so, I think it is useful to consider the text of the Soviet note, in order to get an idea of the kind of peace treaty which the Soviet has in mind. At first sight it is a very attractive document, particularly to the Germans. My first thought when I read it was, how pleasant 1540 it would be if one could accept all diplomatic communiqués at their face value. But perhaps I am wrong; perhaps diplomacy would then be very dull.
This document seems attractive at first sight—"Germany is restored as a united State. The partition of Germany is thereby ended"; "All armed forces of the occupying Powers must be withdrawn," and so on; "Democratic rights must be guaranteed …" But I began to have doubts and hesitations when I read on. Paragraph 5 states:The existence of organisations hostile to democracy and to the cause of maintaining peace must not be permitted …I recollect reading some speeches of members of the Soviet Supreme Council defining their idea of democracy and arguing that the existence of more than one party was inconsistent with democracy. I was a little uneasy about that paragraph. Then it goes on to say:All former servicemen of the German army, including officers and generals, all former Nazis, save for those who are serving terms on conviction for crimes which they committed, must be granted civil and political rights on a par with all other German citizens for taking part in the building of a peace-loving democratic Germany.I felt a little uneasy about that. When I came to the "Military Provisions," I saw:1. Germany will be permitted to have its national armed forces (land, air and naval) necessary for the defence of the country.and2. Germany is permitted to produce military materials and materiel, the quantity of types of which must not go beyond the confines of what is required for the armed forces established for Germany by the peace treaty.I gather that there will be a German national army and that the Germans will be free to carry on their own armaments industry, and it would be only limited by the size laid down by the peace treaty. We might well have the same experience as we had after the 1914–8 war. How would this limitation be guaranteed?
It has been mentioned several times during the debate, and Dr. Adenauer has made it clear, that agreements which had been entered into by the West German Government would not necessarily be binding on a united Germany. I do not know what that is intended to cover. If a united Germany, when it is formed, 1541 is not bound by agreements made by the German Federal Republic, are we to assume that all agreements entered into by the German Federal Republic may be thrown overboard?
Presumably that is so. I am thinking of agreements, some of which have been ratified and some not yet—agreements forming the basis of the Schuman Plan; the commitments on joining the Council of Europe; the Convention on Human Rights; undertakings regarding the Ruhr; and various financial agreements. Are none of these to be regarded as binding on a united Germany? If that is so, it is all the more important that there should be adequate safeguards against re-armament when a peace treaty is ultimately entered into with a united Germany. The annex to the Russian text suggests that there will be no control other than by the terms of the treaty.
Then there is the question of elections. Very little is said in the Russian note and in the later Soviet reply about the elections, and about the conditions prevailing either now or during the elections. I have searched very carefully through the correspondence, but it throws very little light on what the Soviet has in mind so far as these elections are concerned.
The reply to the Russian note rightly points out the desire of the Western Powers that the German people shall be free—to use the words of the Foreign Secretary—" before, during and after the elections." I welcome the emphasis in the reply on our desire for freedom for the German people. It has helped to put the matter in the right perspective. This point was well made in an article in the "Economist" on 10th May, which referred to the need for the Western Governments to go to the heart of the matter and to challenge the Russians with the question: How free will Germans be in a united Germany? I believe it is important that we should stress this because of the psychological effect on the German people.
The "Economist" went on:That is a question that every man and woman in free western Germany should be asked to face. Awaiting them in the Soviet Zone is the whole apparatus of the Nazi regime, restored in its Communist form: the secret police and the ruthless sentences for 'sabotage' and political offences; the street and block warden who spies on his fellows; the party bosses in the factory and in the trade union; the S.S. of indoctrinated and trained 1542 young men in the Bereitschaften; the pressure of school and youth organisations on the children; the censorship of Press and books. The evidence that these things exist is overwhelming. How and when are they to be abolished? That is the question the Russians must answer. If they are not abolished before the elections, the votes of Eastern Germany will mean nothing; after the elections neither Western Germany nor the Western allies would have any power to get them abolished.Even if that is an exaggeration and I do not think it is—it still remains true that very careful investigation is required of the conditions prevailing before the elections take place.
If the Russian note has served any good purpose, it has, at any rate, forced us to face up to the future of Germany. It is difficult to see clearly through the tangle of European politics, but it is as well that we have an objective, even though the objective may be difficult to attain. What is the objective, so far as Germany is concerned? I do not think any hon. Member expects Germany to remain indefinitely divided and occupied by foreign Powers. On the other hand, we cannot look forward to a no-man's land consisting of a vast area of Europe occupied by 60 million peace-loving unarmed Germans taking no active part in the political life and the political conflicts of Europe. That is a dream which may come to pass some day, but we should not be wise to base our policy on the assumption that it is a practical possibility.
We seem to be reduced to three possibilities. One is a united Germany which is Communist; perhaps Socialist first and afterwards Communist, but, at all events, completely within the Soviet zone of influence. Another possibility is an independent sovereign State with its own army and armaments industry. I cannot look upon that with any ease of mind. The Russians suggest that the Germans should be forbidden to enter into alliances, but, taking the long view, that appears to provide no safeguard. If they were forbidden to gain security by entering into alliances with other countries, would not the Germans feel all the more inclined to build up their own armaments?
The third possibility is that Germany—ultimately a united Germany—should be an integral part of the European community. That possibility offers the best safeguard for the peace of Europe and 1543 the peace of the world. That is the right objective. It may be very difficult to attain, but that is the aim for which we should strive. The proposals which are now being negotiated will bring it a step nearer. I believe that we are moving in the right direction.
The integration of Germany in the European community is, I believe, right, whatever view one takes of Soviet policy in foreign affairs. We are always in the dark to a certain extent as to the intentions of a foreign Government. We do not know for certain what the Soviet Government intend or desire to do. If their intentions are aggressive then we can do no better than repeat the words of the late Mr. Bevin:If unhappily, aggression were to take place in Europe, we are satisfied that its defence would have to take place as far East as possible, and that means that Western Germany must be involved; and if Western Germany is to be defended it seems to us only fair and reasonable that the people of Western Germany should help in their own defence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1950; Vol. 481, c. 1172]On the other hand, if the Soviet Union does not intend any aggressive action, but is merely trying to put a continual strain upon the so-called capitalist democracies, hoping, eventually, that they will collapse under this economic strain, then, from our point of view, it is all the more desirable and necessary that Europe should be united.
In August, 1951, M. Spaak, speaking in Oxford, used these words:What is it that makes the difference between the United States and Europe? Simply this: In the United States 151 million inhabitants have one border, one economy, one market, one currency … and in Europe 290 million inhabitants have 15 borders, 15 markets, 15 economies and 15 currencies. Let us have the courage, the audacity, to solve the problem on the same lines and we can do just as well.That may be over-optimistic, but hon. Members will agree that if there were a large degree of unification in economic affairs, quite apart from defence, the standard of living in Europe could be raised considerably and the economies of some of the countries of Europe could be greatly relieved.
If, on the other hand, the Soviet Union genuinely desires peace, what harm is 1544 there in this integration of Germany with a united Europe? Most of the great wars in this century and in the last have resulted from the quarrels between one European nation and another, and if we can bring that danger to an end by the unification of the nations of Europe we shall remove one possible cause of world war. If the Soviet desire is for peace why should she object?
I have only one reservation. If Britain takes no part or very little part there is a danger that the Europe of the future, whether it is called the United States of Europe or by some other term, will be dominated by Germany. That is the great fear of the French and the only answer to that is that Britain should take an active part in European affairs. For that reason I welcome the views that have been expressed by the hon. Member for Aston.
There are doubts about Britain's attitude, and anyone who was present last year at Strasbourg could sense the feeling of frustration and disappointment that was felt because there was apparently no change in the policy of the British Government following the change in Government here. That sense of disappointment is, I hope, passing. It is our task to make it quite clear that Britain intends to play an active part in European affairs and in the movement for a united Europe.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), speaking to the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, on 11th August, 1950, said:We are not making a machine. We are growing a living plant.It is right that the Council of Europe, which, I hope, will be closely associated with the other organisations in the movement for European unity, should be regarded as a living plant, but it is still a somewhat weak and tender plant and it cannot stand too many cold winds of cynicism or too many disappointments. To change the metaphor it is an edifice that is being very slowly built up. Surely our task is to do all in our power to strengthen this structure, the foundations of which have been so painstakingly laid by men who had the vision of a free, prosperous and united Europe.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Reading, North)
In the short time during which I shall delay the Committee I shall not deal at any length with what was said by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade). Since the debate began, I have been trying, as a student of foreign affairs, to find out whether there is any specific, valid Socialist foreign policy—I underline the word "Socialist"—other than that which was followed by the last Government. I have failed to find any remotely valid or feasible one this evening, although one may perhaps still be put before us as the evening develops.
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) did seem to have the glimmerings of a policy in mind, but the unfortunate part about it was that it was based upon false premises. He repeatedly criticised the present Government, and I presume by implication the last one, by saying that as the situation got easier there was less need for unity and strength. That is the classical example of putting the cart before the horse. It is precisely because we are building up our strength and unity that the situation is getting easier. The right hon. Gentleman needs to realise that he has got the situation entirely the wrong way round and that when put into the right order it destroys any validity in the positive policy he was trying to expound.
