§ 3.35 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Sir Winston Churchill)
The curious fact that the House prefers to give two days to the television White Paper and only one day to foreign affairs may be noted by future historians as an example of a changing sense of proportion in modern thought. It is, however, also a proof of how great a measure of agreement exists between our established parties on the present handling of foreign affairs. I shall not, therefore, need to consume much time in a debate which we are told may also have among its features the explanation of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) of his latest journalistic activities, and, possibly, his further reproof at the hands of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell).
Our relations with the United States, the international structure of Europe, our attitude towards the mighty power of Russia, and even the future of atomic energy and atomic weapons must indeed be dealt with, but I shall try not to allow them to bulk too largely upon our limited and crowded time. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will wind up the debate and will endeavour, when he presents his general survey, to supply all the gaps or details which I may omit. He, too, must keep his eye on the clock.
The Egyptian question raises differences among all shades of opinion on both sides of the House. I do not feel any sense of hurry. When lastI spoke on foreign affairs, on 11th May, the Egyptians had broken off their formal conference with us and were indulging in a cataract of most offensive threats. I said on that occasion:Naturally, we do not wish to keep indefinitely 80,000 men at a cost of, it might be, over £50 million a year discharging the duty which has largely fallen upon us, and us alone, of safeguarding the interests of the free nations in the Middle East, and also of preserving the international waterway of the Suez Canal.Further, on the same occasion, I said:Our hope is that negotiations will be resumed. In the meanwhile, we may await the development of events with the composure 578 which follows from the combination of patience with strength."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 886–889.]That is what we have done. Since then, informal discussions have been resumed, but I made it clear at Bermuda that there was no prospect of any modification of our position. There has been this flood of insults and boasting and a constant stream of minor outrages; otherwise, no change has taken place. We remain convinced, however, that it is in our interests, military and financial, to procure a redeployment of our forces in North Africa and the Middle East.
On some future occasion I may, perhaps, be able to welcome an opportunity of dealing with this subject fully, but I shall not attempt to do so today. All that I can say is that our action will be based on a careful and faithful study of the merits of the problem, and will not be dictated either by the violence of our foreign enemies or by the pressure of some of our best friends. [Hon. Members: "Oh."] There is no vitality in a party unless there are differences of opinion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
I was very glad to bring about the conference at Bermuda, although it was largely my fault that it was delayed for six months. I felt it most important that I should have long, intimate, secret talks with President Eisenhower, with whom I have worked on terms of close and growing friendship for over 11 years, about a lot of things which are easily settled if Britain and the United States understand one another and are in accord. We had some good talks.
I use the word "secret," by which I mean that everything said is not the subject of what is called a "handout" or even "guidance" to the world Press every evening, or necessarily embodied in a communiquéat the end. The results of conferences or private talks of this character should be conveyed to Parliament in the regular manner—as I am doing now—and should also manifest themselves not so much in words as in policy and action and improved relations as the months go by. This is, no doubt, very hard upon the Press. Having earned my livelihood by writing for them from my youth up, I have keen sympathy for them, but I am afraid they have got to realise that the tendency for keeping the world Press out of international conferences between 579 heads of States or Governments is likely to increase with the march of time.
Science confronts us with fearful problems, yet at the same time marvellous improvements in locomotion have rendered personal intercourse between responsible people easy and swift to an extent never known before. If such a meeting as we had at Bermuda—I travelled back in 11 hours of flying time—or as, I hope, we are going to have in Berlin next month could have taken place between Germany, Austria, France. Russia and ourselves in 1914, as Sir Edward Grey desired, after the murder of the Archduke at Sarajevo, I believe, having lived through it all rather near the centre, that the First World War might have been, if not prevented, at any rate delayed, even though any communiqué published at the end of the conference would very likely have been both cryptic and platitudinous. This would not have applied in the same degree to the Second World War, because we were dealing with a ferocious maniac by whom the German nation, to its sorrow, had allowed itself to be gripped.
Now in every land the prime desire is for peace, not only in the hearts of the people, but I believe in the hearts, as it is certainly in the interests, of their Governments and rulers, and there will have to be many patient international conferences. The object of these will be to look at all we have in common as well as at our many differences. We must not expect too much of any of these conferences. We must cherish the hope of taking the nations out of the rut of machine-made haggling. Success will in all cases best be measured by easement rather than by headlines. I expect I shall be somewhat scolded for saying these things, but in old age popularity does not seem to be as important as in the days of youth, while, on the other hand, a little abuse on occasions may prove a necessary and invigorating stimulus.
With these introductory words, let me say that I went to Bermuda hoping to render ever more cordial and lively the vital relations between Britain and the United States. It would be a great pity if these were to be increasingly expressed in what I may call McCarthy-Bevanite terms. It would be very discreditable to the English-speaking world and disastrous 580 to the whole world if this particular manifestation were to be regarded as other than a proof of our faith on both sides of the Ocean that in free communities free speech, however misused, can find its own correctives. It may be that the case I have mentioned will in the end prove the crowning example of the way democracy can overcome many of the necessary evils which it has to suffer in its progress.
At any rate, I can assure the House that the first object of the Bermuda Conference was to nourish Anglo-American friendship and co-operation; and that, I am sure, has been achieved. It was also a great pleasure to me and my right hon. Friend to welcome our French friends and to meet M. Bidault again, and for me for the first time to make the acquaintance of M. Laniel.
M. Laniel's very clear statement on his return to France effectively disposed of a lot of gossip and rumours, quite unfounded, which appeared in some French newspapers. I do not need to refer to them today. I must make it clear, however, that I learned in Bermuda that if E.D.C. were not ratified without undue delay by the French, the alternative solution of a wider N.A.T.O., including Germany, to which I had looked in this deplorable contingency, was likely to be beset by many difficulties, possibly by even fatal difficulties. There are many in the United States who share Dr. Adenauer's objections to the creation of a German national army, and, of course, President Eisenhower attaches the utmost importance to the formation of a European Army on the lines worked out after so much discussion and delay, and to which he has given such important personal service.
It was evident that the question of what might happen if E.D.C. were not accepted by the French had become for the time being unanswerable. I thought it my duty to give warning to our French friends at the conference of the gravity of the situation which might then occur. Germany must make her military contribution to the safety of Europe. We cannot, in any case, expect a robust and valiant people of 60 million to rest unarmed and defenceless in an unstable Europe for an indefinite period of time. These facts have got to be faced whether any of us in any country like them or not. All this 581 has now been discussed in Paris. My right hon. Friend will be in a position to give a direct account to the House later in the debate of the work of N.A.T.O. and the recent conference.
Mr. Foster Dulles has stated in public the facts which were in my mind after having learned very plainly what the American position was. The phrase used by Mr. Foster Dulles about the situation possibly having to be "agonisingly reappraised" seemed to me most formidable. I must say personally that when the safety of France, indeed of Europe, depends upon the policy of the United States, all the possible consequences of abandoning E.D.C. should be placed squarely before the French people. I should not like it to be slurred over as a matter of little importance. It is of vital importance.
I must make it clear, however, that at Bermuda I was not trying to convince M. Bidault or M. Laniel of the need for E.D.C.; they are both ardent patriots who fought in the Resistance, and both have argued the case for E.D.C. in the French Chamber. The French Chamber, divided into so many parties, with all their intricate convictions and rivalries, may well find it difficult to come to any decision in favour of the policy which was so largely their own idea and in the hopes of which the wider security of Western Europe has been delayed for over three years.
At Bermuda I made it clear that we should keep our troops on the Continent at least as long as the American troops were kept there. I am still hopeful of a favourable solution for our difficulties, and I do not propose this afternoon to expatiate more than I have done, which is only suggestively, upon the various gloomy possibilities which imagination can so readily suggest. Hon. Members in all parts of the House have, I am sure, given enough thought and study to these matters to be able to speculate about them for themselves, though I hope these will not be their only thoughts during the Christmas festivities.
We were very glad that the Russians had at last accepted our invitation to meet us on the problems of Germany and Austria early in the New Year. We had no difficulty in agreeing among ourselves that this meeting should be held in 582 Berlin, as proposed by the Soviet Government, and we suggested that it should begin on 4th January. We have not so far received their reply.
I used the opportunity of the conference to emphasise the view which I expressed here on 11th May that the Soviet Union is entitled to assurances against aggression after what she suffered at Hitler's hands. I think I was successful in impressing upon my colleagues at Bermuda the justice and the advantage of such a course, even though Russian strength is so vast. It is my hope that from the Berlin meeting there may emerge some means of providing the Russians with a sense of security arising from other facts than mere force. The whole world is in need of that.
Apart from the formal meetings of the three Powers, we took the opportunity of holding informal bilateral talks on matters of concern only to two of us. There were talks between the Americans and the French and between ourselves and the French as well as talks between ourselves and the Americans. As was to be expected, much of our time was devoted to the discussion of current difficulties in the Far East and South-East Asia. It is no secret that in this part of the world there have been some divergences of policy between the Western Powers. We discussed such questions as trade with China, recognition of the Chinese Communist Government, the admission of China to the United Nations organisation, Korean problems and even such awkward personalities as Syngman Rhee and Chiang Kai-shek. I hope I shall not tempt hon. Membersin any part of the House to ask questions which in the present circumstances it would not be in the public interest for me to answer.
However, I can assure the House that on all these difficult problems which have so often been discussed here and which play their part in questions and answers, we were very glad to have this opportunity of making our views clear to the United States Administration and were grateful to them for the attention with which they heard us, even when they did not entirely agree. It would certainly be a great gain if there could be a rather close alignment of policies in this part of the world, and I hope that at Bermuda 583 we may have laid foundations on which we can build with advantage over the coming months.
We naturally did not overlook questions connected with Persia and Trieste. About Persia I have only a word to say, but it is easier for me to talk about it than it is for the Foreign Secretary, because he deserves a compliment on the subject. Old friends like Britain and Persia sometimes have estrangements, but it is not right that these should continue for longer than need be. I am sure, therefore, that the House would wish to express its pleasure at the resumption of diplomatic relations with Persia and will join me in paying tribute to the perseverance of my right hon. Friend which, together with good will in Teheran, has ended the breach which has wasted so much Persian and British wealth.
Now I come to Trieste, which we also examined in the tripartite talks. Let me first welcome the steps which the Italian and Yugoslav Governments have agreed to take to bring the situation on their common frontier back to normal. This we regard as a happy augury for the success of the efforts which the Foreign Secretary, in close collaboration with the American Secretary of State and the French Foreign Minister, has devoted to solving this stubborn problem. I have no doubt that, given time and good will, he and his distinguished colleagues will succeed in their task.
For what is our interest in this quarter? It is simply to withdraw our troops in conditions which will consolidate the forces of peace in that area and enable us to co-operate still more closely with our two friends whom this problem divides. We offered a solution which we thought both would accept. We are striving now to bring them to the conference table on mutually acceptable terms. It is our hope, and I think I might go so far as to say our expectation—we have to be awfully careful in these foreign affairs, but I think I can say our expectation—that they may find a way of reconciling their national interests with the requirements of international peace.
I was asked a question on the next subject this afternoon, and I am now 584 proceeding to answer it. I discussed with the President a number of points about the atomic problem affecting our two countries. Lord Cherwell made definite progress in the autumn when the Americans agreed to exchange information with us about the affects on various targets of atomic explosions. As they have made 43 atomic tests against our three, they have a great deal of knowledge of these matters, so that this agreement is of considerable value. I hope that it will soon be put into effect. It was what may be called ratified at Bermuda, but it was made beforehand, and I hope that it will soon be put into effect.
The other important matter we discussed was the exchange of information on intelligence matters. We hope to enlarge the area over which these exchanges can take place without in anyway infringing the McMahon Act which has so often prevented co-operation between our two countries. It is this Act, of course, which sets limits to the exchange of technical information. But this is all getting into an easier atmosphere.
We in Britain have already discovered almost as much as our American allies, and it is probably true that our Russian fellow mortals—because that is what they are—may well know almost as much as either of us. At any rate, I hope that results will in due course become apparent which will bring Britain and the United States into closer, more agreeable and more fertile relationship upon atomic knowledge.
Secondly, the President and I have asked Lord Cherwell and Admiral Strauss, who are very good friends and may in some ways be considered opposite numbers, to prepare a record of the history of Anglo-American co-operation in the atomic field since the subject first cropped up during the war. When this compilation is completed, the President and I will consult together about publication, of course guided by our Governments.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition need not be at all concerned, because I am sure it will be shown that any error which could be attributed to him in negotiations was eventually and largely repaired by the technical activities which he promoted, in spite of the parliamentary lapses which 585 have entailed, and which, as one who admires the causes for which Hampden died in the field and Pym upon the scaffold, naturally cause me painful reflection. However, we are in many ways following the precedent he has set.
After the President's arrival, in one of our earliest talks, he informed me of his intentions to deliver a speech to the United Nations on a new proposal for the future of atomic energy for industrial or for peaceful purposes. He gave me a copy of this document upon the policy of which many months of American thought in the highest circles had been concentrated. I asked his permission to show it to Lord Cherwell. Mr. Dulles had already given a copy to my right hon. Friend.
When I had received Lord Cherwell's report—and I had only a very short time to do it in—I wrote to the President saying I welcomed his proposal, as I thought it ended a long period of deadlock and might afford an opportunity for contact with the Soviets on the highest level. I suggested one or two alterations, not of course in the theme but in the preliminary and surrounding matter. I discussed with the President, but I was not aware when he left Bermuda what alterations he would make.
While we were at Bermuda all sorts of statements were made by the Press, whose fertility and imagination were remarkable. On the one hand, I was charged with trying to prevent the President from making his speech and, on the other, with having largely written it for him. I brought home the two opposite efforts, published in the clearest terms, in case the House should manifest any interest in this form of public entertainment. I can assure the House that I would never presume to write a speech for the President—I have quite enough trouble to make up my own. I did not see any of the Press myself or attempt to correct their stories; I thought it better to reserve this simple factual account for the House.
I consider this speech of the President as one of the most important events in world history since the end of the war. A few weeks ago, I spoke to the House about the ever-increasing destructive power which has now come into human hands, and also about the almost limitless 586 material benefits which science can for the first time give to a peaceful age. As I meditated on the President's proposals, limited though they are in scope, and shrouded in technicalities as they are for laymen, I could not help feeling that we were in the process of what might prove to be a turning point in our destiny. I fervently hope that the Soviet Government will not ignore this beam of light through much darkness and confusion. I am sure of the sincerity and altruistic good will by which it was inspired, and I trust that they will advance with the confidence to which their own strength entitles them along a path which certainly leads in the direction of expanding the welfare and calming the fears of the masses of the people of all the world.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
We are all glad to see the Prime Minister back from his journey and stay in Bermuda. He began by commenting on the length of time allotted for this debate. When we first heard that he was going to Bermuda, we thought it wise to stake out a claim for a two-day debate. But when we had the communiquéfrom Bermuda, it did not appear to us that there was enough material in that for two days. I thought that perhaps it might be a little filled out by the Prime Minister, but I really cannot think he has taken us much beyond the communiqué.
I thought that it was a very agreeable and a very seasonable speech; but he was, in effect, a Father Christmas without any presents. Therefore, I do not think that it would really be very useful, when there are not many new points to be dealt with, to repeat the debate which we had only a few weeks ago. Our position at that time was made very clear by my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil), and there has not really been very much development since.
I think the right hon. Gentleman kept his only present until the end, and that was really President Eisenhower's. We are all agreed in welcoming this new-approach to the problem of atomic energy. It is hard for any of us to work out the details, the applications; I think the essence of it is that it is trying to create a new approach to the whole problem, and as such I am sure we all welcome it.
587 I am glad, too, that there has been a very full talk, I gather, on the exchange of atomic information in hoping to get over the McMahon Act, which was such a hindrance to us. The right hon. Gentleman talked about repairing defects. He had forgotten that we had to repair certain defects in the Quebec Agreement and that has taken a pretty long time, but I do not want to go into any detail on those matters, except to say that we always considered that this was a matter in which we did need the closest collaboration with our American friends, and that we can claim that this country—it is sometimes forgotten—may make an enormous contribution in the development of atomic energy through our scientists.
We have shown proof that we have our resources in scientific knowledge and their application. In fact, I think that, despite the fact that, for reasons which everybody knows, the whole matter of atomic energy was committed to the United States during the war, we have actually caught up, and I think it is greatly to the credit of our scientists and our Administration.
As the Prime Minister has said, this has always been rather a secret matter. He rather inclined to attribute that secrecy to me. I can assure him that it was an inheritance from the wartime Government. In fact, we were all kept in the dark about this; and no doubt he acted on the same advice as we did from our military advisers as to the need for the greatest secrecy. Therefore, I have nothing to complain of there.
I should like to say just one thing, however, because I thought that the Prime Minister said one thing which might be depressing to Members of the House who were hoping to become leaders of political parties. It is always thought that Pym was the first great Parliamentary leader: it would be regrettable if it were thought that he died on the scaffold. I understand that he died in his bed.
§ Mr. Attlee
As a matter of fact, I think that Sidney died on the scaffold not strictly on Parliamentary matters but because he was a fervent Republican. However, that may be one of the right hon. Gentleman's causes some time in the future.
I turn to one or two other matters. There is this matter of Egypt. I hope that we shall hear more on that from the Foreign Secretary, because these talks hang on for a very long time. I am not attributing blame to the Government in this; goodness knows, I have reason to know how difficult the Egyptians are in negotiation. But I am quite sure that we are right to try to get a settlement on this. Therefore, we on this side of the House have no sympathy with those who are suggesting that the negotiations should be scrapped, quite apart from the fact that, as everyone who has studied it knows, the 1936 Treaty is not an awfully good thing to fall back upon.
What we want to see is that in these negotiations there should be no hanging out because of minor and unimportant matters. There is always a danger in negotiations, as there is a contest to and fro, that one side or the other will attach far too much importance to some quite minor point. But there are certain major points which we should like to stress once again.
There is, first of all, the position of the Suez Canal as an international waterway. It is really quite monstrous that the Canal should have been closed at the will of the Egyptian Government. Second, we do not want to keep masses of fighting troops in Egypt. On the other hand, we are vitally concerned with the whole peace of the Middle East, and it would be a dangerous thing if our going out were to lead to an undue accession of strength to one of the Middle Eastern States.
Then, I should like in that respect to say that we have had these recent troubles again between Israel and Jordan. One would like to see some initiative taken to try to get a greater settlement in this area. I think there is no doubt that at the present time there is a good deal of unrest, and in fact the Egyptian negotiations have caused a certain unrest in Israel, and it might be a good thing if there were a reaffirmation of the Tripartite Declaration of 1950.
589 As everybody knows, that was one in which the three Powers concerned—ourselves, France and the United States of America—said quite clearly what would be done in the event of aggression. It would be just as well if that were reaffirmed. It does mean, of course, that inevitably one has to realise that somewhere or other, not necessarily in Egypt, there must be forces at hand. I think we should explore that very carefully. It is a very difficult problem in that area, and I do not want to lay down anything dogmatically on that; but we all hope that these Egyptian talks may succeed, because there is one of the most dangerous areas in the world, and one where we had our interests for a great many years.
I should like to turn from that for a moment to the Far East. The right hon. Gentleman did not say anything much about the progress or lack of progress at Panmunjom, but these negotiations are being dragged out, and I think that on this occasion the trouble is caused mainly from the Communist side. I think that the representative of the United Nations, Mr. Dean, was fully justified in the strong line that he took. One cannot hang out these negotiations for ever. One has to see whether they are genuine or not.
