§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
When I was addressing the House late last night, I was saying that there was one passage in the Gracious Speech of Her Majesty which I had read with interest and with encouragement. It was:It will be My Government's aim to strengthen the unity of Europe. They will work in close association with our neighbours in Western Europe and give all possible support to their efforts to forge closer links with one another.It must be admitted that the situation in Europe today is not altogether encouraging. I have always regarded the Saar as the acid test of the Franco-German relationship, and I believe that most hon. Members on both sides of the House will share that view. The attempt to find a basis of agreement with regard to the Saar has been temporarily abandoned with the French decision to hold elections there this month, subject to a ban on the pro-German parties. I do not say it is irretrievable, but this is undoubtedly a set-back.
Similarly, we must face the fact that the European Defence Community is in grave jeopardy at the present time. I believe that one reason is that, in approving it, the German and French Governments in fact approved different things 301 —Bonn the first decisive step towards the restoration of total national sovereignty, and Paris the imposition of permanent limitations upon the free exercise of that sovereignty. There is here a deep cleavage between the two parties.
Against this somewhat sombre background the attempt continues to create what has been called a "Little Federation" of the six Powers in Western Continental Europe. If it came into being, this would correspond almost precisely to the Continental empires of Charlemagne and Napoleon I; and it is rather an ironical reflection that this country has fought a whole series of wars, through four centuries, in order either to prevent this thing happening, or to break it up when it did happen.
What is to happen now? Certainly we no longer have any need to oppose this federation on strategic grounds—the balance of world power has shifted decisively away from Europe—nor have we any moral right to oppose it, having refused to enter a European federation ourselves. I remain somewhat sceptical, first of all, because of the background which I have outlined; secondly, because, so far as I can make out, this proposed federation is still devoid of any mass emotional appeal on the Continent of Europe; and, thirdly, because I do not believe that the creation of a political sub-unit in an already truncated continent, based upon an uneasy alliance between France and a divided Germany, is likely to provide any permanent solution either for the economic problem or for the problem of defence in the modern world.
Western Europe as a whole, and still more in part, is incapable of defending itself unaided against the Communist power; or of standing on its own feet from an economic point of view. In these two vital fields of defence and economics we have, therefore, to face the fact that we must work within a wider frame, and we must never forget that.
At the moment, we are passing through a phase of difficulty and even of confusion in European affairs, for which we bear some responsibility ourselves; but I believe it is only a temporary phase, or need only be a temporary phase. It is always intolerable to quote oneself, but I must just tell the House that it is nearly a year since I wrote: 302The approach of the Western Powers to the problem of Germany could hardly have been more unfortunate. It was a mistake to try and re-arm what amounted to an enemy-occupied country before making peace. We should have negotiated a political settlement first. You cannot in fact achieve any lasting international co-operation by forcing people to re-arm, or to accept the re-armament of others, against their will; and it was an error to suppose that Western Europe could be united for the purpose of creating an army. In fact, hardly a day now passes without some fresh explosion of political exasperation which drives the French and the German Parliaments further apart.Those words have been borne out by events. The exasperation is very largely due to that most deadly of all counsellors, fear.
What should we do in this situation? We have now to go back to first principles, always advisable in politics, and perhaps most advisable of all in the conduct of foreign affairs. I have never wavered in my belief that we ought long ago to have taken the lead in uniting Western Europe on a confederal or commonwealth basis, and to have used the Council of Europe as the instrument of our policy. I hold that belief just as strongly today as I ever did. I think we ought to have joined in the discussions which led to the creation of the Coal and Steel Community, and to the proposed European Defence Community; and participated in both on our own terms, as I believe we could have done.
I have never been able to understand the attitude of the party opposite towards the Schuman plan. They obtained power in 1945 very largely on account of the bitter memories of mass unemployment between the two world wars, caused, in the main, by excessive production in the heavy industries in relation to the available markets and purchasing power, and by cut-throat international competition.
In their new-found but obsessive belief that Britain, although we are more dependent than any other country in the world upon overseas trade, can somehow achieve complete economic independence—to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) gave renewed expression yesterday—they seem altogether to have forgotten about the trade war of attrition in the 20's which reduced the British coal industry to a shambles and forced the steel industry into a restrictive international cartel. They had before them, 303 at the time they took the decision not to participate, the considered opinion of the Iron and Steel Federation that answers to such questions as, where steel was to be made and the extent to which existing facilities should be modernised or replaced, must be found if an adequate development programme was to be agreed for Western Europe; and that failure to agree such a programme might lead to the creation of excessive capacity and the uneconomic use of investment resources. Still they refused even to enter the discussions.
I think the great hope now lies with the British delegation in Luxembourg; and we must now do everything in our power to achieve the closest co-operation on a technical level with the Coal and Steel Community through that delegation, because it is the technical level that matters most in this business.
Quite frankly, I have not been able to understand the attitude of the Opposition towards the European Defence Community either. What was the objective here? It was to draw Federal Germany towards the West and to enable her to participate in the defence of Europe without the danger of a revival of the Wehrmacht. Whether E.D.C. is ratified in its present form or not, the danger of the revival of the Wehrmacht exists today, as we are being constantly reminded. Although the British people take perhaps a limited interest in Continental affairs, I am sure that there is one thing they will never stand for, and that is a revival of the Wehrmacht. From it they have suffered too much during the last 30 years; and, although they may not know a great deal about Europe, they know an awful lot about that.
I believe there is only one solution to this problem, and that is a merger of E.D.C. with N.A.T.O. on terms which will ultimately permit of equal French and German status within the ambit of the larger organisation; but the French will never agree to this unless and until we are ourselves part of the European Defence Community. We have to face up to this fact. Of course, it would mean that that organisation would have to be sufficiently loose to allow us complete freedom of military, financial and political action in the world outside Europe; but I think 304 the French would welcome that, and I say further that I believe in the end it will come to that.
In this affair, as in so many others in life, the larger solution is at once the simplest and the easiest. I want to suggest that a new approach to this whole problem is now required to meet the very great difficulties of the present situation. We need not assume that this will necessarily involve any greater delay in securing German participation in their own and in Europe's defence.
What of the Council of Europe itself? To me that is what matters most. We have made it plain that we cannot and will not enter a political federation. I think that in so doing we have been right; and our attitude in this respect is well understood upon the Continent of Europe. But I believe myself that, if it came to a choice between a tight Continental federation under the command of Germany, and a much wider, looser association under the leadership of Britain, working through and within the Council of Europe, the ordinary people of France, Holland, Belgium and even Federal Germany would never hesitate. They would choose the latter.
If we get this wider association, then the "Little Federation," even if it came about, although it would provide no solutions, would also present no dangers. Only, we have got to take the lead. I have had four years' experience of the Council of Europe, and this has convinced me that in the long run, whatever schemes may be devised that look magnificent on paper, the ordinary people on the Continent of Europe will go as far as we go and no further. Even if the pace is the pace of a tortoise, they will go at that pace rather than separate themselves from us and run the risk of entering some organisation which must, in our absence, sooner or later be dominated by Germany.
I believe that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave immense encouragement to the Council of Europe by the speech that he made there last September, and by the proposals which have become known as the Eden plan. I believe he means to make it work, and that it can be made to work. I only want to make one suggestion. The most constructive thing that he could do at this juncture would be to put an end to what 305 the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey) has rightly described as the inert futility of the Committee of Ministers. My right hon. Friend cannot remotely be accused of any responsibility. For this, I think, the Labour Government were largely responsible for three years; and I leave it at that, except to say that my right hon. Friend was not Foreign Secretary then.
I believe that the Assembly has not done a bad job over the last four years. After all, we are only consultative; and frequently we have given very good advice. If it has seldom been taken, that does not make it less good. We have fulfilled our function, but the Committee of Ministers has not fulfilled its function; and that is why I beg my right hon. Friend, with all the prestige he enjoys on the Continent of Europe, to see that it now does. I believe he would render a tremendous service if he did so.
I turn now to the economic aspect. I yield to none in my conviction that the preservation of our civilisation depends absolutely upon Anglo-American friendship; and that the primary responsibility for the defence of the free world devolves upon N.A.T.O. N.A.T.O. is where the real power of the free world resides, and the only place where it resides. The political and economic machinery of N.A.T.O. seems to me to require a fairly drastic overhaul, and I think the new Administration in the United States will offer an opportunity to my right hon. Friend to embark upon that task. I am sure he is convinced of its necessity.
There is only one incident in connection with his tenure of the Foreign Office which has caused me any anxiety, and that was the communiqué issued after the Lisbon Conference. I must say I read it with a slight tremor, because it seemed to me to be somewhat remote from reality, although I am sure that his colleagues were much more responsible than he was. It was what I might call a slight exercise in international escapism, which I do not think is a good thing.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)
If my hon. Friend would make it "imagination," I think that would be better.
§ Mr. Boothby
Yes, imagination then. I am equally convinced that the time has come, and is indeed overdue, to restore 306 the economic balance to the free world; and that this can only be done by building out of the non-dollar area an economic unit capable of standing on its own feet. We have now got to face this problem of the dollar gap, realistically and without wishful thinking. It cannot be bought off any longer, either with dollars or with illusions.
I most earnestly commend to the attention of the House the two reports of the Economic Committee of the Council of Europe adopted by the Assembly last September. I do not do this because I had something to do with their preparation. I do it because they are the first responsible economic documents I have read for years which face the realities of the situation. They face, for example, the inherent conflict between the achievement of maximum production, which requires massive capital investment, and the prevention of inflation. Both of those things have got to be done; but it is no use pretending that the measures taken to achieve the one have no effect upon the other, because they do, and we must try to strike a balance between them.
Secondly, they face the fact that the principles underlying the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1945, of which I am proud, in association with the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) opposite, to have moved the rejection in this House, are no longer valid in theory, if they ever were, and have completely broken down in practice. I have said over and over again, and I repeat now, that non-discriminatory multilateral trade, universally convertible currencies, and fixed exchange rates cannot be made to mix in the modern world. We have to face that fact, whatever 19th century Liberal economists may say to the contrary.
Given the inevitable excess of American exports over imports, these things can only lead to deflation in the countries buying American goods, which becomes intolerable and cannot be borne, or to repeated economic crises, with forced devaluations, as the only alternative. The theoretical price paid at Bretton Woods for fixed exchanges was adequate reserves. We did not get them then, and we have not got them today.
The report of the Economic Committee of the Council of Europe in reply to O.E.E.C. suggests that the time is ripe 307 for a new international monetary conference to reconsider these principles from the beginning, in the light of the events that have taken place, and in the light of present conditions. Again, the Presidential Election, and the forthcoming Commonwealth Conference, give us the opportunity to hold such an international monetary conference within the next few months.
Whatever else anyone can say, we can all agree that a radical change in the framework of trade within the free world has now become essential. This is indicated in the second economic report of the Council of Europe on the co-ordination of the economies of the member States in Western Europe with those of oversea countries. I should like to detain the House for three-quarters of an hour to give what I hope would be a lucid exposition of these proposals, but I have no intention of doing any such thing. There they are, in print, and I beg hon. Gentlemen to read them.
They are jolly good. They recommend the creation of an investment bank for capital investment in the undeveloped countries of the sterling area. We have to increase our capital investment overseas if we are to obtain the raw materials which are necessary not only for ourselves but, as will be increasingly apparent, for the United States. We are apt to think of capital only as cash, but the capital that matters is goods. We can produce the capital goods in Western Europe necessary to bring about a great expansion in the production of primary products outside the dollar area.
The report recommends—hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side will be pleased about this—the negotiation of long-term contracts and international agreements with regard to basic products. Lastly, it recommends—I think hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House will be pleased with this—an extension of the preferential system. So it can be seen how good it is—with something for everyone.
I do not know how many of my colleagues have been travelling lately, but if they have travelled as much as I have done recently they will be disturbed by a growing wave of anti-Americanism—I put 308 that word forward in a rather broad sense. Shall I say rather "irritation with the United States"?—on the Continent of Europe. I expect that there is a corresponding irritation with Europe in the United States of America. I believe that these feelings arise very largely from very natural exasperation on the part of the United States at having to tax themselves and to pour out money for Europe which does not in the long run seem to do anybody much good; and the equally natural resentment on the part of many countries in Europe at their continued economic dependence upon the United States of America.
Both feelings are justified, and there is only one way of getting rid of them, and that is to bring to an end both the necessity for this constant outpouring of dollars, and the necessity for the abject economic dependence of the rest of the free world on the United States of America. It can only be done by restoring some kind of balance in the free world between the sterling area and Western Europe, on the one hand, and the dollar area on the other. Far from there being any necessity for antagonism between the two, it is an essential condition for effective co-operation between them in the future that the disbalance be brought to an end, because this one-sided affair, caused by permanent economic disequilibrium, only irritates everybody and will never get us anywhere.
I conclude by saying that I recognise that I am to some extent, although not for the first time, a lone voice crying in the wilderness; but the wilderness seems to me to be getting a little bit less solitary as time goes on. I detect a few friendly eyes now, whereas a few years ago they were all hostile. I am, however, sorry to have to tell the House that after 28 years' experience here I have discovered that it is not necessary to agree with the majority in this House in order to be right.
Before the war, it seemed to me that the present Prime Minister was right about politics; and M. Paul Reynaud, in France, was right about economics. He fought deflation and the old Gold Standard from start to finish. But these two were the most isolated figures in their respective Parliaments. I must say 309 that my heart warmed when I read M. Paul Reynaud's letter in "The Times" the other day, in which he said:Is it wrong to feel the urgent desire to see the country one considers to be, in Europe, the main pillar of western civilisation"—that is us—join in the common enterprise? Let us remember the price we paid for the disastrous incapacity of the Democracies to prepare themselves for two world wars.… Those who tried to make their public opinion conscious of the perils ahead became unpopular in their countries.I am afraid that that very often happens to those who try to make their countries see the perils ahead.
The task remains, and it is a very great one. It is to weld the three great cantilevers of the Atlantic Community, the British Commonwealth and the Council of Europe into an organic union, inter-governmental in character, which will successfully withstand the Communist challenge by forging new political links between the old world and the new, and closer economic links between Western Europe and the sterling area. As a member of all three communities, and the only member of all three communities, this country has a vital and perhaps a decisive part to play. It is not too late, this time and I am sure that it is the only road to prosperity and to peace.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I would begin by wishing the Foreign Secretary a safe and successful journey to the United Nations Assembly, where I understand he goes tomorrow. Before I speak of the great questions which he will be debating there, I would ask him some questions about matters on this side of the Atlantic; and first about the Sudan.
We all hope that the future of the Sudan may now be settled with the willing and satisfied agreement of all concerned. I understand that we are due to bring the new Sudanese constitution into force on Saturday next, which is six months after 8th May. If that happens, will there be outstanding pionts on which differences of opinion will arise? Would a short delay avoid difficulties that there might otherwise be? I should be grateful if the Foreign Secretary could clear up the point.
310 I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman some questions about N.A.T.O., to which the Gracious Speech refers. The Labour Party stand foursquare behind the Atlantic Pact. We wanted a world system of collective security for peace. We could not get it. After the rape of Czechoslovakia, the most progressive and the most Socialist State in Europe, the Labour Government took a leading part in drawing up the narrower system of the Atlantic Pact. But the Pact is founded on the Charter. Its sole purpose is to uphold the rule of law. No one, therefore, here or elsewhere, is entitled to call it a power bloc, a military alliance of the old kind. It is not founded on the principle "My ally right or wrong," as the American vote on Tunisia dramatically showed the other day. That principle, if it were admitted, would destroy the Charter; but it would destroy N.A.T.O. too. Who believes that such States as Canada, Denmark and Norway would stay in N.A.T.O., unless its sole purpose was to safeguard peace and law?
Before the Labour Government left office 12 nations had joined N.A.T.O. with a total population of 360 million and with great resources overseas. That makes it potentially by far the strongest instrument of collective security which the world has ever seen, Potentially. How strong is N.A.T.O. in actual fact? At Lisbon the Council set a target of 50 divisions, front line and reserve, by the end of 1952. We are in November. How are we getting on?
Britain has five excellent divisions on the Continent. I believe the Americans have six. The Foreign Secretary has told us that the French by October should have had 12. Italy has a certain number. Greece has 10 first-rate divisions, Turkey nearly 20. Now M. Kardelj has given a hint that perhaps Yugoslavia will sign the Atlantic Pact as well, and she has perhaps 25 or 30 divisions. Are these south-eastern contributions counted towards the Lisbon target, or was that for Northern and Central Europe only? In short, how near are we to reaching the manpower target set at Lisbon?
May I ask how equipment is coming forward from the United States, from Great Britain, from France, Italy and other countries? Is it coming with the increased momentum of which the Foreign Secretary spoke four months 311 ago? What is happening in the decisive weapon of modern war, the air? It was from N.A.T.O. headquarters a week or two ago that the statement was made that we have now five times as many useful combat aircraft as we had in July, 1951. It was said that the target of 4,000 by the end of 1952 would almost certainly be reached. Is the picture really as encouraging as that? We ought to know.
We also ought to know how the proportionate contributions of each member of N.A.T.O. are to be reviewed. Will it be by multilateral discussion, or by bilateral discussion between each nation and the United States? The French have shown in recent days how vitally important that question is. My memory is that when we were in office the practice of multilateral discussion and decision had been generally agreed. Is the standing N.A.T.O. Council now doing that? If not, why not? Our people are making great sacrifices for defence. They must know that the shares are settled by the nations as equal partners. There must be no misunderstanding about the effort which each of them has made.
N.A.T.O. cannot work if Western Europe is fatally divided within itself. We do not dissent from the words of the Gracious Speech about Europe, although we note, as my right hon. Friend noted the other day, that on this, as on Persia, Egypt and other subjects, the language of the Government has greatly changed in recent times. The Eden Plan for co-ordinating the Council of Europe and the Assembly in Strasbourg with the European Communities, of which the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby) has just spoken, seems to us to be the application of the Washington Declaration drawn up by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) a year ago.
The permanent delegation to the Iron and Steel Authority is, if I remember rightly, what we proposed or planned. We hope, and we believe, that it will work well. I understand that already the Authority have agreed that the members of our delegation shall sit in every sub-committee. On that basis we may indeed build up lasting co-operation; and I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the British attitude towards European problems is today being better under- 312 stood, as we, for our part, have always believed that in the end it would be.
However, we are not so happy about some other trends in Europe. Things are not going well in the relations between France and Germany. The Saar question is not advancing. If I may say so with great respect, I believe that each month shows more clearly how disastrous it was that we never held the four-Power talks on German unity which the Russians proposed. As I read it, the second Russian Note really offered us what we wanted, an immediate meeting on how all-German elections could be held, that to come first. That is how I read it, and I read it again last night.
I believe the Foreign Secretary wanted a conference then. I wish he had stuck to his guns and got it through. Perhaps we should not have got German unity. Perhaps the Russians were only trying to delay or to destroy the E.D.C. But at least we should have shown to every German by a conference, which need not have lasted more than a week, where the responsibility for failure over German union really lay. In Germany and elsewhere much doubt and suspicion might have been allayed.
I shall not re-open the debates we had throughout the summer months, or follow the hon. Member in what he said. But I want to speak of two other events which have worked against Franco-German indeed against European, reconciliation, in recent weeks. The first is what I think was the tragic decision about Alfred Krupp. We understand the reasons why it was made. We bitterly regret it none the less. The Krupps have never been able to keep their hands off politics. Before both world wars they used their money to corrupt the German civil and military services, to subsidise the men and movements who were working for militarism and war—
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am not saying that Her Majesty's Government took the decision. I am deprecating the decision that was taken by the American High Commission, and I am urging that the Foreign Secretary should see that no similar decisions are made in future. Let him do what he can; he can use great influence.
313 I want to explain why this seems to us so grave. The Krupps were the arch-example of the private manufacturers of arms who conspired against world peace. There is great present danger in giving this fabulous fortune of £40 million to Alfred Krupp. Throughout the First World War—I hope the Foreign Secretary will listen to the case, it really is a strong one.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Throughout the First World War a certain Hugenberg was chairman of Krupps. When the war was over, he ostensibly left them to give his time to Press work. He built up a big news agency. By 1928 he supplied news to 1,600 German papers. He bought up a lot of the provincial Press. He created an advertising agency, a very powerful instrument indeed. He bought up U.F.A., the biggest German film concern. And throughout those crucial years he propagated the views of Hitler, and, in the end, he led the party by whose votes in the Reichstag Hitler came to power. He left Krupps in 1918, but he remained the most dangerous and the most powerful of the armament men. Alfred Krupp may follow his example, and again I beg the Foreign Secretary to use his influence to make people understand this question and to try to see that such a development does not occur.
I want to mention the Ramcke speech, not in itself a very serious matter. It has provoked alarm abroad, as well as universal condemnation in Germany itself. Indeed, I think that in Germany it may well have done harm instead of good to the sinister cause for which Ramcke stands.
There are two things that I want to say to the Foreign Secretary about it. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will use this occasion to make it plain to the German democrats that they will not be treated as they were between the wars; that we will give them all the support they may require in dealing with men and movements who threaten German democracy and international peace. Secondly, I hope that the Foreign Secretary will make it plain that members of Himmler's Waffen S.S., branded at Nuremburg as a criminal organisation, whose terrible symbol was the death's head, will never be allowed to join the 314 European Army, if and when it comes to life.
I turn now to the questions which the Foreign Secretary must face in the Assembly in a few days' time; and first to Korea, which overshadows all the rest. Korea lies next on the map to Manchuria, where the betrayal of the League of Nations began just 20 years ago. It is that which lends vast historical significance to the struggle now going on. It is the first time in history that many nations have joined together to uphold a world law that forbids recourse to war. The candidates in the American Election argued about who had advised whom that Korea was of no strategical significance to Western defence. That very argument proves, to my mind, that the United Nations are in Korea, not for any material end, but simply to uphold the principle on which world order must depend.
Before I speak of policy in Korea, may I say this? General Eisenhower has just been elected as President of the United States. Our Parliament and nation will wish to send him our warmest hopes for his success in his great office and will pray that he may have the strength, the courage, the wisdom and the vision that are required. General Eisenhower has said that he will make a journey to Korea to try to find an honourable means of bringing the conflict to an end. Again, we wish him well in his momentous mission; we hope for good results. But let us be clear: he will go to Korea as President-elect of the United States. But the problems of Korea are United Nations problems, which vitally concern us all. Grave issues for us are there at stake.
Why are we fighting in Korea? The records make it absolutely plain that the guilt of the aggression lies on the North Koreans, and on them alone. Before the end of 1950, before the war was six months old, the United Nations Assembly were trying to find means of bringing the fighting to an end. They set up a Cease-Fire committee. They followed it with a Good Offices Committee. They passed a resolution which gave China every guarantee, if only she would call a halt. The Russians and the Communists treated all this in the Assembly with contempt. Only when their armies had suffered a smashing defeat and were in chaos did Mr. Malik, of Russia, be it noted, broadcast a proposal for a truce. The United Nations Command, with the support of 315 the Labour Government, at once agreed. I think that at every stage they tried to get a quick and a fair result. At last, everything in the truce negotiations was agreed to; the document was ready to be signed, except for the clauses about the prisoners of war.
A few months ago there were troubles about the screening of prisoners of war, although the United Nations Command had told the Communist Truce Delegation what they were doing, and the Communists had actually co-operated by issuing, at U.N. suggestion, a statement offering amnesty to prisoners who returned. Happily, screening is no longer a difficulty. In the last U.N. proposals, the Command have offered to give it up.
There is now only one point that keeps the fighting going: the Communist insistence that under the Prisoner of War Convention of 1949, every single prisoner must be repatriated, whether he wants to go or not, even if it means the use of force. As I have argued in the House before, the Convention cannot possibly mean that. Of course, the captor Powers can grant asylum to prisoners, if that is what the prisoners want. This view is confirmed by practice, and especially by Russian practice.
In the first treaty that the Soviet Government ever made—the Treaty of Brest Litovsk—this clause appears:Prisoners of war of both parties will be released to their homeland in so far as they do not, with the consent of the capturing States, desire to remain within the latter's territory or betake themselves to another country.That, at least, is clear, and Stalin repeated it in substance to the Germans in 1944.
There is, I think, complete unanimity in the House on this issue. I do not believe there is one single hon. Member who, if he were at Panmunjom, remembering the so-called execution of the non-Communists in the Koje camps, would force these men to go back against their will.
Is there, then, nothing that can be done to end the fighting? Must we just hope for some ingenious formula that will uphold our principles and which the Russians will in the end accept? Perhaps so. But with great diffidence I make one suggestion, which, I know, is not new, although perhaps the form I give it may be new. There may be some objection 316 which the Foreign Secretary will explain. I make the suggestion, putting the interests of our prisoners first. Nothing must imperil their swift return.
We want a truce to prepare the way for a peace conference—peace for Korea, and peace, we hope, for Asia, too. Could the truce be taken in two stages, both to be completed before the political conference began? The first stage would be a cease-fire, on the basis of the agreements already made. After all, the practical arrangements for supervising the truce have all been settled. The second stage would be agreement about the prisoners' return. Only when that, too, was settled, would the political conference begin. Would that jeopardise the chances of our prisoners coming home? I cannot see why it should. I should have thought that once the fighting had stopped, the chances of getting agreement on the prisoners would be increased. Anyway, I hope that the Foreign Secretary will consider whether he can put this forward in New York.
I end what I have to say about Korea by repeating that we all long for peace, real peace. That will come when those who began the fighting are ready to give the Korean people the freedom and indepence which is their right. May the day come soon when they will do so. It may bring blessings to the whole of Asia in its train. But on the basic principle, the United Nations cannot surrender. As the Leader of the Opposition said two years ago, the whole fabric of the United Nations would collapse, if we gave way.
The Foreign Secretary will meet the problem of world poverty in the Assembly. I only want to say a word about one aspect—the increase of production in the undeveloped countries of the world. I want to ask him to make a decision himself about our share in the work of the United Nations Technical Assistance Board. In money, it is relatively a small matter; but the Board has begun to do important work.
In Afghanistan they have a mission of 28 foreign experts, agriculturists, doctors, teachers and the rest. They taught the Afghan peasant to use a Western scythe instead of his old sickle. He cut five times the area of crop that he could cut before. They taught him to sow cotton in rows instead of broadcast, and gave 317 him the Western hoe to get rid of the weeds. The peasant got two-and-a-half times as much cotton as he was getting before. The mission have wiped out typhus, which used to be an annual national scourge before they came.
Altogether, the U.N. Board have sent 1,400 experts to different undeveloped countries and they are bringing out great numbers from those countries to be trained abroad. They have sent seed, equipment, manuals, tools and so on. This is the point: two years ago the funds of the Board amounted to 20 million dollars, but last year only to 19 million dollars because Her Majesty's present advisers drastically cut the contribution which we made.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I know it was over one year instead of over 18 months, but there was a cut, when, in my view, there should have been an increase. Last year, in consequence, it fell to 19 million dollars. This year they are asking for 26 million dollars, not a big increase. I do beg the Foreign Secretary to see that our contribution is generously increased.
I began what I had to say this afternoon with re-armament, which I have supported from the start. I am going to end with disarmament. As Mr. Lange, the Socialist Foreign Minister of Norway, said at Lisbon, "We are re-arming in order to disarm." The Foreign Secretary and I were at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva 20 years ago. He will forgive me if I say that I still believe that, if his instructions had been different—if they had been what I think he wanted—we might have had a treaty, we might have avoided both Hitler and the Second World War. But disarmament is even more important, if we can get it, now, than it was then; and there is far more real Government support today and far less active opposition, except in one quarter, than there was then.