We are in fact, of course, left with no single acceptable alternative, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has said, to our present policy. I do not want to follow that argument at length. But it is clear that if we do not go ahead with arrangements to bring Germany into the E.D.C., there are only two alternatives; at best, a neutralised Germany which can stay neutralised only for a short time, since Nature abhors a vacuum. We should have another example then of a greater and more tragic Czechoslovakia.
While our re-armament was going on too, our own trade would suffer and our markets would be taken by Germany, which has no need to re-arm, and we should have more unemployment. That is a blunt truth. At worst—and there is a worst—Germany would remain a vacuum only for a short time and she would then fall wholeheartedly 1546 into the Soviet orbit. We should indeed have to think again if we had a powerful Communist Germany in alliance with a powerful Communist U.S.S.R.
I believe that the failure on the benches opposite—I am alluding to what I presume may be called the Bevanite school of foreign policy—to put forward any positive policy is because they have already fallen into the trap which the Foreign Secretary entreated them not to, in his speech, of introducing into foreign policy the ideas of Left versus Right and of party warfare. That is the basic reason for all their misunderstandings.
They simply cannot realise that foreign policy is traditional, national and historical. Their belief in the conduct we should follow wavers according to the political colour of the Government with which they are dealing. I sometimes believe that their idea of a foreign policy is to look at what the present Conservative Government does and do the exact opposite. That seems sometimes to be the total of their original ideas.
§ Mr. Bennett
I am glad to hear that acceptance of my point of view. I shall provide ample evidence of what I am saying. We have heard differing views on the benches opposite at various times about our diplomatic recognition and the entry into the United Nations of Spain and China. During the previous Government's term of office I sat in the Gallery one day listening to a frank statement by the right hon. Gentleman who was then Minister of State. He was arguing for recognition and entry into the United Nations of China. He argued that it did not matter whether we liked the political complexion of a Government or not. What we ought to consider in these matters is simply the de facto control of the country which it purports to govern.
If that argument is valid for Red China, as it may be, then it must be valid for Spain. Yet I do not see many protagonists opposite pursuing that argument when it comes to Governments they do not like. On the same reasoning, if the present Government concluded a defensive alliance with Yugoslavia, I suppose it would be cheered by hon. Gentlemen opposite, not because it was justified or not, but because they like the 1547 political complexion of that Government. On the other hand, if we made an alliance with Spain, hon. Gentlemen opposite, particularly those below the Gangway, would be filled with ardent horror, not because it was economically, strategically and politically right or not, but because they do not like the colour of the Government of that country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"] I am glad to have support of my argument from those concerned.
I now come to another example of carrying personal political views into foreign affairs. I have not read at any length the recent all-embracing book by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale, but I have noticed in reading some reviews of it that he refers to a friendly country's Government, namely, Portugal, as an ugly masquerade. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] How revealing it is to hear that attitude endorsed by some of his colleagues. On what grounds is the Government of Portugal an ugly masquerade? Is it because they do not have concentration camps, that they have been consistently at peace, that they are allied with us and are friendly to us? Is that the reason?
§ Mr. Bennett
I presume from that interruption that it is an ugly masquerade because the right hon. Gentleman and his echo do not like the political complexion of that country. For in that case presumably, if it is simply because it is not a pure democracy—as I presume that sarcasm was meant to indicate—would he not regard the Government of Yugoslavia as an ugly masquerade also? Yet I have not seen that in his book.
Again constant attempts are being made to say that any compromises or concessions to the U.S.S.R. are perfectly reasonable, peaceful and right. I agree that, where principle is not concerned, it is a good and creditable idea, pursued by both Front Benches, to try to reach compromises. I also know that whereas any compromise with extreme Left Governments is all right, any attempt to get on even the most mildly compromise terms with countries of the Right has always been called by most hon. Gentlemen opposite out-and-out appeasement. Why is it appeasement to deal with 1548 the extreme Right and a perfectly sensible compromise to deal with the extreme Left? I have never heard the answer to that question.
The truth is, of course, that Communism is not the source of our danger. I suggest seriously that we should get a much better bi-partisan foreign policy in this country if we understood that it is not Communism, as such, which is our danger's source but militant Soviet imperialism and, at the moment, Chinese imperialism, too. Communism is only one of the weapons which those countries are using, and thus it is a misunderstanding—which, I agree, extends in some measure on both sides of the Committee and in all parts of the country—that it is only a political doctrine itself that we are fighting against or defending ourselves against. It is a country and its satellites and associates, who are threatening the peace of the world and using the Communist doctrine as a means of undermining democratic institutions.
Therefore, if that is accepted—and I think it is generally acceptable—one realises immediately now absolutely essential it is, if we are to survive and defend ourselves, that we must re-arm. It has always been said by the antagonists of our present policy that we cannot defeat Communism with bayonets. That is true, but unfortunately the potential menaces in the countries concerned have bayonets as well as Communism and, therefore, we have got to be prepared to defend ourselves against each and every weapon that is produced.
If only those hon. and right hon. Members opposite who are adopting a kind of party attitude to foreign affairs would read a little more history, they would realise how true in matters of international affairs is the French proverb:"Plus ça change, plus c'est le même chose."In this connection the Committee may find interesting two small accounts which bear out my contention that it is not only a political doctrine that we are fighting. We have faced all these troubles before: it is nationalism of one sort or other, by one country or another. I have recently learned that in one of the main Moscow picture galleries there has for a long time been a famous picture depicting the massacre of the Streltsy Regiment by Tsar Peter back in the 18th century, because it had been disloyal to him and had aided his sister. In the first flush 1549 of the genuine international fervour after the 1917 Revolution, the catalogue described the picture as being typical of how the wicked Tsarist system worked and how awful and atrocious it was to slaughter soldiers under those conditions for what they did. The modern catalogue, which has been brought up to date—this shows exactly how that first international fervour has been succeeded by naked Russian imperialism—refers to the massacre as a tragic necessity in order to safeguard the security of the State. That in itself is very revealing.
Secondly, I was looking yesterday through a book in the Library which dealt with European history, and particularly the period after the Napoleonic Wars, which has such a very close parallel with today. At that time Europe had united, just as we united with Russia and the rest during the last war, to defeat Nazi Germany, in order to defeat the then aggressive menace of Napoleonism. After that, as we know, the allies started to fall out in much the same way, and we soon found ourselves in 1815 in the position that Russia had become a real menace.
No one, in what I have to say now, can accuse me of being merely anti-Communist, because at that time the word "Communist" was not even known and the Government was purely royalist. But the menace that we had then to face was in many respects the same as it is now. Writing about that period, the Cambridge History of British Foreign Policy says:It was, indeed, precisely this enigmatic attitude of the Tsar, not towards the question of Turkey only, which kept the chanceries in a flutter of excitement and aprehension. His talk "—that is, referring to the Tsar—was of peace; but he maintained his huge armies in being and concentrated, for the most part, on the Western and Balkan fronts of his Empire. He preached unctuously the gospel of fraternity and mutual trust; but his agents were meanwhile carrying on dark intrigues in every court and country in Europe.If we alter the word "Tsar" to "Stalin," those words, which were written so long ago, are almost exactly parallel to and descriptive of the position that we have to face today. If there is any truth in the saying that history repeats itself as well as erecting similar circumstances, it is relevant to observe that we then managed to get out 1550 of our difficulties by skilful diplomacy, by being firm without being provocative, without a war. I suggest that was in no small measure due to the very able British Foreign Secretary we then had, and we can be rightly hopeful that with our present Foreign Secretary we can act on the same lines, being firm without provocation, and that we shall thus, in our turn, get out of the same difficulties which now face us, without a war.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
The last five speeches in this debate have displayed marked unanimity of opinion. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) was followed by speeches from the other side of the Committee which expressed total and entire agreement with him. The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade), speaking from the Liberal benches, made a contribution in which he was in agreement with everyone, and the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett), whose vivid speech we have just heard, looking around for any sign of disagreement on this matter, appeared to have some difficulty in finding it.
I believe, however, that if one regards the situation fairly and clearly there are very important differences of opinion on foreign policy which it is in the interests of the country to bring out into the open and to discuss. I think we are conducting this debate on foreign affairs today at a very dangerous moment, and it is a dangerous moment because of the danger inherent in every armaments race which has ever taken place, that once one starts an armaments race one cannot stop it. That is the danger which confronts us.
The British people undertook the burden of re-armament, as I admit, on a bi-partisan basis. They undertook the burden so soon after they were relieved of other heavy burdens because they believed and were told that by pursuing a policy of re-armament and building up arms all over again they could reach a point where they could begin to negotiate from strength. That was what it was all about; that was why the effort was made, and made on a basis of national unity.
What we are asking now is whether that moment may not have come, whether the moment when we can negotiate from strength may not have arrived, and we 1551 think that any argument based on the view that that moment will never arise is false and contrary to the interests of peace. We on this side of the Committee ask: Is it not worth while to inquire, especially when an initiative is taken by the Russian Government, whether the chance may not have come now to start negotiating from strength for peace?