I would stress again, however, what has very often been said in these debates, that the question of the prisoners is only one preliminary item in the settlement of the Korean question, and that the settlement of the Korean question is only a preliminary to dealing with the whole of the Far Eastern situation. I do not know how far—the Prime Minister has not told us, naturally perhaps—we are approaching any agreement on the settlement in the Far East between ourselves and the United States of America because there are these divergencies and it is best to face them. They cannot be glossed over, but the more we can discuss them in the larger atmosphere of the international situation, I think the nearer we shall get to an agreement.
Then there comes the next point, and that is what is going to happen if we get the conference at Berlin. I rather expected the right hon. Gentleman would have said something about that because, although this meeting at Berlin is perhaps a thing of not very great moment, it has resulted really from his speech of 11th May. It is not what we wanted. I 590 expressed my doubt at that time as to whether a meeting of Foreign Secretaries would be productive of anything very much. Again, we suggested there that we wanted to discuss that in the larger context of the settlement of Europe and the larger question of trying to reduce the heavy burden of armaments.
But I do not believe that it was ever suggested that the conference is bound to fail. It may be that we can make some progress. It depends a great deal on the spirit in which we enter into this conference. There have been some encouraging signs because, when first the proposals were put up, there was a reply from Russia which seemed to be going to close the door. It was followed by another in which a number of the prerequisites were swept away.
We have also in our minds certain matters on which we cannot give way. We cannot give way on the need that, for a unified Germany, there must be free elections. I do not want to run through all these, but I should like to call attention to what I thought was a very wise passage in a leading article in "The Times" today. It says:There is, however, a danger that the western Powers may treat the conference merely as an exercise to prove the Russians wrong and, therefore, simply as something to be over and done with as soon as possible in order to clear the way for E.D.C. If that were to be the approach, and if the western Powers were to have not only firm minds (which they must have) but closed minds, the conference would fail even in its limited intention. French and other European opinion would be left unconvinced that the west had met fairly or had really explored the possibilities of agreement, and many hesitations about E.D.C. would remain.E.D.C, again, is one of those matters which are not really in themselves of absolute prime importance. It is a contribution to the security of Europe. It is a contribution to the building up which we have had to do which was forced on us as part of the Atlantic community.
But I am sure that the most hopeful suggestion, although not worked out, of the speech of the Prime Minister of 11th May was the conception of some kind of Locarno, some kind of mutual agreement, so that we could get rid of the fears not only of ourselves and the Western nations, but also of the Russians.
Therefore, while I am not suggesting for a moment that we should say that we 591 will throw everything aside and go into the conference, so to speak, naked and unarmed, yet when one does go into a conference one wants to go in as far as possible untrammelled by absolutely obstinate commitments. One wants to see if there is a better way or not. That applies equally strongly on the Russian side. It is no use their saying, "You must throw over your bases before we talk." If this is to be at all hopeful, it depends very much on the approach.
I do not want to say more at this time than that when the Foreign Secretary goes to this conference he knows that in the efforts to try to ensure the peace of the world he will carry with him the good will not only of hon. Members opposite but of hon. Members on this side of the House, and indeed of the whole country.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Captain Charles Waterhouse (Leicester, South-East)
First, I should like to express my gratitude for the kindly remark that the Prime Minister made early in his speech about vitality. With greying hairs one becomes the more appreciative when one is referred to as a member of a group with vitality. I assure my right hon. Friend that we had no thought of exerting pressure on him when we put down our Motion.
§ [That this House, while recognising the obligation on both Great Britain and Egypt, after 1956, to co-operate in a revision of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of Alliance of 1936 nevertheless, in view of the breaches by Egypt of the recently signed Anglo-Egyptian agreement on the Sudan which have been repeatedly condemned by the Foreign Secretary, of the persistent denial of free passage through the Suez Canal to cargoes destined for Israel and of the continued Egyptian acts of hostility towards Great Britain, urges Her Majesty's Government in these circumstances for the time being to suspend negotiations for a revision of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty forthwith, to withdraw such terms as may already have been offered, and for the present to retain in the Canal Zone sufficient armed forces to discharge our responsibilities for the defence of the Canal.]
§ We sought to give him kindly guidance, to put under his shoulder our friendly hands so that, should he on his arduous 592 way make a slight stumble, we would be at hand to help him. I do not want to delay the House for too long, but I want to make it clear that I approach the whole question of Britain's position in the world in what is called a robust way.
§ I believe that our guidance and leadership are still needed. I believe the Commonwealth to be the greatest force for peace that the world has ever had. I believe that the Empire—and the Colonial Empire too—is the best means of guiding backward people to economic, social and political development. I therefore make no apology for standing foursquare behind our Empire today, and I glory in the word, "Empire."
§ The whole system gets a twofold challenge. One is from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and his friends, who take the view that the colonial system is wrong, that the Empire is an anachronism and that the whole shooting match ought to be destroyed. He takes the opportunity of expressing that view in an Egyptian paper. Naturally, I do not like what he wrote, and I do not think that it was very appropriate that the right hon. Gentleman should so express himself in a foreign country, least of all in a country where intricate negotiations were taking place.
§ When the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale replies, he might perhaps deal with the rumour which reached me the other day that Major Salah Salem had been approached by him to write an article for "Tribune" but he refused on the ground that that publication was not quite wide enough in its circulation to justify it.
§ The other challenge is from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) and his friends, who say that we are no longer powerful enough to hold our position as a great Empire and, therefore, we have to fade away. I remind the House that we have now in the field a larger Army than we have ever had in peace-time; apart from the United States, with whom armed contest is out of the question, our Navy is relatively stronger than ever it has been, and our Air Force is leading the world at least in design.
§ But Britain's position in the world was not built up on armed forces. It was built up on the wisdom and character 593 of our people, on our ability to face and surmount difficulties and on our courage and determination to stand firmly when firmness was necessary. These are the bases on which British prestige has rested and continues to rest today. I think it very sad that at the moment of victory, when we were led by my right hon. Friend across the battlefields of Africa and Europe to Berlin and the final defeat of our enemies, hardly had that victory been won when we started a retreat in almost every field. We evacuated Burma, let her slide from the Empire, and this action was followed by a fearful civil war. We came out of India in a most untimely way. [Laughter.] It is no good hon. Members opposite laughing unless they are also prepared to laugh at a million dead bodies in India and 10 million people left homeless by their actions.
§ This country gave no moral support to the Dutch when they were in trouble in Indonesia, and to no small extent our troubles in Malaya may have arisen from that. We left Abadan at the behest of a nation which was breaking its treaties, and immediately we had great trouble in Egypt. All that was the legacy to my right hon. Friend from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is my right hon. Friend and his colleagues who are doing their best to try to remedy these disasters with which they are faced. I do not blame my right hon. Friends at all in this matter. Least of all do I blame any individual among them. The particular one who is sometimes blamed wrongly in this matter is my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who, unhappily, has through illness been absent from the House during many of these recent events to which we take some exception.
§ We formed an agreement 12 months ago with Egypt over the Sudan. I do not call that a retreat, but I do call it an error, and I believe that all of us on this side of the House believe it to be a great error. It was agreed to in good faith by Her Majesty's Government, because they hoped that by so doing they might get better terms of agreement on the Canal. It is now suggested in certain quarters that we should be easy in our terms on an agreement on the Canal in order that we may get better treatment elsewhere.594
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
Is the right hon. and gallant Member asserting that the agreement to give independence to the Sudan was a mere manoeuvre in order to improve our situation in Suez? Is that not a dastardly attack upon this House?
§ Captain Waterhouse
If the hon. Member would listen and not always attribute the worst motives and the most foolish ideas to everybody, he would understand perfectly well that I said nothing of the sort.
§ Captain Waterhouse
I assure hon. Members that I am not reading it, but I feel that I am talking on a subject which is considered serious to Members on this side of this House, although anything to do with Britain and with the Empire is a matter of ridicule to some hon. Members on the other side and a full note is desirable.
I was saying that after this long series of retreats and withdrawals, some time we must decide that we have got to call a halt, and I say now that that time has come. It seems to me that should we withdraw today even under the appearance of pressure in Egypt, it would have a disastrous effect throughout the whole of the Commonwealth, and, for that matter, throughout the whole of the world. It might well be taken as a signal that "Britain has had it" and is no longer going to trouble to stand firm. It might be taken as being that; I am not for one moment saying that it really would be that.
What would be the effect throughout the Commonwealth? What would be the effect in India, whose allegiance to the Commonwealth today is by no means too sure? What would be the effect in South Africa, who, I believe, have promised a division for the Canal in case of trouble—and that is no small promise following the great efforts that South Africa has made in the last two wars. What would be the effect in Australia? I ask my right hon. Friend to have in mind the very remarkable letter that Mr. Casey wrote to "The Times" on 2nd May, in which he stressed the great efforts that Australians have made in that zone in 595 two wars and the great importance which they now place on our position there.
I suggest that if we appear to retreat in face of pressure, we would give a signal to the Middle East that we are intending to get out and to relinquish our responsibilities. We would give a signal to the Sudan that our protecting hand, which has guided them for 60 or 70 years, is no longer behind them. What is more important still, I believe we would give a signal throughout the whole of Africa and our great possessions there that Britain was tired of her responsibilities and intended to withdraw.
On what terms are we today negotiating? We do not know. This House has never been told. The country has never been told. We are having to base our arguments, our fears and our hopes on what appears in the papers from Egyptian sources. We are told that all armed forces are to be withdrawn within 18 months. That is, literally as soon as they could be got out of the country. We would not shift 80,000 troops and their equipment in materially less time than that.
We are told that 4,000 technicians are to be left and that their number is to be gradually reduced. Are they to be armed? Are they to be officered by British or by Egyptian officers? We are told that we are negotiating for the freedom of the Canal. The Leader of the Opposition made a protest about the freedom of the Canal. It is surely extraordinary that we should be negotiating for the freedom of the Canal in the future with a country which is in breach of the freedom of the Canal today. We are negotiating about the rights of re-entry in time of war—the right, in other words, for the third time in our lives to come again to the assistance of the Egyptians in guarding their own country.
What do the Egyptians say? They refuse these terms. They say that our troops may not be armed and that we may have no entry at all. But what if the Egyptians accept? What if General Neguib and his friends decide to swallow their words, to sink their pride, to accept a loss of face and to take our offer, if this is the correct offer, at its face value and to accept it? How would we be placed then? But I do not think that the Egyptians would do that. I think they 596 will rely on the experience which they have got from negotiations in past years and will hope for even better terms, and that they will hold out. But we have got to face that possibility.
And then what happens? For how long do these terms remain open? I should like the Foreign Secretary to be good enough to deal with that point. We are met by insults and assurances that our terms will never be accepted. Are we to leave them there indefinitely or are we to say, as in any ordinary negotiation, that after a certain date, if our terms are not accepted, they die and we start again on a fair and level basis—all bets are off?
What trust can we place in Egypt today? What hope have we that any agreement signed by her will be honoured? We have seen her in breach of the Convention of 1888, which guarantees the freedom of the Canal. I remind the House that in face of very grave provocation by Italy when she attacked Ethiopia, we maintained the freedom of the Canal, and yet the Egyptians are refusing oil to the refinery at Haifa. They have denounced the Treaty of 1936. I wonder what most Members of the House felt when they read about that denunciation. The Leader of the Opposition referred to it, but what really did he mean?
I want to repeat what Nahas Pasha said to the Egyptian Congress when he was recommending the Treaty to the politicians in that country. He said:No one thinks that it implies serious restrictions on our independence. I consider for my part that it is a question of necessity imposed upon us by the state of our military forces, for we have—not at the moment sufficient forces—to assume sole responsibility for the protection of liberty of navigation and the security of the Suez Canal…That is why we must accept the assistance of an Ally…We have of our full will and free will authorised the English to maintain a garrison on the Canal.Can anyone say that the situation in Egypt is so changed that there is any evidence that they can now maintain the freedom of the Canal? If this were true when Nahas Pasha spoke 15 years ago, it is no less true today.
We have got the example of the agreement with the Sudan which has been broken, both in fact and in spirit, by the Egyptians within 10 months of the signing of it. The Foreign Secretary has 597 twice had to come down to this House and condemn them roundly for those breaches. They are attacking our posts every night. They are killing our soldiers.
I do not say that one must never make an agreement with an untrustworthy person. One has often to do it in private life. I have not one code for my country and another for myself. Countries and individuals have got the same fundamental code of honour, and if one has to make an agreement with someone one does not completely trust, what does one do? One puts it in such a form that redress can be had from the courts, if necessary. In this case, there is no international court to which we can appeal. The only means we have of enforcing the Treaty is to maintain a force sufficient for its permanent enforcement.
That is what I understood was going to be the position after my right hon. Friend spoke in the House in May of this year. He said this:Suffice it is to say that if accepted in good faith they would render possible the reduction of the British Forces in the Canal Zone from 80,000 to a small fraction of that number.Then there is a full stop. He went on:There would be left technical personnel discharging their functions with the good will of the Egyptian monarchy, republic, oligarchy, dictatorship, or whatever it may turn out to be.I may have misunderstood my right hon. Friend, but I thought there was going to be a small fraction of the Armed Forces left. Are these technicians to be in the position of an Armed Force? That is to say, are there going to be 4,000 British soldiers after the others have left who will be fully armed, fully armoured, equipped, mobile, trained? If they are, that is a very considerable force on which to rely; or are they going to be spread throughout the whole of the desert area in sections, with the men going about in dungarees directing Arab labour in the yards. If they are, then I have fears for them.
All that we have seen suggests that in 18 months when our Armed Forces have left the country, if these technicians are going to be scattered about the desert and about the Canal Zone, they will be subject to far worse attacks than they are subject to now. The position may well become intolerable, and then what can we do? We must face up to things. Are 598 we going to withdraw them? We cannot leave them to be shot down. Or are we going to say, "We are going to support you" and re-enter in a warlike action. [An Hon. Member: "That is war."] Yes, that means war or an ignominious withdrawal, and that is why I am resisting this proposal.
How long is the present position going to be tolerated? Again, in that most admirable speech by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in May he spoke of the attacks on our people in the Canal Zone. He said:Of course, if the boastful and threatening speeches of which there has been a spate in the last few months and in some instances, even in the last few hours, were to be translated into action and our troops in the Canal Zone were to be the object of renewed attacks by saboteurs or even by the Egyptian Army, which is being aided and trained by Nazi instructors and staff officers in unusual numbers, and our soldiers were being killed, we should have no choice—and I am sorry to say this to the House but we must face facts—but to defend ourselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 887–888.]Those are serious words.
I quote from "The Times" of 25th November:There has been a disturbing increase in incidents in the Suez Canal Zone, which rose in the week ended November 21 to 29 compared with 15 the previous week. On November 19 a British soldier was killed…For how long is this going on? At what point will we say that no more British soldiers shall be killed without taking action? At what point are we going to say that insults to the British Army or men wearing Her Majesty's uniform must cease? I believe that the time has now come when we must make a stand. Can one wonder that troops are getting browned off in such conditions. I do not for one moment believe—
§ Captain Waterhouse
The troops do not want war, but they want to have the right to protect themselves. This is not a state of affairs started by any action of my right hon. Friend; it is a trend started by right hon. Gentlemen opposite which we have to face and remedy.
I am not going to deal at length with the Treaty. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition mentioned that subject, and I think it is perfectly clear that the Treaty does not end in 599 August, 1956. It is then open for revision and it has got to be revised in accordance with certain definite stipulations. What could and should be done? It would be idle to get up and make the sort of speech I have done unless we have got some ideas of what course should be taken. We do not pretend to know all the facts, but I would point out certain things and make suggestions which Her Majesty's Government might consider.
We are occupying a vast and straggling base. It is 100 miles long and in some places 30 or 40 miles wide. It really means that our two divisions out there are trying to hold as long a line as we in the First World War held with the whole of the British Army in France. No wonder there are raids and no wonder our people are attacked. In that base there are two great ports, a large town and hundreds of miles of roads and rails. There are hundreds of acres of shedding and workshops. Before the war there was no base there at all. We had a garrison of 10,000 men. This present base was formed during the war in order to fight a great war in North Africa and to support 20 divisions advancing across the desert.
Into this base since the war has been poured the munitions from Palestine and to a considerable extent the munitions from India. The base is far larger than is needed today. It is no longer in proportion to the present position or to future probabilities. It is not for me to say how or what material ought to be removed from it, but I suggest that much ought to go.
I suggest that some of the material might be sold to N.A.T.O. and, possibly, to other countries round about. And that much might well be scrapped. I suggest, too, that we should leave there, in some part to be chosen by those who understand tactics, a small British armed force. By "small" I mean something like a brigade fully armed, fully equipped and with an air field available. It should be left at some strategic point. One military authority with whom I recently had the pleasure of talking suggested that the best place for it would be in or near the port of Suez, where it would support a re-entry into Transjordan in case of trouble, and exert an influence throughout the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and North and Central Africa.
600 I believe essentially that with firmness and patience an agreement with Egypt is still possible, but we must have proper safeguards for that agreement. We can offer a lot to Egypt. A suggestion such as I have outlined would be no threat whatever to Egyptian sovereignty. As I say, we have much to offer Egypt. We can give her security, we can give her financial assistance, we can offer a market for her cotton, we can promise to help her in a fair deal about her water, and we can give her back a vast proportion of the area which we are now occupying.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Is it the proposal of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that the brigade should stay there with the consent of Egypt—in which case we would all agree with him—or is it to be there to conduct a war with Egypt all by itself?
§ Captain Waterhouse
My suggestion is that the brigade should stay in Egypt and that the Egyptians should be made fully aware that it is going to stay there. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen opposite to laugh, but they laugh at everything which tends to the greatness or to the sustenance of our country, our Commonwealth and our Empire. I say that a base could be found which would be tenable by a small force. If I am wrong, the Foreign Secretary will put me right. Whether it be one battalion, or five or six does not matter, but it should be a small force and one which could defend itself in the face of a hostile attack. My belief is that with such concessions and with real determination Egypt would not long remain hostile.
We have had agreements in the past. They have never been easy to arrive at. The late Ernest Bevin tried hard to get an agreement just after the war. He failed and in 1950 in this House he uttered half-a-dozen remarkable sentences. He said:The Egyptian Government have stated that they wish all British forces to be withdrawn from the Canal Zone in time of peace. The principle of common defence measures in time of peace has been accepted by all the Western powers and is fully compatible with national independence and sovereignty. Other countries in the Middle East are co-operating in this way. This is not a matter which merely concerns the United Kingdom and Egypt. What is at stake is the safety and independence of other countries also.601 This last sentence is the most important of all:His Majesty's Government have no intention of taking steps or agreeing to any measures which would leave the Middle East defenceless, or would needlessly prejudice the safety of free and friendly countries in that area and elsewhere."—[Official Report, 20th November, 1950, Vol. 481, c. 36.]I have every reason to believe that what he said then is still the policy adopted by Her Majesty's Government today. I rely on them to stand firm by such a policy and to show our friends in the Persian Gulf and in Africa that we are still willing, ready and able to come to their aid.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I want in the first place to apologise to hon. Members in all parts of the House for having to speak in this debate, because it means that there will be three speakers from the Opposition Front Bench. That, of course, is hard for hon. Members to bear who want to take part in the debate as we already have only ashort time at our disposal. I believe, however, that hon. Members will also agree that there is no other course open to me than to speak today. I was advised by the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse) that he intended to make references to me, and I have been warned by the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) that he will refer to me and my Press articles in the strongest possible terms. I am not certain whether that is a warning to me or to Mr. Speaker.