Last year, after good work by Mr. Acheson and the Minister of State in the Assembly, Mr. Vyshinsky agreed to a new Disarmament Commission, with a mandate to draw up a draft treaty for all-round armament reduction and control. In that Commission America have given a splendid lead. They have put forward, 318 with the support of the Western Members, and with our help, bold and practical proposals. The plan for atomic energy, worked out by the United Nations Commission and adopted by the Assembly years ago, provides for the total abolition of atomic weapons and for the international management, operation and control by a United Nations Authority of all atomic processes from the uranium mine to the nuclear fission plant.
No such generous, or, if I may say so, Socialist, plan for dealing with an international problem, has ever been made before. But, since the Russians made objection, the Western delegates have said that they would accept any equally effective atomic plan which Russia might propose.
The Americans have put forward the total abolition of all bacterial weapons, together with concrete administrative guarantees that the weapons should not be made; and similar measures for poison gas and all other weapons of mass destruction. They have proposed—this is America—a drastic reduction of manpower in the forces, reduction from 3¾ million men now in the American forces down to 1 million or 1½ million, provided Russia would do the same. That is a 50 per cent. to 70 per cent. cut at the first step. They have proposed that weapons and equipment, and supplies in general, should be reduced in like degree.
Most important, they have put forward detailed plans for comprehensive and rigid inspection and control of all armed forces of every kind: United Nations teams to have the right to visit every depot, factory, barracks, air station, research station, testing ground and so on, and to inspect recruiting records and military accounts.
We are a long way from all that today; the more so since Russia in the Commission has treated these proposals with contempt. But some day something on these lines has got to come. I think it a fact of vast importance that the nation with the greatest military potential that the world has ever known should have put this plan forward, and that they should have had the support of 10 other nations within the Commission, with only Russia against. No one who knows General Eisenhower can doubt that he, too, will give these proposals his vigorous support.
319 The Assembly has to make a vital decision about this Commission in the coming weeks. The Commission were instructed by the Assembly to draw up a draft treaty. Last July, Russia asked a lot of questions about the technical meaning of the manpower plan, about reserves, weapons and equipment, how many men for the air force, how many for the navy and so on, what weapons would be allowed, and how many per thousand men?
At that point the Commission had what I think was a very strange aberration. Instead of proceeding to answer those questions, to write their answers out and put them into treaty form, they proposed a five-Power, a great Power, conference to discuss them. I hope very much that that was not the proposal of Her Majesty's Government. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary will tell us. In any case, it seems to me like throwing up the very job for which the Commission had been appointed; the old technique of passing the buck to someone else, especially someone who will not get on, when difficulties appear.
I want to urge on the Foreign Secretary that the Western proposals, in which we have taken part, give us, as Mr. Acheson said the other day, an ample foundation for an all-round treaty. The Commission should go ahead and write out its proposals on all these technical points. Governments can change them afterwards; it will only be a draft. The Commission should draw up a treaty showing, clause by clause and schedule by schedule, exactly what the first step towards a disarmed world would really mean. The Russians or others could write, clause by clause, their objections or their counter-proposals.
I believe that such a document would have an immense impact on the opinion of the world. It would prove that the Western nations really do mean peace, and are ready as soon as possible to move towards it. It is the job for which the Commission were set up; I hope the Assembly will now tell them to get it done.
In everything of which I have spoken, N.A.T.O., Europe, Korea, the fight against world poverty, all-round armament reduction, we have one clear and consistent aim. We want the nations, 320 if it may be all the nations, to pool their strength and their resources to solve the problems which are common to them all. Grave unexpected difficulties have arisen since the war. Some progress has been made. But the road ahead is still obscure. We do not believe in blind tides of history that sweep nations into war. Today, 99 per cent. of all mankind want real co-operation and lasting peace. We believe that such forces, inspired by faith in our great principles, will see us through.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr (Cambridge)
The The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) has given the House on the whole, a fair and balanced account of foreign affairs. Many years ago he was good enough to teach me the arts of running, and I remember toiling many yards behind him round the track at Queen's Club. At all times, therefore, I hesitate to take issue with him, and I was therefore relieved to learn from him, as the spokesman of the Opposition Front Bench, that, on the whole, they support the principles of foreign policy now being pursued by Her Majesty's Government.
I had been half afraid, before he rose to speak, that his natural good sense might have been affected or even intimidated by the minatory gestures of the Mau Mau man from Morecambe, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). I was afraid that some reference to a reduction in arms might have crept into his remarks. I am relieved to learn that the Opposition support the main principles of Government foreign policy.
I should like to take issue with the right hon. Gentleman on one point. I gathered from his opening remarks that his main argument was that the policy of the present Government was, in fact, merely a continuation of that of their predecessors. I would say that there was one great difference. The policy of Her Majesty's Government is now centred on the theme of peace through strength, and that that theme can only be maintained by complete co-operation in every part of the world between the British Empire, Europe and the United States.
The failure in the past was that situations arose which were unforeseen, that prior consultation had not taken place. Now those dangers are being avoided. That is why, throughout the world, we 321 get the feeling that, far from drifting to war, as was predicted at the last Election, the situation is, on the whole, far safer and more promising for peace.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) although he opened his remarks on the situation in Europe on a sombre key, ended on a hopeful note. I should like my few remarks today to centre round the theme of the leadership of Britain in the second half of the 20th century. Let us look first at some of the difficulties that confront us. They certainly appear to be great.
We are no longer the workshop of the world, as we were in the 19th century. We find two other great industrial complexes, the United States and Soviet Russia, occupying the centre of the stage today. In addition, we have lost manpower and a potential base in India and Burma and, therefore find ourselves in a considerably weaker position to reinforce the vital area of the Middle East. Lastly, we are facing in Asia and Africa a great tide of nationalism whose waters are reaching even the remotest parts of those continents.
I claim that these facts are not discouraging. We should realise that many times before in our history this country has faced similar difficulties. I suppose that, at the end of the 18th century, the French King thought he had dealt our country a mortal blow when the American Colonies seceded. Far from that being the case, from that period of darkness and danger we rose again and built a more splendid community of nations which is now embodied in the Statute of Westminster. We evolved at the same time, the doctrine of trusteeship for backward races.
So I would say that today, in spite of the difficulties which apparently confront us, if we remember the lesson that the instinct for survival and the power of adaptability are the two greatest qualities a nation can possess there is nothing that we cannot achieve in the second half of the 20th century.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East, dwelt on the slow development in Europe towards unity. He rightly remarked that the cause of that slow development was fear—the fear in France of Germany, and the fear of unending rivalry between these two nations. I could see most clearly at Strasbourg 322 that that fear can only be allayed, that a new Europe can only arise, if this country takes an active part, and, above all, is the leader of Europe.
I shall not argue with my right hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East, as to whether N.A.T.O. is or is not the last answer to the problem of security. But I would say, from my knowledge of America, that unless the peoples of Europe make a serious effort to organise, unless they organise their defence, their economic and moral resources, the taxpayers of the United States will not be content to go on forever pouring out dollars to defend a frontier which it may be useless to protect. Therefore, the one hope of uniting free Europe is for Britain to lead in Europe and for Europe to make a serious effort to defend itself.
What is our position in Asia? I remember so clearly, Mr. Speaker, seeing your predecessor, walking ahead of the Speakers of the Empire Parliaments, entering Westminster Hall on the occasion of the opening of the new House. It struck me forcibly, as it must have struck other Members, that the great British Commonwealth and Empire is composed of races no longer predominantly white. Particularly was I impressed as I looked at the Speakers of India, Pakistan and Ceylon and those of other Colonial Legislatures.
We still enjoy in Asia a position of particular importance, having within the fold of the Commonwealth Members who have been educated by us in our political principles, and who shape their political institutions on those of Westminster. Surely this gives us today a predominant voice in Asia in solving the problems of Asia.
I turn to the United States. I know that people often feel that our American friends are sometimes taking decisions without consulting us. But we should not forget that we are the strongest and most reliable ally of the United States and, therefore, the one Power in the world which can influence United States policy. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, now that the Presidential Election is over, will once again use his counsels of moderation and wisdom in advising the future rulers of the United States.
These facts are political advantages which, if used, can maintain for us the leadership of the free world. What are 323 the economic facts? We in the Empire and Commonwealth fortunately still possess great tracts of land which are undeveloped and which contain huge potential resources. Those resources require capital, capital goods and brains.
We can supply capital goods and brains, but can we give capital? Here I feel that the forthcoming Commonwealth conference is the occasion for an attempt to be made to persuade some of the sister nations in the Commonwealth, such as Canada, to lend their capital for developing areas such as Africa. I would not hesitate to accept United States capital—capital from private enterprise, with no political strings attached. I believe that American capital could be of great assistance.
Cannot we also see the interest of the Canadians, the Australians and New Zealanders in the development of colonial territories? Can we not offer them positions as administrators and let them feel that the development of backward parts of the world is not solely a British affair but a family, an Empire affair? Far from being hesitant about our future, far from being downcast, I am confident that, if we use our position rightly, if we show above all the instinct for survival, there are limitless possibilities still open to us.
Last, and most important of all, we still have our message to the world that the most important thing in life is character, the character of a people. Without character its institutions cannot function, and a nation is unable to survive the blows of its enemies. If we remember the saying of a great French historian that a nation which, in the hour of its crisis, remembers its history, that nation will save itself and we shall not only save ourselves but this country, in entering on the second half of the 20th century, will inaugurate a new era in the history of mankind.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Maldon)
It is almost impossible to speak today on international affairs without making some reference to the most important event of the week, the Presidential Election in America. I am sure that all of us will join with my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker), who opened the debate, in his expression 324 of personal good will to the President-elect. But I am afraid that candour obliges me to add that some of us view his success with dismay and foreboding, in so far as it is a victory, not for the "Ike" we all liked, but for Taft, for McCarthy and even for General MacArthur, whom General Eisenhower has committed himself to consult about the Korean war and the situation in the Far East.
It is because of its possible effect on the course of that war that I refer today to the Presidential Election. Despite what I have just said, it seems to me that there now may be slightly more hope than there was a week ago that the Korean truce talks may be brought to a successful conclusion. I say this, not because of that demagogic electoral gesture which may now cause the successful candidate some embarrassment, but because it is somewhat easier for the Administration in Washington to make peace now that the Presidential Election is out of the way. That would be equally true whichever candidate had been successful. It is easier for them to make peace now because it is easier for them to make what may seem to be concessions to the Communists when such concessions can no longer be twisted and used against them by their political opponents at home.
Above all, it may be easier for Washington, once some sort of truce is patched up, to approach again the vital question of the recognition of the Pekin Government, a question which it would have been acutely dangerous for the Administration to touch while the Presidential Election was still pending. It is certainly the duty of Her Majesty's Government—I say this, with respect, to the Foreign Secretary, whom we all wish well in America when he goes there tomorrow—as soon as a truce is arrived at—if not before, perhaps privately—to re-open with our American allies discussions on the necessity of admitting to the United Nations the spokesmen of the only Chinese Government which can properly so be called.
It is a deplorable reflection on Western democracy that major international issues, issues of war and peace, issues involving the lives of millions of people, should depend on the hazards of American 325 domestic politics; but so it has been repeatedly in recent years. It is one of the grim facts of international power politics. At any rate, it does not seem to me unfair to describe the Washington Administration in the past year, as one American journalist has described it, as "hating war and yet fearing peace "—fearing peace, because this tricky question of the recognition of Pekin would obviously come up again when the fighting stopped in Korea; and because of the economic dangers to capitalism foreshadowed in the stock market slump when it first became known that there was some risk of peace breaking out.
In saying what I have said, I may seem to be implying that the United Nations Command and the United Nations spokesmen have been deliberately "stalling" on the truce talks. I find it extraordinarily difficult to come to a definite conclusion on this matter. I do not believe that any hon. Member of this House—not even, I would suggest, the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues—has really been able to follow in complete detail all the ramifications and complexities of these truce talks. It has been particularly difficult for those of us to do so who are not, as they are, privy to the secrets of the Foreign Office and the unified Command, because of the extraordinary paucity of information which has been put out about them officially—the paucity and, very often, as it subsequently appears, the misleading character of that information.
It is really rather ironical that right at the beginning of the truce talks they broke down, and they were first stopped by General Ridgway, because he said that the Communists would not allow sufficient access to the truce talks area to United Nations correspondents; and yet subsequently, so often since then, these same United Nations correspondents have been so hampered by the excessively restrictive character of the censorship that they have had to make contact with the only two Western correspondents—one an Englishman and one, I think, an Australian—actually attached to the other side. They have had to get their information from them, and it has very often turned out to be more correct than the meagre information put out officially on our side.
326 Of course, we know—we have studied the White Paper issued by the Govern-men in June—that there have been concessions and proposals on both sides, an almost equal number of concessions on both sides That is good so far as it goes. But it is rather strange that again and again, when the truce talks have seemed to be on the very verge of success, that some violent offensive action has been taken by the unified Command, such as the Yalu River bombings, or they have put out some wild atrocity story, like that story about the massacre of American and British prisoners—which subsequently turned out to be completely untrue—which have effectively disturbed the atmosphere in which a truce could have been secured.
These sinister coincidences are thoroughly documented in Mr. Stone's book, "The Hidden History of the Korean War," a book which, despite its melodramatic title and a certain lack of objectivity, does contain a serious and exhaustive analysis of some curious aspects of the origin and course of the war, mainly from official documents and unimpeachably non-Communist American newspaper sources.
Intimately bound up with the general question of the truce talks is the question of the prisoners, especially the North Korean and Chinese prisoners in United Nations hands, because here has arisen the disagreement about repatriation of which my right hon. Friend spoke, and about which he made, if I may say so, a very useful and contructive proposal. On 30th May last my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) and I raised this question and had some debate upon it with the Minister of State; but one aspect of it that we did not then touch on was one which I want to make my main point today.
The disorders and the killings in these camps have caused widespread concern, and have, incidentally, provided much propaganda for the Communists. Only recently, there was another serious incident: on 15th October the Foreign Secretary told us that, in the course of it, 56 prisoners had been killed and 91 injured, while 11 American guards were injured. The prisoners, he said, had "stones and improvised weapons." The Foreign Secretary added that we must wait for the report of the inquiry, and that we must 327 certainly not presume that the Americans in charge of the camps "must inevitably be wrong."
I quite agree that we should not prejudge that report, but, on the facts as already stated—56 prisoners killed in about a quarter of an hour, when they were armed only with stones and improvised weapons—it is surely already evident that this is a very poor example, to put it as mildly as possible, of how to run a camp.
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman can tell us today whether this report, which he asked us to await, has yet been received. Will it be made available to the House, and, if so, in what form? Here I want to ask a question which may, I am afraid, sound almost insulting. What confidence can we have that any summary of the report that the Government presents to Parliament will not be deliberately misleading?
I must at once justify that rather tendentious question, and I do so by referring to the most serious, or one of the most serious, of the previous incidents—the incident of 18th February, which was the subject of a report by the International Red Cross, of which until quite recently it has been extremely difficult to get hold of a copy. I am glad to say that, eventually, as the result of a Question, the Foreign Office did make a copy available in the Library of the House. It is not actually easy to dig it out there, I am sorry to say. One has to telephone to the Red Cross Foreign Relations Department and verify that they have sent it to the Library and to the Foreign Office, and so on. There is a great deal of difficulty about getting it, no doubt accidental.
In this report occur these words, which are rather ironical, in view of what I shall have to say later on:The International Committee is publishing the text below so as not to see it reproduced incomplete or inaccurately quoted—as is too often the case and quite recently, too—in connection with other reports.I cannot, of course, reproduce it completely, or I should be going on for an hour, and you, Mr. Speaker, would call me to order for reading too much, but I shall quote it accurately, and I hope that hon. Members will be good enough to go to the Library and persuade the librarians to find it again. The background of this 328 particular incident on 18th February last was thus reported by the Red Cross delegates:The prisoners-of-war in Section 62, natives of South Korea, but taken prisoner as combatants in the Korean Popular Army"—that is, the North Korean Army—having expressed the desire not to be sent back to North Korea after the signing of the armistice, the Custodian Authorities initiated an inquiry. Being recognised as citizens of South Korea by the authorities of the Republic of Korea, they were re-classified as 'civilian internees.' Recently, a certain number of these internees requested to be sent back to North Korea after the Armistice.Apparently, they changed their minds. Perhaps some pressure was put on them. It is very difficult to know, and it is idle to speculate.The Custodian Authorities thereupon decided to carry out a fresh interrogation, in order to decide definitely who wished to return to North Korea after the Armistice and who desired to remain in South Korea.Then, there is this rather puzzling statement:The internees were opposed to this new scheme of re-classification.I cannot quite understand why they should have objected to it, whichever way they wanted to go themselves.
Then, we come to the actual incident, and this is how the Red Cross delegates describe it:About 4 a.m. on the 18th February, troops, numbering almost a regiment, entered the Section armed and without warning. Nearly all the internees were asleep, except for a few who were placed under guard in a tent. The soldiers surrounded the other tents, including that of the liaison officer; the latter was unable to get a hearing from the camp authorities.As far as I can make out—the right hon. Gentleman can correct me if I am wrong—the liaison officer is a Korean, who acts as spokesman for the prisoners. vis-à-vis the camp authorities.The internees were forced to remain in their tents, at bayonet point. Whenever one or other of them, not knowing what was going on, tried to leave his tent, he was greeted with shots. Terrified, and believing that they were all going to be killed, the internees broke out to defend themselves"—I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind this phrase from the Red Cross report—the internees broke out to defend themselves. The soldiers thereupon attacked them and used their arms.When daylight came, the liaison officer tried in vain to get speech with the officer commanding the soldiers. … One of his comrades, the head of the 3rd battalion of the 329 internees, who helped him in his attempts to speak with the said Commanding Officer, was shot dead, when, alone and in front of the crowd of internees, he was advancing towards the soldiers.In the midst of all this—it was about 8 a.m.—Colonel Fitzgerald, Camp Commandant, arrived on the scene to put things right. In his presence … shots were still being fired. … He asked the internees to sit down … the internees obeyed the Commandant's order. Several times, Colonel Fitzgerald said that the soldiers were going to withdraw; the internees hoped that this would take place immediately, but such was not the case.Then, it is reported that the Commandant went with the liaison officer to see the wounded, and so on. On the way, they saw about 40 internees, under guard—Seated with their hands joined at the nape of their necks. One of them had been wounded with blows from the butt of a rifle, and the rifle-butt of the soldier responsible was broken; the liaison officer does not know if the Commandant noticed it or not. The soldiers had prevented these men from carrying the wounded and dead to the hospital.Many more details are given, some of them rather unpleasant.The liaison officer saw individual soldiers kick the dead bodies. Their remains were placed in a lorry, without any consideration, and for the most part without any previous medical supervision. The liaison officer thinks that some of the internees might have been taken for dead while they were still living.So it goes on.After the withdrawal of the soldiers … the liaison officer notified the Camp Commandant of his desire to discuss the incident with him at once. The Commandant replied that he would return at 10 o'clock, but he did not do so.Finally, the actual casualty list, as given by the Red Cross, is as follows:Sixty-nine internees killed on the spot, or died in hospital as the result of their wounds; 142 internees detained in hospital on account of wounds, plus a certain number less seriously hurt. … One American soldier killed and several wounded, one seriously.Then it goes on to say that the following measures have been taken—I need not read them all—Colonel Fitzgerald has been replaced by Major General Dodd as Camp Commandant.This is, obviously, a most disturbing account by the International Red Cross, which is generally accepted by most people, except the Communists, to be an impartial and neutral body, of what seems to have been an extremely shocking episode, and yet—and now I come to justify my rather strong remarks earlier 330 —when we turn to the White Paper published by the Government in June, 1952 (Cmd. 8596), Part II of which is a summary of these incidents, we find that the summary of this particular incident, which I have described at length from the Red Cross report, is as follows—in paragraph 42 of the White Paper, of which I will only quote one or two sentences:On 18th February occurred the first major incident involving United Nations personnel. About 1,500 of the 5,700 civilian internees in Compound 62 suddenly attacked their United States guards.It is put simply and plainly and straightforwardly like that,… suddenly attacked their United States guards.It was apparently without provocation or anything like that. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that that is really not a very fair way of summarising what the Red Cross Report told us about it.
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Member is accusing me of trying to deceive the House, a thing which I have never in my life attempted to do and I resent that. I have not the document here and I have not had notice that this matter was to be raised. The hon. Member is bringing a grave charge against a Minister of wilfully deceiving the House. It may be that of all the information that we had then that is the summary I gave and that we later had a report from the International Red Cross. I just do not know. I have not had notice and I have not had the slightest chance of checking.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
May I remind the House—not the Foreign Secretary, because I think he was away at that time—that the White Paper was laid a few days after a Question had been asked in the House about it. The Minister of State, in response to repeated supplementary 331 questions from me, promised to include in the White Paper a summary of the Red Cross Committee's inquiry and report. That is why, I imagine, my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) is probably right in assuming that what he has just read was in purported fulfilment of that pledge given by the Minister of State.
§ Mr. Driberg
That is perfectly true. The Foreign Secretary has told us that he has not got this document. It is not very difficult for him to send to the Vote Office for a White Paper issued by his own Department. I would have given him notice if I had realised that he was so unfamiliar with its contents.
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Member said that I had wilfully deceived the House. In my long experience of Parliament when a Minister is accused of something of that kind he is usually given notice of the charge, so as to have a chance of answering. It is impossible for me to remember a document issued six or nine months ago especially when, as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) says, I was not even in this country.
§ Mr. Driberg
This White Paper to which I have referred was issued in June, 1952; and when I accuse the right hon. Gentleman I do so, of course, in his Ministerial capacity, as he knows full well. I do not suppose that he personally drafted it. I do not suppose that he personally deceived the House intentionally. But I repeat what I said, that this is extremely misleading and very unfair to Parliament as a summary of the event of which I have read the description from the Red Cross document.
The right hon. Gentleman says that he is not sure whether the Red Cross document was at that time available. It was, because it was not only published in April but actually referred to in the same paragraph of the White Paper. The reference to the Red Cross document in the same paragraph, of course, may be the right hon. Gentleman's excuse, as it were, for not going into more detail in describing this incident in that White Paper; but I suggest that that would not be a realistic or a fair answer because, as he knows, and as we all know, Members of Parliament, burdened as they are by a mass of documents to read, are usually content to 332 read a fairly full White Paper and to expect that the account in it gives all the relevant facts. They do not expect to have to dig about and do research in all sorts of other obscure documents which are not available; it was not until July that the Red Cross document was placed in the Library of the House, some weeks after this White Paper appeared.
However, the whole tone of this paragraph to which I take exception is similar to that sentence which I quoted saying that the internees… suddenly attacked their United States guards.I say that that is a gross misrepresentation of what actually took place. There is not one word to indicate the bewilderment and panic that there must have been in the compound before dawn when the internees were asleep and they found their tents surrounded by armed guards who shot them when they came out of the tents, killing 69. The troops, in effect, were the aggressors. It was not the internees at all, as is indicated in this paragraph in the White Paper, which goes on to say,The clash occurred when United Nations guards entered the compound to ascertain which of these civilians were actually South Koreans who had been forcibly impressed into the North Korean Armies.It does not indicate at all the circumstances of this very early morning invasion of the compound with the inevitable consequences of chaos, panic and massacre. I repeat that that was a dishonest summary, unworthy of Parliament, unworthy even of Her Majesty's present Government. In quoting this document one is bound to ask how the Government or the United Nations Command can justify such forcible methods of screening or rescreening and how they can reconcile them with the high moral attitude which they have adopted towards forcible repatriation. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should soon lay another White Paper before the House containing the full text of the reports of the various inquiries that have been held into these various incidents—because this is not an isolated incident—whether the reports are by Red Cross investigators or by the military authorities themselves.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South and with the Foreign Secretary himself that, as he has repeatedly said, everything must be done 333 to safeguard the interests of our own men in the North Korean camps. I am not sure that the best way of safeguarding them would not be to accept the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South, and, meanwhile, to insist that we or our allies, in whose conduct we are implicated—must take a good deal more care to administer these camps in a more humane way as well as in the interests of what is known as discipline.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Professor Sir Douglas Savory (Antrim, South)
I am quite sure that the speech made by the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) will be adequately replied to by the representatives present on the Treasury Bench. The subject with which I wish to deal is something entirely different.
It will be in the recollection of this House that a Motion appeared on the Order Paper before the Recess which was signed by no fewer than 123 hon. Members. They represented all parties, and the Motion certainly would have received a great many more signatures from sympathisers on the Government benches had they been allowed to sign the document. I was surprised to learn that it was impossible even for Parliamentary Private Secretaries to sign a Motion of this kind.
If the House will bear with me, I should like to make a personal explanation of how it was that I became so deeply interested in this question. When the terrible revelations came out as to the massacre at Katyn of several thousand Polish officers, my interest was aroused. After reading through special numbers of the "Soviet War News" in which an attempt was made to explain away these massacres, I had very serious doubts as to the truth of those statements. They were inconsistent with one another and it was noticeable that the commission which had inquired into the matter was composed exclusively of Russians. Not a single international medical authority was called in to examine the question.
I therefore felt a very great desire to ascertain the truth, and in spite of the attacks that have been made upon me, I wish to say here that I acted entirely on my own initiative. No Minister of any Government whatsoever asked me to undertake this inquiry. I can say honestly 334 that my one desire was to ascertain the truth and find out the facts.
I first of all went to the Polish Minister of Information in Stratton Street, Professor Kot, and I am very grateful to him for placing at my disposal all the original documents, all the photographs which he had, and any particular paper that I required was at once placed at my disposal. I devoted my whole time for several weeks to studying this question, and I have in my possession a very large number of photographs. I eventually drew up my report which was intended to be—and I am sure it was—absolutely impartial and factual. In fact, it may be considered rather dull because it gave a very careful enumeration of the facts.
I immediately put this report into the hands of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. The Foreign Secretary received me with great cordiality and promised me that this document should be placed in the archives of the Foreign Office. When the Labour Government came into power and I understood that this question of the Katyn massacre was going to be brought up before the Nuremberg military court of justice, I asked for a personal interview with the late Mr. Ernest Bevin. He received me with the utmost kindness, and after I had given him a summary of my report and handed it to him, he said: "Savory, do you see that basket there?" I said "Yes." "Well," he said, "into that basket are placed all the papers and documents which I shall have to read before going to bed tonight, and you see I am going to place your report in that basket." He was as good as his word, because the very next day he sent me a message saying that my report was being sent to Nuremberg where, I have been informed, it was very carefully considered.
It will be within the recollection of the House that Poland was invaded on 1st September, 1939. But while that was expected, what was a complete surprise was an attack on 17th September by the Soviet forces. The Soviet Government had a treaty of non-aggression with Poland, and they suddenly crossed the frontier declaring that they were coming to the assistance of the Poles. They broadcast this everywhere. They posted up proclamations, "We are coming to help you against the German aggressors." The Poles believed them. Many of the 335 Polish Regiments welcomed them, and the result was that without any resistance these Polish regiments and officers were surrounded and carried off to Russia.
Then a few days later—to be precise, on 28th September, 1939—was published that amazing treaty which we know now as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty. Let me refer to one sentence—perhaps the most important sentence—in the terms of this treaty. Under this Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 28th September, 1939, the whole of Poland was to be divided between Russia and Germany, Germany taking roughly 72,000 square miles with a population of 22 million and Russia taking roughly 77,000 square miles with a population of 13 million.