Yet, from many quarters we hear a quite different line of argument, I do not say in this country but elsewhere in the world. It is that, having built up our armaments in the hope that we would reach the position in which we could begin to negotiate from strength, we find there are other voices saying, "No, a different position has been arrived at and we can go further than we intended to go. We now want containment-plus." That suggests a new objective and new dangers which I believe neither the British nor the American people contemplated when they were first persuaded that it was necessary to undertake a measure of re-armament.
I think the danger exists for the reasons I have indicated and also because the immediate urgency of the matter is not sufficiently widely recognised. There is a temptation in these matters to put off the vital decision until later developments. I believe it has not been emphasised from any quarter during this debate that, quite apart from the danger later accompanying ratification, there may be very real dangers accompanying the initialling of the Contractual Agreements. We have been told by the President of the East German Republic that there will be a very violent reaction to that. We know there are cadres for 25 German divisions in East Germany and it has been intimated that there may be serious consequences of the first step of initialling the Contractual Agreement.
We are told, however, if we start raising difficulties and doubts about this, "Drop your troubles now. Drop your concern on this matter now. Wait till the ratification. That is the vital point. Raise your opposition then." Then, when ratification comes, those same voices will say, "Do not start objecting now. Wait until a start is made to implement the provisions of the treaty." And so we drift along and are side-tracked. I consider 1552 that the danger resulting from that has not been sufficiently recognised.
I believe the fallacy which lies at the base of the speech by the Foreign Secretary consists of the fact that he believes, and has told the Committee, that we can go forward contemporaneously with the four-Power negotiations, E.D.C. and Western German re-armament. There is no foundation whatever for believing that. It is possible that they are inconsistent; that if the Russians see E.D.C. going ahead without any holding back, even momentarily in the face of their offer, the prospect of four-Power negotiations will suffer very severely thereby.
On this matter there are very deep differences of opinion in this Committee and between the two great parties of the State. I choose my words carefully when I attempt to define them. First, I would say that we on this side of the Committee would have welcomed a prompter and less discouraging reply to the U.S.S.R. note. That is the first main point of difference between the parties, as I see it. The other is that we on this side would like the Western Powers to show a more overt and demonstrative readiness to modify E.D.C. in return for Russian concessions on all-German elections.
These may be differences on matters of degree, but in my opinion they constitute vital differences between the two great parties of the State on issues of foreign affairs at the present time. My own view as a private Member representing, after all, a great industrial constituency, is that these differences of degree would have justified up to the hilt a Division tonight. I regret there is not to be a Division, and in my judgment it would be a lamentable thing if the impression went out from this Committee that there was not this substantial cleavage of opinion between the two great parties of the State.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Would my hon. Friend agree that the statement by the National Labour Party Executive makes that clear?
§ Mr. Irvine
I agree. I think that statement performed a great service in that respect. I am only expressing my opinion that I feel that the matter would be put into sharper focus if we had a Division tonight, which is what I and a great many of us would have liked.
1553 Taking the first definite difference between the two parties—the fact that we think the answer to the U.S.S.R. note should have been prompter and less discouraging—observe that there has been a refusal to consider a Four-Power Commission to explore methods of securing free elections. The British note refuses that. They want to go back to the United Nations Commission. They keep it open that there may be some other type of commission which may be practical, but they go out of their way to refuse the proposition of a four-Power commission. I regard that as the height of intransigence on the part of the Western Powers, having regard to the offer made by the U.S.S.R. It is quite erroneous to believe that all the intransigence is on one side of the Iron Curtain.
On the question of the modification of E.D.C.. here at least I am in very respectable company, because the leading article in "The Times" of today on that issue is all that one could desire. The point is admirably expressed. There are the gravest possible consequences to be expected from German re-armament, as many hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the Committee fully recognise. There may be much to be said for using German re-armament, or the possibility of it as a bargaining counter; but if it is to be carried out, the consequences for the future of Europe and the world are grave indeed.
Why? It is because, to avoid a third world war, we must negotiate German unity. We must do that by peaceful negotiation. Yet once an armed Germany is integrated in Western defence, we cannot negotiate German unity. To do so would mean unravelling the association built up with Western Germany, unravelling E.D.C., and dissociating the rest of the Western Powers from the complicated organisation which they would have themselves constructed. That is the kind of process which does not happen in fact, and which would not happen. The consequences may be very severe.
Again, by the policy of German rearmament we are arming a people whose main objective is to recover national unity and their lost territories, a people who may strike in either direction as it may suit them having regard to these main objectives. Today Russia is offering them something which none of the Western Powers is offering. Russia is offering to 1554 the Germans unity, neutrality, independence and a national army. There is a danger—and it will be a greater danger if it is a Germany which we have re-armed—that Germany at this climacteric of her fortunes will turn the whole force of her violence against the West if she has a chance of doing so.
Still another consequence of German re-armament is that very rapidly, if it begins to take effect, there will be a strong tendency for the United States and maybe for ourselves, but especially for the United States, to give priority to the provision of arms to the German units, or to the units—because we accept it from the right hon. Gentleman that there will be no solely national units—in which Germans predominate. The Germans are recognised to be among the greatest fighters in the world and it will be consistent with the purposes of American defensive policy, as interpreted in Washington by the Pentagon, to see that the best arms in the greatest quantity go to the units which are predominantly German.
This constitutes a change of emphasis in our foreign policy. Our policy in future years should be based upon a close relationship with the United States by all means, and, of course, with our own Commonwealth, but also with France—a country that is an ally and not recently an enemy. That is a far preferable cornerstone for future British foreign policy in Europe than Germany could ever be. I submit that all these matters are grounds for exploring the Russian offer before any irrevocable decision is made.
Reference has been made to these statement of the National Executive of the party to which I belong. I want to say in this Chamber how warmly I welcome the statement of the National Executive of my party.
§ Mr. Irvine
So did the country; so did great numbers of hon. Members on this side of the Committee, and so did the rank and file of the party. They welcomed it wholeheartedly. There have been many explanations offered of what is regarded as the change of emphasis in policy in the statement of the National Executive. It has been suggested that pacifist elements within the Labour movement are bringing their influence to bear. I 1555 do not think that is so. I suppose there are pacifists among our ranks as there are among any ranks, but I do not think that what is happening and what has been said in this statement of the National Executive has anything to do with a revival of pacifist tendencies or anything of that kind.
Nor do I think that the explanation is, as I have seen it suggested, that there is in the Labour movement a historical underlying sympathy with the U.S.S.R. Nor do I think that the explanation of it is that it comes from the reluctance of the party to face the necessity of bearing the economic burden of re-armament. After all, those of us who think that the weight of re-armament upon us is too heavy in the best interests of true defence are still none the less prepared to admit that we should carry a heavy burden of re-armament.
The reason this change of emphasis has taken place in the Labour Party, as we see it in the statement of the National Executive, lies, I claim, in our realism in this matter. It is because we recognise what I said at the beginning—namely, that the whole purpose of the policy of re-armament, its raison d'ètre, was to make it possible to negotiate from strength. It was hoped that re-armament would make the U.S.S.R. more pliable in and for negotiation. Our realism lies in the fact that we have kept that objective in sight. We say that now is the time to explore the Russian offer. It may well be that the Russian offer is the fruit of the policy of re-armament by the West, but we say that we must explore it. On our side of the Committee and not on the other is the policy and the frame of mind which can most usefully and most hopefully explore that offer and what its content really is.
If there be any hon. Member who suggests that in my view of the Russian offer I am simply giving way to a sort of starry-eyed optimism, I say that I prefer starry-eyed optimism to leaden-eyed despair. The slightest opportunity which presents itself—which may well be the result of the re-armament policy which we have pursued—of peaceful negotiation with the Soviet Union must be explored by the West. That is our duty; indeed, it is our duty to mankind.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) opened his speech by saying that between the two sides of this Committee there was a deep cleavage of opinion on the question of German re-armament. I have been here throughout this debate and it seems to me that the majority of speakers from his side have emphasised the bi-partisan nature of their policy. In particular, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Basset-law (Mr. Bellenger) urged us not to be deflected in any way from the course—from which he feared we might be deflected—of facing up to the Russians and not being deceived by their offers. In the same way, the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) seemed to imply that the European Defence Community is not going ahead fast enough and that we must engage ourselves more closely with that community and push it ahead.
That does not strike me as illustrating the cleavage which he pretends exists. It may be simply a question of the luck of the draw; but all one can do is to judge from the speeches that are made and, so far, his own argument has been a minority one as far as the benches opposite are concerned. I think this debate has been dominated to a remarkable extent by the speech made by the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey). I was not surprised that that should be so, because I have known him for a number of years, and those on both sides of the Committee who have had that pleasure know what a very deep and keen student he is of these affairs.
But he is something of a perfectionist in these matters, and one cannot reach perfection in the affairs of sinful and mortal man. The hon. Member said that this debate was a question of timing. He did not disagree with the principles put forward by the Foreign Secretary, but he rather quarrelled with the timing. I should like to urge one consideration on timing. I do not say that it is a decisive consideration, but I suggest that it is a material one. I believe that we should hasten this process rather than delay it.