I want first to say that there is a tradition in this country that when we have differences of opinion the people who hold them should be given the opportunity of stating the facts. We may hold them intensely and we may speak forth-rightly about them, but what is not fair is that one person should be attacked and not given the opportunity either of replying or of enabling the public at large to make up their minds on the facts.
In the last week or so I have been maligned, abused and attacked in language most of which was libellous—[An Hon. Member: "Take an action for libel."] But it is impossible for most of us to take libel actions against wealthy newspaper proprietors. You have to be very rich to do that. Most people cannot 602 afford that. At the same time not one single copy of my article has been made available to the public of Great Britain, not a single newspaper—and it is only the most discreditable of them that have indulged in this—has seen fit to put its readers in possession of the article which they attacked.
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull)
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Is he aware that the only reason for this is the censorship of his friends in Cairo, who have not permitted the papers to come to this country?
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Gentleman may be going to use strong language, but he will have to talk better sense than he did in that interruption if he is to make his case at all. The fact is—and the fact could have been found out quite easily—that the article referred to was published a month before in three Indian cities—New Delhi, Madras and Bombay. Therefore, the articles are available. They have not been suppressed by Cairo. They were published before and no notice was taken of them at all. The article was supposed to be so deadly, so mischievous, so much opposed to British interests that not a single British newspaper took the slightest notice of the article until its publication in Cairo. That is the first point I want to make.
Therefore the only reason why the attack was made was because the article was published in Cairo and because the Conservative newspapers wanted some means of diverting public attention from the revolution in the Conservative ranks. It is not the first time that this has happened as has been suggested. The "Daily Express," the newspaper whose proprietor is so friendly with the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister—
§ Mr. Bevan
Indeed, that is perfectly true. [Laughter.] I see no occasion for laughter. It is well known. In fact, I confess at once to the House that one of the reasons why I found those visits so helpful was because they gave me an insight into the character of the right hon. Gentleman, which has stood me in good stead ever since.
Therefore, the first substantial point which I wish to make is that the people 603 of Great Britain ought to have been put in possession of the article about which the attacks have been made. That seems to me to be fair. But it is not the first time that some newspapers in Great Britain have attacked public men, including Members of Parliament, for things that they were alleged to have said in the House of Commons and elsewhere and have not given the readers an opportunity of reading what they said. This is an extremely bad practice. In addition to that, the B.B.C. has also offended in the same way.
§ Mr. Bevan
There was the broadcast on which certain questions were asked of "the team," as I think they are called on the radio. I have never heard the programme myself. They were asked about this article. Members of the team, including the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), who had himself not read the article, gave an opinion about it in the most offensive language. Surely the first thing that should be done is that people should acquaint themselves with the article and not get their impression from sensational headlines and from extracts which falsify the contents of the article. Hon. Members are entitled to have protection from that. When millions of people are told in the country that a Member of this House has been guilty of betraying the country the facts of the betrayal ought to be known.
That is what we have described as McCarthyism. That is McCarthyism—to smear, to try to establish guilt by association, to attack people without giving them a chance of defending themselves. [Laughter.] I thought that I heard the Prime Minister say that I am defending myself now, but one has to judge by previous experience, the newspapers which made the attack will not print the defence tomorrow.
The first part of the attack made on me is that a Privy Councillor ought not to write articles to be read abroad by nations with whom the Government are engaged in delicate negotiations. That is one of the charges made. I have therefore been amusing myself by looking up some pre-war articles written by the present Prime Minister in the "Evening 604 Standard" and the "News of the World." He declares in them with great pleasure that they are syndicated all over Europe and therefore everybody will have the chance of reading them. These articles cover a number of years.
§ Mr. Bevan
Therefore, there is nothing improper in any Member of Parliament, including a Privy Councillor, writing articles which are syndicated in foreign newspapers. Is that agreed? [Hon. Members: "Answer."] Yet in another place it has been suggested that it is highly improper. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is nothing wrong?
§ The Prime Minister
If I were to try to deal with it I would rather deal with it in connected form and not accidentally.
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. Gentleman wrote articles regularly before the war in which he attacked the Prime Minister who was then his own leader, in which he attacked the foreign policy of the Government which he was returned to support; and he did it in the most direct language. Not only that, but he did it at a time as critical and delicate as today. On 17th April, 1936, he said:All the power was in his hands.That is Mr. Baldwin's.…the General Election was fought under the most favourable conditions for Mr. Baldwin.…It was therefore with an intense spasm of surprise and disgust that Parliament and the public found themselves confronted with the Hoare-Laval proposals to reward the Italian aggressor with a great part of Abyssinia.…Great Britain…strengthens the force and prestige of the German Nazi regime…We have been led…into a contradiction of purpose as hazardous as it is grotesque…Unless Mr. Baldwin is prepared to take some effective action which will actually help the Ethiopian people,…he and his Ministers should not presume to offer guidance to Europe.In the "Evening Standard" of 11th December, 1936, the right hon. Gentleman said this:When I first went into Parliament, now nearly 40 years ago, it was ingrained upon me that the most insulting charge which could be made against a Minister of the Crown, short of actual malfeasance, was that he had endangered the safety of the country and 605 neglected its defences for electioneering considerations. Yet such are the surprising qualities of Mr. Baldwin that this dismal doctrine has now been elevated into a canon of political virtue.Then the right hon. Gentleman goes on to say in the same article of 11th December, 1936—[An HON. MEMBER: "Deal with your own."]—that:Here they are again, those years which passed so lightly, so agreeably away, amid loud cheers and large majorities; years when the people must not be disturbed from their contentment and complacency, nor aroused from idle dreams by ugly truths.These were the years when Ministers assured us that all was well, when all warnings were rejected, when those who uttered them were mocked at as jingoes and scaremongers,"
§ Mr. Bevan
Yes, quite true.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East ought to listen to these words, because they are very encouraging to him. The sentence goes on:when the docile Parliamentary battalions trudged through the Lobbies in that faithful 'footwork' which Mr. Baldwin has eulogised as among the first of political virtues.This establishes the fact that it has long been constitutional practice in Great Britain for Privy Councillors as well as others to write articles attacking the policy of their Governments and countries and to publish them abroad. As hon. Members will notice, I am not referring to remote incidents like the Lloyd George articles, nor even referring to the fact that the Prime Minister regularly syndicated articles in American newspapers hostile to Great Britain. Nor am I referring to the fact that after the war the British people learned, for the first time, of his own Private Session speeches from magazines that have always attacked this country.
The right hon. Gentleman today has asked for it, and he is going to get it. In the next place—and this is strictly apposite to what has been said by the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East—the right hon. Member the Prime Minister referred many times in his articles and speeches to India. Reference was made to India today. It has been said that a part of my guilt lies in the fact that the articles, when published in Egypt, create a most hostile climate 606 for our troops there and are, therefore, likely to endanger their lives. We had troops in India holding down the Indians. This is what the right hon. Gentleman wrote on 16th April, 1937:Pandit Nehru is a Communist"—
§ Mr. Bevan:
Communist, Revolutionary, the most capable and most implacable of the enemies of the British connection with India.…Congress has declared its united resolve to make the Constitution unworkable and to court, or even in some cases create, an absolute deadlock…the Government of every Province must be carried on from week to week, and the Governors have ample power in law and in fact to enable them to discharge this prime responsibility. Such is the crude, harsh, issue which is now emerging.In other words, he advocates governing India by local Governors behind whom the right hon. Gentleman put the Forces of the British Crown, as now in British Guiana.…England…has done its best for the Indian political classes. It will stand by its word in spirit and in letter; but it will go no further. It will enter upon no new slippery slope. Britain has done her best. Others now must make their own sincere contribution…Meanwhile, as if to strike a note of realism to Pandits, Mahatmas and those who now claim to speak for the helpless Indian masses, the Frontier is astir; and British officers and soldiers are giving their lives to hold back from the cities and peace-time wealth of India the storm of Pathan inroad and foray.This is the language by which the right hon. Gentleman was making the peaceful government of India at that time more difficult for the British Crown. I could go on.
The right hon. Gentleman has a very good precedent for his negotiations with Egypt. The right hon. and gallant Member who spoke before me said that we have not accumulated the Empire by force but by wisdom. [Hon. Members: "No."] By accident accompanied by wisdom, but never, apparently, by force. He should listen to the words of his own leader. I want to read from the book written by the right hon. Gentleman about his father, Volume I:The gradual withdrawal of European powers and the final retreat of France left Great Britain alone to confront the growing anarchy of Egypt. A medley of conflicting impulses and incidents, moral obligations and material interests, the Suez Canal, the coupons 607 of the Egyptian debt, Arabi's national movement and the massacre of June—culminated in the bombardment of Alexandria of 11th July, 1882, by the British fleet. Mr. Bright resigned from the Cabinet; but the House of Commons broke into general cheering at the news and only eight Radicals testified to their principles by their votes. Large military operations followed.This is where the wisdom comes in, without the force:Twenty-five thousand British soldiers descended upon Egypt. Arabi and his national movement were stamped out under the heavy heel of the British Grenadier and England became responsible for the fortunes of the Nile Valley.More wisdom—Their intervention was to carry the Government further than they expected. The misrule which had produced in Egypt the National movement of Arabi had created the rebellion of the Mahdi in the Soudan. The inhabitants of vast regions were aflame with military fury and religious fervour. Yusef Pasha had been overwhelmed. The army of General Hicks was being collected for its fatal effort.
§ The Prime Minister
I was writing 35 or 40 years after the event. What has that to do with the right hon. Member, who has committed an act which is directly relevant to the difficult and dangerous existing situation?
§ Mr. Bevan
I am in the House of Commons replying to a speech made by the leader of the rebels against the Prime Minister and, in the course of that speech, a statement was made that we ought to resume our traditional behaviour towards the Empire and the Colonies. I want to know—[Interruption.] I must finish the quotation:Inch by inch and hour by hour the Liberal Government was dragged deeper and deeper in the horrible perplexities of the Egyptian riddle and the Soudan tragedy. At each detested step they resolved to go no further. Every act of interference was to be their last. Every day they looked forward to an early evacuation. To get out of the country in the shortest possible time and upon any conceivable justification was their constant and controlling desire; and after every struggle to escape they found themselves more hopelessly and inextricably involved.He goes on to say:The war was—in his eyes—a wicked war, an unjust war, 'a bondholders' war.' And as he felt, so he spoke.608 The right hon. Gentleman goes on:While the fighting was actually in progress criticism was necessarily ineffective;In other words, this criticism of his father against British policy in Egypt was uttered when there was fighting in Egypt.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman has hitherto been trying to hide behind me. Now I gather he is endeavouring to hide behind my father. I am sure we can both take care of ourselves.
§ Now I come to the article.
§ Mr. Bevan
Ah! As I see that the right hon. Gentleman is about to leave the House, I think of what Shakespeare said:What private anxieties we have ye know not.To continue, in the course of the article there are three references to Egypt and only three. This is one of them,The presence of the troops of another nation on one's own national soil is a circumstance to be borne only when it is voluntarily conceded.It was conceded in the 1936 Treaty. But the 1936 Treaty is being negotiated. Egypt may, we do not know, voluntarily concede something. But nations will not abide the presence of other nations on their soil unless their presenceis freely negotiated. What is wrong with that? Does any hon. Member opposite deny it? I go on to say:Even then, it has definite disadvantages. The presence of American airmen is tolerated in Britain but not accepted.[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—yes. [Hon. Members: "It is not true."]If their presence comes to be actively resented, then they will have to withdraw.Is that denied? If actively resented by the British people, do hon. Members opposite say that American troops would still stay here?
§ Mr. Bevan
I say…they would have to withdraw; and for much the same reason as we shall have to withdraw from Egypt, because a military base is useless if it is surrounded by a hostile population.Does anybody seriously deny that? It is not only mentioned by me, it has been mentioned this morning in "The Times" leading article. If it is not possible to call upon the voluntary labour reserves of the Egyptian population, it is not possible for us to remain there. Is not that an obvious proposition?
In the other parts of my article where reference is made to Egypt, I am merely arguing—and I think correctly—that the great struggle in the world today is not a struggle between two or three imperialisms; it is a struggle between the national idea and the imperial idea, a nation's desire for independence against domination by other nations. I said:America did not take over India—it was India. Who wields the sceptre once held by Britain on the Gold Coast? The inhabitants. When the British walk out of Egypt, the Egyptians, and only the Egyptians will walk in. It is true that the Soviet Union"—and this part has not been quoted by any newspaper—in defiance of the trend of history, and in violation of its stated creed, did reach out and clutch to her many of the smaller nations on her borders. But they move restlessly in the hug of the bear and nothing is more certain than that they will never be reconciled to their oppressors.Is it not clear? Have we not said—Ihave said it in this House when I was a Member of the Government and I have said it in the country—that in my view when the Soviet Union took over Eastern Germany, and when she embraced Czechoslovakia in addition to the other nations on her borders, she went beyond her sociological frontiers. She conquered, but she cannot digest, and never will be able to digest, because people nowadays will not accept a decree at the hands of a foreign dictatorship. This is indeed the hope, the one on which we rest our case, that the desire of the people on Russia's western borders will bring about a peaceful modification of Russia's foreign policy. That has been our desire. If it is our desire that the States on the borders of Russia should assert their independence why should we deny it to other nations who are dominated by British troops?
610 If it be true, and it is true, I have been arguing here not only what is the British Labour Party's case, but what is the case, apparently, of the majority of hon. Members opposite. Otherwise, what are the rebels rebelling against? Here is a case put for the Government, put for the right hon. Gentleman, in modern langauge, therefore better than his own. It is very difficult to see why the attack is made on me. What is the purpose of it? As I said earlier, it is obviously an evasive attack. It is an attempt to try to divert attention from domestic anxieties inside the Conservative Party.
I can, of course, if hon. Members wish, read the whole article, but I think I have read enough to show the tenor of it. I apologise for taking up so much time, but it was necessary to make those quotations. I should like to say to hon. Members opposite, that I think they are making a very great mistake in some of the policies they are now adopting. When I was in the Far East in the early part of this year it seemed evident to me and to every one I spoke to who had authority to speak on African affairs that we shall have to adjust our policies to the rising nationalism of Africa and the Far East.
Grave mistakes are being committed at the present time, grave blunders, which could be the precursors of a third world war. We on this side of the House—indeed, I think the vast majority of the people of Britain and Europe—intensely resent the protection and countenance which the United States still give to Chiang Kai-shek. It is digging a gulf between the United States and Great Britain, and it would not be friendly to the United States not to say so.
The people of Great Britain believe that China would never accept a conqueror, even of their own race, armed by a foreign Power. They believe that the People's Government of China has come to stay and they believe that recognition of that fact and the bringing—[Interruption.] This is a Foreign Affairs debate, and hon. Members should contain themselves.
We believe—it has been said elsewhere—that the inclusion of the Republican Government of China in the Security Council of the United Nations would be a giant stride towards the pacification of the world. We believe that. We also 611 believe that a serious attempt ought to be made to reach agreement with Russia about Germany before the irrevocable step is taken of re-arming Western Germany. That is our officially stated view.
It is our view that we shall not be able to adjust the policies of this country to the necessities of the world unless we can put ourselves abreast of those movements of ordinary people everywhere who are trying not only to raise their material standards but also to throw from their shoulders an imperial yoke which has been there too long.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. John Maclay (Renfrew, West)
The speech which we have just heard has been an astonishing one for the first part of a foreign affairs debate. During the last 10 minutes we may have heard something about foreign affairs, but the rest of the speech was nothing more than a personal statement. However, I am not objecting to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) taking the opportunity of dealing with some of the things which have been said about him in the newspapers.
§ Mr. Bevan rose—
§ Mr. Maclay
I will give way when I have finished. But, among the right hon. Gentleman's other major offences, when he takes 20 minutes to speak about himself and dares to compare his own prose with that of the Prime Minister, he expresses a megalomania which becomes a menace to this country. My remarks spring particularly from the right hon. Gentleman's article. I have read it. The complete document is in the Library in the present issue of the "Tribune." Is that the correct article?
§ Mr. Maclay
It is thoroughly mischievous in content and style. The right hon. Gentleman must have had some idea where the article was going to be placed by the syndicate to which it was sold. Can he imagine a worst possible time for doing something of this nature than in the middle of delicate negotiations? There is no comparison with anything which happened pre-war. How could the few phrases which the right hon. Gentleman 612 himself has quoted possibly have helped the negotiations?
The article did not hurt my feelings very much. I regarded it as one of those horrifying masses of woolly phrases which have caused so much trouble throughout the world among people who do not know as much as we in this country know about the right hon. Gentleman and his manner of thinking. The article contained the old theme of imperialism—that we were dominating foreign countries in order to pursue our own aims and interests.
If the right hon. Gentleman was thinking of Egypt when he wrote the article, did he remember that our imperialistic aims in Egypt over the last 70 years have included having our troops there in order to make it possible foran enormous number of ships of every nationality to pass through the Suez Canal? Does he realise in the slightest degree that the presence of our troops in the Canal Zone made it possible for more than 100 million tons of shipping to pass through the Canal during the last 12 months?
§ Mr. Crossman rose—
§ Mr. Maclay
I will give way in due course. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that if British troops had not been in Egypt over the last 70 years, the orderly development of the Canal could not possibly have been achieved? It should be realised not only by the right hon. Gentleman but also by other hon. Members and by some other nations that if proper stability in the Suez Canal area cannot be achieved, neither we nor anyone else will have continuing use of the Canal.
Take, for example, one of the problems at present facing the Suez Canal company—the steadily increasing size of tankers. If bigger and bigger tankers are to be built, drawing more and more water, the company will need to deepen the Canal. But it cannot be deepened without widening it, and vast technical problems are involved. The technicians of the Suez Canal company can only work if they know they have long-term security of tenure and know that their work will not be interrupted by sporadic strikes or civil disturbance—no matter what its cause—which may happen if there is no one there to exercise reasonable control. It is not a question of the 613 troops digging the Canal; it is that the people who have to do the work must know they have in front of them years of peaceful conditions in which the work can be carried out.
I am not arguing about, and do not question, the strategic decisions of the Government, but I contend that if anyone thinks the Suez Canal problem is simply one of strategy or imperialism or any of the other funny words which people use, he is talking nonsense.
I want also to draw attention to the international importance of this matter. There is another nation which could be helping us, and that is the United States. I say this as a great friend of the United States. The United States could be helping us more than it is at the moment in this very difficult and delicate matter. I would remind the United States that over 16 per cent. of the 100 million tons of shipping which passed through the Suez Canal during the last 12 months was represented by ships carrying the American flag. The De Lessep's concept of the Suez Canal was of a new link between the West and the Far East. It was an idealistic concept at a time of high ideals in international affairs. What has happened is that over the years Britain has made the implementation of that concept possible.
Anyone of any party or from any country who makes the task of the British Government more difficult when they seek to conclude proper long-term arrangements with Egypt is pursuing a very dangerous policy. In this I am not to be taken as attacking the views of some of my hon. Friends; they have their sincerely held views; but my belief is slightly different from theirs.