In other words, a fourth partition of Poland took place. Poland, which in the 18th century had undergone a three-fold partition, denounced by the greatest Ulster historian Lecky as being the worst international crime which had ever been committed up to that date, was once more partitioned between these two aggressors who had both signed treaties of nonaggression with Poland.
Altogether 181,000 soldiers were carried off as prisoners to Russia. The secret police took the utmost care to segregate from the great mass of Polish troops the officers and the leading intellectuals, who were concentrated in three camps, the camps of Kozielsk, Starobielsk and Ostashkov. The camp at Kozielsk was by far the most important. There were placed officers of the highest rank, the leading physicians and leading Polish citizens. These gentlemen were subjected to a whole series of interrogations. In fact, the inquiries lasted six months, from September-October when they were captured in Poland up to March of the following year.
These investigations were extremely minute. For long hours during the night these men were questioned, and from the 21 officers who survived and who have given evidence it is perfectly clear that what they wanted to do was to find out the potential leaders of Poland in case of a resurrection of that unfortunate country. But further, they hoped that by their persuasion—sometimes a very forcible persuasion—they would be able to convert as many as possible of them to becoming Communists. Let it be said 336 to the honour of the Polish Army and the Polish officers that, in spite of the immense pressure which was brought to bear upon them, only six were persuaded to join the Soviet forces. The others remained true to their allegiance. Four hundred were taken from these three camps to another camp at Griasovets, because it was believed that they were not quite hopeless and that it might still be possible to convert them to Communism.
Apart from those 400 survivors not a word has been heard of the 15,000 Polish officers who were imprisoned in those three camps. In the month of March the interrogations and the investigations came to an end. Every day from the camp at Kozielsk—and also from the other camps, but I am dealing especially with this particular camp—200 officers were taken away in a very mysterious fashion. The rumour was spread in the camps that they were being sent home. This was believed by the Poles and there was a certain amount of competition to be in the first of those various batches which were being sent. They were brought to Katyn, where they were massacred wholesale. I shall describe that massacre a little later. It is very important.
For the moment I desire to refer to the extraordinary coup de théâtre which now took place. These allies, who had partitioned Poland between them, now became enemies and on 22nd June, 1941, Hitler invaded Russia. The Russians were driven back with extraordinary rapidity. Within two months they were found retreating right into the Ukraine, with the result that they looked round for help, and they thought at once of these Polish soldiers whom, by a most signal breach of faith only worthy of such a people, they had carried off.
They therefore got into touch with the Polish Government in London and made an agreement with that Government that all Polish soldiers should be set free and that a Polish Army should be reconstituted under General Anders. The question was, who was to direct this Army? Professor Kot, whom I got to know as Polish Minister of Information here in London, was Polish Ambassador and he was constant in his efforts to discover the whereabouts of these officers. In October and November he had lengthy interviews with Molotov and Vyshinsky and finally, in December, he had a personal interview 337 with Marshal Stalin. He said to Marshal Stalin: "We want the Polish officers restored to us in order that we may organise the army which we are placing at your disposal." Marshal Stalin replied: "But we have released all the officers." Professor Kot said: "I ask you—I implore you—Mr. President, to set free the officers we need for organising our army because, with the exception of the 400 from Griasovets, not a single one has been discovered."
The Polish Prime Minister—the very distinguished General Sikorski—and General Anders had a further interview with Marshal Stalin and gave him a list of several thousand officers, which they had written out from memory, and asked that those officers might be restored. Stalin telephoned to the Secret Police. What reply he received from them he did not venture to vouchsafe either to General Sikorski or to General Anders. All he said was, "Inquiries shall be made." In spite of every effort made by General Anders to try to trace these officers in Poland, not a single one could be found.
Then came another extraordinary coup de théâtre. On 13th April, 1943, the Germans broadcast the discovery which they had made of these mass graves at Katyn, where no fewer than 4,000 Polish officers in full uniform were unearthed. This broadcast naturally caused a sensation throughout the whole world. The Soviet reply to this revelation is worth hearing, because it is so typical of Soviet methods. On 15th April, 1943, the Soviet Information Bureau stated:In their clumsily concocted fabrication about the numerous graves which the Germans allegedly discovered near Smolensk, the Hitlerite liars mentioned the village of Gzezdovaja. But, like the swindlers they are, they are silent about the fact that it was near this village that the archaeological excavations of the historic Gzezdovaja burial place were made.That is the explanation and that is the defence of the Soviet Government—that there was confusion between the mass graves of these Polish officers and the historic excavations which had been made in the neighbourhood.
On receiving these reports, Lieut.-General Kukiel, Polish Minister of National Defence, demanded that there should be an investigation by the Inter- 338 national Polish Red Cross. It was surely a very reasonable demand to make, but what was the sequel? A few days later Molotov addressed a letter to the Polish Ambassador in Moscow, as follows:You have now joined the Hitlerites. You have believed these slanders which have been promulgated against the Russians. We therefore break off all diplomatic relations.However, the Germans insisted on having a very careful inquiry made and 12 distinguished professors from neutral countries—[An HON. MEMBER: "The Germans asked for the inquiry."]—the Germans asked for the inquiry, of course; it was the Germans who discovered these graves. The Germans summoned a tribunal consisting of 12 of the most distinguished international professors of anatomy, criminologists and so on, who arrived on the spot and carried out an investigation. I have read the whole of their report and I was especially impressed by the statement, in beautiful French, by Professor Naville, Professor of Medicine at Geneva University. In any case, these 12 international experts signed a unanimous report that the massacre must have taken place—I could give hon. Members all the details and the proofs but I do not want to take up time—not later than March or April, 1940, when the Russians were still in occupation of Smolensk.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Were these the same distinguished gentlemen who at a later date inspected the camp at Auschwitz, where six million people were murdered, and were unable to find anything wrong?
§ Sir D. Savory
I cannot answer the hon. Member. That question seems to me to be altogether irrelevant. All I can say is that these great men drew up the unanimous report that the massacre must have taken place not later than March or April, 1940.
The Russians had made the profound mistake of burying the 4,000 officers in their uniforms. Their shoulder straps—I have the photographs and would like to show them to any hon. Member who may wish to see them—showed exactly what their ranks were—general, colonel, major, lieutenant, and so on. On their bodies were found letters from their friends, none of them of a later date than 28th April, 1940, and letters which they had written home but which had never been posted. There were also certificates 339 showing that some of them had been awarded the Silver Medal and that some of them even possessed the Virtuti Militari, which is the Polish equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
The fact that they were wearing overcoats and mufflers showed that the massacre must have taken place at about the time I have stated, for climatic conditions in Russia are still very cold in March and April. In any case, there are the proofs and there are the photographs. The 4,000 have been disinterred and from the indications found on their bodies it was possible to draw up a complete list, of which I have a copy.
The question was brought up at Nuremberg. The gentleman who wrote attacking me in the "Daily Telegraph" asked why I did not rest content with the trial which was taking place there. I have read the whole of the evidence on 1st and 2nd July, 1946. Only three witnesses were allowed to be summoned on both sides. There was a very complete cross-examination, and one cannot help paying a tribute to the impartiality of the British presiding judge, but the result was absolutely unconvincing.
The Russians were unable to prove anything. In fact, when it came to summing up the evidence, they omitted all reference to the Katyn massacre. They had accused Field Marshal Goering of being the principal culprit, but when it came to the summing up they made no allusion whatsoever to the Katyn massacre. Therefore, it was left an open question.
I maintain that it is to the honour of the House of Representatives of the United States that they did not rest content with this blank verdict. They appointed a Select Committee consisting of four Democrats—the appointment was made by the Speaker—and three Republicans, and they have carried out one of the most exhaustive investigations in history.
I want briefly to tell the House what they have done. They have held numerous sittings in Washington, Chicago, London, Frankfurt-am-Main, Berlin and Naples. They heard altogether 81 witnesses and received more than 100 depositions from witnesses who, for some reason or another, were not 340 able to appear at the sittings. They have published the evidence in five huge white books. Has even a Select Committee of the House of Commons ever carried out such an exhaustive investigation covering five large volumes? I have those white books in my room and would be delighted to show them to any hon. Member. I cannot help admiring the careful way in which these gentlemen carried out the investigation; it was extremely careful and impartial, and extremely judicial.
What is their verdict? It is:This Committee unanimously finds beyond any question of reasonable doubt that the Soviet N.K.V.D."—that is, the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs—committed the mass murders of the Polish officers and intellectual leaders in the Katyn Forest, Smolensk, Russia.Let hon. Members listen to this:Throughout our entire proceedings there has not been a scintilla of proof or even any remote circumstantial evidence presented that could indict any other nation in this international crime.I hope the British Government will support the American deputation before the United Nations. I appeal to the Foreign Secretary when he goes over there to bring up this question and to support the American deputation in demanding that this evidence shall be submitted to an international tribunal. I should like the Foreign Secretary to know that I was in Washington in January and May this year and I assure him that the interest in the question was by no means confined to people of Polish origin.
I urge Her Majesty's Government now to make an immediate protest against the conspiracy of silence which has for 12 years shrouded the terrible mystery of the murder and the disappearance of 15,000 Polish officers taken into captivity by the Red Army in the autumn of 1939. Let us protest against the silence of Christian nations and let us make an appeal against this moral wrong. Let us cry for justice in connection with the foul massacre of innocent victims in one of the most barbaric of all war atrocities. Let us realise that the Katyn crime is a moral sin against humanity and against every Christian concept of the dignity of man.
I beg the Foreign Secretary when he goes over to New York tomorrow to support the proposal that an international 341 tribunal should be formed under the auspices of the United Nations to conduct an investigation. Let them consider the five white books containing this immense catalogue of evidence. Let them conduct an inquiry as a warning that the free world is no longer disposed to tolerate or condone such a flaunting of international law and such a deprivation of the divine dignity of human beings as has been shown by these deplorable events.
§ 4.50 p.m.
Mr. Frank Tourney (Hammersmith, North)
The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Sir D. Savory) has spoken with obvious sincerity on a subject to which he has obviously given detailed study. I have read some of the papers to which he has referred with regard to the Katyn murders, but I must confess I have not given the detailed study to them that he appears to have done.
On the evidence submitted, which, in my opinion, although substantial, is not conclusive, it does appear that the case the hon. Gentleman was making out should be substantiated in the United Nations. If it could be so substantiated, I think the penalty which the world would impose upon the people responsible for committing those murders would be a lesson for all time that, despite the horrors of war, there should be, even in the heat of battle, despite the difficulty of the loss of the ordinary trappings of civilisation, conduct more or less related to it. I am going to await, on this question, the outcome of the United Nations' investigation.
We face today in the world that same position which has been bedevilling our affairs for the past four years. To take the Korean conflict first, the position has not changed since the beginning of the armistice negotiations. Whether a truce is desired or not by the Chinese is becoming more problematical every day. Concessions, I know, have been made on either side. In international affairs, one can only try to look at things through the eyes of other nations, and I think it is a good thing always to approach all major decisions of policy in any part of the world on how things will appear as seen through the eyes of the Kremlin.
The outcome of the elections in the United States, the election of General Eisenhower to the Presidency, will not, I 342 think, give rise to any serious change in American policy in the counsels of the world. I think the United States are too far committed, both in N.A.T.O. and in global policy, to withdraw or even to retreat from the position they have now taken up, and that, of course, is a good thing, because—let us say it quite frankly—the strength of the United States has been the decisive factor upon which the free world has rested during the period when the free world has been arming itself.
Various opinions in the United States have been expressed from time to time about what would be the most successful way of bringing the Korean conflict to a conclusion. Some opinions, some of them isolationist, have contemplated a withdrawal; other opinions have contemplated the extension of the war to the Chinese mainland. I do not think the United States Government, of whatever character, are going to commit any such folly.
Nothing would suit the purposes of the Soviet Union, which is the real culprit in these matters, better than the engagement of the United Nations and of the United States in a large scale war on the mainland of China itself. In that event, there is no certainty that the Russians will implement the Sino-Russian Pact and come to the aid of the Chinese Government. There is no certainty whatever that they will not be quite prepared to stand on the sideline synically and watch the Chinese and the United Nations and the United States fight it out.
In such an event Russia's eyes would, perhaps turn westward, and the Russians might think, on the first attack on the Chinese cities by the United Nations, that the way was opened to them. That is what we must guard against. The strengthening of the forces of N.A.T.O., which has gone on steadily in the last three years, may, perhaps, give them parity of striking power—I do not say in numbers—by the end of 1954, and it is from then onwards that the world may be faced with graver questions and decisions resulting from Soviet strategy, which has been apparent from before the cessation of hostilities in 1945.
If one considers the minutes of the Teheran Conference, the Potsdam Conference, even the Casablanca Conference, one can trace, even at that time, the 343 policy of the Soviet Government, which has not changed and will not change. Whether we like it or not whether we agree or not, the world seems divided now into two definite, distinct camps. It is regrettable, but it is so; and there is no use burking the fact, and we may as well face it, that the real threat of war comes from the Soviet Union.
The minutes of the United Nations in meeting after meeting, from the days of the Foreign Secretaryship of Ernest Bevin through the days of the Foreign Secretaryship of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) to the time of the present Foreign Secretary, show that their efforts for peace have been completely frustrated, and that on every single point where agreement has been sought, on all the complicated questions involved, there has been frustration.
It is becoming perfectly apparent, even if one studies what reports are available of the latest Soviet Congress, that the policy of the cold war is to continue. It may continue for 14 or 15 years, and the question that the Western democracies have to decide is whether they will continue to sustain the burden of being permanently armed, of changing their techniques year by year, of devoting the greater part of their industrial and economic capacity to the sustenance of a war machine which may never be used but which, nevertheless, while the challenge is apparent, must be kept up, because any relaxation of the challenge, which has come to be global, in one part of the world may at any time quite suddenly be superseded by an intensification of the challenge in another part of the world where it may suit Soviet designs or the designs of the Soviet satellites.
In this respect, it must be realised that the economies of both the defeated and the victor nations in the world, with the exception of those of the United States and, possibly, the Soviet Union, are in a very precarious state. We have had to look for allies where we could find them. We have had to follow policies which were not in contemplation at the end of the war. Events have been forced on us and have made it almost impossible for us to continue dissipating our resources on a permanent war machine. Is any decision likely that will restore peace in the 344 world? If such a decision were possible, could we really be certain that a fresh outbreak of violence would not take place?
Let us consider, for instance, the Far East. There is a wave of nationalism now in every country in the Far East. Some of it is legitimate, but some of it is being fostered for the sake of possible terrorist Governments. The position of Japan, for instance, has changed, and will remain permanently changed, as an industrial nation in the Far East. While the position of Japan geographically and its necessity is not overlooked in any defence pact in the Far East, the rise of Japan militarily may also give rise to certain misgivings in Australia and New Zealand.
Japan is in the same position as ourselves. It is a country of 75 million people, geographically the size of California. It lives entirely by exports, has only about 17 per cent. of arable land for feeding its population, and has a yearly increase of population of two million. Prior to the war raw materials came to Japan from Formosa, Korea, Manchuria and a slice of China.
What will happen if the expression of the American election can be taken as a true expression of American opinion for a complete cessation of hostilities in Korea and a withdrawal of American Forces from Japan? Today, Japan, which seems relatively prosperous, is sustained only by the garrisons and the dollar account in Japan itself, and the war potential and stores which are forwarded from Japan to South Korea. What will happen if the American people decide to withdraw?
The American people are just as fed up with this war as anyone else, and I say, quite categorically, that those in this House who say that America is afraid of peace are talking just so much poppycock. It is the ordinary sons of ordinary American people who are being killed in this war in a greater proportion than any other Forces of the United Nations. It is they who sustained and defended the freedom of the West, and the eventual freedom of the East, in a period when all could have been lost.
We have had a job to hold the situation in Malaya. France is having the dickens of a job to hold the front in Indo-China, and there is even talk in France of withdrawing completely because the costs are 345 prohibitive. Such a decision would be a calamity of the first order; it would open the door perhaps for Burma going the same way; it may mean the eventual withdrawal of the whole of the forces of democracy and freedom from the Far East. Despite all the troubles and all the difficulties, we should, through the United Nations and N.A.T.O., see that France is sustained in her fight in Indo-China.
We must try to envisage what may happen in the future. We know what has happened in the past; that is history. We know what is happening now. But suppose Japan, faced as she is with a large population, importing pratically all her foodstuffs and raw materials—and let us not forget that she has lost the mainland of China, although she had no right to it anyway; she can no longer depend on Manchuria or South Korea—suppose Japan, a highly industrious people, loses her present source of revenue and becomes once again a fierce competitor in the world markets. What will be the position then? China is her natural market; it is nearest to her. China would require her goods, but in what volume we cannot say.
What is certainly sure is that the Japanese nation as a nation would have to live, and in the event of our withdrawal from the East, what is to prevent the Japanese doing a deal with the Soviets? Nothing at all. That is why I say that, despite the conflict, and despite some of the atrocities that were committed on our men—for which, may I say in passing, miserable compensation has been paid to them out of funds from the Japanese Government—it is essential to look at this thing as it may affect the global strategy.
The methods of General Templar in Malaya, although distasteful to a lot of people, are having their effect. Malaya exists chiefly on the price she can get for her rubber, but that has been falling, and is still falling, disastrously, chiefly because, with the advent of synthetic rubber, it is not wanted by the biggest customer, the United States. What happens if the economy of Malaya breaks down? Malaya will be really in the red, in both senses, by political pressure and by national bankruptcy. What is required on a global scale is fresh thinking on the basis of what every one of 346 us can do as free democracies—the United States, I am afraid, once again taking the biggest burden, because she is the richest country—to re-establish as quickly as possible these Far Eastern countries on a basis of freedom, democracy and swift emancipation.
We know that the American economy has, in the space of five years, built upon itself a 100 per cent. increase in productivity. In 1939 it was the biggest producer in the world, yet despite its terrific war effort the country is so developed technically and industrially, and is so well supplied with raw materials, that it has been able to build upon itself a 100 per cent. increase in productivity. Cannot the United States be brought to realise that this problem will not be settled when N.A.T.O. is strong, that it will not be settled when the Korean war is finished, but that it is all part of a long-term plan which has been developing for centuries, and that the critical climate is here and the solution is in our hands, in the hands of the Western democracies?
In the fight to achieve stability of purpose, let us look also at India. India occupies a unique position. It was to the credit of the Labour Government that India received her independence, but in so doing she took upon herself a great responsibility. She will be, if she chooses to become so, the leader of the Asiatic world, but Nehru now sees his country being bombarded night and day by propaganda—by radio, by newspapers and by magazines—with Communism direct from the Kremlin, and what he must decide is whether he is going to come down, once and for all, on the side of the Western democracies in this fight for freedom, or whether he is going to continue to sit on the fence—and, quite frankly, he has been sitting there too long.
If Nehru makes this decision there is great hope for the people of Asia, because he has got great moral authority in that part of the world. But he must be persuaded to do so. He thought he would be left alone in peace to get on with the developing of his country, until the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Government came as a reminder that he must not step too far on the side of the Western democracies. He should now be in a position to give his answer, and to 347 realise that the only hope for him eventually is if he allies himself with the Western democracies, with their great productivity and financial resources.
Then we come to the Middle East, which is perhaps the most vital sector of the global strategy of the world, and which contains the richest prizes for any aggressor, from the Atlas mountains of Morocco, with lead, zinc, iron and manganese, to the gold and copper of Saudi Arabia and the iron and steel of Turkey. That is a prize which may tempt any would-be aggressor to embark upon a programme of conquest. It is in that area, in the centre of the world, that the prize is greatest and the danger is greatest. We know what has happened in Persia. It may be that before the space of perhaps 12 months sufficient pressure will have been put on Persia to make her go Communist. If that is so, what hope is there for Eastern Europe? What hope is there for India and her western sea board?
These are facts that the Western democracies should be looking at, because it is in that part of the world where, if we lost our influence, our loss would be completely irretrievable. Therefore, without impinging further upon the time of the House, I would say that I cannot see that we have made any progress in these last four years in the morality of the nations of the world. I am perfectly convinced, after seeing who has been chosen by the Soviet Government as the heir-designate to Stalin, that the policy of the cold war is to continue. It may, therefore, flare up into a hot war.
The fact remains, that unless we, by virtue of our diplomacy, can either do something in the Far East, in regard to China, to separate these two tremendously strong nations from their affiliations and prove to them that our desire to live offers no challenge to their desire to live, and, at the same time, play our full part with the United States in quickly putting through a programme of world emancipating and uplift, there will not be much hope, not only for our children, but for the children who come after them.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. C. E. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
The speech to which we have just listened was, if I may say so, of a very different calibre to the previous speech 348 delivered from the benches opposite by the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg), for I have rarely heard a speech more inimical to Anglo-American relations and less likely to promote the settlement, which we all seek, of the prisoners of war issue in Korea than that made by the hon. Member for Maldon.
I think that we all welcome the reference in the Gracious Speech to the full and continued participation of Her Majesty's Government in N.A.T.O. In the course of the last year, considerable progress has been made and the N.A.T.O. forces have been built up. But we must constantly bear in mind the goal. The goal is this: That Europe must be defended and not liberated.
We, in these islands who have not been invaded since the time of the Norman Conquest, should, I think, remember two things. One is that the Channel is no longer the bulwark which it used to be in terms of defence, and the second is that our friends and allies on the Continent themselves suffered occupation for nearly five years of war and are not anxious to repeat that sorry experience. I sometimes think that it would be a good plan if more Englishmen tried to project themselves with a little more sympathy into the psychology of our continental allies and faced their own particular problems by putting themselves into Continental shoes. For that reason, I believe that one British armoured division in Western Europe is, in terms of morale, worth all the speeches and all the assurances ever made by any statesman of the N.A.T.O. Powers.
I cannot understand the attitude of the late Minister of Defence. No one knows better than he, that if the period of National Service were to be reduced from two years to 18 months, it would inevitably mean that we could not fulfil many of our existing commitments, for the simple reason that we could not send any National Service men to the Far East, because by the time they got there it would be nearly time for them to turn round to, come back.
As we make progress and as we build up our N.A.T.O. forces, I hope we shall pay a good deal more attention to our plans to fight the cold war, because the war between the free world and the slave world is fundamentally a war of ideas. We have to put across the way of life of the 349 Western World with a great deal more vigour and with a good deal more co-ordination than we have done hitherto. There are, of course, those who take the view that if every family living anywhere near the Iron Curtain or in any country threatened by Communism were to enjoy the benefits of something like our own National Health Service, plus Frigidaires, Coca-Cola and bound volumes of the speeches of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), there would be no Communism at all. I do not believe that is the right view. I do not believe that Communism advances and recedes in direct ratio to the standard of living in any given country.
§ Mr. Alfred Robens (Blyth)
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that if we could wipe out poverty that would be a good step towards getting rid of Communism?
I do not believe that Communism advances and recedes in direct ratio to the standard of living in any given country. For instance, there are a great many Communists in France, where the standard of living is fairly high, and there are no Communists in Turkey, where the standard of living is far lower than that of France and where there is far more poverty.
There are others who take the view that we must concentrate to the exclusion of everything else on winning the hot war, where the hot war breaks out, and see where we go to from there. I believe that neither of these extreme views is the right one. Of course, if we lose the cold war, the winning of the hot war would be more difficult. I agree that economic conditions are extremely important in the battle of the cold war, but I would say that we must remember that physical security is really the basis of everything. Without physical security, it is no good trying to build up a standard of living in any country threatened by Communism. What is the use of improving communications or building schools in the bandit-infested areas of Malaya, if the life of the schoolmaster is not worth 10 minutes' purchase?
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) referred earlier this afternoon to the vicissitudes of E.D.C., and he rightly said that the fate of E.D.C. was still uncertain. I wonder very much whether those, both here and overseas, who are opposed to 350 the whole conception of the European Defence Community have worked out what the alternatives really are. I think that the alternatives are, broadly speaking, two, and only two. One alternative would be direct German participation in N.A.T.O. which, in my view, would mean a rebirth of the German General Staff. The other alternative would be the continued occupation of Western Germany by the United States, by this country and by France, paid for, not by the Germans, but by the occupying Powers. I do not believe that is either politically or financially practicable.
For strategic reasons, which we all know only too well, we have to defend Western German territory, whether we like it or not, and I still believe that a German contribution to E.D.C., which is, in its turn, inside N.A.T.O., provides the best hope of a solution to the age-old problem of Franco-German relations which human ingenuity can devise.
The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) taxed my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary with not paying sufficient attention to the Soviet offer on four-Power conversations. If I recollect the position correctly—and no doubt I shall be corrected if I am wrong—we insisted, in my opinion quite rightly, that before we entered into any such four-Power conversations with the Soviet Union about the future of Germany, we wanted to know, as an essential pre-condition, in the first place whether conditions existed in the Eastern Zone in which free elections could be held, and secondly, if so, what method or safeguard the Russians themselves proposed to provide to make quite certain that those elections were properly and impartially supervised. Those seemed to me to be very sensible conditions to attach before starting any negotiations. We have learned long ago that it is as well, before starting negotiations or conversations with the Soviet Union, to reassure ourselves against their failure.
Lastly, about Korea. I believe it is quite unfair to suggest that the United Nations have not made every effort to conclude an armistice. We have bent over backwards to do so; we have made concession after concession. Everything has been narrowed down now to the one single but by no means simple issue of whether or not we should forcibly repatriate prisoners of war against their wishes.
351 Even if we were to agree to do this, even if it meant forcing a prisoner across no man's land at the point of a bayonet, not only would that be quite contrary to elementary humanitarian principles but, I believe, we still should have no guarantee that we ourselves should get the United Nations prisoners back. Here, let me say, that I am sure the sympathy of all in this House, no matter where they sit, goes out to the United Nations prisoners-of-war and their relatives, whether they be our men or United States men or men from Turkey, Greece, or anywhere else, who for so many months they have had their emotions torn between hope and despair. Certainly they deserve all the sympathy we can give them, and I wish we could give them something more than sympathy.
The theory of certain hon. Members opposite that all we have to do to finish the war in Korea is to give Communist China a seat on the Security Council seems to me flimsy almost beyond belief. When the Chinese intervention took place, the last Government, with Conservative backing, denounced China as the aggressor. China has now about one million troops in the field against United Nations forces, and those troops are daily inflicting casualties upon our troops. China has refused to allow the International Red Cross to visit United Nations prisoners of war. She has launched a transparently bogus campaign about germ warfare and refused to allow any impartial investigation into these allegations. She has conducted persistent persecution of Christian missions in China.
Hon. Members opposite may recall some of the speeches which were made with righteous indignation about the policy of appeasement with Hitler. If the policy which they now advocate towards China is not a policy of appeasement, then the word "appeasement" has long lost its original meaning. I can think of no greater way of rewarding aggression than by giving China at this moment a seat on the Security Council. History since the war has taught us that appeasement with Communism meets with no greater success than it did with Hitler. By all means let us try to have a settlement, but let us have a proper settlement; and the road to such a settlement is not the road of appeasement.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) has just made a most interesting speech, with hardly a word of which I agree, although that did not make it any the less interesting. He made a reference to the policy of appeasement. I suppose that in the modern world there is no word, certainly no word in our language, which has been so much abused as has this word "appeasement." If appeasement means giving people what they ought not to have, doing the wrong thing because you are afraid to do the right thing, then no doubt it is bad; and all Europe and all the world suffered from our yielding to it in 1938. I do not remember that the hon. Member for Windsor was one of those who said so at the time.