The figures for the German export drive over the last two years have been staggering and frightening. There is no doubt whatever that, as a result of the 1557 fact that Germany is paying such a small share of the contribution, financial and material, towards the defence of the free world, she has been given a grossly unfair advantage over those who are contributing more. Although these figures are not easy to obtain they can be found in a publication of the Bonn Government which gives the monthly average, in value, of German exports of industrial products. In 1950 it was some 530 million deutschmarks; in 1951 it was 737 million, and in 1952 it is running at 903 million per month.
There is no doubt that that advantage is largely due to the fact that tremendous tax concessions are given by the German Government to manufacturers with good export records. These tax concessions are able to be given, because Germany does not have to bear the crippling load which we and other members of the free world have to bear in order to defend her, among other countries. This is a situation which we cannot allow to continue for very long.
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) suggested that we could in some way force the Germans to make the necessary financial contributions. He also suggested that we could force Germany, somehow, to contribute to the Colombo Plan. That seems to be wholly at variance to the correct view expressed by the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East, that Germany is already a powerful nation and is becoming more powerful every day, and certainly cannot be bullied in the way some people suggest.
It may be that there is not much chance of getting the Germans to contribute to the cost of the arms which they themselves will have to bear. But there is certainly no chance of making them contribute to the cost of the arms which other people have to bear, nor of making forced levies upon them while they are kept disarmed for the benefit of the English, the Americans and the French.
This financial strain on the other members of the free world will bring them down financially and materially unless it is shared out. If it is not, Germany will capture all our markets, as she is capturing them at the moment. The longer her re-armament is delayed, the more certain is it that our export drive will fail. 1558 This may not be a decisive consideration; indeed, it may be regarded as rather a sordid consideration: but it is certainly an important one, and I hope it will be borne in mind both by the Government and by the Opposition.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I wish the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery), were present, because I was very much impressed by the considerable amount of time which he spent in the course of his speech apparently criticising—I do not remember his actual words—what he described as the illusion from which the Labour Party and past Labour Governments have suffered since the war—the illusion that somehow we could reach an accommodation with Russia. If hon. Members consider that that was an illusion and that we should never have begun to approach the European situation with that conception in mind after the war, then, of course, they entirely deny the whole of the basis upon which the present Government's policy is based, and upon which the policy of the Labour Government was based.
I should have liked to remind the hon. Gentleman, in his presence, that that policy was begun before the end of the war at Yalta and Potsdam and was based on the possibility of reaching an accommodation with Soviet Russia. Although we have been very seriously disillusioned in our experience over the last seven years about the possibility of a full agreement and co-operation with the Soviet Union, nevertheless we must continue to pursue that objective, because, unless it is achieved, the whole hopes of peace in Europe and the world will disappear.
The fact which we must face today is that of a divided Germany and a divided Europe. We have to base our considerations of European defence, Western European defence, the defence of democracy, and our approach to the Russian proposals—indeed, our approach generally to the attitude of the Russians—upon that fact. We must not be led away by ideas of what might have been.
Europe is divided and has been divided for a long time. We have tried for many years to reach an accommodation with Russia. We have had the experience of 1559 Four-Power commissions in Germany to find out what was happening in the various zones. We have had the refusal of the Russians to permit such Four-Power commissions to go into their zone, and we have even gone so far as to agree that the commissions should report only on the Western zones, in order, if hon. Members like to put it that way, to appease the Russians. We have even had the official reports of these Four-Power commissions, including the Russian members, rejected by the Russians themselves because they did not fit in with their propaganda.
Now, this kind of experience is not very promising when one receives a note inviting further talks. Our minds go back immediately to these other experiences. Our minds go back immediately to the long years of interminable meetings at the Palais Rose or over the Austrian Treaty. Therefore, we cannot be inspired to great enthusiasm even by the friendly and seductive terms of the Russian note.
On the other hand, as the Foreign Secretary himself said—and I think there is fairly general agreement on this point, at least—whatever may be our feelings of optimism or pessimism in regard to this approach, I think we are all agreed that at some stage, if the cold war continues indefinitely, and if the Western Powers—and I refer not only to military power but to economic power and industrial power, and so on, too—go on growing all the time, Russia will probably come to realise that the cold war is not worth while.
At that stage Russia will probably make an effort to try to establish a new understanding with the West—a new policy under which for a period of years, at least, and, perhaps, for generations we may be able to live together in the same world. What is, I think, certain is that Russia will not wait until she is on her knees before making that approach. Therefore, we need not be surprised if the approach is made when Russia is still apparently strong and ostensibly very aggressive. As the Foreign Secretary said—and, again, I think we are all agreed about it—we must test all these opportunities; and, therefore, we must test this opportunity.
1560 I regret that the Foreign Secretary found it necessary to begin what I considered in most respects to be an excellent speech by launching an attack on Russian motives and Russian policy. I might entirely agree even with everything he said, but it is a rather strange way of entering into, or of discussing entering into, negotiations for the purpose of reaching an amicable settlement.
I might say the same thing of the terms in which we replied. I am sorry that, whilst Russia's second note, as set out in the White Paper published yesterday, is written in unexceptionable terms—whatever we may think about the propositions—the reply from this Government is certainly open to very serious criticism in regard to the tone. I say nothing about the other aspects of delay and so on. I think it is a pity we have spoken in that way.
Nevertheless, I hope that we shall go on continuing to press the point that what we want immediately is not necessarily a complete settlement of all the issues—the details of the German peace treaty and all the rest of it—but of the issue of German free elections which will enable an all-German Government to be set up, because without an all-German Government obviously we cannot have even the beginning of peace treaty discussions.
I believe that there is no question of any peace treaty being discussed in talks by the four powers or by any other group of nations without the German authorities being brought into consultation. If that were contemplated I think it would be a serious error, because it would immediately lead to any nationalist German Government that might come into being in the future attacking any peace treaty that might be reached on the ground that they were not consulted in the framing of the treaty. In other words, the old situation would arise that arose from Versailles. The election of an all-German Government is the first condition, a primary necessity; and then, with that, we should be in a position to enter into discussions on the peace treaty.
But I am not under any delusion about the prospects of getting early free elections in Germany. I know something about the position in the Russian Zone, and I know also that it has been possible, for example, to have an Austrian Government in a country occupied in four 1561 zones of occupation, and I know that under the auspices of Dr. Figl it has been remarkably successful. There are various reasons why it has been possible. I do not think we are likely to get the same kind of results in Germany. I am made the more pessimistic about it when I read about the fulminations of Herr Ulbricht and the threats of drawing up a black list of all Germans who express a different point of view and of wreaking vengeance on them whenever there is the opportunity.
I am not sure that the Foreign Secretary should not consider raising that point in his notes to Russia about the conditions of free elections, because, obviously, we can have no free elections in the Eastern Zone of Germany if people are going to be under a threat all the time from Herr Ulbricht and his colleagues, supported by the Russians, that they will take any opportunity given them, if they achieve power at any time, of wreaking vengence on or otherwise punishing people who may have voted according to their conscience. I think that this is so important it is worth mentioning specifically to the Russians, so that Herr Ulbricht himself can be made to answer to the Russians for any difficulties that may arise from his very irresponsible statements.
The question that concerns most people in this debate is not whether we should respond to the Russian note—we have differences of view on the tone in which we should respond and the terms in which we should respond; but there is general agreement that we should respond and test this offer. The difference that has arisen is whether or not we should, in the meantime, continue with the arrangements for the European Defence Community.
I firmly believe that we must go on with these arrangements, and that it would be fatal, if there is anything in the Russian offer, to terminate the negotiations in regard to the European Defence Community—not because I see anything other than a tragic necessity for the European Defence Community as an expression of this terrible re-armament situation that has been forced upon an unwilling world, because I am sure that the British people, like the German people, are not anxious to see millions of their lads in uniform again, and hear the 1562 roar of the guns and the shriek of the sirens. No one wants that.
There is very little difference of opinion in all quarters of the Committee, with one or two exceptions, about the necessity at least of indicating to any potential aggressor that, if aggression occurs, the Western world will at least resist it, and by that gesture trying to dissuade any potential aggressor from committing the aggression. I think that in most quarters of the Committee, even if there are differences of opinion on other details, it is generally agreed that in all probability, to put it at its lowest. the Russian offer of new talks with regard to the settlement of the European situation has been directly due to the fact that Western defences have been built up to the point that we have now the possibility of bringing in the European Defence Community as a bastion against aggression for the purpose of destroying Western democracy.
If that is true, and it has in any way influenced the Russians to initiate these proposals, then I think quite clearly that we should not drop these proposals but go on with them. It has been suggested by one of my hon. Friends that to continue E.D.C. discussions would not assist any talks with Russia. On the contrary, I think that a failure to go on with these negotiations would have that effect. On the other hand, if the Russian purpose is not sincerely to find a solution of the European problem but to destroy E.D.C., then surely we are committing the most colossal elementary blunder in giving them that objective before we even enter into the talks.
One of the dangers that most people will recognise in entering into these talks is that we may be drawn into another Palais Rose series of discussions which could extend over months or even years without any solution; but there is no need at all for a decision to hold democratic elections in Germany to spread over months or years. That is comparatively simple. If the Russians intend to do anything about that, there is no reason why E.D.C. negotiations should not go on, because they would not be ratified for at least the next nine months and if the Russians cannot agree on running elections within the next nine months, they have no intention of doing so; and if they show, in that way, that they have no intention of doing so, we have this other alternative to fall back on.