If Her Majesty's Government, followed by the Governments of other nations, in any agreement that is made with Egypt, cannot find some means of guaranteeing the continuing stability of the Suez Canal area in the years to come, every Government involved will be carrying a desperately grave responsibility.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Gravesend)
I am sorry if I have to carry the House in to what may seem to many hon. Members to be something of a digression from the exciting personal issues which we have been discussing, but the fact is that I believe that the line of foreign and military 614 policy adopted in 1950–51, step by step leading up to and enshrined now in the Bermuda communiqué, even if it was right at the time it was initiated, has, in the light of events, now become substantially wrong. I want to say why that is and to elaborate what I believe to be the alternative.
I believe that the policy is wrong because under it the activities into which our resources are ever-increasingly poured are in large measure irrelevant to the main event which is taking place in the world today. I believe that is how our rivals want us to be. When I say "rivals" I undoubtedly mean the Kremlin leaders of the Soviet Union. I do not regard them as nice Social Democrats with whom we could easily make agreements if only we trusted them. I believe that they believe it to be their duty as time goes on to bring about the total world victory of Communism. In pursuit of that aim, I think their chief desire is that our actions and attitude shall be irrelevant to the main event which is going forward.
What is the main event in the world today? What is the situation which we have to confront? After all, that is the question which the humblest platoon commander is trained to ask himself before giving a single order or before planning any military operations. It is a question which I and my two hon. Friends, the Members for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) and Old-ham, West (Mr. Hale), have attempted to answer in a pamphlet called "Waging Peace" which we have brought out in the last couple of days. In order to approach it on the scale of history—and this is important in considering the great framework of foreign policy—let us consider how the question might have been answered if asked of bygone periods.
If we ask what happened in the third to the sixth centuries, we would answer the decay of the Roman Empire. If we ask of the Mediterranean basin what happened from the seventh to the tenth centuries, the answer would be the rise of Islamism. Asking the question of our time, that is to say of all the time from the middle of the 19th to the end of the 21st century, the answer surely will be the awakening of anything up to 200 million people who are determined 615 to free themselves from the poverty and contempt which they and their predecessors have endured down many past centuries.
It is not merely, as the Colonial Secretary remarked yesterday an awakening in order to grasp the dazzling marvels displayed to them by the West, but an awakening to throw off the overlords under whom they have endured poverty and contempt for so long. I believe that that is the force that is driving the great social revolution of our time. It is a complex process in which wealthy leaders and powerful groups which, at one stage, take the lead in freeing their people from a hated foreign yoke, may turn themselves into the indigenous tyrants whose rule has to be thrown over at the next stage. But I must not pursue the many complexities of that kind.
There is an important question which I want to ask about this process today. Where does Russia stand in relation to this social revolution? The Russians claim that they stand on the side of all the ultimate winners. That, I think, can be disputed, but what cannot be disputed is that they stand resolutely against all the ultimate losers. The Communist may not be the most desirable or desired comrade for the Arab in Tunisia who is struggling to free himself from French settlers. But, on the other hand, there is no doubt that the Communist is the most ruthless and literally the most bloody-minded opponent of all the sultans, nabobs, feudal landowners, extortionate money-lenders and functionless shareholders who have been so rightly condemned in a published letter by the late Archbishop. In that sense, it is true that the Communists are on the side of the great revolution that is going through the world in these times, and that is, in the long run, a far more alarming statement to make about our rivals than anything that can be said about Soviet tanks, Soviet submarines, or Soviet atom bombs.
Subconsciously, hon. Members opposite have been accepting a great deal of the Communist case about this social revolution in recent debates. Have we not heard them saying in recent weeks that the leaders of the awakening peoples must not expect or demand social progress at such a rate as frightens away 616 the inflow of finance capital, without which the necessary economic development cannot take place? Hon. Members will recognise that as being orthodox Toryism and complete Conservative rectitude. But that is exactly what the Communists say. If there is anyone—African or Caribbean—so minded as to co-operate with the British, and mentions that to a Communist agent, the first thing which the latter will say to him is, "You co-operate with the British, and your country will only make the quantity and quality of progress that can be tolerated and financed as a by-product of big business profitability."
It ought to be a part of foreign policy in the next 25 years not only to deal with armaments, alliances, agreements, treaties and all those things, but to take such steps as will prove in action that the Communist line about the rate of social progress is untrue. That will be an extremely costly task. And that is a dangerous thing for me to say, because somebody will make the reply that I and my hon. Friends are regarding this problem solely in terms of pouring out masses of money. We fully do realise that it has many aspects, and that it requires many things besides money—a changed attitude, detailed planning, sympathy and understanding of peoples and enough humility to understand all that is meant in that great judgment coming from Herbert Agar: that there may be in the next 25 years the last chance for the white race to join the human race. But when all that has been said and accepted, there is no way in which we can put ourselves in line with this great social revolution of our time, which is not going to cost a great deal in skilled manpower, materials and in finance. And all of this is an integral part of foreign policy.
It is said that we are doing much already under the Colombo Plan, the Commonwealth development plans, and so on. But the Colombo Plan is only the repayment of debt, and everything which we have given, invested and lent in the assistance of others in the last 12 months is only just over half of what we have borrowed from our own Colonies in the same period, so that we are not making any very magnificent contribution.
Others will point to President Eisenhower's great speech of 16th April, the point of which has now been enshrined 617 in a United Nations Resolution, which says:We…stand ready to ask our people, when sufficient progress has been made in internationally supervised disarmament, to devote a proportion of the savings…to an international fund…to assist in development…in under-developed countries.If I saw in the Bermuda policy any early hope that the Russians and Americans would soon reach a modus vivendi for a disarmament treaty, guaranteed by international inspection of Soviet armaments, leading to the establishment of peace throughout the world, I would say, "Finish the job and get on with the real tasks in front of us." But does anybody expect that? Even if there be more agreement than anybody honestly expects about Germany arising from this forthcoming conference, I believe that such are the governing philosophies of the Soviet Union, and such the influential public opinion of the United States of America, that those two giants, the only militarily independent Powers remaining in the world, are bound to confront each other in attitudes of mutual strain and tension for a long time to come. In all that time, and all over the world, the Communists will be, to the extent that I have already described, driving forward this inevitable and worldwide social movement; and we, unless we can change our attitude, will be doing relatively nothing about it.
What should we do? That is a question on which I could quite easily, before some other audience and with a different chairman, elaborate for a couple of hours. Let me be reasonable and select two quite concrete points; for it is reasonable that those of us who try to think and speak on the scale of history should also answer correctly the question, "What could we do now?" I will give two answers to that question.
The first I have mentioned in the House before. It is that careful investigation shows that 43 million dollars per year could be spent on the practical requests now currently coming forward to the United Nations Technical Assistance Board. The actual income in 1953 was 23 million dollars and it looks like being 25 million dollars in 1954. Our fair share of it ought to be £950,000. We shall actually contribute £550,000. How magnificent—
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)
The hon. Baronet has got his figures wrong, as he usually does in these matters. We are in fact contributing £650,000 unconditionally in the coming year.
§ Sir R. Acland
I accept the correction, which means that our contribution moves from 5½ to 6½. That does not affect my main argument, nor has it interfered with my suggestion which is: how magnificent it would have been if we had bridged the whole gap between the budget and the amount which could have been usefully and practically spent. It would cost us £6½ million. Governments of countries containing nearly a billion people would have received within a month messages relating to requests for assistance which have been postponed and turned down telling them to get busy and to make all their own necessary preparations to receive at an early date the assistance that they had asked for.
Somebody may say, "We cannot afford £6½ million to produce that result." But can that be sustained in a year in which we have afforded £7¾ million to subsidise the Arab Legion? What an extraordinary inversion in the sense of values it is to think that of those two purposes on which approximately £7 million could be spent, it is better to spend it in subsidising the Arab Legion than in the way which I have just suggested and which would win for us prestige, good will and friendship from countries with a population of nearly a billion men and women. Yet this is quite a small point I am making in comparison with foreign policy as I think it ought to be.
Let us go back to the Resolution of the Economic and Social Council which I have just quoted. Did millions of people in the undeveloped countries thrill with joy to know that, perhaps 30 years in the future when all the strains and tensions of the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. will have been smoothed out with international inspection of the Soviet arms industry and so on, then some of the savings on armaments would be devoted to helping them? Is that how they reacted? Not at all. The "New York Times" report of 19th October said:Representatives of 17 smaller nations agreed today to push the proposal for a 619 new internationad economic development fund. They acted despite the stand taken by the United States last week that it could not support such a project at the present time. The smaller nations, which met informally in closed session to plan how to keep the proposal alive, appointed a three-member group to confer…and so on. We could have given leadership to those nations, not only by helping to draft resolutions, in which I believe we did help them, but we could have started the fund. It would have cost us 250 million dollars, or £89 million of convertible sterling. I do not doubt at all that we could have the co-operation of the Canadians, the Australians, the New Zealanders, the Scandinavians, the Swiss and the Dutch, and could call in such men as Ralph Bunche, Hernan Santa Cruz, Hugh Keenleyside, Arthur Lewis, and such men as the Indian general who rendered such service to humanity in Panmunjom. We could have set up an institution which would give light, leadership, and above all hope of peace, to millions of men all over the world.
Again, someone will say, "We cannot afford £89 million." But can this be maintained in a year when we are spending £36 million on giving ourselves the luxury of abolishing the sugar ration, and in which the consumption of the British people mostly among those of them whose incomes put them in the wealthier half of the community, has increased by £400 million? Do we say that we cannot afford this kind of thing? Of course we can, if we have the will.
I have dealt only with two proposals, but there are many other activities in which I think we could seriously engage if we pursued a policy which could be seriously regarded as waging peace. All of these would be costly, too. And if it be argued, as it might be, that we could not finance them all by cutting consumption, then I must say, speaking on my own behalf and of the two hon. Gentlemen who have joined me in writing the pamphlet, and of others who have joined in giving it general support in principle, that in the coming year £200 million or £300 million, and in the year after that £400 million or £500 million, less spent on arms, in order to spend corresponding sums on all the processes of waging peace, would not only be more moral but would also enable us to make a far greater contribution to peace, and would leave us, on balance, actually safer in the 620 world than we are or shall be under the policy enshrined in the Bermuda communiqué.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
It is one of the traditions of this House that one should always follow some of the arguments of the previous speaker. I did try very hard, when the hon. Baronet the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) started, to understand him, but I found him so incomprehensible that I turned to my neighbour and asked whether the hon. Baronet was speaking in Welsh.
A little later I did manage to listen to some of the words which the hon. Member was saying. I should like to refute one thing he said. It was that subconsciously certain hon. Members on this side of the House had been accepting Communist thought during the last few weeks. I tried to write down what the hon. Gentleman said after that, but he speaks with such incredible rapidity that one needs to have a knowledge of shorthand to be able to do that. Subconsciously I have not been accepting Communism, but quite consciously not doing so.
§ Sir R. Acland
If I did actually use the word "accepting," and as there are senses in which that word is undesirable, I should like to withdraw it. What I meant was that the Conservative philosophy, coming naturally to hon. Gentlemen opposite, leads them to conclusions which are exactly in tune with what the Communists say about the capitalist finance of economic development in under-developed countries.
§ Viscount Lambton
The only other thing said by the hon. Gentleman to which I wish to refer, was that he could address another audience for two hours. I do not know what the effect of that would be, because even the speech which he has just delivered seemed to me to last for at least two hours. I would certainly attempt to dissuade him from doing anything like that.
I want this afternoon to follow not so much the arguments which have come from hon. Members opposite as some which have been put forward on this side of the House by the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse). I very much regret 621 that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is not present because I sent him a note telling him that I disagreed with, and that I would try to contradict, some of the things he had been saying. I can only hope that he will come in before I finish my speech.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman seemed to make two propositions about Egypt. The first was that the Government's policy was strategically wrong, and the second that great harm would be done to our prestige throughout the world were we to withdraw our Forces from the Canal Zone. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman made many severe criticisms of the foreign policy which the Government are attempting to follow at this time. I regret that, though he made these criticisms, he at no stage made clear the greatest difficulty of all which is standing in the way of any settlement of the Egyptian problem at the present time.
The first proposal put forward by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was that it was essential to hold the base, though he never at any time mentioned the question of Egyptian labour, which is at the root of this trouble. During the last war, I believe that over 100,000 Egyptians were employed at the base, and that in 1951 over 50,000 were employed. At the present moment there are, I believe, well under 20,000—probably no more than 10,000—so employed. That means that at the moment the base is not being properly run and is deteriorating, and, as other hon. Members have said, that roads are disappearing and that ammunition is not being lifted as it should be.
That is not all, because, just as the present base must depend upon hired Egyptian labour, so any future base of any considerable size must also depend upon such labour. This shows, I think, that if we are to have a lasting and successful association with Egypt, it is essential that this country and Egypt should co-operate at the present time. Without such co-operation there can be no lasting agreement at all.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman suggested that the base force should be reduced to a brigade. But a brigade or any such small force could be nothing but a source of permanent irritation, and the members of it would never cease to be in the most dangerous situation. Some 622 hon. Members might declare that we could then import foreign labour to take the place of Egyptian labour. I can imagine no more difficult situation than that we should introduce into Egypt a large amount of foreign labour. If we are to keep this base, then we must trust and co-operate with Egypt.
The other point which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman attempted to make was that it was strategically in our favour to put this small force there. I want to make a comparison which I think deserves the attention of the House. We are fortunate in having in the country at this time two of the greatest soldiers of this generation, who are still serving the country and whose advice is available to us. We have also, I am glad to say my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who is, perhaps, the greatest military strategist of the last 200 years.
These men are working together on one side while, on the other, the only military expert whom anyone has spoken of today is the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East. We should remember that when we consider the matter. I have no doubt at all that to retire in strength is of far greater value than to linger in weakness. We shall do far greater damage by staying and providing a source of irritation than by retiring with the best wishes of that country.
Then there is the question of prestige. We are quite seriously told by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that we shall suffer greatly in prestige, and that the situation in the rest of Africa will deteriorate as the result of our withdrawal from the Suez Canal. I do not think that the troubles in the rest of Africa have arisen from our so-called weakness concerning the Suez Canal. Those troubles are merely symptomatic of a general nationalistic movement which is going on everywhere throughout the world today.
However, if we maintain Suez as a sore in the side of Africa, then every little trouble in Africa will have its repercussion in Suez, and every irritation in Suez will have its repercussion in every trouble spot in the Middle East or Africa. It is always better either to clear out of a situation completely or to remain in force. There is an argument for staying there in strength, but none for staying there in weakness. I can appreciate the argument of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, 623 who, I regret to say, has not condescended to come back to hear my speech this afternoon.
One other thing. Before I entered politics, I was always told that it was the duty of the Opposition to oppose. It seems to me that the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East is trying to teach me another political maxim, which is that it is the duty of the excluded to complain.
§ Viscount Lambton
I have not the slightest intention of withdrawing it, and I only regret that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is not here as I requested him to be.
§ Mr. Hirst
I think that the noble Viscount should give credit for sincerity to those who hold the views of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Water-house) in the same way, as we are trying to give it to him, although we quarrel very much with what he is saying.
§ Viscount Lambton
I have not the slightest intention of withdrawing. I believe that this is an association of different elements, and that there are some among those who oppose what I am saying who have acted with the best of intentions and who have the highest possible moral integrity, and also a religious belief in the Empire. But there are others who have done it because they think it is a step up the ladder. I think that the third group about which I have spoken have done this because they have not been included in Her Majesty's present Government—[An HON. MEMBER: "Monstrous."]—and that continued opposition does nothing at all towards increasing the smallness of the Government's majority.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
On a point of order. Within the hearing of the whole House the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) referred to the noble Lord as a cheeky young pup.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
If the hon. Member used the expression he should withdraw it.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
As my name was put down among others signing that Motion, may I say that I have been here a very long time, I have never held office, and I, and almost everybody who signed it, have done so because we really honestly believe in it. We have all taken part—even the Prime Minister has taken part in his time—in opposition to the Government which we support. May I assure the noble Lord that it is not very wise to accuse other people of motives simply because their views do not happen to be his own? Such things do a very great disservice.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
On a point of order. Would you please remind the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) that he is no longer Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means?
§ Viscount Lambton
I gave the hon. Gentleman three choices and he can choose whichever he likes. I should like to conclude—
§ Mr. Crossman
May I point out that one never concludes a speech of that sort without reference to a stab in the back?
§ Viscount Lambton
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman speaks for himself.
I should like to conclude by once again mentioning that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to whom I thought it necessary to make these remarks has not been here during my speech. I repeat that I gave him warning of my intention and expressed the hope that he would be here. I only hope that at a future time the right hon. and gallant Gentleman may have the opportunity of replying to me and will in no way take my remarks as offensive to himself.
§ Lord John Hope (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
On a point of order. May I ask, without ill-will to my noble Friend who has just sat down, whether it is not better and usual, however strongly we feel, not to attribute motives to an individual?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I listened very carefully. The noble Lord did not attribute motives to any individual. He was very general.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. John Paton (Norwich, North)
I am sure that the whole House is interested in the noble Lord's expressions, and that all of us are willing to place confidence in his judgment, because we know that he must know his own friends. I do not want to elaborate on his theme, but rather to examine the German problem.
I should like, however, to make a general remark about the position presented to the House today by those who have spoken about Egypt. It is, of course, one of those family quarrels from which the wise outsider usually stands apart—a quarrel between two sections of the Tory party with, of course, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) intervening. It is essentially a family quarrel, and I am sure that the Foreign Secretary tonight will deal very faithfully and well with those of his friends who have put their names to the Motion on the Order Paper.
I listened with very great care and interest to the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Water-house). It was a type of speech at one time familiar in this House from Conservatives in the olddays, but which we have not heard from any Tory voice for a number of years now. It was a speech profoundly reactionary in spirit, and one which, if accepted, would have consequences profoundly disastrous not only to this country and to Egypt but to the whole world.
Its logical outcome would be, of course, war upon the Egyptians by British Forces. There is no possible escape from the logic of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's argument. It would mean a policy leading to complete disaster and would earn for us at once the inveterate enmity of every Arab State in the Middle East, destroy the main part of the British policy out there, and destroy the friendship of the greatest Moslem community, Pakistan. It is a policy which seems to me to be completely bedlamite, though put forward today by a responsible man.
Tories in this House today have reverted really to what is their basic conception with regard to the Commonwealth, and have rent the veil which has concealed those objectives during the last 626 few years. I am sure that the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East has done the House a service in making that speech. With that, I will leave the subject and turn to the main matter upon which I want to address the House.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
May I remind the hon. Gentleman that all my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East was asking was that we should continue to play our part under the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of Alliance of 1936. Article 8 of that Treaty reads:The presence of these forces shall not constitute in any manner an occupation and will in no way prejudice the sovereign rights of Egypt.
§ Mr. Paton
The whole argument was directed to the idea that we should maintain our position in the Canal Zone by force, if necessary. It is really an expression of nostalgic memories. It is what they would like to do with the modern world. It is also a revelation of their complete loss of contact with the world as it exists today. The kind of world that would have permitted that kind of Tory activity has gone, and those on the other side—including the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), who giggles at that—have no real conception of the kind of world they are now living in. Fortunately, there are enough Members in the Conservative Party taking a properly responsible view of their position, and having a better sense of realities, to make this attempted revolt a very minor thing indeed.