§ Mr. Silverman
I think the hon. Gentleman had his platform in another place, and I do not think he counted amongst those who said so then. But until that day, "appeasement" was not a dishonourable word. It need not be a dishonourable word. It is dishonourable only if defined in the way in which I defined it, and it can be otherwise defined as the willingness to see what is right and reasonable and legitimate in the point of view of people whom you do not like, and giving what is right and reasonable and legitimate in their point of view in spite of your prejudice.
That is a totally different thing. It may or may not still be covered by the word "appeasement," but if the hon. Gentleman asks me whether I am in favour of appeasement, I would say, "Emphatically no, if it means the first of those definitions," and "Emphatically yes, if it means the second." And I would add that if the world is to be saved, the sooner everybody adopts this honourable policy of appeasement, that is to say, the satisfaction of everybody's legitimate claims and nobody's illegitimate claims, the sooner we shall be able to see our way through the gathering gloom.
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe
The hon. Gentleman has given a most curious interpretation of what he regards as appeasement. He taxed me with my position in 1938. I can only inform him that in 1938 I was 353 in a position which were extremely unpopular with his party—I held a commission in His Majesty's Forces.
§ Mr. Silverman
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that was never unpopular either with his own party or with mine. If what I said involved any kind of injustice or unfairness to him, I am quite happy to withdraw it.
It seems to me that we are living in a most depressing world. It is not an accident that two of the most interesting speeches made in the debate so far, one on each side of the House, have been speeches about the inhuman treatment of prisoners. The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Sir D. Savory) was very moved, and I have no doubt very sincerely moved, about the Katyn massacre. So we ought all to be. The question involved in it was whether the guilty parties in that case were our allies in the last war or our prospective allies in the next. When my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) was talking about the inhuman treatment of prisoners, he was talking about the actions of our allies now.
It seemed to me that when the Atlantic Charter was signed in the middle of the war, and gave new hope to all of us, there were two of the four freedoms which seemed most important, and they were freedom from want and freedom from fear. Now, seven years afterwards, the world is suffering more from those two fears than at any time since the end of the war.
It seems to me that it is not worth while to have a rehash of the sterile disputes of the United Nations Assembly since 1945 to see who was wrong about this or who was right about the other. Instead, while there is yet time in 1952, let us see if we can ease the situation and give some hope to the world of avoiding a world cataclysm which, if it takes place, will leave few alive to consider who in the long run was more responsible than the other.
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby), in the interesting speech with which he opened today's debate, said in 28 years' membership of the House he had discovered that in order to be right one did not have to agree with the majority of the House. I have not been a Member for 28 years but only for 17 years, and I have learned that one too. 354 I would commend to him two appendices to it. One is that a Member does not need to be a member of any group of any kind to be right; and one is extremely fortunate if one can occasionally be right with two or three others. So in what I have to say I do not pretend to speak for anyone but for myself.
I should like to approach the problems from a purely practicable or empirical point of view, with the ultimate object of seeing if there is anything practical that we can do to bring peace or the hope of the peace to a very distracted world. Obviously, when one begins to do that and when one considers what there is practicable to do, it inevitably brings one to the question of ending the Korean war. It is not for me to make any comment on the results of elections in other countries, but we can all take comfort in this, that if there is one clear lesson to be derived from the American Presidential Election, it is that the Korean war is just as unpopular in America as in any other country of the world, and I agree with the remark made this afternoon that the ordinary American man or woman is as anxious that peace in the world should be preserved as anyone else.
It seems to me that there is a good deal of right on both sides in the whole of the Korean question and in the present impact. I think that the United Nations were right when they intervened in the first place. I think they sacrificed their position and lost all moral validity for international police action when they crossed the frontier into North Korea and proceeded to impose by force their own political solutions on the Korean peninsular, and they were just as wrong then as when the North Koreans tried to do the same thing by their invasion beyond their frontier. If there is one satisfactory thing about the Korean situation—and there is not much satisfaction in any of it—it is precisely that both acts of aggression failed. It was shown to be impossible to enforce from outside political solutions apart from the consent of the inhabitants.
The present position in Korea is that there could be a cessation of the fighting tomorrow if only this wretched question of the prisoners could in some way be settled. What are the claims of the two contending parties about that? What is the dispute about? There is nobody in 355 this House, and certainly nobody on this side, who would have any doubt whatever as to the right of political asylum in any part of the world being granted to anyone who genuinely claimed it. The United Nations or the Americans or anyone in the world, are indubitably right when they say that people, whether they are soldiers or prisoners of war, or whatever they are, who claim legitimate political asylum, are entitled to it and ought not to be sent back by force. But then so are the Chinese indubitably right when they said that, by the common consent of all civilised nations, there is an absolute unconditional right for a prisoner of war to be sent home when hostilities come to an end.
§ Mr. Silverman
Yes. No one has a right to be compelled to go if he does not want to. I should have thought that those two principles were uncontrovertible—one, the absolute unconditional right of a prisoner of war to go home when hostilities come to an end; and, two, the other equally incontestable right of a man who genuinely claims political asylum to be accorded that political asylum.
The Geneva Convention lays down what questions prisoners of war may be asked, and I say it follows that there are no other questions which can legitimately be asked. Questions to prisoners of war by the captors do not include the question, "Do you want to go home?" for obvious reasons. Would we have accorded to the Germans during the last war, or at any time to people we were fighting, the right to go to prisoners of war under our power and control and put tendentious political questions of that kind? It seems to me that if this deadlock is to be broken, it can only be if some formula can be devised or some mode of handling a matter can be devised which separates the question of the right of asylum from the question of the right of a prisoner to go home. The present impasse arises out of the attempt to confuse those two questions.
We must remember that we shall have to understand the other man's point of view if we are going to negotiate with him, and particularly if we are hoping to reach an agreement with him. The 356 Chinese do not say that the people who do not want to go home should be forced to go home. They never said that. What they say is they do not believe the Americans when the Americans say that those people have said it. I am not asking the House to take one side or the other on this question. What I am saying is this, that we must understand both points of view if we are going to make a sincere attempt to understand it.
May I make a suggestion? If we were to sign an armistice agreement now without waiting for a solution of the prisoner question, we would then have as part of the armistice agreement already made a neutral zone supervised by an already agreed neutral commission. That is one of the terms of the armistice agreement which has been agreed.
If there were such a neutral commission, accepted by both sides, with a neutral area between the two contending parties, we could release all our prisoners into the neutral area and let claims for political asylum be made on neutral soil, without the intervention of captors or enemies. The matter could be left to a commission whose neutrality was equally accepted by both sides. There may be obvious difficulties, and answers, and obstacles, which I have not foreseen, but if we are looking for a practical solution, as I believe everybody in the world is looking, I offer that proposal for consideration.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Is not the proposal which my hon. Friend makes about the neutral zone exactly what the United Nations Command put forward the other day, and was it not refused? I do not understand the difference.
§ Mr. Silverman
I shall not stop to go into the details of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It would not be fair to do so. I have other things to say, and there are other Members who want to speak. I assure my right hon. Friend that, though there are similarities, the two proposals are nevertheless not the same. There are important differences, which may help or may not; I am no judge, but I have not, in my opinion, put forward the same proposal as has already been refused. I thought myself that the proposals which the United Nations put forward were not in themselves so unreasonable. I think they were perfectly capable of being 357 accepted without any loss of prestige or dignity.
Unfortunately, their chances were hopelessly prejudiced within 48 hours. The proposals were put forward on 29th September. Before the Chinese had an opportunity of considering let alone replying to them, there was a new massacre of prisoners on 1st October for daring to sing their own national songs in their own camp on their own national day. That is not a good atmosphere in which to commend to the people on the other side our principle that, in this battle of prisoners, we are being actuated solely by humanitarian principles and are putting the interests of the prisoners first. It does not make any sense.
I am sure that we shall all join, whatever our different views may be and however much we may be opposed to him on some or on many points, in wishing the Foreign Secretary the greatest possible success in any endeavours he may make in this regard when he goes to the United Nations. If I may say it without impertinence, he is far more likely to have success in the matter if he speaks clearly, strongly and firmly what is the common mind of the people of this country and the common mind, I believe, of the people of all the world, that they want this Korean war, so pregnant with danger to all the world, to come to an end quickly; and that there is really nothing in this prisoners-of-war point that, with good will, ought not to be capable of solution. We ought to insist upon a solution.
The second thing I want to say—and I do not want to be long—is a long-term thing. A great deal is said about what has happened to the world since 1945, and how the attempt to get collective security among the nations of the world broke down for this, that or the other reason; and how for these reasons we had to have the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation only because we could not get something better. Are we giving up hope for ever of getting anything better? Collective security is not the arming of two hostile blocs one against the other. The balance of power is not collective security; it is collective insecurity.
I think we all believe that the only real hope of maintaining the peace of the world is by having an all-inclusive society of nations without an ideological test or 358 passport. We can have nations engaged upon a democratic crusade against Communism. Many people find that idea attractive, and there may be a good deal to be said for it. We cannot have that and, at the same time, a United Nations based on the principle of collective security. The United Nations is nothing unless it is universal. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that another effort be made to make certain that the United Nations becomes universal.
Why should not China be in it? What hope is there for the peace of the world if the United States, with all its wealth and power and all its moral authority and its prestige, should set itself completely and unarguingly against the recognition of the plain fact that there is now, perhaps for the first time in modern history, a government in China which really does command the allegiance of 500 million Chinese? The right hon. Gentleman cannot say that it is not true.
We have recognised the fact, not because we like Communism or because we like Communist Governments or Communist régimes. We have recognised it because of a principle of international law and of common sense that if a government carries permanent, settled authority throughout its country, then not to deal with it and not to recognise that authority is stupid. Once we have done that, it is also stupid to connive at or acquiesce in a situation which keeps the whole world disturbed because one great nation refuses to recognise plain and obvious facts.
Let us recognise that there is one solid mass from the Baltic to the furthest coast of China with two régimes that are permanent, and two peoples that, whatever the truth may be, certainly regard themselves as happy and free peoples, and that we are not going to upset those régimes. We can upset them by the atom bomb and by war, but we shall upset ourselves in the endeavour. If we do not wish to upset them in that way, if we are not going to risk any cataclysmic world war in order to free those people from a Communist régime and put something else in its place—Heaven knows what—we have to recognise the plain fact that those are the governments of those nations and if we want a United Nations we can have it only on the basis that they 359 are in, equally freely and as unconditonally as other nations.
My last point is—
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not know how far it helps to solve the problem, but I ask my right hon. Friend to consider what the position would be if we had consistently since the war treated the Soviet Government, as we have treated the Chinese Government, by keeping them outside the councils of the nations altogether.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am not quarrelling with my hon. Friend's main point. He will recall that the Labour Government took the step of recognising the Chinese People's Government. By the way, I understand—and no doubt the Foreign Secretary will correct me if I am wrong—that that decision is not being repudiated by the present Government. That is all right. What I cannot understand—this is a point of great substance—is how the mere fact of bringing the Chinese Peoples' Government into the United Nations will, of itself, solve the problems of the fear of war unless there is a will to peace.
§ Mr. Silverman
My right hon. Friend is perfectly right, and I think he knows that I agree with every word he said. I do not think this will of itself, without the will to peace, bring peace to the world. What I am saying is that we can take no step towards peace until that step is taken. It may not be a final step, but it is an inevitable first step. I say that if we had treated the Russian Government in the same way as we have treated the Chinese Government, the world would have been in the middle of World War III long ago.
May I say to my right hon. Friend that we all know that, but for the obstinate refusal of the United States Government in September, 1950, to recognise the Chinese Government, the Korean war would have come to an end then on the proposals made by the Empire Prime Ministers Conference on the initiative of 360 Mr. Nehru. They broke down simply and solely on the American refusal to recognise the Chinese Government.
My final point is that there is no salvation economically for this country except in economic independence, and that it is hopeless to think that our great economic problems can be solved by continually trying to export our disposable services into the American market, which does not need them and which will legitimately do everything in its power to keep them out.
§ Mr. Silverman
Well, I am saying it today. I am relieved to find that one of my hon. Friend's said yesterday what I am saying today. With this vast recrudescence of productive power in all those countries where social revolutions have taken place, although we could not get a large or valuable market tomorrow or next week or next month, we ought to be trying to build up world trade on a basis free from political or ideological considerations. Until we do that, there can be no economic independence for this country, and until we have economic independence we cannot be in a position to exert any great influence on world affairs. I regard that as one of the most important things this country could set itself to do.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Hollis (Devizes)
If an hon. Member may intervene from this side of the House for a minute or two in the cross-talk between the Front Bench opposite and the Front Bench opposite below the Gangway—
§ Mr. Hollis
I do not want to waste the time of the House on such a silly point.
The last time I had the pleasure of intervening in a foreign affairs debate, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) followed me. Today I follow him. I had not intended to speak on the subject of Korea, but I shall make three points upon his speech.
361 First, I agree with his distinction between the two meanings of the word "appeasement." We are all anxious to bring the Korean war to an end if a way can be found. Beyond that, it is not easy to follow his argument for the reason that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) brought out. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has put forward his own proposal as to how we can get an armistice agreement, but in what way does that differ from the proposal of the United Nations, and what reason is there to think that the Chinese would accept his proposal? Since he has kept the reply a secret and has not attempted to reveal it to the House, we cannot easily follow him on that argument.
§ Mr. Silvermanrose—
§ Mr. Silverman
If the hon. Member challenges me, he must give way. I do not want to take up the time of the House, but there are two important ways in which the proposal I have made differs from the United Nations proposal. The first is that the armistice agreement is signed first. That is the great difference. It enables the question of prisoners of war to be divorced from that of political asylum. The second is the practical difficulty of finding any spot of earth, especially there, which can reasonably be called neutral. The armistice arrangement would provide for the creation of a neutral area into which all prisoners could be released.
§ Mr. Hollis
I am glad of my success, denied to the right hon. Member for Derby, South, in elucidating an explanation from the hon. Member.
As to his further point about the recognition of China by the United Nations, I am of the same mind as the right hon. Gentleman, because my own purely personal point of view is that it would be reasonable, if the United States Government could be persuaded of it, that they should recognise the Chinese Government, and it would follow from that that the Chinese Government should join the United Nations.
However, I do not think we can reasonably expect anyone to ask the Chinese Government to join the United Nations at a time when it is under the condemnation of the United Nations for 362 this act of aggression. It should join as part of a settlement. That would be far from unreasonable. On the point of economic independence, I am of the same mind as the hon. Member, but I do not know whether we should agree in detail as to how economic independence is to be achieved.
The point I had intended to raise briefly before the House was one about a quite different part of the world. The right hon. Member for Derby, South said, "We do not dissent from the language of the Gracious Speech about Europe." We were glad to hear that, but whom he meant by "we" I am not certain. That there is no difference between the two Front Benches opposite on this point we are glad to know, and we on this side entirely agree with the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite that, if peace is to be assured, it is essential that we should carry through our re-armament programme; just as I have little doubt they agree with us, and I have no doubt also the electors of Wycombe agree, that there is not the smallest chance of that re-armament programme being carried through by any other Government than a Conservative Government.
It is indeed true and heartening that, whereas a year ago we were being told that within 12 months of a Conservative Government the country would be at war with Russia, now we are being told quite rightly that the international situation is enormously better. Without injecting a sombre note, I want to point out that we are moving towards a situation where the danger of an attack from the East is considerably less than it used to be, and that is a good thing. However, we have to face the inconvenient fact that both the last Government and this Government have rightly sought to remove the immediate danger of an attack from the East by supporting a policy which is necessary, but which also carries with it its own great dangers.
My right hon. Friend will, I hope and expect, in a few minutes tell us something about the prospects for ratification of E.D.C. No one can fail to hope that there are no unnecessary difficulties in that respect. But either through E.D.C., or through some other plan, it is most probable now that before long we shall see German re-armament.
363 I want to consider the inevitable dangers of that in whatever shape we see it. I do not want to be misunderstood. I am not opposing German re-armament. On the balance of a difficult argument, I am in favour of it, but that does not mean that it is not necessary to realise the dangers and inconveniences of German re-armament. It has nothing to do with whether we like Germans or dislike them, whether we trust or distrust them. My argument is a purely objective one.
German re-armament is, in the nature of things, quite different from French rearmament or British re-armament or American re-armament, for the following reasons. Germans, of their nature, must want territorial re-arrangements on the Continent of Europe; that is to say, any German, even if he has no major ambitions, cannot but want to see the re-union of his country. It is idle to complain of this, because it is bound to be so, but it means that German re-armament is a step which of its nature carries with it very serious problems.
If we are to embark upon that policy, under whatever alphabetical formulæ, we have to face the fact—it is not a question of whether or not we like it—that in some five or six years' time, when Germany is strong again, she will make demands in one form or another for territorial re-arrangements on the Continent of Europe. Nobody can be so foolish as to imagine that such a thing as the present status of Berlin will endure throughout the rest of time. Even if there be some people who think that for the sake of peace it would be desirable to make the present Iron Curtain a permanent international frontier, we are now drifting into a situation with no possibility of doing that.
Therefore, there is nothing more important at the moment than to consider what should be our policy towards those German demands when they come, as quite certainly they will, for territorial re-arrangements on the Continent of Europe. If we are, under whatever formulæ, to contract anything of the nature of a permanent alliance with Western Germany, through N.A.T.O., through E.D.C. or through any other formula, we must recognise that it is quite impossible to hope for such a permanent 364 alliance unless we have some plan in our heads by which these German ambitions can be satisfied. Those ambitions need not necessarily be satisfied by war, and it must be the first concern of every person of good will to try to think of a way by which they can be satisfied without war. Everyone takes a very serious responsibility indeed who does not give his mind to seeing what is the way in which they can be satisfied.
We are all aware that there can be very few, if any, persons of responsibility in Germany today who do not view with horror the prospect of another war, if only because that war would this time quite certainly take place on German territory in the first instance. On the other hand, we cannot shut our eyes to the dangers of this situation, which will come up in some five or six years' time. Every German does, and must inevitably, want to see the re-union of his country. Every member of every German political party wants to achieve this, and could not hope for any possible success at any election unless he was in favour of the re-union of his country.
If there is not some very hard thinking over the next five or six years, the great danger is that in six years' time the peace-loving responsible bodies, whoever they may be, in Germany at that time will all say that they want the re-union of their country. People will say to them, "But how do you propose to achieve it?" They will have no clear answer to give and, therefore, irresponsible people may rise up in the way that happens in all countries, and in Germany above all others, who will say, "We will show you how you can achieve the union of your country, which these wretched parliamentary politicians are unable to do."
That being so, it is most important that in every free country of the Western world very serious thinking should be going on during these years, when there is still time, as to what demands of Germany we will support and how we can guide those demands into reasonable and orderly channels rather than into unreasonable and disorderly channels.
I do not ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary today, or even in the near future, to commit himself to what precisely would be the commitments and policy of the British Government in what is still a highly hypothetical situation, but 365 I do think that at present we must recognise, first, the inevitable transcience of the present map of Europe, that the glacier is already breaking up, and that somehow or other the Iron Curtain frontier will be changed.
I think there is a good hope, delicate as the situation necessarily must be, that it can be changed without the explosion of a war. I feel that it is becoming increasingly clear that the Russians do not want a head-on collision with the whole of the Western world and that, therefore, the situation will arise in which, with skill and courage, it will be possible to negotiate a settlement by which war can be avoided. That situation, it seems to me, will arise on one condition: that this country remains strong.
If this country, with its tradition of diplomatic leadership on the Continent of Europe, remains strong, it can then play its part, which will give hope that we can solve these problems without catastrophe. If this country should allow itself to become weak, it could not hope to play its part, and there would to my mind be very little chance that Western Europe would solve these problems peacefully if there were no substantial British contribution to their solution.
I quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire, (Mr. Boothby) that it is cheering to hear that Her Majesty's Government look with a kindly eye on the movements towards European unity, that Europe wants Great Britain to be not merely the spectator but the leader of her unity, and that if we do not play our part there is every danger that Europe will fall under German leadership, which would be profoundly dangerous.
Therefore, I would say two things about the German claims. This is not the time to go into the precise details of where eastern frontiers should be drawn, but substantially there can be no one who denies that the Germans have a moral right to their national unity, that that in itself is a right thing, and that it is morally right, if it can be managed, that eastern Germans should be free from Communist tyranny. But it cannot be morally right that eastern Germans alone should be freed from Communist tyranny, and if the time ever arises when it is possible to have a settlement of the problems of Europe, we should neither preserve 366 peace nor save our honour if that settlement were made solely by giving concessions to the Germans and forgetting the other countries of Eastern Europe who today live under Communist rule.
Therefore, if there is a strong Great Britain, I think that it can give that leadership which would be followed by many people in every other country of Western Europe, and not least by many people in Western Germany. There is no country where, for the best of reasons, there is more fear of a resurgence of German leadership than among wise Germans themselves. If my right hon. Friend is able to say anything on this topic I shall be honoured and interested, but this is not the moment when we should reasonably expect the Front Bench to say anything very definite upon what would be the British policy under these highly hypothetical circumstances.
This is a moment when we on the back benches have a very important obligation, because I think that the peace of Europe can only be saved if over the coming years there is a strong and courageous British policy. In order that there shall be a strong and courageous British policy, it is indeed necessary that we have not only wise and skilful Ministers in the Government, but a courageous, informed and intelligent public opinion behind us. No Foreign Secretary could possibly play the part which my right hon. Friend will be called upon to play in the coming years in the history of this country if there is no interest and intelligence in foreign affairs among the electorate behind him.
If people take no genuine continuing interest in the problems of foreign affairs, but content themselves simply with raising idiot cries of "Warmonger" at any Foreign Secretary who tries to pursue any foreign policy at all, the peace of the world is unlikely to be saved. If, on the other hand, during the time when it still has the opportunity, public opinion allows itself to be educated to follow the real problems vital to British interests and vital to the interests of the whole world in getting a settlement of the European geographical problems, I hope there is a possibility of saving the peace of the world, and it will come to the British Foreign Secretary of those days, whoever is responsible, almost more than to anyone else, to make that contribution to peace.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)
If the House will allow me to intervene for a few moments at this stage, as I know the House is anxious to discuss defence matters, I think it would be useful if I tried to reply to the fairly wide range of topics which a debate of quite remarkable quality has shown.
I ought first to thank the House and hon. Members in all parts of the House for their good wishes on the journey on which I have shortly to set out.
I will try to deal one by one with the points raised in this debate. First, there is perhaps a rather subsidiary one—I think the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) will know what I mean—an important but, at the moment, subsidiary matter which he raised; that is, disarmament, which is now an issue before the United Nations, but it has not so far come before the Political Committee. I propose to raise that issue in the remarks I have to make to the United Nations Assembly as such, I trust, next week, because we do wish the work to go ahead in preparation, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, and we also consider that the Soviet Government should be pressed, and reasonably can be pressed, for a less negative attitude than they have so far adopted on this topic.
The right hon. Gentleman ventured on a criticism of us, if I got it down right, in which he said that he thought we had made a mistake in putting some of this work on to a committee of five—the five-Power talks. It is quite true that five-Power talks were suggested. That was part of the proposal the United States put forward, with our support, but the reason we did that was not to release the Commission from its obligation to produce complete answers to the Soviet points.
Really the position had become so complicated that without preliminary work of this kind we could not hope to prepare an effective blue-print for disarmament. That is what was in mind and that was why the suggestion was made. We felt that unless that work was done by the five Powers, or in some other way, the actual blue-print would probably be completely unrealistic. But that is only a stage in our work and does not alter our determination to answer the points.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I hope that the Commission will not wait to get complete unanimity, including Russia, before it draws up its draft treaty. It is entitled to act by a majority, and I hope it will, because I think the draft treaty is of such importance to the world.
§ Mr. Eden
I have the point and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I do not see why, beyond a certain period, we should wait for the Soviet Union if they are not willing to join in the work we are doing.
The main problem about which I want to say something is the situation in Korea, which is the main topic in the United Nations. I think I ought to remind the House that last September the United Nations Command put three proposals to the Communists for solving the deadlock over the question—referred to by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) and many other hon. Members who have spoken in this debate—of the repatriation of prisoners of war. Three alternatives were put before the Communists there. I am not going to repeat them, because they are familiar to the House. But none of them, of course, has been accepted by the Communists and all of them are still open for their acceptance. Since then, various other proposals have been put forward at the General Assembly and elsewhere.
The right hon. Member for Derby, South himself made a suggestion this afternoon which I think he quite rightly said he did not claim was a new suggestion. It was very close to a suggestion made to us some little time ago by the Society of Friends. I think it was fairly close—I do not want to draw the party opposite together if they do not wish to be drawn together—to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne just now.
The difficulty I see in his proposal of taking the armistice, as he called it, in two stages—first the cease-fire and then dealing with the prisoners—is that I still feel extremely reluctant to agree to any proposal which does not deal with the prisoners in the first stage; that is to say, deal with the prisoners so far as the question of the repatriation of those who want to go back is concerned. Otherwise, I fear that if we make this division, when the cease fire has taken place we may find ourselves in a very difficult negotiation as 369 regards the repatriation of our own prisoners. That is the aspect about which we have to be so careful and why I and others have felt so far doubt about the possibility—there are certainly attractives features which exist—of proceeding in the way the right hon. Gentleman suggested.
We have certain ideas on this topic and I think we have tried to find means to meet the difficulty. I think the House feels that the last three proposals—about which I feel the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) was hardly fair in saying there has not been much information in this country and the world, as these proposals were made clear by broadcasts and every means of publicity—
§ Mr. Eden
We did not censor our own armistice proposals; the whole world knows about them. We talked about them and they are still there and available to anyone who is prepared to discuss them. I think the general opinion of the House and the free world is that they were a fair and generous offer to try to meet what is an accepted difficulty. But that, I agree, does not absolve us from going on trying to see whether there is not some other way of trying to get out of the dilemma. We will go on trying, and the only undertaking I can give to the House is that we have been and are going on applying our minds to it and shall do so when we get to New York.
I do not want to say more now. If there is anything we can contribute in this direction we had better contribute it there than here in this House this afternoon. I say that without any disrespect to hon. Members here this afternoon.
That is the main part of what I want to say about Korea. The hon. Member for Maldon raised one matter in connection with Korea to which I must refer. He spoke of our White Paper which we issued some time ago—in June—and argued about the accuracy or otherwise of its presentation of the facts. I do not know what impression those hon. Members who were here got of the hon. Member's speech. He read to us from the International Red Cross Report, and the impression which I got from what he was reading was that he was telling us some findings which the International Red 370 Cross had come to, or some conclusions they had reached.
But, of course, they reached no conclusions at all; there is none. What the International Red Cross did—I have looked up the Report—was to issue a number of sets of statements, one set of statements by the commandant of the camp and another set was the Communist evidence by a representative of the prisoners. What the hon. Member was reading to us was the Communist evidence given on behalf of the prisoners.
I am not complaining that that was in any way a wrong thing to do, but what I am saying is that, frankly, I did not get the impression when listening to him this afternoon that that was what the hon. Member was doing. I thought he was reading the findings of the International Red Cross and complaining that they did not fit, or square, with the White Paper we had issued and I was troubled about the suggestion that I had misled the House about that. I will give way to the hon. Member in a moment. I wish to give the hon. Gentleman every advantage I can in the discussion.
We have set out in the White Paper as clearly as we can our view of what has happened. We have taken the evidence of the American camp commandant. That is not absolutely a criminal thing to do. Even if he is on our side he may conceivably be right. One is allowed to quote his evidence and base what opinion one likes on what he said. In order that there might not be the slightest doubt about it, at the end of paragraph 42 we wrote:The report in the 'Revue Internationale de la Croix Rouge' published in Geneva in April, 1952, relates to the 18th February incident.When the hon. Member was speaking I thought that they had come down against us in their findings. Of course, they did nothing of the kind. Here is the report. I have the whole thing. On page 277 is given what the Communists said to them. That is what the hon. Member read from to the House. He read the account of what the Communist representative of the prisoners said, which is on page 277 of the translation put in the Library. Following that there was also a statement on another page of what the Camp commandant said.