1563 Again, if the elections do occur, then, when the subsequent discussions regarding the conditions of the German peace treaty take place, the question whether E.D.C. should continue under its present conditions will have to be raised. The situation of Western Germany as against the whole of Germany would have to be discussed. Implementation of the E.D.C. arrangements would have to be held up, but not before we had first tested the Russian proposals in connection with elections for an all-German Government.
Consternation has been expressed in various quarters in this country because Dr. Adenauer has, "sold the pass" by saying that, if an all-German Government is achieved, E.D.C. and all other agreements will have to be dropped to enable the all-German Government to make fresh arrangements. Surely that is stating an obvious fact. Whatever the present German Government agrees will clearly not be valid when that Government no longer exists and there is instead a Government controlling an entirely different territory. I see nothing in that attitude to shock us.
A large number of hon. Members are apparently concerned about the dangers of bringing Germany into Western defence, of bringing Germany to a state of independent armed neutrality under Russian influence, and of our creating once again an aggressive nationalist Germany. Can that be prevented anyway, if that is the German purpose? If that sort of thing is so inherent in the German character, can anything that we do prevent it happening sometime?
I have heard a lot about the revival of Nazism in Germany. The results of certain elections held in Germany have been taken as evidence of such a revival. I have kept closely in touch with German elections and all manifestations of German public opinion. I have visited the country frequently since I was the Minister responsible for Germany and I have frequently discussed the situation with Germans here and abroad. I have been struck by the relatively small amount of evidence of a revival of Nazism, militarism or nationalism in Germany.
Many of my hon. Friends will not agree with that, but I invite them to look at the evidence. We should not talk in terms of such cases as the exposure of a member 1564 of the Bundestag found to be an ex-member of the S.S. and who was immediately arrested and imprisoned by the Adenauer Government, or the discovery that a lot of people who used to hold Nazi membership cards are working in the German Foreign Office.
Let us look at the figures relating to the elections which have occurred since the neo-Nazi parties were licensed and were free to appeal to the people. In Lower Saxony they got not more than 11 per cent. of the votes and in the new South-West State they secured less than 5 per cent. and failed to qualify for a single seat. In other areas they received about 3 per cent; the maximum was 11 per cent. in Lower Saxony.
This is in a country where all the middle-aged and younger members of the population knew Nazism in the days when the shops were full, there were opportunities for employment and things were comparatively peaceful and normal, and since then their experience of democracy has been of something which has destroyed their towns and disrupted their lives and has set up an occupation with all kinds of oppressive conditions.
The ordinary people are not in a position to analyse these things in their political, economic, and social causes. They simply see that under democracy today things are not as good as they used to be under the Nazis. In the circumstances, one would imagine that the ordinary German people would overwhelmingly yearn for a return to Nazism. Yet it is not so, and on top of that there are 12 million refugees who have been driven from their homes in Silesia, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere and bundled into Germany, thus creating a vast unemployment problem. The only people who are promising these refugees a return to their native territories are the neo-Nazis, and in spite of the opportunity for supporting this party the people are steadfast in rejecting them. That is a remarkably encouraging sign in modern Germany.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
Will the hon. Gentleman explain what he is saying? It is a little difficult for the Germans to show any very great enthusiasm for the development of Nazi or totalitarian parties when they are governed by a democracy.
§ Mr. Hynd
No, it is not so, because during the elections the parties are entirely free. Quite a number of people, about as many as voted for the Communist Party in Britain, voted for the neo-Nazi party. There are no difficulties in the way of them expressing their opinions by means of a vote.
For seven years we have been expending a great deal of labour and wealth to raise this new plant of democracy in Western Europe. It is a very delicate plant and has been sown on very rough ground. There is every possibility that, if it is not properly handled, it may be destroyed. It is in our hands mainly to decide whether or not that plant is to be allowed the opportunity of growing or whether it is going to be destroyed in the early stages.
It is no use trying to encourage democracy in Western Germany or in Germany as a whole if, at the same time, we are constantly bundling all Germans together, if we are associating those who fought for democracy before, during and since the war, such as the Social Democrats, the Adenaeurs, the others who suffered in concentration camps and in exile, with the Nazis and call them all by the one name. If we are to refuse them the ordinary facilities and freedom enjoyed by other independent peoples on the ground that we do not trust them because they are Germans and we are not going to give them the opportunity of developing that freedom which comes from a Government based on popular support by the people, then we are merely assisting in their destruction.
I am convinced we are doing the right thing in pursuing two courses at the one time, assisting and encouraging the development of a democratic Germany, and if we are forced to it, of Western Germany towards complete independence, including independence to participate in international organisations; and, at the same time, pursuing the more difficult but even more desirable objective of the settlement of international tension and the establishment of a peaceful community of nations throughout the world.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
May I begin by adding my congratulations to those hon. Members who have spoken in the Committee for the first time, and especially to my hon. Friend 1566 the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey). He has shown today that he has a brilliant career before him in the House of Commons, and for many years his knowledge, his experience and his judgment will be added strength not only to hs party but to the House as well.
A year ago the then Prime Minister of France, M. Pleven, said in Washington that peace could never be established on a sound basis unless democratic Germany became an integral part of a strong and prosperous Europe. He added that that basis for peace was not only in the interest of France but in the interest of the whole of Europe, including Eastern Europe. M. Pleven was stating a doctrine which Leon Blum, both before and after he went to Buchenwald, always preached. We believe, that Leon Blum would certainly have added, that peace will never be on a sound basis as long as a nation of 65 million people is split, as the Germans are split by the Iron Curtain today.
That is inevitably the starting point for a debate such as we have had today. Germany is there, in the heart of Europe. She will always remain an important factor in the affairs of Europe and the world. European peace will not be safe until, under a democratic system, the German people join with other nations in building peace upon the rule of law.
Anybody who accepts that, as we all do, must have welcomed the Russian note of 10th March. Certainly, my party felt from the very first that we must give to that note the fullest and fairest consideration that we can. If the Russians mean business, we must do everything in our power to get a real result. But, in no spirit of hostility to Russia, I must add that if we are to understand the note and make the right decisions, we must consider the events from which it sprang. I will elaborate a little something which the Foreign Secretary quoted this afternoon.
We must start from 1945. At Potsdam, the leaders of Britain, Russia and the United States agreed on the basic principles by which Germany should be brought back from the ruin in which Hitler left her to the comity of nations. They included plans:To prepare for the reconstruction of German political life on a democratic basis and eventual peaceful co-operation with other 1567 nations; to begin by restoring elected local councils; to allow and encourage all democratic political parties, the right of assembly, free Press and religion; to build up from local government to State Government, as the success of democracy justified our progress. During the period of occupation,the Potsdam decision said,Germany shall be treated as a single economic unit,and there was to be a policy to provide for a balanced economy, so as to reduce the need for imports as much as ever we could.
Those principles were applied in the zones of occupation which were held by the British, the Americans and the French the zones which we now call the Federal Republic of Western Germany; the free institutions of Western Germany and of West Berlin are there, in proof of what I say. Unfortunately, those principles were not applied in the Eastern zone. So far from allowing elected councils, the Russians established their own totalitarian règime. They destroyed all parties but the Communist, with special vigour against the Social Democrat. They allowed no rights of Press, assembly or discussion, and they set up political as well as economic barriers against the Western zones. They split Germany, with doubtful profit to themselves but to the great detriment of the Germans and of their late Allies. They divided Germany, and they never allowed democracy to show its head.
That went on for five years. In May, 1951, our Government, with France and the United States, made a formal proposal that measures should be taken to bring about the political and economic unity of Germany and to create an all-German Government by means of free elections. The Russians simply ignored the proposal.
But in September, the Atlantic Council in New York decided to establish an integrated force in Europe with a supreme commander, to which Germany might be enabled to contribute. Within a month there was a proposal from a conference of Cominform Foreign Ministers in Prague that an all-German constituent council, with equal numbers of representatives from the East and the West—the same number for 18 million people in the East as for 47 million in the West—should be set up. It was an absurd 1568 proposal, but it put German unity on the map. The Germans in the West replied that they must consider the proposal, but could not commit themselves.
A little later M. Pleven made his proposal for a European Army with German contingents. A month after that, the Communist Prime Minister of East Germany, Herr Grotewohl, wrote to Dr. Adenauer proposing conversations on the formation of an all-German Constituent Council. Of course, again the Government of the Federal Republic replied that there must be freedom for elections and so on; and for the time being Herr Grotewohl let the matter drop.
In September, 1951, there came the Washington Declaration, which again made proposals for a German contribution; and at once Herr Grotewohl proposed the holding of German elections for an all-German Government. Again the Federal Republic replied, laying down 14 conditions to guarantee the freedom of the elections, with supervision and protection by an international body. Again, Herr Grotewohl allowed a lengthy pause.