What I wanted to talk to the House about is the Bermuda Conference, with particular reference to the German problem. I think that the Egyptian debate is an intrusion. I listened to the Prime Minister this afternoon telling us of his resentment about the almost universal attitude of the Press to the Bermuda communiquéwhen they called it a collection of platitudes. From what he said, I am sure that that expression had stung him somewhat, because I noticed that he attempted to explain away the communiqué. What he did not attempt to do was to add anything whatever to its content. I have always understood that it is not possible to make one nothing added to another nothing into 627 something. So the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon added nothing whatever to the empty document which was issued after the Bermuda Conference.
From that document only two things emerged. One of them was the fact that it was the final burial of the Prime Minister's imaginative idea expressed in his speech of 11th May. The Bermuda Conference has seen the end of that, because what is to take place at Berlin has no relation whatever to the conception that was promulgated by the Prime Minister on 11th May and which caught the imagination of the whole world. Therefore, one positive thing, in that negative sense, did emerge—the burial of the conception of the Prime Minister's proposal of 11th May.
The second thing that emerged from the document is the reaffirmation, as the signatories of the document view it, of the proposal to go ahead with the European Defence Community and the rearmament of Germany. Not only did the document itself reaffirm that, but we have since had the speeches of Mr. John Foster Dulles in Paris underlining this with the heaviest of emphasis in order that we should not possibly mistake it. I regret that the Prime Minister this afternoon appeared to give the impression of finding excuses for the performance of Mr. John Foster Dulles in Paris. I viewed that performance with the profoundest disappointment, and I think many people in this country and in other countries resent as deeply as I do this hunting and harrying of our old friend and ally France in the way that we have witnessed in the last year or two to try to drag her into a decision which she is most reluctant to accept.
Now we have had this final exhibition of bullying and open coercion, the threat that if France did not toe the line quite shortly all the American troops would be withdrawn from Europe, and France would be denied any of the money which would be available under mutual security aid. I view that performance with the profoundest misgiving, and I want to express my resentment in this House at the first opportunity. No one could possibly feel the slightest confidence in the leadership of a statesman from the United States who was capable of adopting an attitude 628 of that kind to a proud and sensitive people like the French.
In this matter of E.D.C. and the rearmament of Germany, we have something which is the core of the whole German problem. I believe that this attitude, as it has been expressed in the E.D.C. and by Mr. Foster Dulles, is one of those obstinate refusals which were referred to by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition when he spoke this afternoon. Does anybody in this House who looks at this matter with a sense of reality believe that the rearmament of Germany, the European Defence Community into which the rearmed Germany will be integrated, and the reunification of Germany, are compatible things? In my view, they are incompatible.
Let us remember in this connection that when people talk about German rearmament—and the phrase is always "German rearmament"—they are really talking about the rearmament of West Germany. If the rearmament of West Germany does take place, it will inevitably mean that the present division of Germany will become permanent and there will then be no solution of the German problem by negotiation. In the end there will only be a solution by war. It is because I believe that this is the real situation that I want the House to bear with me while I state some of my arguments in support of that view.
First, I want to quote from an article in last Sunday's "Observer" written by Sebastian Haffner which, whether or not one agrees with all his conclusions, was undoubtedly an extraordinarily clever analysis of the German situation. He said:Nothing could be more dangerous and self-deceiving than to take literally the diplomatic fiction which calls Western Germany 'Germany,' to forget the existence of East Germany and its 18 million, and to think that a successful integration of Western Germany in the Atlantic system will have settled the German question. This German question will be with us until the Germans are in one way or another reunited, and all the time it will hang as a menace over the peace of Europe, as it did from 1848 to 1871. If the Great Powers prove unable to settle it, the Germans will do so one day in some way of their own, and the world has few more urgent interests than to see to it that it is not eventually once more settled by blood and iron.If we create this army of Western Germany and support its integration in the European Defence Community, how is it 629 possible for anybody trying to take a realistic view of the situation to imagine that Russia could possibly accept a situation of that kind and agree to the reunification of Germany and the merging of East and West Germany? It seems to me that anybody who believes that is living in a world of complete unreality.
When I speak of the rearmament of West Germany, I am not thinking of 12 or 15 divisions of German soldiers. The rearmament of West Germany and its integration into the European Defence Community is a far more important economic question than a military one, because it would bring to the service of the Western Allies the whole of the gigantic complex of industry in the Ruhr and, combined with the manpower resources of Western Germany, it would give the Western Powers the decisive military balance of Europe. It would tilt the balance absolutely decisively for the West, and make it utterly impossible for Russia in any way to challenge it by military means. It seems to me, as it has always seemed, that if we insist upon the rearmament of Western Germany and its integration into the Western European Defence Community, we can at once give up any hope of reaching a settlement of the German question by negotiation with Russia.
I want to say a few words about the arguments which have been advanced against this point of view. One such argument was advanced recently by Dr. Adenauer, in a speech made in Paris, when he was discussing the question of trying to reach a solution of the German problem on the basis not of a military alliance with a rearmed Germany, but of a neutralised Germany. According to a newspaper report, when asked what would happen if Germany were neutralised, he said that he did not think that the United States or Britain would keep forces in Germany permanently to maintain the neutralisation of the country; in that case Russia would take the lead and Germany would be turned into a Russian satellite:within the shortest time by means of subversion, bribery and coercion…That was the statement of Dr. Adenauer, and it is very important to note that in that statement he did not suggest that a neutralised Germany was going to 630 be overrun by Russian armed forces. He was suggesting that the people in Western Germany are brethren so weak in the faith that they will fall victims to subversion, bribery and coercion by the Russians if our troops are removed. Surely Dr. Adenauer may be permitted to know and speak for his own people. Yet it is those people who, as Dr. Adenauer himself says, are so weak in their democratic faith that they would readily fall victim to Russian wiles—not armed force—who are now asked to become the military bulwark of European defence.
The Prime Minister made great play with the idea that Germany must make her contribution to the safety of Europe. He went on to say that we cannot keep 65 million Germans unarmed, and suggested that we had to find some means of providing the Russians with a sense of security other than by means of force. But would the rearming of Germany make for the security of Europe? Would it give the Russians a sense of security? Has everybody here forgotten the history of Germany, and its traditions? Is everybody blind to its geographical position? Has everybody forgotten the fact that, just a short time ago, we were conscious that she was now ringed by territories which had been divorced from her by force, and that there is in Germany a very big and growing feeling that those territories must, by any and every means, be returned to Germany?
If we rearm Germany, what kind of Germany will it be, if it puts into its rearmament the kind of effort that we have seen put into the re-creation of the German economy during the last three years, with all the power of German industrial equipment behind it? It will present a military force that will absolutely dominate the Continent of Europe. I am told that it is impracticable to keep the Germans neutralised. Is it not an extraordinary thing that, only five years ago, not a single Member of this House, and no statesmen in the United States of America, France, or anywhere else, had the slightest doubt but that Germany could be kept permanently neutralised?
The change came about—and all these difficulties about a policy of neutralisation were evolved—only after the United 631 States had changed her conception as to who was her enemy. A little more than five years ago I had the privilege of discussing the neutralisation of Japan with the heads of the American Military Mission in Japan and Korea. They were universally of the opinion that there was no difficulty whatever in keeping Japan permanently de-militarised—"neutralised"was the term they used—because at that time their minds and eyes were still focussed upon Japan and Germany as the enemy.
Now, as a result of the change in their attitude and point of view, Japan has become a friend, and Americans are extremely desirous of rearming her, but they are up against the fact that they compelled Japan to insert in her Constitution the provision that she would never again be an armed State. We have exactly the same position in Europe. There has been a change of opinion within a few years, and yesterday's enemy is today's friend—and tomorrow will be our most important military ally.
In support of my argument, and in rebuttal of the argument of Dr. Adenauer, I want to quote the words of another German, who, in my view, is destined to have a place in history at least equal to that of Dr. Adenauer, if not higher. He was a German whose patriotism could never be impugned. I refer to the late Ernst Reuter, who was for so long the mayor of the City of Berlin. In probably the last thing that he ever wrote he said:It won't be possible to frustrate much longer the most fervent desire of 65 million people in the middle of Europe.He was referring to the reunification of Germany. He went on:Indeed, there is a definite danger that the German masses will again swing to the Chauvinist Right if their most legitimate claims remain unfulfilled. Many of [the Allies] tend to subordinate everything else to the E.D.C. and to suspect all Germans who fear that the E.D.C. might jeopardise their chances of reunion of being soft towards Russia. It seems to me that exactly the contrary is true. E.D.C. is essentially a static concept that more or less resigns itself to Russia's permanent presence on the Elbe. By contrast, German reunion fits into the framework of a more dynamic policy that is trying to obtain Russia's withdrawal behind her own borders through negotiation.632 These are the words of a very great German, who, in the last few years before his death, was right in the middle of the front line—a German who had no reason to love the Russians, but who loved his own country and people. That German believed, as I believe, that if only we would go into the conference inBerlin casting aside inhibitions that come from our past actions, if only we would go in with flexible minds, prepared to discuss anything which it is essential to discuss in order to try to reach a negotiated settlement, there would be much more hope of a successful outcome. I commend Ernst Reuter's point of view to this House.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) began his speech by mentioning the terms in which I had given him notice that I was going to refer to him today. I thought it only right to let him know that I did not intend making merely a casual reference to him, so that he could make up his mind whether he wished to hear me or not. I hold extremely strong views about the articles that he has written for "Al Goumhouria," the newly-launched organ of the anti-British revolutionary movement in Cairo. I believe that they have done considerable harm.
I should like to deal with the explanation that the right hon. Gentleman gave to the House. The first thing he said was that he had been greatly maligned and libelled, and that he could not afford a libel action against wealthy proprietors of newspapers. All I can say is that that is not a consideration that has ever weighed with the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock). There is not the slightest doubt that the right hon. Gentleman, if he really honestly and sincerely thought that he had been libelled, would have taken the matter to the courts.
Then the right hon. Gentleman said we ought to judge these articles by reading them. I assure the House with the greatest sincerity—and I have been to the Egyptian Embassy to get the full facts—that not a single copy of the newspaper containing these articles had been permitted to come to this country until today. It was only with the greatest difficulty that I got hold of one. No 633 newspaper correspondents have been allowed to send one, and they have been permitted to send only short approved summaries of these articles.
§ Mr. Crossman
Did the hon. Gentleman, perhaps, ask my right hon. Friend to lend him a copy, which he could easily have done?
§ Mr. Lindsay
The right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, is in a special position in regard to this particular newspaper, but I certainly did not ask him to lend me a copy.
The second point that the right hon. Gentleman made was that there was no impropriety in a Privy Councillor writing for newspapers overseas. My answer to that, of course, is that it all depends on the timing and it all depends on the articles. I do ask the House to note that the difference between the Prime Minister's pre-war articles, which the right hon. Gentleman referred to, and his own articles is this: the Prime Minister's articles were designed to encourage His Majesty's Government to deal more firmly with the King's enemies, whereas the right hon. Gentleman's articles are calculated to encourage the Queen's enemies to deal more harshly with Her Majesty's Government. That, I submit to the House, is a very real difference indeed.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Maldon)
Would the hon. Gentleman take note of the fact, which I do not think was very strongly stressed by my right hon. Friend, that the Prime Minister's articles to which he referred appeared in 1936, 1937 and 1938 throughout Europe in Nazi German and Italian Fascist newspapers, thus encouraging the Nazis and the Fascists against the British Government of that day.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (Mr. Nigel Birch)
Oh, good heavens.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I am dealing with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale. The next point he made was that these articles were written for India and not for Egypt. But he did not deny that he had authorised their publication in Egypt. He said that one ought to note 634 that there were only three references in them to Egypt. I think that is the excuse of the girl who had an illegitimate baby and said that it was only a small one.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I have read these articles. I can assure the House I have read them many times with great interest and care to be fair, and they are thoroughly anti-Britain in her rôle as an Imperial Power.
§ Mr. Lindsay
What is important is not so much what the right hon. Gentleman wrote in these articles as the fact that he has associated himself with this newspaper which is the organ of the revolutionary anti-British movement in Egypt. What the right hon. Gentleman has done is this. He has sold to the Egyptian revolutionary movement the sponsorship of a British ex-Cabinet Minister for anti-British and anti-Imperial sentiments. That is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman has done.
Here is the paper in my hand. Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that it is a rabid anti-British newspaper? Does he know what was said in the editorial leader which introduced him to his new Egyptian public? The article is headed, "Into Battle." It states that it isleading the militant nationalistic fight against imperialism.It refers to this country as…the viper which is England.That is the right hon. Gentleman's introduction to the Egyptian public. He did not mention that today when he spoke of the contents of his article. Not only that. He permitted another article to be published in this paper subsequent to that anti-British introduction in that newspaper, and this is what—
§ Mr. Lindsay
I am referring to the right hon. Gentleman's own sin, and not to any possible sins of my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend is perfectly capable of looking after himself.
I say to the right hon. Gentleman that he has done his uttermost to wreck the 635 negotiations which are now proceeding between the British and the Egyptian Governments. What we want in this House is an agreement with Egypt. As to what the terms of the agreement are and the best way of getting it is a matter upon which we may all have perfectly legitimate differences. I do not doubt that they exist on that side of the House as well as on this side. I did not personally sign the Motion referred to, and I do not agree with it, but my right hon. and hon. Friends who did sign it may well be right in thinking that the best way ultimately to get an agreement with Egypt would be to suspend negotiations at the present time.
We are prepared to make new dispositions in the Middle East if we can obtain the guarantees which will safeguard our international rights of passage through the Canal and its future protection and that of the Middle East. I take those words from the recent speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) because I am glad to be able to demonstrate in that way that there is common ground between the two sides of the House, except only for the small number of Members for whom the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale speaks.
I was only surprised that the right hon. Gentleman was permitted to speak from the Front Bench today, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington only last Sunday on the subject of Egypt, said that the right hon. Gentleman spoke only for himself. The position is that the whole of the Conservative Party and most of the party opposite want this agreement, but our attitude to this question is that we must obtain the guarantees which we require, and that unless we can obtain them it is our duty to stay there.
Now what does the right hon. Gentleman do? At this very critical juncture, just when these delicate negotiations are going on, he writes an article in the Egyptian press which states we are going to leave in any case.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I simply cannot imagine anything more likely than that to encourage General Neguib in his demands for British total surrender.
§ Mr. Speaker
We cannot have two hon. Members on their feet at the same time. If the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) wishes to give way, he can sit down. If he does not give way, nobody else should stand.
§ Mr. Lindsay rose—
§ Mr. Lindsay
If the right hon. Gentleman will try to contain himself, I will tell him that I was prepared for him to challenge me by his saying that these are purely tendentious reports cabled back from Cairo. I therefore took this article to an Egyptian official in this country and I got a great deal of it translated by him. He is not a member of the Tory Party or a newspaper correspondent, and I entirely satisfied myself that the reports which had been sent back from Cairo and the translations of the right hon. Gentleman's article are accurate. I could not do more than that, and I am quite satisfied that the translations I have been given are accurate.
§ Mr. Bevan
This is a very serious thing and I wish to inquire about it. It may be that the article when it is translated into Arabic is not properly translated. I must find out. I do not speak Arabic or write it, and the hon. Member is quite right in drawing my attention to the point. But it is known that the article is in the Library. He has made a quotation from the article, which is a quotation alleged to be from the Arabic translation but not from the original article.
§ Mr. Lindsay
What else did the right hon. Gentleman expect but to be misrepresented when he has been paid to write for a rabble-rousing anti-British newspaper? He has no answer at all on the score of misrepresentation.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South- East) rose—
§ Mr. Lindsay
I am not going to give way again. I have already been speaking for longer than I intended.
As I said, I cannot imagine anything more calculated to encourage anti-British demands for total surrender than the right hon. Gentleman's articles. The one certain way of making sure that one gets no terms at all is to say that one is going to clear out in any case.
I believe that the righthon. Gentleman is guilty of an even more serious crime. I believe that the effect of these articles will be greatly to inflame the passions which already exist. I, for one, cannot forget that these are the people who have trained saboteurs under German instructors to kill and maim our people, and I cannot forget that there have been over 100 attacks with firearms or explosives upon British life and property in the last year. Of one thing I am quite certain: whatever supporters and friends the right hon. Gentleman used to have in the families of Service men in the Canal Zone, he will not have them after these articles in Cairo.
We ourselves are used to the right hon. Gentleman's sneers against the British Empire and the United States, and perhaps they do not do much harm here because we know him for the sawdust Caesar that he is. We remember the right hon. Gentleman's advice to us in a critical stage of the war to put Polish generals in command of the 8th Army.
§ Mr. Lindsay
We do not forget his failure to build the houses. We in this country are quite accustomed to his bombast and malice. But he is not as yet so discredited in countries overseas. Overseas he has the high position of being an ex-member of the British Cabinet and a Privy Councillor. And in giving his sponsorship and encouragement to the revolutionary movement in Egypt, I think 638 the right hon. Gentleman has done a dastardly thing and forfeited the respect of this House and of his fellow citizens.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Maldon)
I shall not deal at length with the dreary, vindictive, and contemptible nonsense to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) because he made no new point at all and had been answered adequately in advance by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). It was interesting, however, and symptomatic of his attitude, that the hon. Member kept telling us of the things that he could not forget, many of them deplorable and regrettable things indeed. He was rather like the Bourbons in that respect: people who forgot nothing—and learned nothing. That, of course, is the trouble with some hon. Members on the back benches opposite; they forget nothing and they learn nothing.
It was rather terrifying, in a way, that the first speech from those back benches, by the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Water-house), should have been the kind of speech it was. It is terrifying that the leaders of Her Majesty's Government, who, whatever their party, do gradually begin to learn something about the hard facts of life when they hold office and attend international conferences, should have to sit through such arrant nonsense and listen respectfully to it, because the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is, of course, very influential in the Conservative Party in the country. It is terrifying that members of the Government should have to listen—apparently with attentive respect—to these Piltdown politics.
This debate is not exclusively about Egypt, although one might suppose that it was from some of the speeches which have been made, but before I pass to more general topics I should like to say a word about that part of the world. I want to refer particularly to the Sudan; but what I have to say may have some bearing on what has been said about Egypt.
There has just been an election in the Sudan, and I imagine that the result of it was something of a distasteful shock to many people in this country and on both sides of this House, perhaps especially to the Foreign Office and Her 639 Majesty's Government, because the election went overwhelmingly in favour of the more pro-Egyptian parties and against the Independence Front, led by the Umma party, who, although they were in no sense stooges of Her Majesty's Government or of Britain, were thought of here as our friends.
In my view, one of the main reasons why that Sudanese election has gone in a way which most of us, and certainly, I imagine, the Government, deplore or regret—although, of course, the Sudanese people have a perfect right to vote as they like—is the continued presence of British troops in Suez. I had better explain why I say that. It is because all the Sudanese, of whatever party, have for many years wanted to get rid of the British from the Sudan. When I say "all the Sudanese" I mean all the politically literate Sudanese. I do not refer to some of the more primitive and backward people in the south. All the politically conscious Sudanese, of whatever party, have wanted to get the British out of the Sudan.
There was, however, a considerable split between them on the best tactics and the best method of doing it, and those who formed the more pro-Egyptian parties, the pro-Egyptian front, as against the straight independence front, were actuated originally, and I think still are, not by any desire to replace subjection to Britain by subjection to Egypt, but simply by their view of Egypt as a neighbour who stood in a quasi-Colonial relationship with Britain. It seemed to these Sudanese politicians that if they collaborated with Egypt, and learned from Egypt the techniques of resisting colonialism, they would be able to achieve their own independence more rapidly. I do not know whether they are right or not, but I venture to offer that as one explanation—not the only one—of the result of the Sudanese election.