371 I wish the House to understand that the International Red Cross gave no findings of any sort and came to no conclusions of any kind. They gave a report, quite rightly, of what a Communist said on behalf of the Communists. If the hon. Member had said to the House, "I am going to read to the House what the Red Cross reported as having been said by the Communists" we should have understood and given as much weight as we thought fit to that kind of evidence.
§ Mr. Driberg
What I read out was not only from what the Foreign Office translation of the report calls the liaison officer's evidence. The delegates made it clear that they also interviewed other, wounded prisoners, the chief medical officer, and the camp commandant. Is it not obvious that the very circumstantial account of the details of the incident given by the liaison officer was accepted by the Red Cross or they would not have printed it without some safeguard?
Secondly, does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that the White Paper is guilty of what he is now accusing me of doing? That is to say, it presents as fact a one-sided account given by the camp commandant, who was sacked two days later.
§ Mr. Eden
Not entirely that of the commandant. Anyone who reads the White Paper will see that that is short compared with the great many pages of evidence.
The important thing which the hon. Member did not bring out was that the International Red Cross attempted to make no findings at all on the subject. They simply put down what the camp commandant and other people had said and finally what the Communists had said 372 although, I repeat, having listened to the hon. Member, I simply could not draw the conclusion that he was telling us just what the Communist evidence had been.
The impression he gave me, and I think gave the House—I have no doubt that HANSARD will bear me out tomorrow—was that he was giving the findings of the International Red Cross which I, as Foreign Secretary, had attempted to conceal from the House.
What can be said against us was that in our document we ought to have underlined "If you look in this report there will be found the Communist evidence, which does not agree with what was said by the American camp commandant." I think that most people would probably guess that the Communist evidence did not agree with what was said by the commandant without our putting it in the White Paper.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
This is really most important. If it had not been for the Red Cross document no one would ever have known what the prisoners said about it, and from the right hon. Gentleman's document we should have been left only with the account of the matter given by the person in charge.
§ Mr. Eden
That is why I drew careful attention to the Red Cross report and why the translation was laid a few weeks later in the Library of the House, so that it would be available for all Members to see for themselves. That is the difference between the way we try to handle these things and the way in which they are handled behind the Iron Curtain.
I do not regard myself as guilty of anything at all except perhaps of giving weight to the evidence of the American commandant—
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Member says "Who was sacked." That happens to people in all walks of life in all free countries and in other not so free countries. It is usually pleasanter in this country than in some others to be sacked. I hope that I have satisfied the House that I have not deliberately misled them.
§ Mr. Driberg
It is the right hon. Gentleman's duty in what purports to be a factual and balanced summary to present a factual and balanced summary.
§ Mr. Eden
It is my duty to give the references of all accounts so that if my presentation is not liked the House can see those references. I did that. They were available in the Library of the House but the hon. Member smeared that over by talking about the difficulty of getting papers out of the Library. I suppose he is making an implication against the Librarian. That is not usually done in this House. The hon. Member is not suggesting that the Foreign Office tried to prevent the Librarian from making the document available to the hon. Member? The hon. Member will never hesitate to take part in any smear campaign.
I wish to turn to one or two other topics which have been raised. My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby) opened the debate today with a speech which I think the House as a whole enjoyed. He made some references to Germany and to France, and, in a criticism of the Bonn Treaties, he said that we had made a mistake, or perhaps not that we had made a mistake, but that it was difficult to see how they could work out effectively when by means of the Bonn Treaties we gave Germany her place in Europe and her freedom on the one hand and at the same time we went to Paris to build up a new European Defence Community, which limited her sphere of action.
That is perfectly true, but I do not think that it is necessarily bad. I believe it is true that a great many people in Germany today, the West German Chancellor and many men of all political parties, wish to see their country enter a Western organisation and do not wish to see the development of a national army. I do not see that there is any real contradiction.
My hon. Friend went on to say "Ought you not really to have made peace first?" We should all have liked to have made 374 peace first but that involves, among other things, getting the consent of the Soviet Union to make that peace, as my hon. Friend said today. That having been found impossible over many years' negotiation in the time of the Labour Government, I do not think that we could have waited until then before proceeding with what we have to do.
My hon. Friend said that there ought to be a merger of E.D.C. and N.A.T.O. I was not quite sure what he meant by that. There is a merger of E.D.C. and N.A.T.O. now in the sense that E.D.C. forms part of N.A.T.O. It is within N.A.T.O., and the E.D.C. forces will be, and are at the present time, under the command of the N.A.T.O. Commander-in-Chief.
§ Mr. Eden
No, but the other countries of E.D.C. are in N.A.T.O., and when the E.D.C. forces, including that of Germany, are set up they will be under the N.A.T.O. Supreme Command. To that extent there is a merger already.
My hon. Friend said we were right not to enter a political federation. That all along has been the difficulty which has faced successive Governments about considering entering the E.D.C., because the accepted objective of the countries which formed E.D.C. is not merely to have a defence contribution from the German people, but to move towards European federation. The difficulty has always been whether to join an organisation of that kind without accepting the final objective, which is European federation, and I think that my hon. Friend answered himself in that respect. I think he will remember, nobody knows better, the authors of this proposal. It is, in fact, a French proposal. It is not put forward by Germany or Britain,
Is there really any practical alternative at the present time to E.D.C. and the present arrangements if we want a German contribution? I do not say the whole House, but the greater part, almost all hon. Members, agree that we do want a German contribution, and if we do not get it in this way by E.D.C., in what other way can we get it? I have heard one or two hon. Members inquiring about the position and suggesting German entry into N.A.T.O. The House knows 375 perfectly well how very strong is the feeling against that in France and in some other countries. Obviously direct German entry into N.A.T.O. raises the very problem in respect of a German national army which E.D.C. was set up to solve. I conclude, as we did last summer, that there is no alternative that anybody has yet been able to provide which would work as well as the E.D.C. plan to settle our political and military problems.
Unless we have another plan, unless another plan can be found, we must continue in our attempts to bring about a ratification of this agreement. We have done so here, they have done it in the United States, and Germany, I think, will be opening her discussions towards the end of this month. Holland will be doing so, I think, at the same time, and France, I imagine, not until about the beginning of next year. Undoubtedly this matter presents enormous difficulties, as my hon. Friend rightly said, but, to quote the Bairnsfather cartoon, "If you knows of a better 'ole, go to it." So far, Europe has not been able to discover a "better 'ole" in this respect, and we have to persevere with the plan on which we are engaged.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am by no means, and nor is this party, committed to the concept of this country joining E.D.C. The whole matter is in a very fluid state. At present people are thinking about it and investigating and inquiring about the right action to take.
Is not the dilemma presented to the right hon. Gentleman that France is not enthusiastic about German re-armament? They are afraid, they are obstructing German re-armament, recalling what happened in the past. There is no leadership, no integration, and there is difficulty about ratification. Therefore we get neither one thing nor the other; neither the building-up we desire, nor the German contribution.
The right hon. Gentleman said—and this is the point I wish to put to him—that the real difficulty about the association of the United Kingdom with E.D.C. is the primary objective of E.D.C., which is European federation. Would it not be possible to consider—I do not put it higher than that at the present time—the possibility of associating ourselves with E.D.C., in the first instance at any rate, purely for military purposes?
§ Mr. Eden
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, who has obviously given great thought to his intervention. I am not making a party point when I say in reply that if something of that kind was contemplated, it is a suggestion which might well have been made at an earlier stage than that which we have now achieved.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman is aware that we had a great deal of trouble about French suspicion of Germany continuing to associate on equal terms in N.A.T.O. That is really the root of the whole trouble, but to a very large extent that trouble has disappeared.
§ Mr. Eden
The problem is still there, and, with all respect, I cannot see that the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman would at this stage do other than create a certain amount of confusion.
I naturally looked at this question and said, "What are we to do?" We had got so far with certain plans. Were we to go on and try to make the best of them—I am not saying whether it was the fault of anyone that they were not better plans—or were we to start all over again on something different? I came to the conclusion that it would be quite disastrous at that stage to try to start with something entirely new, after all the work which had been put into the earlier proposals and when they had got to a very definite stage. When a number of countries have ratified and others are about to debate them, I think it would be wrong if we were to show the slightest hesitation. I hope that the House will not hesitate and will continue to support the proposals.
I would say one other word to my hon. Friend about his economic observations. He spoke of the dollar and the non-dollar world, and of it being a one-sided affair, and that he had been the voice crying in the wilderness for quite a long time. He is not that now, and he need not worry himself at all on that account. Quite apart from the documents he quoted, there is also the O.E.E.C. report, the last 377 one, which makes clear what is the truth; that this question of the dollar balance is a permanent problem unless we are able to deal with it on a Commonwealth basis and to bring Europe together with the United States to discuss it on a world basis. We can make certain approaches to improve the position of the three main groups in the world, the Commonwealth, Europe and the United States. But eventually it has to be dealt with on a world-wide stage.
May I say a word about the speech made by General Ramcke, which was referred to? I think it right to say that we ought not to exaggerate the significance of that speech. Certainly everyone here resented it and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, so they did in Germany. I think it is felt in Germany that that speech did Germany harm, and diminished confidence in Germany abroad; and I have no doubt that in this matter the Press of Germany was representative of public opinion in that country. I have the permission of Dr. Adenauer to read to the House the very brief letter which the German Chancellor sent the morning after the speech was delivered to our High Commissioner in Germany, because I thought it so clearly expressed his view that I could not do better than give it. He wrote:
§ "DEAR SIR IVONE,
§ The utterances of the former General Bernhard Ramcke at a meeting of the former members of the Waffen S.S. in Verden are irresponsible. The organisers of the meeting themselves publicly and unambiguously disapproved them. The German Press has unanimously criticised them. The Federal Government, in complete accord with public opinion, condemns most sharply this grave departure which is to be explained by the speaker's deficient capacity of judgment.
§ I am, etc.,
§ I think that is as good a summing up of what most of us feel as any of us could find. I would only add that when the hon. Gentleman quite rightly urges democratic forces in both countries to get together on that basis, I do not think any of us would have great difficulty in doing so.378
§ Mr. Eden
Of course, there is a danger, but how does the hon. Gentleman propose that we should meet it? The only way to meet it is to try to encourage the free and democratic forces in Germany.
Now, I want to refer to the case of Herr Krupp, on which the right hon. Gentleman opposite felt so very strongly. I understand his feelings; we all do very well; but, when he was so vehement about it, I really wondered why, if the late Government felt strongly about Krupp, they ever handed him over to be dealt with by the Americans. That puzzled me, although there was probably quite a good reason for it. It is rather late in the day to be very vehement about that.
The right hon. Gentleman told me I have got to do something to meet the situation, but I repeat that this is not a situation which we created at all. We will do what we can in the matter now at this time, but, as I have told the House before, I cannot give pledges on what it may be possible at this stage to do. We will do what we can with the request made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger), the former Minister of State, but, beyond that, I do not think I can possibly go.
I have one other matter to deal with. The right hon. Gentleman criticised us a little—and I do not complain about it—and said that we missed chances with the second Soviet Note in regard to a four-Power conference. I really do not know what he meant by that. The Note itself was rather ambiguous. It is quite true that it did refer to the question of free German elections, but it also referred to a lot of other things. It referred to the question of unification and the establishment of an all-German Government, as well as the question of the peace treaty, as Russian Notes so often did.
In our reply, the right hon. Gentleman will recollect that we said "Very well, we are perfectly ready to do this, to meet and discuss it, but we want to be clear that we can proceed at once to prepare for free elections," and it is upon that that we subsequently broke down. I do not think that at any time there was that opportunity to get this discussion on the basis of putting first things first and making it possible for free elections to 379 take place. I really do not think that that was so.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I do not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I only regret that the Government did not say, "We will come to a meeting to discuss free elections, if you like, on Monday next." If they had said that, they might have got somewhere.
§ Mr. Eden
If the right hon. Gentleman will look at our reply, he will find that we were prepared to meet and we even dropped the United Nations Commission arrangement. We said, "We will meet as soon as you like, provided that we can start by discussing the question of free elections." Here is the Command Paper; perhaps the right hon. Gentleman might like to look at it?
May I now turn to another topic before I deal with the Sudan? We had an opportunity a short time ago of welcoming here the Turkish Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, and I should like to say that the entry of this old ally of ours is invaluable in helping to complete the pattern of Western defensive strength. It also gives stability to the Eastern Mediterranean, and I know, from our talks with the Turkish Ministers, that we can count on their wholehearted co-operation in the common problems in that part of the world. Their visit was, in a sense, complementary to the visit which I made myself to Belgrade last September, and I believe that both have helped to create a closer unity among the nations determined to preserve their independence.
Now, a word about Egypt and the Sudan, and these matters are important, because, so far as Egypt is concerned, I think that all of us cannot but note that there has been a marked improvement in our relations since the present Egyptian Government came to power. We have watched with interest the courageous efforts of General Neguib and his friends to cut through the tangle of maladministration at home and international disputes, which was the legacy of previous Egyptian Governments.
We have just received the Egyptian Government's comments on the new Constitution for the Sudan, which the Governor-General submitted to Her 380 Majesty's Government and the Egyptian Government. As I told the House on 22nd October, when I announced our approval of the Constitution, we should wish to give the Egyptian views proper consideration, and this will now be done.
Admittedly, the Egyptian comments do raise a number of important points for discussion, but the central fact, as it seems to me, is that the present Egyptian Government, unlike its predecessors, is showing a readiness to accept the principles of self-government and self-determination in the Sudan, and to co-operate with us in giving them effect. On this basis, it ought to be possible for this country, the Sudan and Egypt to reach an agreement which will be of enduring value, and, if we can do that, can we at last hope for the wider agreement which is in the minds of many hon. Members in this House?
The right hon. Gentleman quite rightly asked me a question about what would happen about promulgating the Constitution. I have to tread rather delicately here, because, clearly, this is not a matter upon which Her Majesty's Government can give instructions. We have given authority to the Governor-General of the Sudan to promulgate on 8th November. He is not under an obligation to do so, but he can do so. I have no doubt that he will also want to give the Egyptian comments full consideration. Clearly, he will not be able to do this before 8th November. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in that, and I can only say that I am keeping in close touch with developments in Khartoum, and I have no doubt whatever that the Governor-General will bear these considerations in mind in deciding the timing of the steps necessary to bring the Constitution into force.
Meanwhile, as to Anglo-Egyptian relations, I have a word or two to say. We recently advanced to the Egyptian Government from their existing sterling balances £5 million which was not otherwise due to be released until next year. Her Majesty's Ambassador at Cairo also discussed further with the Egyptian Prime Minister the question of compensation for victims of the Cairo riots of last January.
The Egyptian Prime Minister has given a written assurance that the Egyptian Government has decided to give financial 381 aid to those who suffered injury and to the relations of those who lost their lives, and that steps will be taken to expedite by all means the payment of such aid. Additional funds have been made available to the Commission established by the Egyptian Government to examine all such claims, and the Commission has been instructed to settle them with all speed. Individual claims are being, or will shortly be, presented to the Commission, as soon as the final details in support of them are obtained from the victims of relations concerned.
As regards the death of the Canadian Government's Trade Commissioner, this case will be dealt with as between Governments. We have been acting for the Canadian Government in the matter, and this case will not come before the Commission. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that all these claims will be settled in the near future, and the Egyptian Government have explained that all such payments will be made on an ex gratia basis
As regards claims for payments due to dismissed British officials, the Egyptian Prime Minister has confirmed that the claims for payment of the difference between their basic salaries and salary plus allowances will be met, and some such claims have indeed already been paid by the Egyptian Government. They are also reconsidering the cases of those officials whose contracts came within the scope of Egyptian Law No. 44 of 1946, and also those whose contracts contained no provision for termination before expiry. I should like to say that I hope that these exchanges now proceeding with Egypt, with the improvement that has been made and the arrangements for these payments, will prove to be a good augury for the settlement of all outstanding Anglo-Egyptian problems.
We shall be discussing before long with the Egyptian Government questions of defence, and I believe that, if both sides can approach this task in an atmosphere of mutual good will and of confidence in one another, which, unfortunately, has been lacking in the past, it should not be beyond our capacity to find a solution which will be broadly acceptable to both parties. This would, indeed, be a contribution to peace.
On the other hand I have no good news for the House about Persia.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way and I should like to put to him a point which is rather important due to the growth of a more friendly feeling between the United Kingdom and Egypt. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if on any occasion he will approach the Egyptian Government with regard to more friendly relationships between the State of Israel and Egypt so far as that section of the Mediterranean is concerned. I should like to have an assurance that some kind of diplomatic action will be taken in that direction.
§ Mr. Eden
I think that the hon. Member will see that I had that in mind in what I said earlier; but we have first to see whether we can get things easier for ourselves. If Anglo-Egyptian relations in the Middle East can become more comfortable, our desire is to bring about a settlement and a lasting peace between Israel and her neighbours. I can do no good by enlarging upon that particular problem now. The problem of the Arab refugees which is so closely bound up with the whole of this problem is something on which the United Nations are making some progress, though they are not making it so fast. If we can get that settled, it will do far more than anything else to bring about peace between the Arab States and Israel.
As I was saying, I have no good news for the House about Persia. I am sorry that the Persian Government have broken off diplomatic relations with this country. We believe that that action was an ill-service to the Persian people and that it can only make more difficult the task of finding a settlement of the whole dispute which every day becomes more necessary for Persia herself—less necessary in certain respects for us. We have made fair and generous proposals and those remain open.
I want to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South in speaking about the decision which the people of the United States have made in the last few days. It is not for us to comment on their momentous choice, but we can pay tribute to a nation which is able to find two such outstanding men from whom to choose. And we can salute the election of a famous man well known to us and justly renowned for his services to the free world. All Europe 383 understands how much is owed to General Eisenhower not only in the war years but since. If N.A.T.O. has increased its deterrent power, that is due to him more than to anyone else, and I have no doubt that we can count on his continuing help and co-operation in the problems which lie ahead.
We are at this moment—I think my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire was right when he hinted at it—in a certain interim period in foreign affairs, and not the easiest period in which a Foreign Secretary can make a speech. We have had the position in the United States of a pending election. We have the fact that some of these treaties have been ratified by some countries and not by others, that the operation is not concluded, with the certain indecision which that involves.
But I do not think that on that account we ought to take too gloomy a view of the international outlook. After all, if anybody wants a corrective, let him look back at where we were three years ago. I think that it was the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Helens (Sir H. Shawcross) who said at a notable by-election that the international situation was much better than it had been two years previously but that that was in no way due to Her Majesty's present Government.
That is quite all right. It does not matter at all who does it, except perhaps for the purpose of the by-election. What is important is that it should happen, and it is largely happening because of the preparations made and the unity slowly being built up in the West. That process must continue, though we all understand that it is placing an increasing strain on our economy, and that is where the discussions to which reference was made earlier today come in.
In this intermediate stage there is no reason why we should not reach forward to that wider unity which would bring lasting peace. There is plenty of difficulty but it can be achieved, and I should like to think that in going to do whatever duties lies before me at the United Nations I shall be seeking to fulfil a task which is not a party one but a national one in the best sense of the word.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
Whatever differences there are between the two sides of the House from time to time, and I often think that they are exaggerated in foreign affairs, we all wish the Foreign Secretary God-speed in his journey to the United States. When one considers how a Foreign Secretary today, in all weathers and at all seasons, has to go about the world on Her Majesty's business, we can only offer our sympathy to the occupant of that office when he is suddenly called to fly at terriffic speed and sometimes in great discomfort to try and find a solution to the problems which are facing us today.
I understand that later in the debate the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence will be addressing some remarks to the House. I hope, therefore, that the House will permit me to say a few words on defence. They are related very intimately and closely, of course, to the subject which we have been debating for the last three or four hours. In particular, I should like the Parliamentary Secretary, if he could or would, to give the House some indication of the present position of N.A.T.O. defence forces.
He will recollect, of course, that in a White Paper issued by the Government in March of this year, Command 8492, it was stated on page 4 that:On the basis of the recommendations of the Temporary Council Committee, the Council took decisions to provide for the earliest build-up of balanced collective forces to meet the requirements of external security within the capabilities of member countries.The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) expressed his scepticism about the outcome of the Lisbon Conference. Hon. Members will know that after that Conference a communiqué was issued which envisaged something like 50 divisions within a certain time being placed at the disposal of N.A.T.O. It is true that later on that was qualified to the extent that 25 of those were reserve divisions. I wonder whether today we are anywhere near the standard which was set at that Conference.
Last night I looked in, if that is the correct expression, at a television programme in which a distinguished representative of an American university was trying to evaluate the situation which would arise as the result of the election of General Eisenhower as President of the American Republic. He was not very 385 definite, but from what he said I gather that his outlook was very pessimistic. He pointed to what had been said in Congress or in the Senate by supporters of General Eisenhower as to their attitude towards Europe and, in particular, towards a European defence force.
He went on to say, amongst other things, that it was on record that prominent supporters of the President-Elect of America had stated quite definitely that they would withdraw American troops from Europe. If that policy were followed, then the whole balance of forces such as was forecast at the Lisbon Conference would fall to the ground and this country, in particular, would be in a very serious position, because it is quite obvious that whatever efforts we make in the way of re-armament there is a limit to what our contribution can be. We have reached a certain stage in our rearmament, and we have done it by great efforts and sacrifices. Amongst the sacrifices that have been entailed has been a continuing and increasing demand on our young people by virtue of the National Service Acts, the last of which, incidentally, I helped to introduce into this House in 1947.
Perhaps I ought to preface my remarks by explaining to the House what my attitude has been in the past and what it still is towards National Service. I have never disguised from the House, whenever I have spoken before, during or after the war, my aversion to conscription. I do not like it. It dates back to my own early days in the 1914–18 war when I, with hundreds of thousands of other young people, recognised our duty and offered ourselves for service in the Armed Forces.
I remember when conscription, or limited National Service, was introduced in 1916, and later on when it became more effective and we got some of those conscripts into the Army. There was a feeling amongst those who had volunteered that these conscripts were not such good fighting men as the earlier volunteers. I am not going to say that the views I held then have not been changed considerably. From our experience in the last war, it is obvious that National Service did produce amongst our young men fighting qualities such as were evinced by volunteers and others in the First World War.
386 Accordingly, when I recognised how serious the situation was before the war. I did not once vote against the Government of that day, albeit a Conservative Government, when they introduced the first Militia Act and succeeding Acts of Parliament. In that respect—I was out of step with my own party, many of whom could not realise the seriousness of the situation, which I am bound to say the Trades Union Congress had recognised long before, particularly at the Margate Conference. I only mention this to show, in relation to what I am going to say in a few moments, that I accept military National Service on two grounds: first that it is universally applied, and second that it is necessary. Nobody can deny today, even though there is no hot war except in certain parts of the world, that National Service is necessary.
I am not at all sure that this National Service, which incidentally a Labour Government was the first to introduce—in peacetime, thereby recognising our duty to the country—and it was not a popular decision by any means—is today being applied fairly or equitably or even effectively, I shall endeavour to give reasons why I think so.
When the post-war National Service Act was introduced—I myself took part as Secretary of State for War then—the reasons that I understood it was introduced were these. First, it would enable many of those National Service men, who had been fighting long years in the war and who were serving overseas, to get back to this country as quickly as possible as soon as their replacements could be sent out, because there was work to be done overseas even though the war had ended. Secondly, the reason then given by our military advisers was that it was necessary to build up large trained reserves.
I have said that I have never been enamoured of National Service as such, and while I was at the War Office I caused inquiries to be made into the possibilities of recruiting Regular Forces which I thought might enable us to dispense with National Service at some time. The House will remember that in that Measure a time limit was imposed, which I believe will come up for renewal or amendment in 18 months or so. I am speaking in this connection only about the Army. Somewhat similar problems apply to the Royal Air Force, but to a lesser 387 extent, I should imagine, to the Royal Navy. I gathered from the best military information that I could get that an Army of the size of 250,000 Regular troops, or at the most 300,000, would enable us to meet our commitments in different parts of the world and to dispense with National Service. That is as far as the Army is concerned.
I admit that the Secretary of State for War has done his best to recruit those Regular forces and has met with a good deal of success. I hope it continues. But, of course, he and the whole House recognise that there are forces militating against the recruitment of a large number of Regular troops because at the present time, to a large extent, we have full employment. It is admitted by those who have studied these matters that in the old days the most powerful recruiting sergeant for the Army was unemployment. Of course, we do not want that situation to recur. Nevertheless, although we have today a period of two years National Service, military authorities go so far as to say that it is not sufficient in peacetime, at any rate, to produce the fully-trained soldier, particularly in the mechanised parts of the Services.
The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) today referred to something that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has said on the question of the length of National Service and what it should be. My right hon. Friend is constantly making what are called challenging statements, and no doubt later on in this debate he will give us his reasons for some of those statements that he has made in relation to the period of military service. He may be right; I do not know. He may have information which will convince hon. Members. I am quite certain that hon. Members are ready to be convinced that he is right, if it is not likely to endanger the security of this country.
I am quite certain in my own mind that, although it is not a live issue today, it is constantly in the minds of the parents of these young men who are being called up for military service. I know also, and so do hon. Members opposite, that although the morale of the troops is good, there is constantly amongst them an expression of the feeling, as they put it, "Roll on the day when I can get back to civilian life." That is understandable.
388 Conditions in Service life are certainly much more arduous than they are in civilian life; and, of course, by the very nature of things, their life is much more restricted in the Services than it is at home in civilian life and employment.
It is said that it would be easy enough to reduce the period of National Service if we could only reduce our commitments abroad. It is not for me to express any opinion on that, but just glancing around the world as the Foreign Secretary has done today, I should have thought that our commitments are increasing and are likely to continue to increase. We have France—through the mouths of responsible politicians—suggesting that she cannot for long carry on the burden of the war in Indo-China without the aid of America, not only in weapons of war but in manpower.
We are considerably committed in Malaya, although we hope that the methods being adopted there will be successful. So far as General Templer expresses his opinion, it looks as if it may be possible to release certain British forces from Malaya at not too distant a date. But I do not object to our forces being trained overseas. Some people think that we have too many overseas, but it does not matter to me whether they are trained at home or abroad. Indeed, in some respects I think that they are better trained abroad.
In Germany, for example, there are training grounds and facilities far better than any we have here, where we have to plough up and till every acre of the soil that we possibly can in order to grow food to meet the requirements of our 50 million people. In Germany alone, apart from the strategic necessity of keeping considerable forces there, I say that the troops are getting better training, perhaps under better circumstances, than they would be likely to get in the restricted areas available to them here.
I do not know the answer to the question of the period of military service. I shall look forward with keen interest to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington has to say later on. He has been Minister of Defence and may have information to place before us which may help towards a solution. I am quite sure that the Government would not wish to carry on National Service any longer than is absolutely necessary. It is hardly 389 a popular piece of political propaganda, and neither side of the House has so far used conscription or National Service as a political weapon with which to attack its opponents.
I suggest that if Her Majesty's Government are going to get the willing and consistent support of large numbers of people who are not of their political persuasion, and of hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the House, they must give us sufficient evidence on which to base our judgment whether two years or a lesser period is right. This matter will come prominently before the House when the National Service Acts have to be reconsidered. It might be a good plan if a Select Committee of this House were set up to investigate this matter from the point of view of the requirements of defence forces at home and overseas, and also the best and most economic means of supplying the manpower.