At the end of February, 1952, the Lisbon Conference made E.D.C. and the German defence contribution look remarkably like business. Two weeks later the Soviet Government sent in their first note proposing the creation of an all-German Government expressing the will of the German people. This was much further than they had gone before. They further proposed that Germans should be re-armed, with a national army, neutralisation, and so on. The three Governments replied, saying that they favoured an all-German Government but rejecting neutralisation and a national army, sticking to E.D.C. Whereupon the Soviet Government replied in a second note, proposing the discussion of free elections for an all-German Government of a united Germany.
I apologise for so many details from the history, but surely they show one thing with dazzling clarity: that E.D.C., and E.D.C. alone, at every stage has led the Soviet to change their policy, and to propose the union of Germany today. Having said that, I go on to say with equal emphasis that we should make a grave mistake if we let that history prevent us from taking the Russian note very seriously indeed. We must find out if the Russians really mean what they 1569 have said. We must make a genuine, honest attempt to work with them if they show signs of wanting to work with us.
German unity, as I have said already, is of vast importance to Europe and therefore to the world. Some people, as I think irresponsibly, say that some Germans—including leading Germans— some Americans—including the American Government—some Frenchmen are, for various reasons, contented with the present situation, and are quite ready to leave Germany indefinitely or permanently divided.
About the Germans I do not believe that for a moment to be true. I believe that every German longs for the unity of his country, as we should in his shoes. If I thought any Americans really believed that Germany should be left divided, I should say to them that they were throwing away every principle of international order for which, with great courage and consistency, they have stood throughout these troubled post-war years.
It is more comprehensible that Frenchmen might feel apprehension at the thought of Germany re-united and growing strong. I would say to my many French friends, with all understanding of what they feel, that if they let the Germans think that they would oppose the re-union of Germany, or would be glad to see it fail, they would be repeating the catastrophic error made by Poincaré when he occupied the Ruhr in 1923. Nothing could so dangerously imperil Franco-German reconciliation, on which the peace, the prosperity and the happiness of France and Frenchmen all depend.
It is our bounden duty to make an honest effort to bring these Russian proposals to a real result. But let us recognise that it is not an easy thing. All else turns on free elections, but to organise free elections where there has been a totalitarian regime is a long and complicated task. To make international supervision effective is not quite straightforward. One has only to look at Dr. Adenauer's answers to Herr Grotewohl to see that that is true.
But we have had a lot of other recent and relevant experience of the problem. When the Norwegians went back, they took six months to organise a free Press and party organisations before their elections were held. In Greece we had a 1570 large body of people—240 inspection teams—with wide powers supervising the elections, in a country with democratic traditions and with only 8 million population. I took part in the Security Council discussions on Kashmir. After long debate, we agreed that the whole election should be managed by a United Nations Plebiscite Administrator; but even then agreement was not reached, because of difficulties about the police and the occupying troops.
All of us want a united Germany, but none of us would tolerate elections that were not really free. International responsibility for supervision is a grave matter. It can only be accepted, if we are sure that there are honest registers of the electors, real freedom for party organisations, real freedom for the Press and for electoral propaganda and, above all, real immunity from intimidation and victimisation before, during and after the elections are held. Our first job, vital in the eyes of Germans, but vitally important not to them only, but to the world, is to find out whether Russia will agree to this kind of free election. It is in everybody's interest to do it as quickly as we can.
I know the difficulties of inter-allied negotiations about notes—that is why I do not much like the method of the note —and I confess that I am not very happy about the weeks that have gone by. But I put it now to the Foreign Secretary, do we really need all the procedure which the new Western note lays down? After all, this is not another Palais Rose. As our Note says, as the Russian notes implicitly admit, one thing comes first and stands alone—free elections. Everything else is subordinate and subsequent to them.
We all agree that the best way to formulate the conditions for the elections would be through an impartial United Nations Commission, if we could do it. In many ways, that would be true of the supervision of the elections, too. In any case, the Russian arguments against the United Nations Commission seem to me quite empty—they stand the Charter on its head. But all the same, for the job of organising freedom and of making it effective before, during and after the elections, I am not quite sure that a four-power commission might not 1571 be the strongest instrument that we could have, with great resources, great knowledge and great reserves of men on whom we could call. Of course, the Commission would have to have all proper powers. It would have to have freedom to go everywhere in all the zones; it would have to apply common principles in all of them. It could not be paralysed by a veto.
I wonder whether we could not find out quite quickly from the Russians whether some programme like that would not meet their views; whether we could not propose an agenda for a very early meeting of the Powers, an agenda in the form of questions to which they could answer "Yes" or "No." In any case, whether that is practicable or not, cannot we put to the Russians a time-table that would avoid interminable delays? Cannot we put a time-table under which the principles and the powers of the Commission should be settled in a period of weeks, and the elections organised and carried through in a period of months, from now? If we made those proposals, we should at least make it crystal clear, even clearer than it is now, to the Germans and to the world, that we are ready to work in all good faith with Russia to secure the great objectives which they themselves propose.
I turn to a question which has figured considerably in this debate. Suppose that Russia insists at this first meeting that we must pledge ourselves to exclude a free and united Germany from any group of powers which, in the Russian phrase, is "directed against any kind of peace-loving State." Suppose that she suggests a power-politics bargain of that sort, what ought we to do? I think our answer is very plain. First, I think we should say what Dr. Figl said in London the other day about an Austrian peace treaty.If Russia agrees to an Austrian peace treaty, it would not be a concession by Russia but a belated fulfilment of a pledge and the righting of a wrong.If Russia agrees to the re-union of Germany under a democratic Government, it would not be a concession, but a belated fulfilment of a pledge and the righting of a wrong.
Secondly, I think we should say that none of our treaties of collective defence. 1572 neither the Charter, N.A.T.O., nor E.D.C., is "directed against any peace-loving State"; no obligation can arise until there has been armed attack. As M. Spaak said of N.A.T.O., it is directed against no one. It threatens no one; it should therefore disturb no one. If anyone is disturbed, we should ask the question why. N.A.T.O., and E.D.C., which will be a part of N.A.T.O., are not a power bloc. We want to settle nothing by power; we only want to prevent things from being settled wrongly by aggressive power.
I think, thirdly, we should say, as the new note says, that we agree with Russia that Germany should be invited to join the United Nations; but in the United Nations, we cannot have two classes of unequal members—those who have and those who have not the rights of Article 51.
Fourthly, I think we must say that, when a united and democratic German Parliament has been elected, that Parliament shall decide whether it shall join in the task of building up the collective maintenance of the rule of law. We shall railroad no one into E.D.C., neither a free united Germany if we can get it, nor the Western German Federal Republic, if union fails. The decision is for the German people—let me emphasise again, for the people. We want a defence contribution from the German people, if they want to give it, not a contribution from the German military caste.
What I have been saying is, of course, that we cannot impose neutrality on the future democratic Germany we hope to see. But I go further; I say that neutrality is wrong in morals in the world today. There is no neutrality against aggression. We think it is wrong in law, under the Charter of the United Nations, which we want Germany to sign. We are convinced that for Germany, in the heart of Europe, neutrality simply would not work. And, if we proposed it, it would never be supported by our friends. France, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Austria—all would be against it. And the Socialist Parties of those countries would be against it too. Indeed, the Socialists of Germany themselves are against neutrality, as they have often said. It simply is not a practical policy at all.
Nor is the policy of leaving Germany unarmed a practical policy today. We 1573 all hate the thought of German re-armament, but we know that one day Germany will have armed forces again. Russia has now formally proposed it. So have we. We are pledged to defend Germany against aggression. We could not do it, if the Germans stood idly by. We have created democratic institutions in Germany. We hope to see them in united Germany very soon. But does anybody believe that democracy could live in Germany if the German Government depended for defence against neo-Nazis, Communists and others, on foreign bayonets? We all know, we know it in our hearts, that Germany is destined to full equality with other nations, including the rights of self-defence.
The real question to be settled is how and when shall she be re-armed. I confess to an ardent hope that it will be through some form of European Army. Not because I have always believed in an international army as our ultimate goal, but because I believe it is a present necessity in the Europe of today. The history of events with which I started shows that it would be very foolish, as many hon. Members have said, to stop the present negotiations for E.D.C.—to stop the preparations on which we are engaged. No one who wants German unity could surely ask for that. Let the negotiations now go forward to their conclusion. Let the Germans and the world really see what E.D.C. in its completed form will mean to them. But we all agree that we must have some guarantees against the re-emergence of the hateful German militarism of the past; and all German democrats want that as well.
One guarantee that we want—and I insist on it again—is that French units which are now organised should get the equipment they require as soon as that can be done. We hope that they will get it very soon. We hope that they will get it before the Board of E.D.C. has been set up. That will greatly ease the anxiety which we feel.
We want other guarantees. The Foreign Secretary argued that E.D.C. would give us guarantees against resurgent militarism in the German state. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said this afternoon, we, like the staff at S.H.A.P.E., had doubts about E.D.C. when it first began. We do not admire it now in all respects. But, 1574 like the staff at S.H.A.P.E., we think that it will be workable, if the Governments want to work it. We think that it does offer real guarantees against German militarism. For my part, I think that they are pretty strong.