While I am on the subject of the Sudan, it is perhaps not inappropriate that somebody in this House should say a word—perhaps even the Foreign Secretary, in winding up, might say a word—about the position in the Sudan of the British officials still serving there, and about the Sudanisation of the public services. What is its prospective rate likely to be over the next few years? I would like personally to add that, although, of course, 640 our position in the Sudan depended originally on imperial and strategic considerations, none the less those British officials who have served and are still serving there—at present under very great difficulties—are not the traditional exploiting imperialists whom we know of in some parts of the world: they are the most unselfish and dedicated body of civil servants to be found perhaps anywhere in the world, with very high standards of service indeed.
I now turn to the Prime Minister's speech, which he himself described as simple and factual. It was simple in the sense that a vacuum is simple. It was factual in the sense that our Votes and Proceedings are factual; it was certainly not a Hansard of the Bermuda Conference and, indeed, for reasons which the right hon. Gentleman explained, that could hardly be expected as yet. Nevertheless, it was, I think, disappointingly light and jejune, and hardly told us anything more than we had learned from the communiqué. Its general tone was agreeable, but it was marred by that very silly sneer at my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale—the "McCarthy-Bevanite" sneer. It was a most fatuous and stupid thing to take two men who are the exact opposite of each other in every way, and to link them together in that infantile manner.
My right hon. Friend has, incidentally, been in the wars quite a lot recently. You, Mr. Speaker, may have noticed that there were some pejorative allusions to him in another place yesterday. I cannot help feeling that if that kind of thing is to go on, we shall have to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider what the relations between the two Houses ought to be. We here have no right to ask questions of the Government about matters for which they are not in the least responsible, departmentally or officially—matters relating to Members of another place—and Members of another place ought not to abuse their privilege of not having such strict Standing Orders as we have here.
There was in the right hon. Gentleman's singularly empty speech one very significant phrase. He said—and I think all of us agreed with him—that the Soviet Union was entitled to assurances of reasonable security after the immense suffering endured at the hands of Hitler's 641 armies. That is a truism which, I suppose, would be accepted by every hon. Member on both sides of this House. The curious thing is that the Prime Minister, weighing each word carefully—because he was reading from a carefully prepared script—felt obliged to add: "I think that I was successful in impressing this on my colleagues at Bermuda." How extraordinary to have to struggle to impress such an obvious truism on our allies and colleagues! What a picture it gives of the enormous chasm between British and American foreign policy and outlook on world affairs, that it should be necessary to have to struggle to impress this on the Americans at Bermuda! Of course, in America they take far more than we do here what may be called the apocalyptic view of Soviet Russia. It is the great bogy-man, the Prince of darkness, the source of all evil. That is what McCarthyism, as it is called, lives and feeds on.
A rather curious converse process has been going on. During the last few years, since the war, great international issues have been determined far too often in the light of American domestic politics, not on their merits at all. One could give many instances of that—South Tyrol, some aspects of the Palestine issue, and so on. Now the reverse process is also taking place, and American domestic politics are being and, I suppose, will be determined very largely by the state of affairs in the world in general. The more tension there is in the world, the worse the situation between East and West, the more McCarthyism will grow and flourish: conversely, McCarthyism would probably wither away overnight if there could be a real détente, a real easing of tension between Russia and the West.
It is, therefore, in the interests of Senator McCarthy and those who think like him—a group by no means without power and influence in the United States—to do everything possible to inflame and aggravate ill-feeling between the West and Russia, and it is extremely disturbing that the Republican administration seems of late to have been so terrorised by Senator McCarthy that it has even sunk to using some of his methods.
§ Mr. Osborne
Is the hon. Gentleman now saying that he honestly believes that 642 the differences between the East and the West are caused more by the action of any section of the American public than by Russia?
§ Mr. Driberg
I was not saying anything of the kind. I am very sorry, but I will say it again, and try to say it as nearly as possible in words of one syllable. It was rather a difficult antithesis.
§ Mr. Driberg
What I did say, quite seriously, was that since the war international issues have very often been settled, not on their merits, but in accordance with how they may or may not influence the domestic vote in America. I also suggested that the reverse process was now going on. International issues themselves are having and are likely to have their effect on voting in America. For instance, President Eisenhower's electoral victory may very well be attributed in part to his offer to fly to Korea to see what could be done to stop the war. Whatever one may think of that offer, I think it had its effect on the election. Similarly, McCarthyism tends to be built up more and more when the international situation is at its worst, because McCarthyism lives on the Communist bogy. That was the point I was making. It was, as the hon. Gentleman will agree, quite a different point from the one that he accused me of making.
The trouble about America is that there is always an election pending. Some people might add that the trouble about Russia is that there is never an election pending. But, of course, when we are having delicate international negotiations or arguments in the full light of publicity, as in the United Nations Organisation, the electoral atmosphere makes things very difficult. It makes it difficult for the delegates of the electorally infected nation to contribute sensibly and argue issues on their merits.
When I was in New York recently, I spent a good deal of time at the United Nations building. I am bound to pay a tribute to our own delegation there. I found that many friendly Americans, and others, gave high marks to the United Kingdom delegation, both now and in the past. They say that the great thing about 643 our delegation is that it is the only, or practically the only, Western delegation that does not keep one eye on its electorate all the time. I do not say that I always agree with all the decisions taken and all the contributions made by our delegates there, but at least they do try to argue sensibly on the merits of the case and in accordance with general policy, and do not merely keep one eye on theirown parishes, their own constituencies, their own votes at the next domestic election. This is the great defect of our American Allies, as I have already said.
The great American over-simplification on this issue of East-West relations is to equate Nazi Germany with Soviet Communism, to say that this is exactly the same thing all over again, or worse, that there is no difference in principle between the two. That, of course, is nonsense, for a number of reasons which I will not bother to detail now. But the right hon. Gentleman himself gave one—to mention only one—in his speech, when he said in that very interesting passage that World War I might have been avoided by negotiation, but that World War II could not have been avoided because we were dealing with what he called a "ferocious maniac." Whatever anybody, even the most ardent anti-Communist, can say about the present leaders of Russia, nobody could suggest that they are ferocious maniacs. They are perhaps calculating and scientific politicians, but they are not ferocious maniacs. Therefore, it is always possible to negotiate. There is no such situation as confronted us at the beginning of World War II.
I wish to say a few more words about this menace called McCarthyism. Some Americans—and I have no doubt that hon. Members opposite who have been to the United States recently, as I know that some have, will confirm this and maybe even agree with it—some Americans are apt to say, "You people in Britain, and overseas generally, exaggerate the influence of Senator McCarthy. You build him up into too big a thing." I honestly cannot accept that view. Quite apart from the fact that a man of his record, with the extraordinary things that have been proved against him and are on record—how he stood for the Senate, for instance, quite unconstitutionally—can 644 hold such an official position and impose a kind of reign of terror on so many people, as he does—quite apart from all that, if one talks to ordinary Americans it is extraordinary how many of them say about him, "Well, he may have made some mistakes, but he has certainly done a lot of good. He has dug up a lot of facts about these spies"—and so on.
This is quite untrue, of course, but the confusion and chaos of conflicting radio voices and newspaper headlines in America is such that it is extraordinarily difficult for the average citizen to remember, amid the welter of denials, counter-denials, and contradictions, what the simple bare facts are about any particular case, or trial, or investigation, or hearing.
It is dangerous and alarming that so many of the ordinary people one talks to in America speak of Senator McCarthy in the way in which ordinary, average, quite decent Germans used to speak of Adolf Hitler before he came into power, or even after he had come into power. Indeed, some people compare the position of McCarthy in America now with the position of Hitler in, say, 1930. I can only hope that the essential decency and good sense of the American people will react against these influences. It would be disastrous for the world if McCarthy were to achieve the Republican candidature in 1956—which is said to be his ambition—and if, heaven forbid, he should actually be elected President.
In 1946, when I last visited America, I had the privilege of making a speech in this House which excited a good deal of critical comment. It was the kind of speech which is always described, rather too loosely, as anti-American. I ventured on that ocasion to try to warn the House of some of the tendencies in American civilisation which seemed to me dangerous. Looking back, I think that I was justified in doing so. I should, however, now like to issue a supplementary warning against the kind of merely stupid anti-Americanism of which we find traces here and there in this country. I am strongly in favour of what is now the official policy of the party to which I belong, that we should adopt an attitude more independent of Washington and of American policy. We should return to the midway position defined very well soon after the war by my right hon. Friend 645 the present Leader of the Opposition, when he said that in many respects we stand midway between these two great Power blocs of America and Russia: that we agree with the Americans on some issues—on civil liberties, and so on—and that we agree with the Russians on some other issues—the collective organisation of industry, and so on.
We have drifted far too far away from that middle position in the years that have lain between, for reasons which are well known and which I need not go into. It ought to be possible for Britain in the West to be as independent as India is in the East. That is certainly the policy that I and many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House aim at all the time. Independence does not mean hostility. It is perfectly possible to achieve a relationship of friendly independence with the United States of America. I certainly am opposed to total or stupid anti-Americanism. There is no reason to go to war with the Americans, or any nonsense like that.
§ Mr. Driberg
Of course not. We must continue to trade with America and to try to understand them better, because there is a great deal of misundertsanding of America in Britain, and vice versa. It is extremely important that we should understand each other better. Moreover, if that is important of two countries which have in some respects so strong a natural basis for understanding—in language, for instance—how much more important, and yet how much more difficult, it is of this country and the Soviet Union. There is far more misunderstanding and far more lack of real knowledge there.
I had the privilege in New York of quite a long private talk with Mr. Vyshinsky and Mr. Malik. I hope that it will not embarrass the Minister of State if I say that I put in a good word for him with Mr. Vyshinsky. In that conversation—which I cannot repeat here, because it was confidential—theyshowed, I thought, an absolutely genuine, passionate desire for peace and understanding, coupled with a good many particular misunderstandings of the British position and of what goes on in this country. It is extremely important that there should be far more mutual enlightenment about the facts, both between ourselves and 646 America and between ourselves and Russia.
As has already been said from the Front Bench on this side of the House, we wish the Foreign Secretary well in the conference that he will be attending in the near future. We hope passionately that the conference will succeed, but it will fail—it is bound to fail—unless the restraining influence of Britain on American policy is more manifestly effective than it has been in the past, and it will also fail if Western German rearmament is thought to be irrevocable.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
I hope that the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) will excuse me if I do not follow him very deeply into Anglo-American relationships, but I might perhaps say this. One of the best illustrations that one could possibly give of the difference of opinion and feeling between ourselves and the Americans is that the Americans feel that the Panama Canal is essential to them—which, of course, it is—and many British people feel very much the same about the Suez Canal. It is difficult for the Americans to realise that point of view, and vice versa.
I agree with the hon. Member that there is an essential need of good relationship between America and ourselves. I would take an even stronger line than did the hon. Member in saying that I want to see the best possible relationship with Russia also; but that goes for the whole of my party.
Earlier in the day we had a lively and interesting speech by my noble Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton). I feel sure that everyone in the House will hope to hear him often in the future. His speech was not necessarily of the type which one would expect from someone who had been in the House for a long period, nor was it over-polished. At any rate, he spoke his mind. He laid down certain rules that some of us should follow, and possibly not wrongly. I would add another, that he never makes a speech either in the House or outside, which in any way reflects on a Member of his party; and for that reason I say that his speech was most interesting, most charming, and one which would make his constituents say that they have a very good Member of Parliament. I hope he 647 will continue to represent them for a long time.
I would not have spoken had I not been stirred by my noble Friend's speech. He rather took the line that certain people whose names were down to a Motion put their names to it only because, to his mind, of a blind idea that we simply did not want to evacuate the Canal. That is not what is moving me and many of my hon. Friends. What moves us is that we feel today that in the Middle East we have an absolute necessity for much closer co-operation with the various nations and a very much stronger defence system. That is the key to the position today. We are not happy that we are making as good progress there as we have made in other parts of the world.
We are told by the highest military authority that it is necessary to have a base there, and we are told that the best base is near the Suez Canal. We know that we have equipment there. We are met, therefore, with this difficult position of the natural feeling of the Egyptians, which I can understand perfectly, because I am a Cornishman, although born in England.
That being the case, and speaking entirely for myself, I want to show where I think an advance can be made. I realise the feeling and the discontent that is stirring up in the world, as do many other hon. Members. If we are to have a stronger organisation in the Middle East and if we must have a base, surely the best solution is to try to get those nations who are most affected into it. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary may be able to tell us, because it is essential that we should know more about the Middle East defence than we know so far. Is it not possible in any way, because we realise the necessity for the defence of Turkey, to work Turkey in and so to get this balance of favour of the Moslems in that part of the world for helping in the defence of the Canal? A base in that country would undoubtedly be of very great value to Turkey, and if there is to be a strong United Nations policy for that area, she must play a leading part.
We had earlier a very interesting speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) on the ship- 648 ping possibilities of the Canal. It was a well-informed speech, as one would expect of him. In the earlier part of my life, I happened to see something of the Canal and something of the Australian Forces there. They were there in two wars, and it is almost inevitable that if the worst happened and another war came, Australian and New Zealand Forces would require bases in that part of the world.
When we are faced with a difficulty such as this, and when some of us know that the highest military authorities recognise that we need the best base, and the Suez area is that base, would it not be possible as a solution of this great difficulty, which I see as plainly as anyone else, to work out a base with the co-operation of those nations that are likely to be interested in the future defence of the Middle East?
I make that suggestion, not as representing a group or in any way as a detailed method of dealing with the problem. It seems to me, however, that if we are building up in that area, as every one of us wants, a stronger union for the defence of that area, the key base of which is Suez, we should have consultations between those nations who are most affected and are most likely to have to take part in that defence.
I apologise to the House for having taken time in a foreign affairs debate, but I am one of the few people left in the House who took part with the Australians and saw their work and that of other nations in the First World War in that part of the world.
Those of us who have our names to the Motion have no intention whatever of hurting the Government. Our one idea is to focus attention on the important subject of the Canal, because we believe that the solving of the problem is essential. None of us has any intention of hurting the Government, but we believe very strongly that one of the great difficulties of today is the defence of the Middle East and all that it stands for, and I should like to see the nations which will be affected by its defence in the future brought into the consultations so that a solution to the Canal problem may be reached. Upon that solution will very greatly depend the security of the Middle East and the peace of the whole world in the future.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, South-East)
I have very little difficulty, I am surprised to say, in following the suggestion of the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), and I imagine that very few hon. Members have. It has been the policy of successive British Governments to try to solve the Suez Canal question through the creation of some sort of Middle Eastern defence organisation which would include Turkey as well as other Middle Eastern countries. If many of his hon. Friends signed the Motion of rebellion with the same ideas in view, perhaps the rebellion is less serious than it seems to be at first sight.
I want to make one or two comments upon a point raised by the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) when he quoted some remarks by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) at the week-end and claimed that they were representative of the overwhelming majority of my party. The Leader of my party has spoken unequivocally on this question this afternoon, and he has made it clear beyond any doubt that there is no support on these benches for the Tory rebellion against the British Government on this issue and that the Conservative rebels will get no support from these benches on this issue.
I might also remind the House that a large number of my right hon. and hon. Friends, almost half of them, have recently signed a Motion supporting the Government in its negotiations with Egypt, and I hope that a note will be taken of this fact by those Members of the Cabinet who would like to seize any excuse for stabbing the Foreign Secretary in the back on this issue.
§ Mr. Healey
I wish now to confine myself largely to the question of the Bermuda Conference, the Paris Conference of the N.A.T.O. Council and the forthcoming meeting in Berlin. I am afraid that I cannot give unqualified approval—very few of us could—to the results of the last fortnight's international meetings. It seems to me that there is one very great advance that we can claim, and that is in the clarity of vision of the Governments concerned. I am very glad to notice that there is now very much less 650 wishful thinking than there was about the meaning of the changes which have taken place in the Soviet Union this year.
But, although there is a great gain in the clarity of vision with which Governments see these international problems, I am afraid that the recent meetings show a very obvious step backwards in both strength of purpose and unity of policy. It is a sort of flagging of will in the Western Alliance, on the causes of which I wish to spend some time later.
First of all, let me take the good side. It is extremely valuable at the present time that the major members of the Western Alliance should reaffirm, as they did in the Bermuda communiqué, that N.A.T.O. is, and will remain, the foundation of our common policy. Recent developments in the United States in this direction are also extremely encouraging. We must all have been extremely glad to note the way in which the American Secretary of State, Mr. Dulles, and the United States President reacted to the recent challenge by Senator McCarthy and stated unequivocally and in the clearest possible terms that they recognised that America's needs for allies is paramount and that allies can be won only by persuasion and not by bullying. It is fitting that we should register our strong approval of the stand which the United States Administration is now taking on this issue.
Having recently visited the United States, I feel that the explosion of the hydrogen bomb in the Soviet Union has had a profound and, on the whole, extremely healthy effect on United States political thinking. First, it has put the United States for the first time in the same boat as her European allies regarding the dangers and effects of a possible third world war. In a sense, that is all to the good, because the United States is now much less likely to be tempted into risky gambles in foreign affairs than she might have been in the past. Secondly, I believe that Americans are coming to realise that space is now essential to them, that they cannot have space without allies, and that they cannot have allies without consent. All that is very much to the good.
I believe that there has also been a great advance in clarity of thinking in France, too. One of the most encouraging things to me recently was M. Bidault's statement in Paris the other day in which 651 he very clearly said something which has seemed to me for many years to be a most important element in the framing of Western policy. That is that there can be no European unity and no lasting co-operation between France and Germany unless it takes place within a greatly strengthened Atlantic community of which Britain and the United States are active permanent members.
But, having said those words of praise about an advance in the clarity of vision of the Governments concerned, I am afraid I must suggest that there has been very little progress in policy along those lines. The strengthening of the North Atlantic Alliance is admitted by all the Governments concerned to be a precondition of any progress in the future. So far as we can tell from the communiqué issued in Paris yesterday, the only real step forward in strengthening the Atlantic Alliance was the adoption by the countries concerned of a standardised round for a new automatic rifle. I should be the last to minimise the importance of this agreement—it is, indeed, extremely important—but against it must be set some extremely worrying deteriorations in both the political and the economic attitudes of the main Atlantic allies towards their co-operation.
There seems not to have emerged, either at Bermuda or in Paris, any real unity of policy towards the major international problems which the Atlantic allies will have to face in the next six months, such as the negotiations with Russia on the German question in Berlin next month or, far more important in my view, the crisis which is developing in Western relations over France's reluctance to ratify the European Army Treaty. The plain fact—it can give no one pleasure to state it—is that political relations between the main members of the Atlantic Alliance are worse now than they have been at any time since 1947.
Also, the main military result of the recent meetings in Paris was a decision by all the countries concerned greatly to reduce their military strength, mainly, though not entirely, because the main Governments concerned are subject to pressure to cut taxes which, for political reasons, cannot be done by cutting domestic expenditure. It seems to me that a re-assessment of Soviet intents and the 652 possible importance of new tactical atomic weapons were only of secondary importance in determining this reduction in N.A.T.O.'s military strength.