It is a remarkable thing that two of the most powerful Select Committees of this House deal with national expenditure and Estimates, and they are constantly investigating the pounds, shillings and pence side of our national budget. But there is no Parliamentary committee which deals exclusively with manpower in the way I have suggested. My opinion is that a committee or an inquiry of that kind is necessary. It is not simply a question of the military forces, which the House discuss every year when the Service Estimates are introduced.
Part of the complete system of defence, at any rate at home, comprises the semi-military forces or the civil forces—the Home Guard, the Z Reserve, which is called up every year now, or so it seems, and Civil Defence. When one examines the figures of recruiting for the Home Guard and Civil Defence one is bound to come to the conclusion that in that part of defence—and one cannot isolate defence in Britain into watertight compartments consisting of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force—something has gone sadly askew.
When the Government introduced the Home Guard Bill many of my hon. Friends criticised it most severely and said that it was entirely unnecessary. I did not entirely agree with that point of view but if the Government cannot do better in its recruiting for the Home 390 Guard, it had better have second thoughts and perhaps drop the idea. If it is a necessary part of our defence, it is certainly not working satisfactorily, and for that reason alone, if the Government wants our co-operation on a matter like this—and I think it should have our co-operation—it will be well advised to give us more information, which, from the point of view of public interest, could probably be better done by means of a Select Committee, without prejudice to security.
That is the only subject with which I wish to deal tonight, although it is part of a much wider and larger subject, to which I have no doubt my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington will refer in his speech later on. I bring it before the House not only in all sincerity but in all responsibility. If this matter once becomes a shuttlecock between the parties, it will be a great danger not only for one or other of the parties but for our country's security, in which we are all concerned.
Whilst he is in America, I hope that it will be possible for the Foreign Secretary to meet the President Elect. It is very necessary for Her Majesty's Government to be informed of the general outlines of the policy which the new Government in America is likely to follow in the matter of defence, not only in Europe but in other parts of the world. Although it is difficult to adduce reasons why Mr. Eisenhower was given such an overwhelming vote in the recent election, I have a suspicion that the American troops serving in Korea—and their casualties—had a profound effect on the result. That is probably why Mr. Eisenhower was advised to make it one of the issues of his campaign.
He has won the campaign and now has to say what is to be the future policy of America in relation to these issues which, so far, have been settled on a mutually satisfactory basis between the U.S.A. and ourselves. When the Foreign Secretary returns, I hope that he will be able to tell us more about these matters than he has been able to do today.
I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will find it possible to give some facts and figures about the problems which I have set him as I can assure him that I have tried to carry on the debate as harmoni- 391 ously as it has so far been discussed, except perhaps for the exchange of shots between my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) and the Foreign Secretary.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
I am quite sure that nobody would accuse the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) of not being harmonious in his speech. I thought it was a forcible and constructive speech. I think every hon. Member will recognise the courageous attitude which the right hon. Gentleman adopted over National Service in March, 1939, when Hitler occupied Prague and the Bill about National Service was introduced into the House. He was in a very small minority of his own party, which made the action which he took all the more courageous.
Like the right hon. Gentleman, I am not enamoured of National Service as such. But I was surprised that, speaking with his experience, he should suggest that a Regular, voluntary Army of 250,000 would be sufficient to meet our overseas and home commitments at present. It was a pity that he had not time to develop the theme because it would have been of great interest to the House.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to recognise the difficulty of larger-scale Regular recruiting during this period of fairly full employment, and then to ask himself what commitments could be cut if the period of National Service were reduced. Here, again, he was unable to make any definite proposals about cuts which he would feel safe in making if he were responsible for making them. That was a very honest approach for him to adopt. He concluded on a questioning note with questions to his right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) about what is the right period for National Service.
May I try to amplify that a little? I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Easington has just left the Chamber. If I had noticed him leaving I would have tried to draw his attention to the fact that I wanted to put a number of questions to him which I hope he would be able to answer this evening. If the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), who is now on the Front 392 Bench, would pass on some of these points to his right hon. Friend, I should be grateful.
In a very constructive and non-party speech, the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) expressed himself as being anxious about the growth of the military strength of N.A.T.O. I am equally anxious about it. Like everyone else here, I am anxious to know whether N.A.T.O. will hit the targets which it has set itself. But I also believe that the party opposite should address themselves very carefully to the fact that it is not possible to square the anxiety of the right hon. Member for Derby, South about the strength of N.A.T.O. with the proposal of the right hon. Member for Easington that the period of National Service should be reduced from two years to 18 months. I am quite unable to square those two proposals, although both came from right hon. Gentlemen who are regarded as being in the majority section of the Labour Party.
As far as I know—and my figures are open to correction—a reduction in conscription from two years to 18 months would make a difference of something like 50,000 men in the Armed Forces, and by far the greatest part of the reduction would be in the Army. I do not know whether 50,000 in the Army would amount to two divisions, but it would probably be something like that. A division in the field is something like 15,000 men, but, speaking in round figures, it takes about 25,000 men altogether to maintain a division. It would therefore mean a reduction of at least two divisions in the Army. It would also mean that no National Service men could be sent to the Far East, because an 18 months' period is not sufficiently long to make it worth while sending them there. They would about have time to get their boots off before they turned round and came home again.
With the present strength of the Regular Army, a reduction in the period of conscription would place an unbearable strain on the Regular Army and would turn it into a wholly overseas Army, which in turn would have a grave effect on recruiting, as everybody knows. Furthermore, such a reduction would mean that far fewer men would sign on for the short service period of engagement—the three-year period—and that 393 would have a serious effect on the strength of the Army.
Another effect would be that the divisions which we are providing in Germany—I think there are five, including two armoured divisions—would be composed almost entirely of National Service men. I do not think anybody would want to see that. It would mean a considerable loss in National Service officers and trained N.C.O.s who can make a valuable contribution to the training of the Army. Everyone knows that it is in the last nine months of their two-year period that they are able to pay dividends to those who trained them.
All these things seem to me to be the kind of effects which would flow from an immediate reduction in the period of conscription from two years to 18 months. When the right hon. Member for Easington speaks, I hope he will address himself to these questions which I have put so that we on this side of the House may satisfy ourselves, and so that the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw may satisfy himself, that a reduction to 18 months is possible and that the suggestion of such a reduction is not irresponsible.
May I comment briefly on one or two points which have been made in the debate about the situation in the Far East? I was very forcibly struck by the difference between the approach of the right hon. Member for Derby, South and the admirable sentiments which he expressed about the situation in Korea, on the one hand, and the speeches of the hon. Members for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) and Maldon (Mr. Driberg). I am sorry that neither hon. Gentleman is in his place.
The contrast was glaring, for there was very little in common between the two speeches from the Left wing of the Labour Party and the balanced and admirable sentiments which we heard from the right hon. Gentleman. Several points made by the hon. Member for Maldon struck me as particularly unpleasant and unfair. He suggested, for example, that the United Nations negotiators at Panmunjom were deliberately stalling over the Armistice talks—those were his words. I do not think there is any evidence of any kind to show that to be the case, and certainly no evidence was produced to support his statement.
394 He went on to say something which thought even more unpleasant and unfair—and comment was made upon it by his hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney), who described the hon. Member for Maldon's description of the Americans as being "afraid of peace"—those were his words—as "poppycock." Perhaps I need not add to that comment.
The fact is that the United Nations' negotiators have bent over backwards in their efforts to get an armistice on honourable terms. They have done everything short of surrender, which is the one thing which the right hon. Member for Derby, South quite rightly said was unthinkable. By "surrender," I presume he meant surrender of all the principles for the support of which we went to Korea. We have leaned over backwards in our efforts to get an armistice, and I hope we shall continue to lean over backwards in our endeavours.
I should have liked to be able to make one quotation to the hon. Gentleman to whose speech I have referred to show the kind of attitude of mind that we are up against in the extremely difficult negotiations for an armistice. I was reading the "New China News Agency" of 25th June, and it said this:The Chinese Peace Committee gave the final figures of the army fund campaign as over 5,565 billion people's dollars—equivalent to the cost of 3,710 planes. This sum has been handed over to the headquarters of the Chinese volunteers in Korea.Here is one sentence from a peace poem specially written for the Peking Peace Conference:We love peace,And smash all our enemies into pieces.Very charming sentiments which we have to reckon with in the exceptionally difficult negotiations which are now being carried on in an effort to get an armistice in Korea.
Now I come to a question that has not yet been raised in the debate. It was only a day or two ago that a 32,000-word document was presented to the United Nations describing violations of the peace treaties signed by Bulgaria, Rumania, and Hungary. I have had an opportunity this morning of reading this extremely well-prepared document of evidence which is absolutely irrefutable to show the callous and cynical way the human rights clauses of those peace treaties are 395 being disregarded with Soviet connivance and support. I hope that in the near future part or all of this document, for the benefit of all hon. Members of this House, will be presented in the shape of a White Paper, because it does seem to me to be of the utmost importance that all of us here should be really well-informed about the situation in Eastern Europe. That would be an easy way of making this evidence, which has been so carefully assembled over a period of two years, available to the House.
§ Mr. Nutting
May I intervene to answer that? I certainly shall consider that. If it is too bulky to reproduce as a White Paper, we shall certainly lay it in the Library of the House.
§ Major Beamish
I am very grateful indeed to hear that.
Let me conclude with a few general remarks. I do feel very strongly indeed that this is not a time for complacency. It is perfectly true to say—I think everybody will agree with this—that the risk of war has not increased during the last two or three years. Some people, including many distinguished people in this country—and including the Prime Minister, for example—have said recently that they think the risk of war has definitely decreased. I do not happen to share that view. It may have decreased from a short term point of view, but the military preponderance of the Soviet Union and her satellites, and the military preponderance of the Chinese forces in the Far East, are still almost as great as ever in comparison with the military strength of the free countries.
I personally, therefore, look upon the present situation, which some people describe as being one of a decreased risk of war, as being only a period of lull which suits the purposes of the Kremlin. I regard Marshal Stalin's very important statement of a month or so ago as being designed specifically to try to lull the free countries into a false sense of security. I was, therefore, particularly glad to hear the Foreign Secretary say today that he regarded the growing strength and the unity of the free countries as a beginning, and something with which we must persevere. If the risk of war has decreased, it is due only to our own growing strength and our own growing unity, and that is something we must keep very much in our minds.
396 I have felt for quite a long time—I know that there are hon. Members on both sides of the House who share my view on this—that there is a growing need for a global strategy. Several speeches have drawn attention to that. There was a very remarkable speech, which I did not see reported in the British Press, made on 20th October in New York by Ambassador William Draper. There is a good deal of evidence that people like him are realising more and more the urgent need for a knitting together of the free countries of Western Europe and the Atlantic community in the economic field, in the political field and in the military field.
So far as the military field is concerned, nobody can possibly deny today that the whole strategy of defence in the cold war is a global strategy. Some years ago, for example, we provided Sweden with jet engines for some 200 or 300 jet aircraft. Probably it was a very good thing to do. The Swedes are a very tough, strong-minded, independent people. I am not criticising the decision, but what I am drawing attention to is the point that at that time those jet engines might have been much more useful to France, which had nothing but obsolete aircraft in Indo-China. Nobody really seems to have weighed in the balance the merits between providing those jet engines for the French to use in Indo-China and providing them for Sweden. If that question had been weighed in the balance, the decision might have been a different one.
Only this morning I was told that jet aircraft of the Meteor type—I am not quite sure of the mark—are shortly to be provided for Brazil. Is that more important than the provision of those aircraft, for example, to some of the N.A.T.O. countries, even though they may be an obsolescent type? I do not know. I am drawing attention to the fact that every problem that faces us—for example, the Persian problem—is related to all the other problems. All these problems are connected. Nobody can possibly tell me that, considered in the world context, we can possibly divorce the situation in Persia from the Middle East Command. It is part and parcel of the same problem.
Part also of this military question is the question of psychological warfare. I think that the time has come when urgent attention should be given to the question 397 of the co-ordination of the efforts of the free countries in the field of psychological warfare. Let us consider the kind of advantages that there would be. There would be far greater success in overcoming the efforts of the Communist countries to jam our broadcasts. The best way of overcoming jamming is for the free countries to relay each other's programmes and broadcast all round the clock. The B.B.C. has a first-class monitory service; why cannot this be shared with Radiodiffusion Francais, the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and others?
All these things, surely, ought to be on a global level. Our strategy should be a global one. The Foreign Secretary today drew attention to economic matters and to—perhaps, the most important aspect of the economic problem—the gap between the dollar world and the non-dollar world, and he showed clearly realisation of the fact that this is a world problem which can be solved only in a world context. The question of East-West trade requires a new approach by the free countries. That must be on a global basis as well. There is Point 4 and the Colombo Plan, and there are the United Nations technical agencies all doing similar work in similar fields. Co-ordination of that kind of work on a global strategical level is something long overdue.
I come to a comparatively minor but still an important point, the question of refugees. All over the world there are literally millions of people who are refugees from their own countries. There are large numbers of refugees in South Korea. In the Middle East there are some 800,000 Arab refugees, in Turkey 250,000 Bulgarians who have come across the border, and in Western Europe 300,000 refugees not of German or Austrian origin.
There again, I cannot help feeling that no one can say there has been no overlapping. The Council of Europe is interested in this problem of refugees and of migration and the Brussels Conference has been set up as a new and important body, with which Her Majesty's Government are not fully associated. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is doing useful work, although hampered by lack of funds. Nevertheless, there is a definite case for the problem to be considered as a whole, so that priorities may be properly determined.
398 I conclude by saying that I should be very glad to have an assurance, if an assurance can be given, that this vast problem will be the subject of discussion in Washington when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is there. I have no doubt that it will, because he has expressed views on this very important matter on numerous occasions in the past. The setting up of the proper machinery to deal with these questions on a world basis is of imperative urgency. I wish my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary good luck in tackling the complex of tangled problems facing him and in his efforts to preserve an honourable peace.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) was referring, I thought with some point, to the desirability of co-ordination among the various friendly nations, who are commonly spoken of as comprising the Western World, in their efforts upon the ideological front in propaganda, information, and so forth.
There is a great deal to be said for that, but would not the hon. and gallant Gentleman consider whether co-ordination, like Charity, does not begin at home, and that we cannot co-ordinate services if we cut them out of existence? His case would be very much stronger if his own Government had not been cutting down extremely vital services which reached all over the world, and which only recently have been curtailed on the ground of economy, with very poor economic results, judged by their efficiency, so to speak, the amount of money put in and the amount of result got out.
§ Major Beamish
Twelve months ago I criticised Her Majesty's Government on this matter. I welcome the fact that there is now a very high-powered and distinguished body appointed to look into the whole question of the oversea information services.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
Then I am all the more pleased at what I heard from the hon. and gallant Gentleman originally. It shows that there are people on the Government side of the House who see that if we attempt to cut down the expenditure—which was modest enough, in all conscience—involved in putting the British case across overseas, there is a real danger.
399 The hon. and gallant Gentlemen spoke of the recession of the danger of war. Maybe he is right; but I never thought that war in one sense was imminent. I do not now think, and I never did, that there was anything which could be described as a probability of an all-out Russian military attack upon the West. We all know that the condition of nerves at the present time is such that, without anybody making an all-out frontal attack, there might be an outbreak, as it were, by spontaneous combustion. It is obvious, if we think on those lines, that we all want the strongest possible defence against attack from the East. As I understand the position, the highest military authorities are unanimous in saying that, failing some sort of help from the Germans it will not be possible to defend Western Europe without the greatest difficulty.
Therefore, I accept completely the desirability of having the help of the Germans in the defence of Western Europe. The only questions remaining to be decided, to my way of thinking, are those of the terms upon which we shall have that help. Surely it is not more unreasonable to ask for help upon terms than it is to give help upon terms. What matters is that the terms be just and fair. The fact that the terms vary between us and one nation and between us and another nation does not, by itself, mean that we are putting one of those nations in a position of inequality with regard to the other. What matters is that in both cases the terms should be just.
I am certainly not one of those who believe that all Germans are automatically bad and incapable of being made into good European citizens or citizens of the world. I do not profess to know how many Germans there are who are genuinely sorry for the excesses of the Hitler regime. Although the Germans have shown a very strong propensity in the past for following extremely bad leads, I believe there are new tendencies in Germany at the present time for which we in the Western World should be devoutly thankful and which we should be mad not to try to direct toward the building of a peaceful world. Illustrative, and only illustrative, of these tendencies is the one of which we have heard so much for a long time, the 400 "Ohne mich" attitude of the Germans. That seems to be something very new in their outlook. It is not an attitude of a people meekly flocking after the drums of their leaders.
These new tendencies are by no means confined to those who say, "Count me out." There is in Germany, so far as I can see, a very large and stable trade union element, in addition to the people who hold the "Count me out" philosophy. I say frankly that I have never been to their country, but I have read what I can about it and have spoken to people who have been there in an attempt to know what is going on. Their neutralism, which I accept as a fact, is due in the main to the fact that they think that if German militarism is revived it will be controlled by the old guard, it will have the old policy of aggression and the old aim of domination. If it be true, that is something of extreme significance.
My complaint against the Western World, if I may put it in that rather impertinent way, is that virtually nothing has been done to appeal to that enormous section of the German people who hold that sort of view. Indeed, they may be in a preponderance. Nearly everything that has been done so far has been of a character which is only too likely to hand this enormous section of the German people bound hand and foot over to their former oppressors—the men, in fact, who led them twice within a generation to disaster and dragged the greater part of the world after them.
What an opportunity it is to the West to build something new by appealing to the imagination of that part of the German people whose thoughts are running upon these lines. If we could co-operate with them in building up the defence of our common civilisation, when the habit of co-operation has been formed, and when the danger is past, might not that co-operation be carried over into the peace so that the bricks used for the building of defences might in the future be used for the building of the establishments of peace?
Since I have criticised somewhat harshly what has been done with regard to Germany, how are we to achieve the end which I admit must be achieved: the end of winning the help of Germans without running that mortal danger of 401 reviving German militarism? We all know of the E.D.C. provisions which have been mentioned several times this evening and to which we gave our approval in the last Parliament. They are ostensibly designed to achieve just this end: but will they?
Will they be ratified by Paris and Bonn? I cannot speak for Bonn, but with regard to Paris there is the gravest doubt as to whether they will be ratified. If they are ratified by Paris and Bonn, they can only lead to the complete domination of the Community by Germany. I have no authority to speak for French Socialists, but recently in Paris I had the chance of speaking with many of them. The view seemed to be strongly held that, because of this danger of domination, they would not consider ratifying the E.D.C. treaty unless we were in it. I thought that was a rather pathetic looking to us. From circles more to the right in French politics, the view was expressed with even more vehemence that no ratification would be considered unless there was a hard and fast agreement on the internationalisation of the Saar.
My own view is that even if we were fully in E.D.C. the Community would still be incapable of containing the vast potential German power. Therefore, I want to make a suggestion to the House which some hon. Members may think is coming a bit late, or out of place, having regard to the fact that we have already ratified the Bonn Agreements, linked as they are with the E.D.C. My suggestion is that we of the Western World should persuade Western German to allow us to recruit Germans either for the E.D.C. or for the wider N.A.T.O. community. These recruits, trained in that N.A.T.O. or E.D.C. atmosphere by Western officers, should be trained to the pitch whereby, at the soonest possible opportunity, officers should be selected from their ranks to lead the German contingents which are to be contributed either to the E.D.C. of to the wider and, in my opinion, much more useful N.A.T.O. community.
I know there is the strong possibility that all the forces of nationalism would be turned against this proposal on the ground that it appears to be putting Germany on a lower level than other States. 1 submit, however, that we should appeal 402 to that vast mass of German opinion to which I have referred, and obtain their approval for this scheme on the ground that it is the quickest possible means of obtaining German contingents led by German officers who they themselves can trust. If we were to proceed upon that line we might succeed in persuading the Germans to accept that scheme. They themselves could then trust those German contingents: they would strike no fear into the peoples of Western Europe, and they would evoke no dread of German revenge in the minds of those inhabitants of the satellite countries who are at present subject to so much fear upon that score.
I do not suppose that we could detach the satellite countries from the grip of the Kremlin, but there is one line of action we could take in the West which would throw them to a man into the rather capacious bosom of the man of the Kremlin. If we were to allow, or connive at, a recrudescence of the old-fashioned German militarism in alliance with ourselves, it would be a tragedy of the first order. If, on the other hand, we could remove that fear of German revenge which at present is so real in the minds of the satellite countries, and for good reason, then might there not be fifth columns in all those countries which, for that reason alone, would make it impossible for Russia to embark upon any large-scale military adventure?
The present proposal of E.D.C. is that a German Government shall raise units up to division level and that these shall be integrated into E.D.C. I am not a military man maybe I do not understand the full flavour of the word "integration" in this connection. But I believe a division is commanded by a general: so right at the start, there will be all the gamut of officers from lieutenant up to general raised by the German Government itself. And since Germany has no officers at present, these can only be obtained from among the ex-officers, Prussian trained, or Nazi trained.
And through what agency will the contingents be raised? Contingents of that sort can only be raised by what will be in fact, even if it is not in name, a German general staff. That is not only my opinion, it is also the opinion, to quote but one authority, of "Scrutator" in one of the two most important Conservative 403 Sunday papers. He makes it absolutely plain that, no matter what it may be called, it will in fact be a German general staff which will have to raise this contingent for a German Government.
How the existence of a German general staff, in fact even if not in name, can possibly encourage all the countries of the West from Norway through Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France to Italy; or how the presence of the old bad type of German officer strutting about in Versailles can be said to give a fillip to French morale, passes my comprehension. My submission is that these two things will paralyse the West: and that is their danger. I do not spurn German help: on the contrary, I want it, on fair terms. But just as many people in Germany dread the return of the old guard to power, so do I. I fear that the present conditions of E.D.C. will ensure just that.
Although we and the United States have ratified the Bonn Agreements linked with the E.D.C., it does not follow that these things will come to be. Paris and Bonn have still to give their word, and they may not give it. If they do not, all these matters will be thrown once more into the melting pot, and very soon. That is why I have stated these proposals now, even though they might seem to be a little out of date having regard to our previous ratification.
If, however, Paris and Bonn do ratify, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will straightaway bend all their efforts to lifting E.D.C. bodily into N.A.T.O., for there at least, with the counter-balancing power of the United States, Canada and ourselves, there might be some hope of keeping in check the bad elements of the old Germany who are bound to come back under the present proposals. Then at last, and only then, it seems to me, is there any real chance of looking forward to a Europe which can be both peaceful and safe for progress.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. E. H. C. Leather (Somerset, North)
As is inevitable in a broad general debate of this kind, previous speakers have covered a vast range from one pole to another and from one side of the globe to another. I trust, therefore, that I may be forgiven for changing the subject yet again and that the hon. and 404 learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)will not consider it discourteous of me if I do not follow him in his very interesting thoughts on the European Defence Community.
In so far as I am aware of the facts that the hon. and learned Member was talking about, I agree with him. Speaking purely for myself, I have never been able to understand why it is, or was at any time, impossible for us to join in the European Defence Community; why it was impossible for us to make the necessary safeguards and limitations and still give ourselves the freedom that we needed in other parts of the world.
Several previous speakers today, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby), have referred to the great influence which our participation would have, particularly on the French, and I associate myself with that. I wish, however, to make the responsibility of the Foreign Secretary complete. He has been asked at various times in the debate about almost every part of the world except one. Therefore, perhaps there is no harm if I now refer to the one part that has not been mentioned, and my right hon. Friend can then roam at leisure over the whole globe in his thoughts after the debate.
I wish to speak briefly about those parts of the Gracious Speech which refer particularly to the United States and to Latin America. The paragraph which says that:Active measures will be taken to strengthen the long-standing ties of friendship and of mutual trade between the United Kingdom and the countries of Latin-America.came as a very pleasant surprise to many of us who have been grappling with this difficulty for many months. I was disappointed that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade did not go into it in more detail yesterday. It may well be that the proposals which the Government are working out, and which concern particularly my hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary for Overseas Trade, who has just returned, are in a somewhat early stage.
There are many of us who are concerned with the relationships of this country with North and South America, and with all that that means to trade factors and to the economic position of this country, which is, the Gracious 405 Speech acknowledges, the sine qua non of our defence position. We cannot have a strong defence policy or strong foreign policy unless we keep the country economically sound. These things have been causing immense concern to all of us in the last few months.
I refer first, therefore, to the economic conference which is to take place between the Finance Ministers who are about to come from various parts of the Commonwealth. Certain references were made in the debate yesterday urging Her Majesty's Ministers to scrap the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. I am a great disappointment to my fellow imperialists in this respect. I do not regard Imperial Preference as the Ark of the Covenant. I think it would be a great tragedy for the present Government to scrap the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. I do not say that it might not be capable of considerable improvement, and there might be many things that could be done to help it, but it would be a disastrous step at the present time to scrap it and I do not think it would answer the problem.
Some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House talk a lot about Imperial Preference, but as far as the rest of the Commonwealth is concerned it is a dead letter and it is foolish to kid ourselves that it is not. Canadians and South Africans are not the least bit interested. The Australians and New Zealanders have always professed interest, but at the moment they are restricting our imports because they do not have enough sterling. It is nothing to do with tariffs. Whether the tariffs or preference on our goods into Australia and New Zealand were 5 per cent. or 100 per cent. at the moment does not make any difference. They have not the pounds sterling with which to buy the goods, and imports of our goods are restricted. The same applies to Pakistan and may well apply very soon to Ceylon.
It is all very nice to say that we are terrified, and I know that Members from Lancashire on both sides are very worried and distressed about Japanese competition in textiles in India. It would be very nice if Mr. Nehru would agree to give us a preference and to put up the tariffs against Japanese textiles, but I cannot conceive of any reason why he should do so. What earthly use is there in asking the Indians deliberately to put up the cost 406 of living to every person in their country to please our friends in Lancashire? It is a delightful idea, but I cannot for one moment conceive that they would do it.
What we ought to discuss with the Dominions is positive and definite plans and steps to expand our trade with the whole of the Western hemisphere. I believe there are things that could definitely be done in both North and South America which, I do not say would create miracles, but would make our balance of payments position a great deal easier than in the past, which would provide us with raw materials and resources and would thereby help to stabilise our economy on a high level. Re-armament, exports, dealing with the Communists and all these other things, would be made that much easier if we were in that position, and I should like in the few minutes at my disposal to put one or two suggestions to my hon. and gallant Friend arising, first, out of the paragraph in the Gracious Speech which refers to Latin America.
Our trade with Latin America has been going down and down every year since the war. The total trade of Latin America has been expanding tremendously, but our share of it has been getting increasingly small. It behoves us to ask ourselves what is the reason. It seems to me on a study of this thing—I profess to having some knowledge of it—that there are two perfectly clear reasons.
Trade is a two-way thing. The reasons our trade with South American countries, and particularly Brazil, is going down is that they have not any sterling to buy from us. Trade with Brazil has come almost to a full stop. As one manufacturer says, "What is the good of telling us that we must export more? We cannot export to Brazil and some other South American countries at all because they have no sterling."
The reason they have no sterling is that we do not buy anything from them. As far as I am aware, we are the only major industrial country which has done nothing to try to step up, not its exports to South America, but its imports from South America. If we want those countries to buy more from us, we must do something about buying more from them in order to provide them with the sterling. They are in exactly the same position vis-à-vis ourselves as we are vis-à-vis the United States.