There will be no unit larger than a division. Divisions will be integrated with divisions of other nations in an army corps, and there will be an integrated army corps and higher command. Training, organisation and appointments will all be done by the international Board. There will be a common budget, a common supply of arms and equipment, and important restrictions on arms production in Germany itself. There will be a common uniform and, we hope, a common European patriotism, added to the national patriotism of all the troops. I think that we may also add the fact which the Foreign Secretary spoke about, that no participating nation will have enough units to dominate the force. We may further add what the Foreign Secretary said in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell): that Germany will have no other troops apart from those she has in E.D.C. itself. She would have no other troops, no armed forces at all.
Some critics in France say, and I understand it, that those guarantees are not enough. I would answer, let them reflect whether, if E.D.C. collapses, they are likely to get more.
Some German critics say that the guarantees are unfair in application, that Germany is not given the equal status she was promised when the talks began. I answer, in candour, that I think that with their troops in E.D.C. they will have equality in substance and, in considerable degree, in form. But again, let them reflect whether in the light of recent history they are not getting an honourable, and indeed a generous, deal.
I end by saying that, while these are considerable guarantees, there is one more guarantee against German militarism, if Russia fears it, as I think she does, which would be far more important than all the rest—a guarantee in which the door is wide open for Russia to help. It is the all-round reduction of national armed forces—of which both the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend spoke this afternoon—all round reduction, together with the abolition of the weapons 1575 of mass destruction and aggression, and a stringent international inspection and control. That would solve the German problem, and it would solve the war problem, as nothing else could do.
Today we are re-arming. If the risk of war is lessened, if the tension is reduced, I believe it is due to the Western re-armament programme which our Government began. I support that programme without reserve. But let us never forget what it is we are doing in piling up the armaments we have. We are making a destructive power which, in a period of years, could literally annihilate mankind. We are militarising the world as never in history before.
The burdens and the dangers are immense. For six years in the United Nations we have been trying—and I know because I began it—to get agreement for reduction and control. Today, in the Commission in New York—I wish the Press would adequately report it—the Americans are making proposals of the most drastic and most generous kind. I know that I carry the Minister of State with me, when I say that; he was in Paris talking to the Americans when this began. Some day these proposals must succeed. Let us hope that Russia will say "Yes" on German union, and then say "Yes" on armaments as well.
§ 10.29 p.m.
§ The Minister of State (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
May I begin, as the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) also began, by congratulating the two hon. Members, one from this side of the Committee and one from the other side, who have made their maiden speeches today. I congratulate them both, not only on surviving the ordeal —because it is an ordeal—but also on the most interesting and effective contributions which they made.
Since I have been a Member of the House, which is a comparatively short time, I think that by far the majority of hon. Members have agreed, by and large, on matters of foreign policy. In the speech of the Leader of the Opposition today, I think there were traces of the fact that the bi-partisan approach to foreign policy will be continued. We have had very effective contributions to that also from the very brilliant and courageous speech to which we have just 1576 listened from the right hon. Member for Derby, South. In fact, it has really been only one section, and I hope a comparatively small section of them, which has sought to interject partisanship into this debate today, and I do not need to remind hon. Members from which quarter of the Committee that came. It was perfectly clear that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) was bent upon magnifying the differences between the two parties upon these matters. I think the answer to him has come from the speech to which we have just listened.
I think it is impossible to regard even the limited matter of the part that Germany is to play in the future of Europe quite detached from the wider implications of our foreign policy, and it is because of some of the things that have been said today and because there are still in this country many people who are dupes of Communist propaganda that I think it is necessary for us to state and re-state what our principal objectives are.
I do not think we can emphasise too often the fact—and I believe I speak for everyone in the Committee—that we do desire peace, that that is the final objective of our foreign policy, and we desire it for a variety of reasons; first of all, to avoid the sacrifices of another world war, in blood, treasure and materials. We desire peace in this country in order to earn our living as a trading nation. We have as much as, or more than, any other country to lose from the dislocation of world trade that may flow from warfare or from huge armaments.
We wish peace in order that we may restore the influence and authority of our country, and I think everybody realises that we need a prolonged respite from war if we are to achieve that purpose. We also want peace in order to take our part in the expansion of world resources for the benefit of all the nations of the world. There is a tendency for hon. Members opposite to think that they alone are interested in these matters, but we do desire to fight the poverty, ignorance, superstition and the low standards of living which exist throughout the whole world. We on this side of the Committee are just as sincerely anxious to fulfil that function for which peace is most certainly needed.
1577 Those are the reasons why we want peace. But that does not mean that we are prepared to submit to tyranny in order to obtain it. I do not think there can be quoted too often in this connection the speech which the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale made at Jarrow, when he said:I say to my American friends that their economic and fiscal policies are doing more damage to Western Europe than Stalin can ever do.That statement which the right hon. Gentleman made—I assume he meant it—shows that there is a gulf between us on these matters which I do not think we can bridge. That sort of statement seems to me to be playing straight into the bands of the Soviet, because surely, as the right hon. Gentleman has indicated in his review of what has taken place since the war, there cannot now be much doubt in any free country about Soviet imperialism, or whatever we may like to call it. It is quite clear that they wish to lull the people of the free world into a sense of false security, and they will subvert, infiltrate and overthrow just as much as they are allowed to do. I think that in some of the interjections which have been made today there is a danger of people forgetting that fact.
The hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) regretted that we find it necessary to be so outspoken to the Russians in the way in which I have just tried to make clear. I think it is much better to tell the truth in these matters and to make it quite clear to the Russians that we know what are their purposes. I think the Russians understand it much better and I think they prefer to be spoken to quite straightly. Who is responsible for the present state of tension in the world and for the discussion of this topic of German re-armament at the present time?
To take the attitude I am taking now is not to adopt a sort of anti-Christ attitude—which was the phrase used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). I do not ask the Committee to take it from me: we had a most effective speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Basset-law (Mr. Bellenger) on this matter earlier today—and the Leader of the Opposition could not have made the position clearer than he did in his speech on 12th February, 1951. If the Committee will permit me, I should like to quote his words— 1578 because memories are short; people forget these facts, and I do not think they can be re-emphasised too frequently. He said:During these last five and a half years we have seen continued obstruction and lack of co-operation on the part of the U.S.S.R. and its satellites. Indeed, everything goes to show that the purpose of that Government is not to promote peace, but to cause trouble everywhere in the world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 58.]He then went on to refer to the grim facts of the situation; the immense armaments the Soviet Union had built up; the hostile and subversive propaganda against all non-Communist States and Communist states like Yugoslavia, and to talk about their sham peace propaganda and the fact that we were faced with the immense armaments of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc.
I believe that what the right hon. Gentleman said then so well is just as true today, and we must not be diverted from our purpose of negotiating from strength in these matters. When I say that we are not prepared to submit to tyranny in order to obtain peace, may I just give one example of the sort of tyranny of which I am speaking? It is the kind of action whereby 25,000 people—old or young, sick or well, and including pregnant women and children—were expelled from Budapest at 24 hours' notice and removed to a far part of the country, where there was little prospect of their being able to earn a living, even by manual labour. That is the kind of tyranny which I think the people of this country are prepared to fight rather than submit to.
Therefore, we aim at peace through strength and through co-operation between the free countries. That policy, I sincerely believe, does not mean war. In fact, I think it is the best way of preventing war, and I find myself in some difficulty in listening to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale. He informed the Committee this afternoon that after six months of Tory rule things were easier—the tension was relaxing and there was less prospect of war—and therefore we could afford to take risks.
I remember that when I spoke in the foreign affairs debate on 5th February, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Watford (Mr. J. Freeman), who, I understand, 1579 is associated with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale, said:Now at the end of three months of Conservative rule I am afraid we are nearer to war than we were last October."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th February, 1952; Vol. 495, c. 863.]The hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) spoke in the same debate and she used very similar words, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine), who spoke to the Committee this afternoon, expressed his opinion quite definitely that, as a result of the actions of the Government, the country was nearer to war.
Now, after another three months, we hear from the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale that he thinks things are easier. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] I sincerely hope they are easier. I think that to some extent improvement has been made; but I think it would be folly for the people of this country to think that we were out of the wood, or that we could take risks because the tension was so much less. I still believe that we must not be diverted one whit from our policy of aiming at peace through strength and through co-operation between the free countries. But that attitude does not, in my view, mean that we should not attempt to negotiate with the Russians. I think it is ridiculous to describe the note which has been delivered to the Russians as slamming the door in their faces.
I think there are two points to consider on the question of negotiating with the Russians—and I emphatically endorse what the right hon. Member for Derby, South, has just said: I believe that the Russians respect strength and that they respect firmness of purpose. All hon. Members were, I am sure, most impressed by the right hon. Gentleman's account of the events, and of the reaction which our firmness of purpose brought in each instance upon the Russians. I also think—and I speak with great diffidence on this matter—that they are people with whom it is extraordinarily difficult to, negotiate. This idea that all you have to do is to meet the Russians around a table, and then all is well, is just nonsense. One hon. Member referred to the Austrian negotiations. There have been 258 meetings between January, 1947, and December, 1950 —and still no agreement at all. One hon. 1580 Member had the explicit experience of this at the Palais Rose last year, and I had some small experience myself during the disarmament committee meetings and the United Nations meetings in Paris.