Thirdly, and most important of all, there is developing the most terrible crisis in the Western Alliance since the war over the European Army Treaty. During the last week we have seen an astonishing sight: the Foreign Secretaries of two of the most important members of the Western Alliance, America and France, bandying threats with one another in public about their possible actions if the European Army Treaty is not ratified. We have seen the American Secretary of State threatening to withdraw American troops from Europe and the French Secretary of State threatening to make a deal with the Russians if this happens.
I do not think that any of us can feel any satisfaction about the progress of policy in the Western Alliance when such things are possible, and they are only an indication of the far graver troubles which may arise during the coming year. It seems to me that this position is a poor basis on which the Western Allies must meet the Russians in a fortnight's time in Berlin for some of the most important high level negotiations which have taken place in recent years.
We may face in Berlin a most important change in Soviet policy which has, indeed, been forecast in the recent Soviet Notes. Inrecent years the main aim of Soviet policy in Europe in international negotiation has been to try to win the support of the German people by trying to offer Germany unity on some terms which might be considered acceptable. Now that policy is changing, and I think that the main aim of the Soviet negotiators in Berlin will be to try to win the support of the French people, not so much by offering German unity, as by offering the French the illusion of a security pact to keep Germany weak and, possibly, divided also. There is no evidence, either at Bermuda or in the recent Paris N.A.T.O. meeting, that the Western Allies have put themselves into an adequate posture to deal with this possible new strategy.
The main reason for this deterioration has already been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg). It is that in France and the United States governments have in the 653 last few years moved far ahead of popular and, in particular, of parliamentary opinion. Both the American and the French Governments are now trying to carry out policies which do not have the wholehearted support or understanding of the majority of the members of Congress or of the French Chamber.
Another reason for this is that in all the arguments which I have been mentioning Britain has played no evident rôle. I am certain that the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister had a great deal to say in private to the Ministers of foreign governments, both at Bermuda and in Paris, but since the main cause for the coming crisis in the Western Alliance is the trend of public opinion, it is not sufficient to say these things in private to heads of governments who, in any case, are known to be in agreement in advance with what we are going to say. The main diplomatic battle in Western policy in the coming months, and perhaps years, will be a battle for public opinion. That is where the British Government particularly have been lacking for many years—to be quite honest, both the present Government and the previous Government.
I shall end by suggesting two ways in which it might be possible to counter the damage which is now developing in public opinion inside the Atlantic Community, first on the question of the way in which British policy is put in the international arena at the present time. No one can blame a Foreign Secretary for confining himself largely to platitudes when he makes statements about delicate diplomatic problems. Indeed, I think that when Foreign Secretaries diverge from platitude into precision, they sometimes do more harm than good, as Mr. Dulles has shown us several times during the last few months. And, of course, we all recognise that the Foreign Secretary is greatly hampered by the fact that his chief, the Prime Minister, often makes statementswhich have great effect on public opinion but which are possibly totally irrelevant to the main aims which the Foreign Secretary is trying to pursue.
The Prime Minister, particularly this year, has confined his public speeches largely to scattering a number of thunder flashes which dazzle the audience for a moment and then leave it shrouded in smoke for month to follow. It is difficult 654 for the Foreign Secretary. One must have sympathy with him in trying to conduct a campaign of explaining his policy to public opinion under the circumstances. But, of course, we have to live with this kind of situation. If the Japanese have learned to live with earthquakes and the Italian peasant can live happily on the slopes of Vesuvius, I see no reason why a British Foreign Secretary should not survive under the leadership of the present Prime Minister.
The main problem for any British Government at the present time is to try to get its underlying aims and methods understood by its own public opinion and by public opinion in foreign countries. Often in recent years where the British Government have surrendered to the American Government on an issue of policy, the underlying reason has been that the American Government have been able to quote a restive Congress, whereas the British Government have no public opinion mobilised behind their policy. Britain will be at a great disadvantage so long as in her diplomatic dealings she sticks to the conventions of an age when public opinion played little or no part in the formulation of foreign policy.
My concrete suggestion is that in future Her Majesty's Government should make much greater use of the extremely fine body of diplomatic correspondents who serve the British Press and broadcasting, and give the spokesmen of the News Department much greater freedom in explaining and interpreting and forecasting British policy. It is impossible for Britain to stand up on equal terms in these questions with France and the United States when French policy is being publicly ventilated for months in advance of the decisive conference by leakages or by statements from the Quai d'Orsay, American policy is being similarly ventilated by spokesmen of the State Department, and yet our own policies, which may often be extremely sensible and capable of winning wide support both in the United States and France, are kept secret until a decision is finally taken.
To take just one example—it is not a partisan one because it occurred in the period of the late Government—I believe that during the period when there was great discussion over whether or not to advance to the Yalu, the British Government of the day strongly urged that the 655 United Nations armies in Korea should stand at the 39th Parallel, the waist line, as a compromise between the 38th Parallel and the Yalu. I am certain that if this suggestion had been publicly ventilated it would have won wide support in the United States. The fact that it was not so ventilated until after the decision had been taken, robbed the British negotiators of the strength of their position.
§ Sir R. Boothby
What grounds has the hon. Gentleman for that assertion? According to my information, the British Government were in favour of going over the 39th Parallel on to the Yalu—including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). The hon. Gentleman now asserts the contrary. Has he any grounds for that assertion?
§ Mr. Healey
The fact that the hon. Member and myself disagree on this issue strengthens my case. I cannot quote my ground for my belief any more than he can quote the ground for his, but I think that the misunderstanding between us on this issue is sufficient evidence of the importance of the point which I am making.
§ Mr. Healey
I pass to the much broader question of public opinion in all the countries of the Western Alliance. There is no doubt that at the moment there is great public apathy in every country towards what is now described as the main basis of Western policy—the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Very reluctantly, and against much personal experience in Strasbourg, I have come to the view that there is a very strong case for the establishment of some sort of Parliamentary assembly for the principal countries of N.A.T.O.I believe that this proposal has already been made by the Norwegian Government and that it received strong support at a conference of international organisations supporting N.A.T.O. which, with Government support, took place in Copenhagen earlier this year. It seems to me that there are very strong arguments for setting up some sort of Parliamentary debating assembly which is common to all the N.A.T.O. countries.
First of all, it will greatly improve the understanding, at least in Parliaments, of the real national positions of the various 656 countries. I am quite convinced, especially after my last visit to the United States that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon said, the motives and structure of American opinion on many major issues at the present time is totally misunderstood on this side of the Atlantic. I am equally certain that the basis of the British and French position on many important international issues is equally totally misunderstood in the United States, not least by United States Senators and Congressmen. So for this reason, to begin with, there is a very strong case for some sort of Parliamentary assembly, particularly as United States Senators and Congressmen are as a body very much more isolated from public and world opinion than are members of most European Parliaments.
Secondly, if we genuinely believe that N.A.T.O. must be the basis of Western policy there is a strong argument for setting up a public institution to embody that idea, because institutions exert great influence upon the thinking of their members and they also create vested interests in the survival of the concept which they exist to represent—things which we who attend the Council of Europe meetings at Strasbourg have noticed very much.
Thirdly, it would be extremely valuable to have a small official public forum in which major issues facing the Western allies can be debated in public. I know that this suggestion will make many officials in the Foreign Office shudder with fright and even disgust, but these great issues on international affairs are now discussed in public inside the countries concerned, perhaps much more in the United States and in France than in Britain. I do not think that any foreign affairs debate in France is ever as poorly attended as such debates are here. There is a strong case for having these arguments, which must be thrashed out separately in any case, thrashed out together.
There are many lessons to be learned from experience of the Assembly of the Council of Europe. There is a case for considering whether the Council of Europe itself might not be absorbed into a wider Atlantic body, because now that even the French have become convinced that there is really nothing of importance internationally in between "Little Europe"—the Continent—and the Atlantic community, the existence of a body 657 which contains Little Europe plus Scandinavia and Britain but without the United States has very little to commend it.
The essentials which should govern the constitution of such a body is that, first, it should not be a legislative assembly or appear to be one, so that it does not spend its first years of life like the Strasbourg Assembly in fighting a committee of Ministers or some ministerial body for powers which it was never intended to have. Secondly, and most important, the United States Congress must be a full member, represented on exactly the same basis as all the others. We do not want any more discussions with Europe in which the United States representatives play the part of cross-examiners of Europe about its enthusiasm for certain ideas. We must have an assembly in which everybody takes part as equal members. That would give us one more arm for combating the public apathy which is one of the obstacles to the development of Western policy. If that is not done all the goodwill of Governments, as expressed in Bermuda and Paris, may prove ineffective in face of the indifference and opposition of Parliamentary and public opinion in the countries concerned.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. H. A. Price (Lewisham, West)
Although I have been in this House for nearly four years, this is the first time that I have ever dared to trespass on the field of foreign policy. I do so, quite frankly, and I hope briefly, to ride a hobby horse, and in doing so to touch upon a topic which I regard as tremendously important but which has hardly been mentioned today. It is the proposal contained in the speech which President Eisenhower made on the 8th of this month for setting up an international organisation for the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.
One newspaper said of that speech that if it was possible for one man to stop World War III, then Eisenhower had done so. That may be true. I hope it is. Another newspaper referred to it as a new and constructive project. That is not so true. If I may say so without sounding pompous, this is a project which I have done my little best to promote ever since I became a Member of this House.
658 Three impressions about atomic fission are uppermost in my mind. I am sure that the House will share the first two with me. The first is the frighteningly destructive power of the atom bomb. The second is the enormous prospects of economic and social improvement in the development of atomic power for peaceful purposes. I am not so sure that I shall carry the House with me on the third, which is that the general public is far more conscious of the first than of the second. For every one member of the general public who has the slightest inkling of the prospects that are opened to us by the peaceful use of atomic energy, there are 99 who think of the atom only in terms of the atom bomb.
I have always regarded that not only as eminently unsatisfactory but positively dangerous, and some two and a half years ago I began writing to the Press in an attempt to persuade them to do what they could to switch the searchlight from the atomic bomb to the peaceful application of atomic energy. I even went so far as to outline tentatively an international framework, but I completely failed to awaken any interest in the national Press. But in October, 1951, as a result of the General Election, my right hon. Friend became Foreign Secretary and on 19th November, 1951, I wrote to him sending him a copy of the letter which I had been writing for the Press. I have my right hon. Friend's permission to refer to his reply. My right hon. Friend began by acknowledging my letter…about the formation of an international organisation for the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.It may be that there are some hon. and right hon. Members who recognise the great similarity of that wording with the wording of the appropriate passage in President Eisenhower's speech. Towards the end of the letter, my right hon. Friend said:…while something on the lines you suggest might well be the ideal for which we should aim,I found that very flattering. But in between there is this comment:meanwhile it would not be possible to establish an organisation on the lines which you advocate without making available either directly or indirectly, to the Russians, information which would be of value to them in the manufacture of atomic weapons. This is a risk which I am afraid we could not run in the present state of political tension.659 That was on 27th November, 1951. In December, 1953, we are apparently prepared to run the risks which we were not prepared to run two years ago. I cannot help wondering why.
There are two possible explanations which occur to me. One is that Russia now knows so much about the atomic bomb and similar weapons that we no longer run any risk of betraying any secrets. The second is that we are satisfied that in the interim there has been such a change in Russia's attitude towards the West that such risks as are involved in this policy can safely be run. Whatever the answer, I want to urge my right hon. Friend—if he needs urging—to give this project the importance which I am quite certain belongs to it. Indeed, I doubt whether I am over-stating the case when I say that if it should prove possible to set up such an international organisation, it would be the biggest single step towards the security of the world since the setting up of U.N.O. itself.
It seems to me that the more we can get people thinking of the possibilities of economic and social advancement by the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, the more unthinkable becomes the use of the atomic bomb for destructive purposes.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I was going to confine myself wholly to a speech on Egypt and the Suez Canal, but the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. H. A. Price) has enticed me to say a word or two on the atomic bomb. I cannot claim to have written a letter to the Foreign Secretary which resulted in theEisenhower Plan; indeed, I am not an expert; but what has struck me about the plan is the political aspect.
When considering the international control of atomic energy, I have been depressed since 1946 by the way in which the Western world has put forward plans so grandiose and ambitious that they had no chance of being agreed. Indeed, a cynic has observed that the only danger was that if, by an inconceivable chance, the Russians accepted any of those plans, the Americans would have to reject it because it would violate American sovereignty so completely. The idea that 660 we could jump in one leap to a world authority which would at the same time control the greatest weapon of war and the greatest instrument for peace was quite unrealistic in view of the relations between the East and West.
I think the reason we on this side would agree with the Prime Minister in saying that the Eisenhower broadcast was far more important than anything which happened at Bermuda was that the President put forward a moderate and small proposition, the sort of thing which Russia could conceivably accept or at any rate discuss. If one studies the broadcast on atomic energy, one sees that the President deliberately stripped out of his proposals every one of the aspects of the Baruch Plan which were so objectionable to the Russians. When I contrast the Eisenhower broadcast of April last—in which the President answered the Russian peace proposals and laid down that Russia must perform certain clear and specific acts before there could be any question of talking to her at all—with the broadcast of December, which did not contain the demand for clear and specific acts by the Russians as a pre-condition, and consider that he is now seeking desperately to get discussions on atomic energy, we begin to realise how much has changed between April and now.
I should like to believe—in fact I am sure it is true—that the great speech of the Prime Minister on 11th May played a great part in that change, but I am afraid that the fact that the Russians now have an H-bomb played an even greater part. It is clear that the Americans want to discuss atomic energy and do not want to discuss Korea and Germany, because they feel so desperately insecure. So here is one subject on which they are prepared to negotiate because the balance of atomic power is so even, whereas in Korea and Germany they feel that an agreement would tell against them.
§ Mr. H. A. Price
I am obliged to the hon. Member for giving way. There is nothing political in this. Would he agree that the setting up of a European organisation for nuclear research, which we joined in July this year, is one step forward?
§ Mr. Crossman
Yes, but it is not quite the same thing. What, after all, we in 661 this House want is high-level talks between East and West. It looks to me as if this proposal for talks on peaceful atomic development might be a tiny opportunity for talks between East and West. I congratulate the President on his discovery that the Chinese have no atomic power and that he can exclude Communist China without excluding Communist China—
§ Mr. Crossman
—exclude Communist China without formally excluding Communist China, simply by limiting the conference to those Powers which have atomic energy. This does indicate a willingness to talk on the part of the Americans which was not apparent as long as they regarded only their allies as threatened by atomic annihilation. It shows that in a world like this an equilibrium of power is safer than an unbalance of power, even if the superiority is on our own side.
I now turn to what back-benchers have made the subject of the debate, the question of the Suez Canal. I turn to it for the reason that all other speeches which we may make will not make much difference, but on the subject of Suez the way the debate goes this evening may indeed decide the fate of the British Commonwealth of Nations. If the debate went in a way which gave the Government Front Bench the feeling that they could not go ahead with the negotiations without fearing a combination of their rebels and the Labour Opposition, then the Commonwealth would be in danger.
The fact is that, unless and until we can achieve an agreement with Egypt on Suez, the whole position of Britain in the Middle East will continue to go from bad to worse. I have heard speeches from the rebels on the other side of the House in which they have said, "Of course, we want co-operation with the Arab world." If they want co-operation with the Arab world, the beginning of co-operation is an agreement about the Suez Canal Zone. It is not only we who say that—ask any diplomatist or military expert out there. There has never been such unanimity on the part of the experts as the unanimity that a base is useless in a hostile territory and that Suez must be evacuated unless an agreement can be achieved. There is unanimity upon 662 that among all the experts I have met. I did not find in the Canal Zone one General who denied that; I did not find anyone in the British Embassy in Egypt, or in the Foreign Office, who denied it. The only people who have denied it are the people who are bearing the standard of the true blue Tory Party below the Gangway.
§ Mr. Crossman
I said below the Gangway, but there are one or two hon. Members who are now sitting below the Gangway who, on this occasion, do not belong there; there are other rebellions, which are not reactionary rebellions, in which the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) takes part. If the hon. Member would sit on the other side of the Gangway, it would clear the air. I notice that he has now moved, but he has not yet got the position quite right—
§ Mr. Crossman
The hon. Member is making the very point I wanted to make. I watched the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary while they were listening to the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse) and it is a strange fact that, while the Foreign Secretary sat there with considerable embarrassment listening to what he felt was a speech which belonged to a different century, the Prime Minister—in so far as he could hear the speech—automatically and gently nodded his emotional approval. It was fascinating to watch the pair of them.
This was a very important distinction. "Ah!" said the Prime Minister to himself, and nodded his head. I had the distinct feeling that he was thinking to himself, "That is the sort of speech I am used to." As I watched, I thought that those two right hon. Gentlemen represented two different generations.
What determines one's attitude to politics is the experience of one's youth. The Prime Minister's youthful experience was of the days of Omdurman and the Foreign Secretary's was that of the massacre on the Somme. Probably the difference between them is the difference between a man whose youthful wars were 663 gay adventure, when war was something good and jolly with a few natives to shoot at and a cavalry charge, and a man like the Foreign Secretary who lives in a world where war means the Somme massacre. One was putting together an Empire, partly for bond holders, partly for missionaries, partly by accident; and the other was seeing if it would stick together. The Foreign Secretary represents the pessimist because he is a Conservative who wants to hold on. The Prime Minister is an optimist because he is still living in the spirit of Omdurman—when he is allowed to by the rest of the Cabinet.
With the Egyptian negotiations strange things happened. They were going on nicely last winter and spring, until the Foreign Secretary fell ill and the Prime Minister took over and made that tremendous speech insulting the Egyptians. Then there was that mysterious airman who was captured, and we put out troops in the Suez area. The tanks rolled out for two months and then came back again, and negotiations were resumed—because nothing had happened as a result of the march of our troops, except the discovery that we had to negotiate. The Prime Minister learned the bitter lesson which everyone learns in turn and which is that one has to negotiate about the Canal Zone because there is no alternative. If we do not get agreement by 1956, we have to get out whether we like it or not.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
Would the hon. Gentleman identify the passage in the Treaty which makes it clear that we have to leave within a year?
§ Mr. Crossman
I will deal with one or two other illusions before I come to the major illusion the hon. Member refers to. I want to deal with what was said by the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East, the great upholder of the British Empire. He said that it is a simple thing: we do not need a base—that is something we have never heard before; "get rid of the base; get the equipment out." There is only £500 million worth of equipment there, including an enormous signalling installation and vast airfields; of course that can all be packed on lorries and moved out; and then a jolly brigade will sit somewhere near the Suez and maintain British prestige. I was astonished to hear that. 664 The right hon. and gallant Gentleman had the right rebellion, but the wrong period—the date really is 1881 and Majuba. And there would be the most disastrous results—if I may say so—if we carried it out.
But if there is not to be a base, if we do not require it, what is the reason for staying in the Canal Zone? That is the second illusion—that we must keep the troops there, to keep the Canal open. We have had 85,000 troops in the Suez area for some time. We had only a brigade there before the war, but now we have 85,000 men, and every day the Egyptians stop any ship they like. I remember that when the party opposite were in opposition the present Foreign Secretary said that if he were Foreign Secretary he would get the oil tankers through to Haifa; he would prevent the Egyptians from stopping ships.
In the two years in which they have been power—the Tories who were going to clean up the Middle East—the Egyptians have blockaded the Canal and, what is a worse insult, the Gulf of Aquba in defiance of 85,000 British troops. So what is the use of Tory rebels saying that the Canal will be closed by the Egyptians if our troops are not there. It is being closed while the troops are there. And why? Because the troops are there. That is why they close it—because they do not like the troops being there, and because we cannot do anything about it, although the troops are there.