407 With the sole exception of meat, the purchase of which from the Argentine both parties have tried with varying degrees of unsuccess to stimulate, I do not believe that any step has been taken by any group of politicians or businessmen in this country since the war to step up our purchases from South America. If something were done along these lines, they would have the currency and we could ship more to them. In that vast sub-continent, with its wealth of raw materials of many things which we need, I just cannot believe that we have got to the stage when there is nothing left that we can buy from them and that therefore we have to sit back and watch our trade just disappear.
A Mission is going out, to which the President of the Board of Trade referred yesterday, led by some very distinguished businessmen, but, if I understood my right hon. Friend aright, all that was going to do was to see what more we could export. I repeat to my right hon. Friend that we have got to the stage where, unless we scratch our heads as the Germans and Americans have been doing for the past few years to see what more we can buy from them, they will say that they have no currency with which to buy from us.
The second reason I think our share of the trade has been declining lies at the door of the Treasury. I regret that there is no representative of the Treasury on the Front Bench, but no doubt the Parliamentary-Secretary to the Ministry of Defence will listen courteously to what I have to say and pass it on to the Treasury. The Treasury have two very definite scores to answer. The first is the restrictions they lay on credit terms, and the second is taxes. In the United States, in particular, the tax system is definitely adjusted in very important and material ways to encourage people to invest in and export to South America. We have no such system in this country.
The question of credit terms is of tremendous importance, but we have been very restricted. In his speech yesterday the Presiden of the Board of Trade said that the Foreign Exchange Control Committee, which means the Treasury, the Board of Trade, the Bank of England and several other Departments, were taking a slightly more lenient view and he added: 408As the House knows, we examine each case upon its merits and look sympathetically upon requests for the extension of credit, particularly where important capital goods exports might otherwise be lost."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1952; Vol. 507. c. 174.]But that is not good enough. The system is not working. It is no good the President of the Board of Trade telling us that they are quite prepared to consider each case on its merits, because it does not work in that way. I can give, and in the past I have given, my hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary for Overseas Trade numerous cases. I had a case only a few days ago in which the authorities said, "We will see if we can get you terms which are more favourable," but by the time that was done the job had been lost, and we shall never be able to get it again.
Unless the Treasury are prepared to take a more lenient view, although I fully realise the difficulties of balance of payments and all the rest, they must accept the inevitable corollary that our trade with the South American countries will continue to go downhill. Unless they are prepared to look sympathetically at the type of tax incentives used in other countries—the United States is a classic example and there are others in Germany, Holland, Belgium and Italy—and unless they are prepared to consider these things as they have never been prepared to do before, our relations with South America will continue to deteriorate.
In my view, the old pattern of export trade is drying up. Many of these countries are becoming highly industrialised. If we try to go on pumping out exports in the 19th century fashion from factories in this country, we shall come to a dead end. These countries, particularly in South America, are becoming highly industrialised, and are no longer prepared to sit back and take textiles from Lancashire; they want to make them for themselves.
The only way in which we can participate is not by shipping the goods but shipping the machinery and the technical know-how. Other countries are investing tremendously heavily in the South American States and are pouring in hundreds of millions of dollars and building assembly plants, technical depots, shops, stores and all kinds of things. Unless we are prepared to do the same, which means unless the Government are prepared to 409 allow our traders to do the same, the time is rapidly approaching when our trade, and hence relations with these countries, will come to an end, for the old tag, "Trade follows the flag" is perfectly true. Our relations with the Argentine and Brazil are very strained indeed, largely because of the restriction of trade.
A moment ago I referred to the Mission which is to go to these countries, and now I wish to make this criticism of industry. I have made one or two criticisms of the Board of Trade and the Treasury, but I dispense my criticisms with a feeling for fair shares all round, and I believe that industry also has its share of the blame. I think it fundamentally wrong that every time anyone has a puzzle or problem he should rush to the Board of Trade to see what they say. I think it quite wrong that the Board of Trade should have to stimulate the country's industry to put its problems right.
Lancashire is a very good case in point. I had some figures looked up the other day and found that the textile consumption in the South American countries is almost exactly what it was pre-war, whereas nearly everywhere else in the world it has gone up tremendously since pre-war. What a golden opportunity to be exploited by this country's textile manufacturers. Why do not they send a trade mission to stimulate textile sales in South America, which I think is much more important than always coming to the Government and asking for help? If that were done, it would make a considerable improvement in the balance of payments and hence in the whole economic position of the country.
§ The Secretary for Overseas Trade (Mr. H. R. Mackeson)
I have listened with great attention to my hon. Friend, but perhaps he will allow me to point out that he has not drawn a differentiation, which I know he would wish to draw, between the dollar and soft currency deficit countries of Brazil and the Argentine, because they are two very different problems.
§ Mr. Leather
I entirely accept that, with the very important proviso that those soft currency countries also happen to be the producers of vast quantities of raw materials which we can use, and we have made very little attempt to buy them from them. If we try to stimulate both ends of the process instead of only one end, 410 they would cease to be deficit countries. I appreciate that there is that distinction.
I turn to the question of the United States. I have recently come back from the United States, which is one of the few subjects about which I profess to know a lot. I would strongly endorse the view put by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) and, I believe, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). This insidious idea that is propagated in certain quarters of the House that the Americans are steaming up the war in Korea and are terrified that peace might break out because their whole economy would break down is "poppycock."
I did not see a whit of evidence in the-United States of that. I talked to trade union leaders, heads of industry, bankers, Government officials, and all kinds of people but did not meet one person who was afraid of peace breaking out in Korea. Industrialists all said that it would mean a big sorting out and reorientation and I said, "Does that mean unemployment and slump? "They said, "No." And I see no reason to predict a slump, and no person in the United States is predicting a slump. I believe' they are passionately longing for peace in Korea, as the result of the Presidential Election points out so clearly to us.
The point I want to make particularly to the Secretary for Overseas Trade relates to our trade with the United States. If I understand the President of the Board of Trade and the Chancellor of the Exchequer correctly, the biggest single economic difficulty in our balance of payments which we are facing at present is American tariffs, the Buy American Acts and all the general import policy of the United States of America. If we could step up our sales to them by several hundred millions more, despite the tariffs and Buy American Acts and so on, it would make a world of difference to our whole foreign exchange position.
I believe there is an opportunity to do that. I believe that for the first time in many years we are presented with a golden opportunity, if we play our cards right, to crack the American tariff problem in a way which would have a most tremendous benefit to this country and hence of all that this country is trying to do. I do not believe that the way, as 411 some of my hon. Friends suggest, is to scrap G.A.T.T. and put up preferences. I think that is running round in ever smaller circles. It would certainly not help us in the United States.
Nor do I think it would be the slightest good trying to get the Americans to put up, as has been suggested in some quarters, a vast sum of dollars to finance a stabilisation fund. What such a fund is to do I have yet to discover. It seems to me that it would mean that, instead of getting into debt with the American taxpayer direct, we should be encouraged to get into debt to the stabilisation fund, which would simply be the American taxpayer once removed. I cannot see that that would solve our problem.
We can, however, capitalise the immense good will which exists at present in the United States on this tariff question. It is a question of industry, not of politics. In the American system, the people responsible for controlling tariffs are not the people to whom our Ambassador in Washington or delegates in New York talk. They are in other places such as Pittsburg, Detroit, Los Angeles—the big industrial centres. I do not believe that any Government of this country has made any attempt to get our case across to those people.
I and hon. Members on both sides of the House have spoken there, but nothing has ever been done authoritatively or on a high level by someone that those people will take as speaking for the British Government. I think that could be done and I suggest four specific steps, a line of tactics, that I think could crack this problem. We know we have the good will of the new President. He has said publicly that he agrees with the idea that a great creditor country must import and cannot live behind these restrictive walls. He has said it many times.
There are many elements of public opinion in the United States, the unorganised vast amorphous mass of people, who agree. The lobbies that bring pressure to hear on Congress do not agree. They are the people whose opposition we have to crack. If we can crack their opposition, I believe that the new President will have power to alter the tariff policy of his country, which is of great importance to us.
412 The first thing we must do is to talk to the industrialists. It should be perfectly simple to get hold of a large number of industrialists in this country and get them to go to the United States, in their private capacity, not to stay in the Waldorf in New York, as so many do, but to go out and talk to their counterparts and give them a specific idea of what it would mean to them if they lowered their tariffs. Those in America of whom I am speaking have a fantastically exaggerated view of the menace. I was told by manufacturers that because we could under-price them on one contract by 20 or 25 per cent., we would be in a position to under-sell them on the whole range of their markets. That is not within the industrial capacity of this country to do.
We can only have a very small part to play in the United States market. While it might be perfectly true that we may be in a position to under-sell by 25 or 30 per cent. on certain items, we have only the industrial capacity to do that over about 5 per cent. of their whole market. The view that we should be in a position to put some of these large corporations out of business just is not true, and they should be told that by their own opposite numbers from this country. I think that with a little tact and skill the Government could easily organise that.
My second point brings me to the economic conference which is to take place. We can make much more use there of our friends in Canada. The Canadians are far more vitriolic about American tariff policy than we are. They have suffered more than we have. With the sole exception of the action of the late Sir Stafford Cripps in 1949, no attempt has been made to utilise Canadian help on this problem.
Thirdly, there is a large number of organisations in the United States, of which the Foreign Trade Council is only one, which are already tremendously sympathetic to our point of view and would welcome some stimulation from an authoritative source in this country. It would have to be done very carefully and tactfully. We must be careful not to interfere in somebody else's business, but there is a large body in the United States which sees the problem from the point of view of their own self-interest and has come to the same conclusion as we have. I sug- 413 gest that some attempt could be made to make use of those bodies.
Lastly, there is the prospective visit which it is said the Prime Minister may possibly make to the United States some time next year. If he does, I hope and pray that he will make an attempt to talk to some industrialists. By that I mean people in the industrial centres, the workers, the vice-presidents of corporations and business people, and not merely with politicians.
We are relatively happy in this country in that our business community are comparatively polite about politicians compared with what happens in the United States, where there seems to be a definite rift between the business community and their politicians. When our views are passed on second-hand by the politicians, they lose half their force. If the Prime Minister would go and put our case—a platform could easily be arranged—to the American people outside the political chained circles in Washington. I believe that he could achieve a great deal.
I make no apology for raising this subject during the debate on the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech, because the speech refers to these matters. It refers to our trade with the United States and Latin America. I am sure that is fundamental to everything which this Government are trying to do. The Chancellor said, from the moment he took office, that the balance of payments had to be put right. On that everything else depends—re-armament, exports, the standard of living, full employment; all these depend on putting that right.
I believe that the few suggestions I have put to my hon. and gallant Friend could make some definite contribution if we took action now along those lines. That would be a contribution which would help to carry out not merely the programme of legislation but all that the Gracious Speech implies in its reference to trying to maintain the speech, prestige and living standards of our people.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
The House has listened, as always, with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather). I was very pleased indeed that he finalised his remarks by saying that the Prime Minister has now given priority to the balance of 414 payments problem; consequently the whole question of defence and the strengthening of arms must of necessity come second, despite the political arpeggios we have heard from hon. Members opposite.
The hon. Gentleman said that some of us are anti-American, but that is a complete caricature of the criticisms made from this side of the House on many occasions. Many of us have had the privilege of being in the United States where we have lectured and enjoyed the hospitality of that great and generous people. But the hon. Gentleman knows, and he can find out if he looks in the documents in the Library, that there are statements in Wall Street journals, one of which, only last March, was talking of the fear of what would happen to the industrial system inside the United States—I will not use the phrase, "if peace breaks out" because that has a smear over it—if the Korean war stopped.
I say emphatically that while the United States hates war as much as any nation in the world, in this situation they also fear the consequences of a stop to the Korean war.
§ Mr. Davies
I will give way in a moment if the hon. Member wishes, as I see he shakes his head.
They fear the consequences of a stop and of coping with the transition they may have to meet in that situation. I agree that if this great protagonist of private enterprise is prepared to use a system of national planning, which is moving towards some of the ideas of Socialism advocated from this side of the House, they could in a peace situation fully prevent unemployment. In other words, in the world today, despite the cheap political propaganda during election times, both sides of this House are realising that a modicum of intelligent planning in industry, finance and international investment is absolutely necessary.
§ Mr. Leather
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way, and I entirely agree with his last statement. I would simply say, having travelled 15,000 miles in the United States, that I did not meet one person, either bigoted trade union leader or most backward and reactionary bank president, who feared the consequences of a slump. On the point of 415 being able to prevent a slump by economic control, the fact is that if we call economic industrial control Socialism, then the Americans are just as much Socialist as the party opposite.
§ Mr. Davies
I do not wish to be drawn any deeper into the cut and thrust of the debate on that point, but I am pleased that we have found a point of common agreement.
I want to say a word about the fundamental economic facts in relation to our foreign policy and our defence situation, since we are now supposed to be dealing with defence. I think it is agreed, indeed the hon. Member for Somerset, North has just made the argument in a different way, that a structural change is needed in the pattern of British exports. If I may give an elementary example, whereas we may make a lot selling sledge hammers abroad, if we could sell the equivalent in razor blades we would get more money per unit of steel exported. For a long time we on this side of the House have been putting forward that theory.
If the party opposite now agree that a structural change is needed in our economic policy at home and in the pattern of our exports, then I argue that that is also true of our foreign policy. In a shrinking world, in a world so small, to talk in terms of the balance of power and, quite frankly, to hitch a pantechnicon to the planet of N.A.T.O. and E.D.C. at this present moment to defend Europe, and to forget the terriffic and volcanic changes taking place in Asia, is for this country to bury its head completely in the sand. Defence and foreign policy move forward together.
Labour has made its contribution to the defence of this country without even building a ship or a plane or constructing a gun. It brought forward an agricultural policy, which for the first time, focused the reality of food production as the fourth arm of defence in any circumstances. I do not wish to be caricatured as being against reasonable defence or methods of defence. No one on this side of the House can be challenged with that. But under the Ministry of Fuel and Power we made a terrific contribution to the defence of this country with our oil refining policy; a policy out of which ultimately we can develop a petrol and chemical in- 416 dustry which one day may give us an output much higher than that from the traditional export industries Britain has had.
So I claim that, on the economic level, we have started to create a position which gives strength to firing power, if ever the sad necessity for using that firing power should arise. The lesson of France in 1938—and I was in France myself then—was the lesson of a great courageous nation, with millions of men under arms, who, because their economic morale was upset, could not obtain the firing power, and because they could not bring the firing to bear at the right place at the right time, we saw this great militaristic nation collapse before the Juggernaut of Nazism. I do not want to see this little country go that way.
Therefore, I reiterate the view that the strength of our country does not depend upon blacking out the sun by Comets or bombers, or even on millions of tonnage of vessels at sea. It depends as much as anything on the right balance between these things, and, at last, in the Gracious Speech, we have an admission of that fact:My Ministers will continue the re-armament of My forces and the development of the Civil Defence organisation, with due regard to the need for maintaining economic strength and stability.Consequently, there should have been in the Gracious Speech an admission that the Government would review again the re-armament programme in relation to the real strength of this country otherwise, we shall get weakness rather than strength. In this House we can look at these things without the emotion and fervour of a political platform, and I think it is fair for all of us here to admit that this country, whatever Government may be in power, will have to face crisis after crisis in the future.
The hon. Member for Somerset, North, who has now left the Chamber, mentioned the balance of payments problem, which is, of course, our major problem. It is a tragedy, so far as I am concerned, that nation after nation in Western Europe—and also in the Pacific through the Pacific Pact—is being submerged in military alliances and strategic factors alone, forgetting the great lesson of history, and the lesson which Britain must learn, which is that the actions of strategy collapse before the facts of sociology.
417 I would like to give an illustration from history. The hungry, ill-fed and illiterate troops of Napoleon, when the whole mass of Europe had its guns turned against the revolutionary movement, like most of the guns of Western Europe are now turned against revolutionary China or revolutionary Russia, dragged themselves to the very gates of Moscow and submerged all Europe, fighting almost with their fingernails, only to find that the actions of their leaders and of their great generals completely collapsed before the sociological and dynamic facts of the French Revolution. If we want to win the battle against Communism, if we want to win the soul of the Asiatic man, if we want to improve jaded Europe today, then social democracy, somehow or other, must find a dynamism as galvanic as that behind the present movement in China.
I see one hon. Gentleman looking rather cynical about this, but this is nothing to be cynical about, if one reads the facts of history. This is one of the causes which keep Malaya and Korea fighting. It is one of the things which, if we make a mistake in Kenya today, will start a blaze from Cape Town right through black Africa. These are facts to which, in our democratic approach, we must try to find the answer. So I repeat that the axioms of strategy can be destroyed by the factors of sociology today. We can call out our atom bombs and can still lose the war. We can still lose the battle for the soul of man and the battle to win him for democracy, and so we can push him deeper into the ranks of Communism.
We had that in our little island story in 1914. We sent a tiny "contemptible" army, which everybody scoffed at and laughed at, into the 1914 war. But why did that contemptible little army stand up to the Prussian jackboot? Because that little band of men believed in the democracy under which they were living in those days. The tragedy that I find in Europe, Asia and America is that men no longer believe in the things which they pretend to believe in. They have become cynical and believe that the atom bomb and the hydrogen bomb are the answer to the emotional desire for emancipation of men in the backward areas.
Let hon. Members look at the things which we have built up since we had the 418 good fortune to finish that terrible war in 1945. There are U.N.R.R.A., Bretton Woods, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund and the European Recovery Programme. They are all there on paper. There are now in existence all kinds of paper organisations able to do all the things that hon. Members on all sides of the House desire and about which they speak with earnestness and honesty. We have all that machinery in existence, and what do we do? We build a house of cards up and up, failing to face realities.
Tonight we talk about strength and about seeking markets in the United States, a country which the "Economic Digest" of Wall Street says is now seeking to sell more and to import less. A copy of that report is in the Library, where any hon. Member may check what I am saying. Yet men talk about opening up the American market. The American market is not one market but about 10. Missouri and Carolina want silver goods and antiques. In other places special kinds of pottery will sell. The market requires a terrific amount of study which no one firm can carry out. I make a suggestion to the party opposite, and in all humility I will call it the "Davies Plan."
§ Mr. Davies
Exactly. I know that my right hon. Friend appreciates that quip. If we want to encourage private enterprise, the Government should give a certain guarantee to some of our exporters who at the moment have not the finance behind them to enable them to search out these markets. For instance, we could set up a national insurance system to which these firms could pay premiums, with the Government backing the fund a little, so that if they were selling goods in the export market and between the receiving of the order and the selling of the goods the price of the material went up they would be covered by insurance in this country which would enable them to sell the goods at the original price quoted without losing money.
Hon. Members have talked about seeking Latin American markets. I should like to quote an example. Sixty per cent. of the machetes used in Latin America in the sugar cane industry and 419 in the jungle were sold by a West Midlands engineering firm, and it meant full employment in that area. We have lost that order to the Italians because they were selling the machetes at 10s. a dozen cheaper than we in this country could sell them. Here is the problem of undercutting inside Europe itself.
We talk about defence in a big way and spend £100 million on the atom bomb. Yet according to the White Paper on Income and Expenditure last year, Britain's expenditure was four times larger than her current savings. The "Economist" explains it this way. The dear old-fashioned 19th century "Economist" girds up its loins and gives an explanation. Most economists are men who find out tomorrow why the things they said yesterday did not happen. This, they say, is a testimony to the great internal reserves built up by the thrift of the past and the patience of our debtors—and that includes the generosity of the United States and the Colonies.
Here is a tragedy. The struggle for social emancipation in the Colonies is limited by the fact that this great country, which flies the Union Jack all over these Colonies, is tonight on the dole to Malaya and to West Africa. The exports of Malaya in the last six years have earned more dollars for the British people than the whole of our pottery and cotton exports. We talk about the Colombo Plan. The Colombo Plan paid out £46 million during the past year and 96 million when the Labour Government was in power. The Colombo Plan has now become more or less another paper plan.
Where does the pattern of defence come into this? If we want to win these peoples from revolutionary activity in the form of terrorism, how can we do so when their wages are forced down to subsidise the standard of life of the British people? This is a problem which neither this side nor the other side of the House have faced fully, and I doubt whether we have the courage to face it.
An hon. Member opposite suggested opening up the Empire to American investment. What I am saying is not anti-Americanism; this is a fact. Private investment by America in various Colonies is giving a return of 17 per cent. That is dear money indeed. I do not think that policy alone will win the backward areas 420 for the kind of peace which we desire. The modern technique is changing the horizon of modern man. In the world of television, radio and rapid transport we must learn to understand the political osmosis which is seeping through modern society.
Let me summarise my argument thus. I blame no side of the House for the pathetic result of the organisation of the defence in the Pacific, but the Pacific Pact is an example of where Britain has been pushed out of any responsibility in the organisation in the Pacific area. Secondly, despite the desire of Australia to do all she can for the Mother country, the reality of economics has prevented her from taking the imports that she would have liked to have had.
Next we have the tragedy of looking for markets when the Chinese market is closed to the world. Japan, which used to sell £49 worth out of every £100 worth of her exports to China, now finds the Chinese market closed. I only hope that the victory of Mr. Eisenhower in the United States will mean that he can check the machinations of the China lobby so far as the United States is concerned. If the pottery and textile industries of Britain want a chance to live, the Chinese market must be opened for Japan to find a natural outlet for the cheap kinds of goods that she produces.
In the Commonwealth Conference which is to take place in the near future I sincerely hope that we shall throw away the 19th century conception of defence and the balance of power. In the world of the atomic and hydrogen bomb, when one bomb dropped on Southampton, one dropped on Hull and one on Liverpool could make the seas radio-active for six years, so that we could not bring through a submarine or a ship, what real defence have we?
What kind of approach should we make to the problems of modern war? The law of diminishing returns is a concomitant of modern war. Unless 20th century man realises this fact civilisation will tumble around him and Britain—and perhaps Europe, too—will stand up as charcoal to the force of the atomic bomb.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Brooman-White (Rutherglen)
I hope that the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) will not think I am discourteous in not following him closely 421 in his remarks. I shall take up only one point which he made—the importance of food as a fourth arm of defence—and relate that to one specific country—Turkey—which has been referred to already by the Foreign Secretary in his remarks on the great success of the delegation which came here, and by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby) when, in opening the debate, he spoke of the 20 Turkish divisions.
Everyone who knows the country has seen the steady improvement in her military strength and equipment. Her forces have given an example of their worth in Korea, where in the early days they were brigaded with our own. But when I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Turkey, briefly, during the Recess, the thing which perhaps impressed one most on returning there is the extraordinary increase in food production. She now has a greatly increasing exportable surplus of foodstuffs. I do not want to weary the House with figures, but a few years ago Turkey spent dollars on imports of grains. This year she has an exportable surplus of grain to the extent of 1½ million or 2 million tons.
This is an example of mutual aid given to one of our Allies producing great and material benefits for us all very rapidly. It is a source of encouragement. The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire spoke of disillusionment in relation to some of the aid programme; but here is one which is giving spectacular results. This is the first part of the impact on Turkish soil of American assistance and British machinery. Turkey has already become one of our biggest markets for the export of tractors. And there is every prospect of the progress continuing and gaining momentum. There is something like a third of the cultivable land of the country still all but untouched.
I want to make in relation to Turkish trade very much the same point as was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) in connection with South America. In spite of the great increase in their agricultural wealth—an increase as I said which will extend very much further—Turkey is in serious balance of payments difficulties. In our relations with them we have a favourable balance. We are selling to them four or five times as much as they 422 are selling to us, and they can come along and say, "Why do not you take more from us and help us out?"
There is a strong case to be made on our side and it is clearly for us to stress that and leave them to argue their own point of view, which they do most cogently. Their prices have very often been out of step with general trends, and they have not sufficiently appreciated those facts which are of importance to us in overcoming our own difficulties, in particular that our favourable balance with them has to be weighed against unfavourable balances elsewhere—a point which looms large with us but naturally looks smaller when view through their end of the telescope.
We have recently had an announcement of some very encouraging figures on our own position. I am not alluding to any political election figures, but only to those concerning our trade and balance of payments. So it may be that in some measure we can approach these problems now with perhaps a slightly broader view and not with quite the same preoccupation with the immediate balance; and that we can look more to the type of action which will develop trade prospects with an area which is going to become a greatly increased exporter and a greatly increased market for our goods. These are long-term prospects which, if not carefully watched now, will be much more difficult to make good later, because, for example, German competition is already making itself felt very considerably.
Obviously the Secretary for Overseas Trade should weigh these circumstances carefully and consider the relative claims of the various countries which wish us to purchase from them. In Turkey they haw steadily increasing quantities of food and raw material to sell. If they become more realistic about price and if we from our side are able to take a longer-term view of trading prospects, it is greatly to be hoped that we can reach some satisfactory agreement with them, and that this factor will add its weight to the great efforts which have been made by the diplomats of both countries to build up steadily improving relations.
In many ways there is a good deal in common between us in the problems we have to face in the modern world. We have a special position as a link between Western Europe, the Commonwealth and 423 America. Turkey has a special position as a nation linked with Greece and Yugoslavia in South-East Europe, and in the efforts to unity which are being made she is a nation with a special strategic position in relation to the security of the Middle East and perhaps a special influence to be used in the interests of stability there. And she is a link between these areas and the rest through her membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. We have to remember, too, the unprecedented steps which Turkey has taken in developing democratic government and in bringing to the traditional character and genius of the Turkish people the methods of thought and techniques of the West.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
The hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Brooman-White) laboured under the disadvantage of speaking hurriedly and condensing his remarks into a very short period of time. Nevertheless, it seemed to me that he did justice to the argument he was seeking to adduce. On a subsequent occasion he may perhaps have a more favourable opportunity to amplify his arguments.
I do not pretend to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), who has now left the Chamber, either in his knowledge of history or, for that matter, in his capacity for eloquence. All I can do at this late hour is to make a short contribution to that part of the debate relating to defence. There are not many hon. Members present at the moment, for obvious reasons, but I am sure hon. Members on both sides will agree that this has proved to be an interesting but somewhat peculiar debate. We have roamed all over the field, from the subject of Europe to that of Korea and the repatriation of prisoners, and through the labyrinths of trade, commerce and finance.
There has been precious little mention of defence, although my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) and the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) endeavoured, with some success, to make a contribution on that subject. I am not blaming the Government at all for this situation, but I am bound to say that on some subsequent occasion we shall require to address ourselves more seriously and at 424 greater length to this vital subject of defence preparations.
The question might well be asked, why are we discussing defence? Why do we require to address ourselves to what many hon. Members feel to be a most distasteful topic which involves substantial expenditure, drains our manpower and resources, and creates economic problems of some magnitude? Why, I repeat, are we discussing defence? It is because we have failed in the sphere of foreign policy. I am not imputing blame to this Government in particular. This is a long story going back many years. Despite all of the efforts of diplomats, despite the efforts of the Foreign Office with its various changes in personnel and the like, and its concepts as to how foreign policy should be handled, we have had two major wars.
It is precisely because we have failed in the diplomatic sphere that we are compelled, whether we like it or not, to turn to the only possible alternative. That we all deplore, but let us face the fact. Of course, the matter is not exclusively in our hands—by which I mean, not exclusively in the hands of the United Kingdom. Just as it takes more than one to make a quarrel, so it takes more than one to make peace. This is a two-way traffic, and we are not by any means to blame.