What are the reasons for that difficulty of negotiating with them? This is a most interesting topic to consider. I think one explanation is their system of Government and control. I think that the people who come to these meetings have extraordinarily little freedom to negotiate or to make concessions. Secondly, I believe there are great difficulties of vocabulary between us. I think the expressions which we use, even when they are translated into Russian, do not mean the same thing to them, and I hope that many of the things which they frequently say about us are not really what they mean, for after making most conciliatory speeches, to be called at once a liar and a hypocrite is not exactly conducive to improving the negotiations. I thought it was perhaps a sort of generic term which can be used on every possible occasion and simply means, "a representative of the Western Powers."
As my right hon. Friend has said, our answer has received a general welcome in Germany. I admit that it is only at first reading, but it has received a general welcome in Germany. If we were to stop our E.D.C. project in order to negotiate, I am certain that that is exactly what the Russians want us to do. I agree with what the hon. Member for Attercliffe said on that matter.
If the Russians want a united and free Germany to decide this matter, then they can prove that they want it very quickly indeed. The right hon. Member for Derby, South spoke as though we might try to speed up the negotiations, and he seemed to suggest a sort of time-table, a sort of international Guillotine. I am not quite certain that that procedure would, in fact, get one very much further, or carry things on very much quicker, with the Russians—at least, not in the sense of a Parliamentary Guillotine. I repeat what my right hon. Friend has said: We have no desire to enter into long, slow laborious negotiations. If there is a genuine will for agreement, we want to reach that agreement as speedily as possible.
Then we come back to the question of the position of Germany. I must do what many hon. Members have done during 1581 this debate, review once again the possible futures for Germany. The first one is that of a weak, unarmed, unoccupied, neutralised Germany. On that I agree entirely with what the right hon. Gentleman said. I think that is quite unthinkable. It is quite impracticable to think that any such Germany would exist. It would be precisely the sort of vacuum to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred on numerous occasions. I think we have a good example from Korea of what happens when a vacuum is left. The result of leaving such a Germany would be that Communism would inevitably move in.
The second possibility is a unified Germany with limited armaments, or limited armaments to begin with; with national armaments, but not tied to the West or, to begin with, to the East. In my belief, if we had that sort of Germany, the armaments would most certainly grow, the nationalist spirit would most certainly grow. I think National Socialism would be re-born. Such a Germany would be in a position to play off East against West. It would appeal to all that is worst in the German character, and it would simply be asking for a neo-Nazi régime eventually to establish itself.
When we hear people suggest that it would be better to have national German armaments and the fairness of the Russian proposition, I ask them to consider again the note that came from the Russians on 10th March and what it said about these matters. In the political provisions, under the heading "Fundamentals of Peace Treaty with Germany" we find:All former Service men of the German Army, including officers and generals, all former Nazis, save for those who are serving terms on convictions for crimes which they committed, must he granted civil and political rights on a par with all other German citizens for taking part in the building of a peace-loving democratic Germany.Then, immediately below that comes the military conditions:Germany will be permitted to have its national armed forces (land, air and naval), necessary for defence of the country.Germany is permitted to produce military materials and materiel, the quantity or types of which must not go beyond the confines of what is required for the armed forces established for Germany by the peace treaty.It seems to me that under those provisions we would soon have the former 1582 S.S. divisional commanders being able to come back into German national military formations, and that is exactly the sort of army we do not want Germany to have. Also, the Committee will have noticed the very vague terms with regard to military materials and military equipment. In fact, that is the sort of arrangement which we believe the vast majority of people in Germany do not want.
That possibility, I think, excludes itself. Then, the next one seems to be a partitioned Germany as at present—disarmed, but with its eastern frontiers protected by the Allies. Again, the arguments against that are, I believe, fairly obvious. As I thought the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey) said very clearly, the real defence of the West cannot be secured without the East of German manpower and resources.
Secondly, why should British taxpayers, British manpower, British materials be used to discharge this obligation without any help from the Germans themselves? It certainly would be a burden which would be beyond our resources, even if it could be effective. Finally, and conclusively, I do not believe for one moment that the Germans would accept such a status in perpetuity. That alternative, therefore, seems to me to discharge itself from our consideration.
Finally, we come to the question of integration with the West. It really is a matter for some amazement that the advantages of this solution should be doubted, and it seems to me that it must be done on a basis of equality and partnership. I agree that it is to some extent an act of faith. I personally do not believe that it is impossible to orientate Germany with the West.
We have had the catastrophe of two world wars, and it seems to me that if we are to avoid dangers in the future, we have got to draw the new Germany towards the West. We should be in for grave psychological difficulties if we did not make it quite clear to them that we are drawing them into the West, we hope, on a basis of equality and partnership.
The previous Government inaugurated this policy. I believe that they inaugurated it at a time when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale was a Member of the Cabinet, and full 1583 credit is due to them for having inaugurated it. If I may say so, I think that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has done much in the past few weeks to maintain the impetus of these negotiations. Just to come along, pick holes in them, raise difficulties and mutter about German re-armament simply for the sake of votes or anything of that kind, seems to me an entirely unworthy attitude for any responsible person at present to adopt.
There are solid advantages: the healing of the ancient enmity between France and Germany, Western European cooperation, and an effective Western defence. It marks a turning point in history, and a different course, if taken, would promote all the dangers of which the Opposition profess themselves to be so much aware.
§ Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
I am not at all clear whether in the last few minutes the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been talking about Germany or West Germany. He is talking about drawing Germany into the West and the negotiations which have been taking place, which have, of course, been negotiations for Western Germany. There is a very important distinction. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been clear in his own mind whether he meant to draw the whole of Germany into the West, or whether he meant the present German Federal Republic of the West.
§ Mr Lloyd
That, of course, is a matter of stages. At the moment we are dealing with practical arrangements for integrating Western Germany—the Federal Republic—with the other partners of the European Defence Community. But we certainly hope that one day there will be a free and united Germany. We equally hope that that free and united Germany will cast in its lot with the West rather than with the East.
I think there is another alternative method of dealing with the problem, which was put forward by the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East. I am trying to compress this and if I am not doing justice to his very careful argument I apologise. It seemed to me that the hon. Member was suggesting that we should scrap the existing E.D.C. arrangements; 1584 that we should seek to convert the Germans to a desire to contribute to Western defence—he thought that the moment was appropriate for that; that we should then reorganise N.A.T.O. and that we should bring Germany into a re-organised N.A.T.O.
That programme would mean months and, probably, years of negotiations. It means the conversion of our French friends upon a matter to which they hitherto attached very great importance, and it also means German national armaments. I should have thought that that conception would involve so much difficulty and so much delay, without much advantage in the long run, that we would be better advised to continue upon our present line.
Also, I feel that to start all over again at present might have an effect upon opinion in the United States of America, which is not a matter to which we should be entirely oblivious. Now some people talk about rushing the thing through. The negotiations have already been going on for 15 months or more. If we were to start right again from the beginning we might find that that great country, whose contribution to the defence of Europe is of such importance to us, might begin to get slightly bored with the proposition. That, I feel, is the answer to what the hon. Member put forward.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition set certain safeguards upon the question of German rearmament, and I think that Her Majesty's Government paid him the compliment of reproducing a passage from a speech of his in a White Paper. I submit to him that really those safeguards have been complied with, and that under the E.D.C. arrangement the flow of armaments to the partners will be controlled by the partnership as a whole. That will mean that no priority for the Germans can possibly be given without the consent of the other contracting parties. Of course, as I think my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, a great deal of equipment has already gone to the forces of the other partners of E.D.C.
The second safeguard was the question of preventing the possibility of German militarism. I think that that matter has already been dealt with. It does not 1585 seem to me possible easily to contrive an arrangement which has within it more safeguards against the emergence of German militarism.
Then we come to the final matter—that it must be done in agreement with the Germans themselves; and we say that it must be done by agreement with the Germans themselves in a proper constitutional way. The normal way to reach agreement with another people is to reach it with a popularly elected, duly constituted Government. That is all we seek to do. But, of course, it is of extreme importance to carry the whole of the German people, or as many of them as possible, with us in this matter.
One very much hopes that a rather broader attitude towards this matter will become visible in other quarters of Germany besides those which support the present Chancellor. I firmly believe that that is in the true interests not only of Germany, but of Europe. The right hon. Gentleman indicated that he thought that we should not be in a hurry about the matter, and that we should in the final stages take it fairly easily. He also rather inferred that Her Majesty's Government were governed to too great an extent by legal considerations. That really is not the truth. We feel that there is urgency about this matter. We are not at all convinced that the danger is past. The sooner that we can get the organisation of Western defence on a sound basis the better.
It is common ground between very many people in this country that that can only be done on the basis of some German contribution. Therefore, I think that we should press on with these agreements, and that we should seek to get them signed and dealt with as quickly as possible. Then there will necessarily have to be a certain pause pending ratification. But I believe myself—and I think that it is the view of my hon. Friends on these benches—that by pressing on with these matters so well begun by the late Government we really are making a contribution to the peace not only of Europe but of the world.
To report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.—[Mr. Drewe.]
Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.