If we have to face this question of defence preparations and all that it entails, at any rate we should proceed on the basis of information. Let us have the facts. When I say that, I but repeat—of course, not in so eloquent a fashion—a demand frequently made by the Prime Minister. How often, speaking from this Box, did he assail the Labour Government and make demands upon them for more and more information—on the atom bomb, on its cost, on its consequences, on our relations with the United States Administration in that sphere, on the build up of our forces and our contribution to N.A.T.O., and on our commitments? It is an old story, and if we venture, modestly, as is our custom, and realistically, in impoverished language, as one might expect, to ask a few questions of the Government on this issue, it is only because we desire information upon which we can reach a sound conclusion.
I am bound to say that we have not had much information. We have had 425 no information at all on the run down of the defence programme. The Prime Minister told the House, and told the country on a subsequent occasion, that it was the intention of the Government to deflate the defence programme, to give exports the priority, so that defence would occupy a secondary place. But where we stand, what the position is, what has been spent, what the Government intend to spend, whether we are making progress in this sphere of defence having regard to the re-orientation of Government defence policy—upon that we know nothing. We ought not to be left in the dark. We ought to be fully informed. We intend to find out, even if it means interrogating the Government and their responsible Ministers frequently, through the legitimate channels—we should not seek to adopt other than legitimate methods—in this House and elsewhere.
I put the first question. Perhaps I ought to preface it with an observation. At the end of a day's debate opening up, so to speak, a new topic, one would hardly expect the spokesman representing the Government to be able to reply adequately. It may be, unless he is possessed of more intelligent anticipation than I have given him credit for in the past, that he may have to defer consideration of some of these matters which I shall put to him.
Are we to spend more, or less, on defence than we did in 1951? We are entitled to an answer. We have had no information as to the state of the Armed Forces for many months, not a word. What about the Home Guard? When we on this side of the House dared, with such military knowledge as we possess, to advise the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War not to proceed hastily and almost hysterically with the formation of the Home Guard—although we accept the principle and were ready to put it into operation in the event of an emergency, either as a Government or in collaboration with whatever Government was in office—he knew better than we did. It was a matter of 125,000 men, not for the whole country but from the Wash to Portland Bill—or was it Selsey Bill? I am not sure which particular Bill it was.
Now, after many months of gestation the right hon. Gentleman has produced—what shall I say? How shall I describe 426 it?—not out of disrespect to those who have joined the Home Guard, 18,000 of them, willing volunteers, ready to sacrifice themselves and ready to serve in difficult circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman has produced an abortion. I understand that he is now dissecting it. Where is the Parliamentary Secretary? He made a speech recently in which he declared the Government's intention to reconsider the whole matter. He might have saved himself a lot of time if the Secretary of State for War had taken the advice offered to him from this side of the House.
What of Middle East defence? Before the present Government came to office we were considering this matter of Middle East defence. We handed the legacy over to the Government. What have they done with it? Nothing at all, in this vital sphere? I come to a point of substance, with which I will deal in more detail later. Because the Government have failed to promote Middle East defence there are nearly three divisions from the United Kingdom in the Middle East, the largest number of men ever serving in the Middle East in peace-time and far in excess of what is actually required. I beg hon. Gentlemen to, keep that point in mind. It has a bearing on the whole subject of the build-up of our forces.
What about Commonwealth defence? The Prime Minister apparently was actually not aware of the fact that while the Labour Government were in office we undertook the organisation of a Commonwealth Defence Conference, over which I had to preside. I am bound to say it was a melancholy affair—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Not because I presided; indeed, it was only my sense of humour which enabled us to emerge unscathed. Our colleagues from the Commonwealth were far from forthcoming when it came to making contributions to Commonwealth defence.
And what is the position now? With Australia it is a matter of 40,000 men in the Army serving a compulsory period of about eight weeks a year. I do not want to be committed to actual figures, but it is something like that. New Zealand has an Army of 2,000 and Canada 40,000 or so. Compare that with our contribution. We have nearly 900,000 men in the active defence forces of this country. In addition, we have around 427 350,000 men who have undertaken their National Service and who have been transferred to the Auxiliary Forces to undertake their 3½ years of Territorial liability alongside another 100,000 men who are volunteers for the Territorial Army, not to mention the Supplementary Reserve—not as large as it should be, because it is a technical force vital in war-time—and also the Auxiliary Forces for the Royal Air Force and the Naval Volunteer Reserve.
They are huge Forces, indeed the largest Forces in Europe. Nobody can say that we have not made our contribution in the West. We have undertaken commitments vast and costly, entailing responsibilities almost greater than this country can bear. Perhaps we have not yet seen the full consequences in economic problems of our readiness to undertake these obligations.
There is to be a Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference. I beg the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to give some attention to this question of national defence, not from the military standpoint alone, but in order to preserve some semblance of harmony among the Commonwealth nations. It is not a good thing that we should accept the major responsibility, while the other Commonwealth countries, with their vast resources at any rate in the sphere of manpower, make a very small contribution indeed.
While I am on this matter of our contribution, may I say how much I admired the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby)—and from this quarter praise is well worth while. It was a cogent, constructive speech. Speaking for myself, I cannot commit my party to this—[Laughter.] After all, in these day of fluidity where new concepts are floating all over the place and where there is much flexibility and much tolerance—too much tolerance sometimes—it is not a bad thing to express our personal views.
I intervened while the Foreign Secretary was speaking, because, out of my experience in dealing with N.A.T.O., France, Belgium and the other countries concerned over a period of time as Secretary of State for War and as Minister of Defence, dealing with the matter intensively all the time, I am bound to say that I have reached the conclusion—at 428 first it was most distasteful to me—that unless we are associated in some form—the precise form I am not certain of myself, it has to be considered—with the European Defence Community, the morale of France will become even lower than it is now. And there is no prospect of a contribution from Germany which can be controlled and prevent the resurgence of German militarism as we understood it in the bad old days. It is very desirable, and I beg the Government to give the matter consideration.
After all, this is not a party matter nor a political matter. We are concerned not only about the future of our own country, but about the future of Europe. Personally, I should go a long way further than the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East in this matter. For sometime I have had the idea—it may be regarded as a foolish one, but nevertheless I held it; we sometimes have foolish ideas, but they are worth ventilating and it is worth taking a chance with some of them—that unless we can promote some kind of integration in Europe, in transport, in the provision of facilities common to all the countries concerned, in the development of economic resources in Europe—and they are vast when considered in contrast with the resources of the United States or even Soviet Russia—there is no hope for Europe, and we may go down alongside the bankruptcy of Europe. Besides, from a military standpoint—
§ Mr. Boothby
I hope that the right hon. Member will not say he is going much further than me. I agree with every word that he says.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Then I had better be careful. There is not much time and I am unable to develop this theme, but let it not be thought for a moment that there is not a great deal more to be said about it, and in a constructive sense.
I now must come to the matter about which I intended to speak to the exclusion of all others. That is, the position in this country in respect of National Service. It is easy enough for hon. or right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House or round about me to say that the Labour Government were responsible for National Service and for the present legislation. All of us have made speeches on the subject and have committed ourselves up to the hilt.
429 We have to adapt ourselves to changed circumstances. I do not mean political circumstances, although I agree that sometimes political circumstances justify a change of attitude. I am not as astute a politician as some, but I recognise that. I was taught that very early when I came to this place by some of the old timers. The point is that we have to consider the facts as they are. Let me give one or two facts, although there is not much time left to me.
I am not certain that the House is aware that no man can be called up for the purposes of National Service after December, 1953. That is the position under the existing legislation. There is only a matter of 12 months in which to do—what? To consider whether we are to continue National Service, to consider what the period of National Service should be, to consider its repercussions on industry, on careers for young people and on agriculture. There is also only a matter of 12 months to consider whether we ought to accept burdens which are not being borne by our partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
Those are the thoughts which have impelled me in the direction of making observations on the subject of a reduction in the period of National Service. It is perfectly true that I have said, expressing my own opinion, that I think at the present time we could reduce it from two years to 18 months and subsequently bring it down to 12 months, the whole matter to be reviewed at the appropriate time. But I have made it quite clear throughout the discussions on this subject—hon. Members will agree that it is not a question of being misreported at all, but speeches are not fully reported in the Press—over and over again that what I was asking for above everything else in view of the difficulties I have just mentioned to the House was an inquiry into the subject of National Service, one to be conducted speedily and one to be conducted by independent people.
Why did I say that? Not out of disrespect or out of discourtesy to military people. I had to work with them; I found them very good people indeed, except—and I am bound to say this and will not resile from this, no matter what anyone says to the contrary—every general, admiral and air marshal I met always wanted more men. They were 430 never satisfied; the more one gave them the more they wanted. The longer the period of service the more they wanted. When we had 18 months they wanted two years, and when we got two years they always wanted three years.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Antony Head)
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that there was a definite recommendation that National Service should be for three years?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I did not say that at all, but the right hon. Gentleman is well aware of the fact that he has official conversations and also has many private and unofficial conversations with people on his staff. Often suggestions are made; indeed, I beg of the right hon. Gentleman to take it from me that frequently suggestions like that were made. They were made in a casual and perfunctory fashion, but they were made nevertheless. My point is that we cannot depend on military people conducting an inquiry of this sort. I remember the Templer Inquiry. General Templer was an able man, fully acquainted with Whitehall administration. He conducted the inquiry into the use of manpower for the forces, but he was hedged round, "cribbed, cabined and confined" by prejudices. I knew that at the time and he could not produce the sort of report which was unreserved, unqualified and uninhibited.
I was interested in the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw on the subject of an inquiry to be undertaken by a Select Committee. I ventured to make that suggestion myself, but it may not be practicable. At any rate, some review is required. I want to come to the reasons why I advance this. First of all, take the question of the two years period of service which I introduced on behalf of the Labour Government. What was said at the time? I am going to quote the then Prime Minister, now the Leader of the Opposition, who said at the time:It is naturally with great reluctance that we have had to decide to introduce this temporary increase in the length of service."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th September, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 957.]The then Secretary for War, my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), said that before even 1953—the date I have mentioned—when men can no longer be called up, 431 if possible, depending on the international situation, the flow of volunteers, etc., the period can be reviewed. He added that if the position was brighter conscription could be abolished. I said in September, 1950:The Government are not pledged permanently to the principle or practise of conscription. If we find in the course of perhaps 12 months or maybe 18 months … that we can revise the position, that will be done." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th September, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 1504.]The question that is asked is, can we revise the period of National Service in face of our commitments? I have met the argument which is adduced—and it is one which has to be met, and I want to deal with it honestly. I am not trying to reap any capital out of it, or any personal advantage or kudos from it. I know there are difficulties in getting the information.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I know, because the right hon. Gentleman refused to give it to me. There are difficulties about getting information of the number of Regulars abroad. I asked the Secretary of State for War, but he said he could not give it and that I knew the reasons myself. Perhaps he has changed his mind and will give us the information.
If we knew how many Regulars we had in Home Command, which includes Germany, how many Regulars we had in the training cadres, how many in the catering staffs and how many were doing all sorts of non-military jobs, then perhaps we could get down to an understanding of what this problem really means.
It would be interesting to know how many National Service men are having their time wasted in Home Command. I do not want to make too fine a point of it, but judging by correspondence I have had, some of it passed on to the right hon. Gentleman and to some of his Ministerial colleagues, a large number of the boys are having their time wasted, or at all events they believe that they are having their time wasted. That should be rectified. We ought to use these boys to the fullest advantage, training them effectively.
There is another argument—about commitments. I have already referred to 432 the Middle East. I do not believe that we require nearly three divisions there. I do not believe that we require nearly as many as we have in Malaya. I know the difficulties about Malaya, but I am not convinced that we shall solve the problem which confronts us in Malaya solely by military means or by jungle warfare or dealing with ambushes. No, the problem in Malaya can only be solved by political means. Social and economic problems are involved; General Templer recognised that.
Korea is a different matter. I should like to see more Regulars go to Korea—after all, they volunteered, so there can be no complaint—and fewer National Service men. I am not so sure whether in existing circumstances, in view of the slow build up by other countries through N.A.T.O., we should have five Divisions in Germany. I think some of these men, particularly National Servicemen, should be brought home.
When I was out of the House the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) put a question.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I cannot answer more than one. I will leave the other nine and read them in HANSARD, and will reflect upon them. He asked whether it would not mean two divisions less if we cut the period of National Service from 24 months to 18 months. My answer is that I ask the Secretary of State for War and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence if they would be good enough to look up the debates on the conferences we had at Fontainebleau and elsewhere on the subject of reducing the number of men in divisions. Let it not be forgotten that it is not merely a matter of 18,000 men in a division; there is a divisional slice of 40,000 men.
§ Mr. Headrose—
§ Mr. Shinwell
We will discuss this again. We are only making a beginning on the subject. There is a lot more to be said, and I do not expect full answers tonight—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I have not the least doubt as a result of what I did while I was there.
433 Let us be quite clear on this point: the present Minister of Defence said a few weeks ago at the Tory Party conference that in all his 41 years' experience he had never seen the British Army so fine as it is today. I see that other people have said the same. For example, Field-Marshal Slim, who has just retired to go to Australia, said in a broadcast the other night that it was the finest Army we have ever had in peacetime. It has not all been done in 12 months. After all, we must have had something to do with it. But we do not want to make any capital out of that.
I have to sit down now, though there is a great deal more to be said. I would conclude by saying that I am not asking the Government, immediately and without review, to reduce the period of National Service, even by six months. I think there is a case for it. That is my personal view, and I am prepared to argue it with anyone. I may be found to be wrong, but at any rate I make the attempt. So I am asking them on behalf of this party—and I have the authority so to do, which I am bound to say is a great advantage—[HON. MEMBERS: "Unanimously?"]. Unanimously, there is no faction in this, no disturbance. I ask the Government to consider the creation or the appointment of a committee of inquiry into the use of manpower in the Services with a view to reviewing the whole question of National Service.
I do not believe anybody in the House likes conscription. We would rather have a voluntary system, and the Secretary of State for War said that to me ever so many times. He said. "Give them more pay."
§ Mr. Shinwell
Then why has not the right hon. Gentleman given them more? He ought to consider giving the men in the Territorial forces a larger bounty than they are getting. Then they might undertake more drills and stay longer in the annual camps and the reserves would be available when they were wanted. That is precisely what General Ridgway has asked for. I have his speech here, from which I intended to quote, but I shall have to leave it for one of my week-end speeches. He is demanding, not a large number of men, not a large standing army—and this is also the view of Field 434 Marshal Montgomery and others—they want men well trained and well equipped, so that in the event of an emergency they can be flung into the battle, if unhappily they should be required. Let us hope that they never will be required, but that is the way to handle it.
The Government want constructive suggestions. We will give them any time the Government wish. In the meantime, let them agree to conduct this inquiry. I beg of them to understand that although we are anxious at any time to enter into conflict with the Government, on this issue we are concerned about the economic state of the country. Agriculture, mining, apprenticeships, careers and all the rest of it are affected. And let us not forget that the largest expenditure entailed in re-armament and defence is not equipment, but manpower; pay, food, accommodation, transport, clothing, boots and all the rest of it. Hundreds of millions of of pounds a year are involved, and if we want to reduce expenditure we must tackle the problem from that end. I ask the Government, quite earnestly and sincerely and in no party spirit, to consider an inquiry into this subject.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (Mr. Nigel Birch)
This has been a very wide-ranging debate and quite a number of questions, particularly from my hon. Friends, were asked about matters which are the concern of the Board of Trade. I do not think they will expect me to answer them, but I will pass the facts on to my colleagues.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite has asked for information. This is one of the subjects on which an ample veil of secrecy can be drawn very tightly round the Government, but I will do my best to give him the information which can be made available. The main part of his speech was devoted to the question of National Service, and I intend to devote the main part of my speech to that subject, but I should like to start off with one or two more general remarks to put the whole matter into perspective.
Since Her Majesty's present advisers came into office, they have carried out a very wide-ranging inquiry into the strategy of this country and into the whole of our imperial strategy, and they have considered the basic problems against which all these matters should be considered. 435 It was said in a very good speech by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) that the basic problem is that we have aggressive Russian and Chinese Communism menacing so many parts of the world, and that must never be forgotten while, at the moment, we have Russia and China working together.
In those circumstances, what are the basic aims of our defence policy? The basic aims must, of course, be, first, to prevent a war from happening at all, and for that we need strong deterrents, about which I will say a word or two in a moment. Secondly, we have got to win the cold war and stop Communism infiltrating and disintegrating the whole of the Western world. If we can win the cold war by that means, we shall make a hot war far more unlikely. Thirdly, if the appalling tragedy of a third world war did come upon us, we have got to see that we can keep our own end up and win through.
To prevent a war, we must have deterrents, and I think there are two main deterrents. The first is one on which the Prime Minister speaks very forcibly and very often, and that is the fear of atomic retaliation. I think myself that that is a very powerful deterrent, which has certainly in the past prevented the Communists from doing many things, and will certainly prevent them from doing many other things in the future.
Up to now, the Americans have been the sole people in the Western world who have atomic bombs and the means to deliver them. They will, of course, remain preponderant in this field, but, as the House knows, we have exploded a bomb, and we shall have them in the reasonably near future. With our new medium bombers, we shall also have the means to deliver them. Therefore, both the Americans and ourselves will be in possession of this very terrible weapon, and I do not think we want to under-estimate the tremendous effect that it will have as a deterrent to anybody thinking of starting a hot war.
The second deterrent is a realistic defence of Western Europe. A weak, divided Western Europe is a positive invitation to attack. We have a long way to go before we can be satisfied that we have got a realistic defence, but some progress has been made. We have had four 436 years' work from the Brussels Treaty Organisation and N.A.T.O., and the flesh is beginning to be put on the dry bones of European defence. We have had a Supreme Commander in Europe for 18 months, and not only has he set up his command organisation, but he has got troops around him to command, which is, after all, a somewhat important matter.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) asked how the defence of Western Europe was being built up as against the undertakings made at Lisbon. We are, of course, putting up the divisions which we said we would put up. I cannot give an exact answer about other countries until the N.A.T.O. review has taken place. This is to be held in Paris in December, but I do not think that, when the time comes, we shall find that the forces provided are a very long way below the forces promised. They will not be completely up to the forces agreed, but I do not think they will be a very long way behind. I do not think it is anything like a disaster at all. [An HON. MEMBER: "Fifty divisions."] Fifty divisions at an appropriate state of combat readiness is what I remember was said. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South also asked whether the Lisbon figures included the forces of Greece and Turkey. The answer is that they do not.
This building up of a realistic defence in Western Europe is a vital deterrent. That is why the Government have been and are consistent supporters of the European Defence Community with a German participation. I do not want to go into the big argument which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) put up on that subject, but, of course, we plan to have the closest relationship with E.D.C. We shall have our troops alongside them. We intend to pool a great deal of our training resources. To say that we are standing completely apart from E.D.C. is really nonsense.
What is important is to have troops on the ground in the vital area. It is difficult to see how we can obtain a realistic defence in Western Europe without German participation in E.D.C. Those who oppose E.D.C., and particularly those who combine that with 437 wanting to cut down National Service are taking up a position which is rather difficult to defend. Because if we weaken our forces in Germany, and if we forbid or hope to prevent Germans re-arming, then there can be no realistic defence in Germany; and a weak, divided Europe is a positive invitation to attack and, therefore, is something which in fact is likely to push on the prospects of a hot war rather than to prevent it.
So much for deterrents. I now turn for a few moments to the cold war. Winning the cold war, of course, means having men on the ground. One cannot settle problems in Malaya, Kenya or Korea with atom bombs, and that brings me to the subject of National Service on which we have had notable speeches from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington.
When in the summer of 1950 the late Government increased the period of National Service from 18 months to 24 months, they gave as their primary reason the need to build up manpower in the Services. It is a fact not always realised that today, out of 850,000 men in the Armed Services, over 300,000 are National Service men. I think that shows the extent of our dependence on National Service men in meeting our commitments all over the world.
That does not mean that we do not try to obtain as many Regular recruits as we can. In fact, Regular recruits for the Army are running in 1952 at about double the rate at which they were running in 1951. That is not too bad.
§ Mr. Birch
The whole history of this matter shows that the level of unemployment has no effect upon recruiting. It has been proved hundreds of times. A National Service man has to be trained just the same as the Regular soldier alongside of whom he works, and the first few months of the National Service man's Colour service are necessarily used for training. It is only after training that he can be an effective soldier, sailor or airman. The additional six months added to the original 18 months is a sheer gain in additional trained manpower and it means that the National Service men can be posted overseas to distant theatres, such as Korea, without a wholly un- 438 economic waste of transport and constant movement.
If we had a period shorter than 24 months, with our present commitments, manning our overseas garrisons would be a matter of the greatest difficulty. The Reserves about whom we hear so much are vital in the event of a hot war, but they are not very relevant to immediate commitments. We do not want to call up "Z" men to go to Korea. It is the men that we can send there now that matter. It cannot really be done at the present moment with less than 24 months. Otherwise we should get the most wasteful series of movements. We should get a continual need for re-organisation of units and very heavy transport charges.
The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw asked for some figures. There are quite interesting figures about the extra movement that would be required if we had a reduction of National Service to 18 months. For example, postings to the Middle East would rise from 25,000 a year to 35,000 a year, and to Korea from 5,500 a year to over 12,000. To give an idea of the figures relating to overseas service, at the present time no less than 40 per cent. of Service men overseas are National Service men, and it seems to me that at the present phase of the cold war it is necessary to have this period of service.
One other important point is this. The right hon. Member for Easington said that we want more Regulars abroad. If we increase the percentage of our Regular Forces abroad, we shall produce a situation where practically the whole Regular Army is permanently abroad and very often in stations where they have no chance whatever of having their families with them. I ask hon. Members to consider what effect that is likely to have on recruiting, particularly in view of the fact that so many men in the Regular Forces now are on short-service engagements. I think that would be likely to do considerable damage.
Further, there would be a considerable effect on the actual structure of the Forces. The Army is dependent to a large extent on National Service men who act as junior instructors. That happens less in the other Services, of course. If we cut the service to 18 months, we shall eliminate those men. It is the last six months of a man's service in which he becomes qualified to be a junior leader 439 and to become an instructor. The Army is already short of N.C.O.s and officers. If we take these men away, again we must replace them with Regulars, but the Regulars will be still more needed abroad because the number of National Service men will be cut down.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Is the position this, that if we are going to use National Service men to man our Regular Army, we can never do with less than two years? If we got more Regulars, we might be able to do with a smaller call-up but we cannot do with less time. Is that what the hon. Gentleman is saying?
§ Mr. Birch
No, I do not think so. What I am saying is that with our present commitments, we certainly cannot do with less than two years, and I am saying that there is no prospect, so far as we can see at the present time, of being able to recruit a sufficiently large number of Regulars to do away with National Service in its present form.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Has it occurred to the Parliamentary Secretary that in the case of the French, who have vast commitments in Indo-China and some Moroccan commitments, they have only got 18 months' service, and in fact they release the men after 15 months? In heaven's name, why do they not increase the period of service to 24 months? Why should we be the only ones to do it?
§ Mr. Birch
It has certainly occurred to Ministers that many other countries have smaller periods of National Service than we have. It has also occurred to us that it is most unfortunate that in Europe all countries do not have the same length of National Service as we do. But because other countries are weak and because, as a result of that, our defences are not as good as they ought to be, seems to us to be not a very good reason to make them still worse, which is what the right hon. Gentleman wants to do. The general effect of cutting down the period of National Service from 24 to 18 months would be to increase the tail and reduce the teeth.
The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw talked about psychology. We fully realise that National Service is a heavy burden upon our young men and that it very often makes their parents very 440 unhappy. We supported hon. Members opposite when they increased the period from 18 to 24 months. We did not do so because we thought that we would get any votes by it. We certainly did not get any votes by it. I should think that we lost a few. We did it because we thought it was right. No Government in this country is in the least likely to keep National Service for a longer period or for a moment longer than is absolutely necessary. I agree completely with what the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw said about that. Politicians are never tempted to lose votes and this is not a vote-getting matter. We are keeping National Service because we believe it to be absolutely necessary. If circumstances change, other things may also change.
That brings me to the question of an inquiry which was raised by the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw and the right hon. Member for Easington. I shall pass on the suggestion to my noble Friend, but the questions of the length of service, the size and shape of our forces and that of our foreign policy are all bound together, and they are essentially matters for the Cabinet of the day. These questions raise such fundamental issues that a Select Committee or, as the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw suggested, a committee in general—I do not know what he had in mind as to its personnel—is not really qualified to pronounce upon this matter because it cannot have all the information. In any case this is and must remain the responsibility of the Government.
I must say a word or two about some of the pronouncements of the right hon. Member for Easington. I have been trying to follow his intellectual pilgrimage on the subject of National Service. I have devoted a good deal of study to it and I find it very difficult to understand. He said earlier in the debate that political interests may justify a change of view. That may be the reason. The right hon. Gentleman may remember that on 30th May, in the debate which I answered, he said that Europe cannot be defended unless every country in Western Europe has two years' National Service. That looked all right. Then on 12th July, the first break in the front occurred and he called for a drastic reduction in numbers and length of service. Since then he has been carrying on a sort of Dutch auction with himself, getting rapidly lower 441 and lower. He says that we cannot really trust what we read in the newspapers about his speeches.
§ Mr. Shinwell
No. There is a tiny error there which I wish to point out. I said that I thought we could cut it down by six months now and next year reduce it to 12 months. I did not say we could cut it by another 12 months. The hon. Member will not gain any advantage by entering into my pilgrimage. When it comes to a question of what appears in the newspapers, he might consult his right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head), who is sitting beside him, who has been very fiercely castigated by no less a newspaper than the "Daily Express."
§ Mr. Birch
Yes. I often think that it is one of the heaviest crosses he has to bear. I have not quite finished the quotation. I rather wish the right hon. Gentleman had informed the "Daily Herald" that he did not mean what he said. He went on to say:Then, after review, if it is found that we require conscription, I should like to see it for very short periods.I do not know what he means, but he said he looked forward to a period of six months next year; but, in any case, even if it were only 12 months next year, such a violent and rapid change could not be made without a wholesale abandonment of our commitments, remembering, as the right hon. Gentleman will, that 40 per cent. of our troops overseas are National Service men.
It seems to me to come rather oddly from the right hon. Gentleman, having attacked our friends in the Dominions for not having more service, that he now suggests that we should abolish our service altogether. It does not seem quite consistent to do both things.
§ Mr. Shinwell
After all, if they did what was expected of them, if they did the right thing by introducing compulsory service and having even 12 months' or six months' compulsory service, it would enable them to take over some of our commitments.
§ Mr. Birch
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale never suggested such a cut in re-armament as to endanger our major commitments; he never suggested anything of the sort. If the scales had fallen a little earlier from the eyes of the right hon. Member for Easington, how different history might have been. It might have been he who had a Roman triumph in the streets of Morecambe. It might have been he who was challenging the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) for the deputy-leadership.
§ Mr. Norman Smith (Nottingham, South)
Is the hon. Gentleman now saying that the generals know best and that we do not know? We have been in the ranks and we know the waste of time; they do not. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that an inquiry is not necessary?
§ Mr. Birch
I have been speaking of the general policy, but I should like to end by saying a word or two about our men. We have men in the Forces now of great efficiency and very high skill. Field-Marshal Slim has been mentioned in the debate. I thought he made a very noble broadcast the other day in which he explained the spirit in which the Forces approached the task of training their men. Perhaps now that he has retired, it might not be inappropriate if the House were to express to him the thanks not only for a great broadcast but for a very great military career and to wish him all possible luck in his job in Australia.
I believe that the troops are efficient and highly trained, as the great exercises have shown, and that their spirit is right; and that is well, because it is upon the spirit and efficiency of our troops that the preservation of our freedom, our religion, our laws and our institutions depends.
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.