May I say to the Tory rebels that the most humiliating thing an imperialist can do is to have 85,000 troops for two years in the Suez area and allow the Egyptians to maintain their embargo on everything that goes through? Could there be a greater waste of money—£50 million a year—to maintain British prestige? And we see ourselves as poltroons every day.
The third illusion is that about 1956, which is a bit of legalism. It is all in the treaty according to this illusion. We wrote a clever treaty in 1936, in the days when you could tie up a people and destroy their freedom by formal restrictions. We tied up the Persians. We said we would never allow them to get their oil. We made such a clever contract. We said we would never get out—and we are out. We said about the Suez Canal agreement when it was signed that it would be in force until we agreed to 665 sign something else. We said, "You will never be able to get us out because we shall always delay signing until you consent to what we want."
I say to hon. Gentlemen opposite that that kind of thing was all right in 1910; it was just about possible in 1936; but now, after the Second World War, it is out of the question. We have signed the United Nations Charter, and international lawyers may have observed that countries signing that Charter accept national self determination and take sovereignty seriously. I would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite what they consider would be our chances at the International Court at The Hague if we deliberately stayed on after 1956 and argued that we could stay as long as we liked until the Egyptians signed whatever terms we liked in the revised treaty?
§ Mr. Maitland
This is a most important point on which there is much confusion in the minds of the public. If I have understood the hon. Gentleman aright, he is suggesting that after 1956 Egypt, under the terms of the treaty, can go to the United Nations.
§ Mr. Crossman
I said they would go. Whatever the treaty says, they will go to the United Nations and accuse us of an act of aggression. The Egyptians are free to go to the United Nations and claim that this is an issue endangering the peace of the world. They will get it on the agenda of the United Nation.
I warn hon. Gentlemen opposite not to be too good lawyers. They may have a perfect legal case in terms of 20 years ago and yet not stand a chance in the forum of world opinion or when they get to the United Nations or even to the International Court at The Hague.
§ Mr. Maitland
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving way again, and I appreciate his courtesy in doing so. He has suggested that Egypt will, willy nilly, go to the United Nations, and that a purely juridical argument would not be sufficiently convincing either before that body or world opinion.
§ Mr. Crossman
I said, first, that we should stand very badly at the bar of world opinion if our case were based on purely juridical points that we had tied up a nation in a treaty which made it impossible for it to achieve its freedom. Secondly, even from a juridical 666 point of view, our signature of the United Nations Charter has fundamentally changed our own position towards treaties which we negotiated 20 years ago. Really, we must have respect for national self-determination, and it is quite impossible to maintain that, after we have had the 20 years, we can then say to a country which we have occupied for that time, "You have no right to throw us out until you persuade us to sign a treaty." Then we merely have a war with that country.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) mentioned the analogy of the Americans. Let us imagine that the American bases in this country had been here for 70 years—and they got here more honourably than we did in Egypt; we asked them in, but the Egyptians never asked us in. Imagine that during the last 20 years public opinion in this country had been demanding the withdrawal of American troops. Imagine that, because we were short of dollars, we had signed a treaty with a trick in it under which we could not, at the end of the 20 years, legally get them out without making another treaty under which they would not dream of moving. Does anyone think that any British person would regard that as internationally moral or legal? Of course not. We would fight against anybody who exploited the situation in order to maintain a position of force in our country.
This brings me to the reality of the Egyptian situation. It is that, because we have signed the United Nations Charter and because we accept national self-determination, we must concede unconditionally the withdrawal of our troops from Egypt by 1956. We have no case against that whatsoever. If we have not made an agreement with the Egyptians by 1956, then we must get out.
§ Mr. Crossman
I can only suggest that the reason the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) says "Rubbish" when he has just come into the Chamber and almost before he sits down is because he is filled with post-prandial excitement.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I think that the hon. Member is attacking my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) 667 in mistake for me, because it was I who made the remark, but I have been here for several minutes.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
May I say that it is most unworthy of any hon. Member to accuse another hon. Member of post-prandial excitement, especially as I am very hungry and have not yet had any dinner.
§ Mr. Crossman
I will finish the point. We must accept as a principle that we have no case for staying in Egypt after 1956 unless we stay by agreement, for, after that time, we stay only by pure right of conquest. In doing that, we violate the Charter of the United Nations and make it quite impossible for ourselves to object to aggression by other people. By doing that, we should find it quite impossible to object to the Russians saying that they have occupied Poland in order to protect the Poles from the Americans. We would have no right to object to conduct of that sort if, after 20 years of the treaty, we then stayed by force and started legalistic arguments to show why we ought to be there.
§ Brigadier Ralph Rayner (Totnes) rose—
§ Mr. Crossman
I would give way to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I want to get on.
Having conceded the principle of evacuation, I would say this to Egypt: "We can do it in two ways. We can take out everything that we have got here. We can destroy all the signals and all the radar equipment and we can blow up all the docks." That would be evacuation. But, if the Egyptians want the things which we have built up, then that is a matter for negotiation. We could say to them, "We accept the principle of evacuation, but if it is more sensible to work out a plan of withdrawal in which you benefit by our leaving the things on which we have spent millions of pounds, then we ought to negotiate on that." But we ought to say that in the atmosphere created by our admitting that we have no right to be there after 1956.
I say to hon. Members opposite that if they want to stay they must be prepared to go, because they can only get 668 an agreement with the Egyptians when the Egyptians' demand for national sovereignty has been satisfied. That means an unqualified acceptance by us of their right to get rid of us by 1956, and the recognition that we have not very much time in which to negotiate this agreement. Time is not on our side.
The next thing I would say to hon. Members opposite is that what matters is what one negotiates about. It is absolutely idiotic to spend weeks and weeks talking about what sort of uniform the technicians shall wear. The Government are doing that because they are not negotiating really. They are talking while they are making up their minds whether to take the plunge or not. The issue is quite clear. The broad lines of agreement are the same as those which Sidky Pasha and Ernest Bevin agreed in 1946 as being the only practical way of co-operating with the Egyptians. And on this the experts of both sides agreed. The Government have left two little things about which to negotiate while they make up their minds, just two little points to keep the pot boiling while the people on the Government Front Bench, who know that it is their duty to do this, decide whether they have the courage to tell some of their Omdurman survivors the truths about the modern world. Once that has been done, everybody in this House would agree on how to settle with Egypt.
Do not let us go on worrying about all these irrelevancies. They are the things invented by the Government Front Bench. This river in which they are dangling their toes is unpleasant What did they say to the Labour Government about scuttle? How odious have been some of the things said irresponsibly by them about us when they were in Opposition? I sympathise with the poor Foreign Secretary. He has always hated being hated. It has been the great weakness of his life. He has liked being liked so much that he has not often had the courage to do something unpopular but necessary.
§ Mr. Crossman
Except on one occasion and we have all given him credit for that act. I should like the Minister of State to mention to the Foreign Secretary that there are a number of things which we think the British should be very concerned to negotiate about—and they are not about uniforms for technicians.
669 The first is the security of the other countries in the Middle East. On these benches there is a real anxiety and understanding that the position of Israel is extremely alarming. Israel is entirely surrounded by hostile States, and is very much aware that if we create a vacuum in Egypt she is in danger. We are all aware, I think, that it is one of the duties of this country, which was responsible for the utter muddle of Palestine, and the scandal of it, not to produce any more sorrow out there.
We should be vitally concerned that agreement with Egypt about Suez does not jeopardise the security of any other country in the Middle East. But I want to say to some people who are as friendly and passionately attached to Israel as I am, "Do not forget that peace with Egypt is a basic need for Israel, and it will be a great mistake for Israel to make demands about her security which make peace with Egypt totally impossible." It is futile to demand that we should write into a treaty with Egypt specific guarantees that Egypt will not attack Israel. Why Egypt? Every other Arab country is concerned with this matter and why should we select Egypt and say, "You should give the guarantee" when what we have to get is a guarantee from all the Arab countries which are grouped as one against Israel?
We had it in the guarantee of 1950—the Three-Power Declaration—but I think it is reasonable for Israel to say, "This Three-Power Declaration was made in 1950, but if you sign an agreement with Egypt you change the whole situation," and I think it would be essential that, in the same week as we signed the agreement with Egypt, America, France and ourselves should reaffirm that guarantee as applying to the new situation. It is not the same thing to say, "That treaty is there, do not let us worry about it; you have the guarantee." They have the right to say, "We want it specifically reaffirmed, in terms, that after the withdrawal it holds good just as much." It is much more important to them to have the guarantee when our troops are not there, than to have it now.
Secondly, there is our responsibility in regard to Jordan. We virtually control Jordan; we finance Jordan as much as America finances Israel, so we have very special obligations to ensure that actions by Jordan do not jeopardise the security 670 of her neighbours. I say no more than that, but we have a special responsibility there and can be helpful there.
Thirdly, while on the question of security, we should seriously consider the Gaza strip, which is the strip occupied by the Egyptian Army in Southern Israel. The Gaza strip has 120,000 Arab refugees, a certain amount of water and no port. A token force of American and British troops in the Gaza strip would have a great influence, because neither nation could then attack the other without the risk of killing British or American soldiers. That would be one of the best guarantees we could have of keeping the peace. To send those troops would prove we had a genuine interest in Israeli security and not a mere tactical aim of exploiting pro-Israel sentiment to serve our own ends. Let us have a couple of battalions of our troops in Gaza, let the Arab refugees build the barracks, and let the two nations get together.
I think by now that I have pretty well blown up the rebels' case. I want to speak a word about the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, because they are almost as bad as the rebels. What were we told was the Government's policy today? "No hurry," says the Prime Minister, "about negotiations—plenty of time for them." Has he learnt nothing from the last eight years of policy? What is the reason for the catastrophe of British policy in the Middle East? I will tell him. We wait, like Mr. Micawber, for something to turn up to save an untenable position. In Palestine we waited, and failed to make up our minds until the position became so intolerable that we did the most ignominious scuttle in British history. We said, "There is no hurry. Put another condition in. Let them think it over again. These are only Arabs and Jews. They can wait." So we waited, and what happened? They blew up on us.
What about Persia? We waited for something to turn up. We waited until our only friend, Rasmara, was murdered because we would not sign a contract which was generous enough. Does anyone tell me that if we had given the Persians, in 1946, a quarter of what we were willing to concede in 1951 we would not have the Iranian oil today?
Or consider Sudan. I often wonder what would have happened if the Sudan 671 elections had gone the way they did under a Labour Government. This is probably the greatest political reversal that this country has had in any part of the Commonwealth since the war, and it is directly the result of the vacillation, prevarication—
§ Mr. Crossman
—and cowardice; I am obliged to my hon. Friend. Let us look at the facts and consider what happened. We thought we had the Sudan tied up and on our side, because the Egyptians wanted to conquer them and we could protect them from Farouk, so we would not give them independence. We gave them self-determination and arranged elections. We fixed up which political party should win the elections. It was all fixed. Then a telegram came from Neguib saying, "Look in at Cairo on your way back." The political leaders dropped in at Cairo and were given a plan for independence in three years. We had been outbid.
Then the Foreign Secretary spent four months haggling about the Neguib plan. I was out in Egypt last winter when he was doing it. The best friends of Britain said last January, "You are losing the Sudan elections while you haggle. Every week of haggling convinces the Sudanese that you do not want independence and that Neguib does."
The Sudanese are of two sorts—those who use the Egyptians to get rid of the British, and those who use the British to get rid of the Egyptians. What we did was to let the pro-Egyptians get rid of the British, and thus win an overwhelming victory. Neguib showed that he knew a lot more about the Sudanese than Khartoum did.
People in this country laughed at one of Neguib's men because they said he had behaved like a "dancing dervish." But what matters is what is thought in the Sudan, not what is laughed at by people over here. If one has to dance like a dervish to win over the Sudanese, then dance like a dervish, even though there may be some jokes about it in the House of Commons.
I suppose we are too superior to get on with the southern Sudanese. Unfortunately, these men know the Sudan. 672 They went to Gordon College. They know what it is all about. While these leisurely cables passed between London, Khartoum and Cairo asking, "What shall we try next with Neguib?" they were getting on with the work. We were too superior to win the elections, so we lost them.
§ Mr. Edward Wakefield (Derbyshire, West)
In what sense does the hon. Gentleman say that "we" lost the elections?
§ Mr. Crossman
I shall not goover my argument again, but I will just say that the party which has won the election in the Sudan is the party which chose to use Egypt against us, and there is no question that our excellent officials who are working out there will be out long before the three years are over. Independence will come far too soon. We had a chance when Neguib made his offer. If we had accepted the offer overnight and had outbid him on the subject of independence we could have held our position in the Sudan. We lost it by saying, "No hurry."
What do we get this afternoon? The Prime Minister says, "No hurry" in the Suez Canal Zone. In 1956 we have to be out. The Egyptians are not foolish negotiators. Every month we go on waiting their terms will rise. Does anybody deny that we could have got better terms before we lost the Sudan election and even better terms a year ago before Neguib made his offer to the Sudan? Every victory the Egyptians have strengthens their position. Every delay brings us nearer the final date and makes negotiation more difficult—and still the Government say, like Micawber, "No hurry. Wait for something to turn tip which will allow us to avoid making a decision and telling our back benchers the truth about the 20th Century."
I beg the Minister of State to tell the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister that, although these 37 of his supporters may be fine in the House of Commons, outside in political public meetings attended by an educated electorate they will be no serious menace to the Government. On this occasion I beg the Government to carry on the policy they inherited from us, but for God's sake let them do it in time.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Fitzroy Maclean (Lancaster)
The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) has obviously enjoyed the comparatively novel experience, for him, of trying to drive a wedge between the Government and their supporters. He usually confines his activities to his own side of the House. He managed to get in a few pretty nasty digs, not only at the Government and the signatories of the Motion on the Order Paper, but also at his own Front Bench, for their conduct of Egyptian and Middle Eastern Affairs. In fact, the only person with whom he seemed to possess a certain affinity was the "Dancing Major."
§ Mr. Crossman
I did not say that I could dance. I said that if I could I should be a good District Commissioner in Southern Sudan.
§ Mr. Maclean
I hope that the hon. Member will take dancing lessons at the very first opportunity. I want to deal with some of the points which the hon. Member raised, but before doing so I want to do something which he did not do, which is to address myself to the actual terms of the Motion standing on the Order Paper in the names of some of my hon. Friends and myself, calling for the suspension,for the time being, of negotiations with Egypt.
I do not think that anybody in his senses would dispute the very grave difficulties which face the Government at the present time. I do not think that anyone in his senses would dispute that the best solution of the present dispute with Egypt would be an agreement satisfactory to both parties. I do not think that anyone would deny the difficulty of reaching such an agreement, or of staying in the Canal Zone without an agreement. But, for all that, there is another side to the picture.
I feel myself that the dangers of allowing ourselves to be pushed out ignominiously outweigh, on the whole, the difficulties of staying. I have not arrived at that conclusion easily. I have arrived at it as a result of a great deal of painful thought.
As to the immediate problem, I have always been taught that one should never negotiate under duress, that one should not do a deal with somebody who keeps kicking one in the shins. If one is not 674 prepared to kick him back, one should at least wait until he stops kicking and starts behaving a bit better.
The purpose of our Motion is simply this; to urge the Government to suspend the present negotiations with the Egyptian Government for as long as the Egyptian Government are in their present frame of mind. In this connection, I was much encouraged by the Prime Minister's assurance that the Government felt "no sense of hurry," as I was also very much encouraged in May by the assurance which he gave the House then on this same subject.
It seems to me that everything that has happened during the past few months must weigh against the early conclusion of an agreement with Egypt. There have been first of all the Sudan elections. The Foreign Secretary himself has complained more than once of the utter disregard shown by the Egyptians for their Treaty obligations. What is happening and what is going to happen is not self-determination, which we should all welcome; it is simply an anschluss. I am surprised that some hon. Members opposite, I am surprised that hon. Members of the House at all, should feel able to approve such a monstrous travesty of democracy.
Second, there have been the blatant infringements of the Suez Canal Convention to which the Leader of the Opposition made such a strong reference in his speech, the constant interference with shipping. Finally, there has of recent weeks been a considerable and obviously deliberate increase in the physical violence and attacks on British civilians and soldiers in Egypt.
I cannot feel myself that we ought to be in any hurry to conclude an agreement with a Government who are behaving like that, a Government, let me remind the House, who came into power by a military coup ď état and who stay in power by dictatorial methods, and who, it is my contention, represent the Egyptian people no more than their predecessors did, if as much. My noble Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) said, among other things, that we must trust Egypt. I cannot see that it is possible to trust Egypt at the present time in view of the way in which it is behaving. I cannot help feeling that my noble Friend shows in that connection a somewhat excessive faith in human 675 nature which he has certainly not displayed in another connection.
I also find it very difficult to understand the exact meaning of the Motion that some hon. Members opposite have put down, urging the Government to continue the negotiations in the spirit in which they were begun. As far as I can remember, the spirit of these negotiations was thoroughly bad from the start and has remained thoroughly bad ever since.
What we want, if we are to negotiate, is an entirely new spirit. If the Egyptians show signs of behaving better, if they behave more in the spirit of the alliance which they concluded with us of their own free will, and which was approved not only by the supporters of the then Egyptian Government but, with one small exception, by representatives of every other Egyptian party—if they show signs of behaving in the spirit of that alliance, then let us by all means negotiate with them.
Even then, we have to bear certain considerations in mind. I should be very sorry to see us pull out of the Canal Zone altogether without any assured right of re-entry. Under the Treaty of 1936, we have the right, indeed the obligation, to remain there until the Egyptians are capable of defending the Canal. After the utter calamitous defeat of the Egyptian Army—the well-equipped Egyptian Army—at the hand of untrained Israeli levies, I do not think anybody could possibly maintain that the Egyptians are capable even of defending themselves, let alone defending the Suez Canal.
We have to remember that at present we not only face the threat of a hot war but are actively engaged in a cold war. Surely that is not the moment to allow ourselves to be pushed out of a vital position which we have every right to occupy. Some hon. Members opposite have said during the debate, "What would you do?" I have done my best to answer that question. I would certainly not allow myself to be pushed out of the Canal Zone. I would stay there and negotiate with the Egyptian Government when they come to their senses or when they are replaced, as they may well be, by another Government who take a different view.
I would remind hon. Members opposite that they were in power for six years 676 and that during that time they did not scuttle. If they would like to be reminded of the reasons why they did not scuttle they will find them very ably and eloquently set out in Hansard in a speech which was made by the late Mr. Ernest Bevin in 1946.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
The hon. Member has spoken about being "pushed out." He has said that we are entitled and bound to keep troops in the Canal Zone until Egypt is capable of defending it. Would he deal with this point? If Egypt says she is capable of defending the Canal Zone she is entitled to arbitration. Does he suppose that the arbitrators would find that the existence of another country's forces inside Egypt, against the will of Egypt, is still to be maintained?
§ Mr. Maclean
The hon. and learned Member knows much more about the intricacies of the law than I do, but I have carefully studied the Treaty of 1936 and my view, and the view of a great many people much better qualified to speak than I am, is that it entitles us to stay there not only until 1956 but, subject to further agreement, after 1956.
§ Mr. Maclean
Subject to further agreement within the framework of the alliance. Further arrangements should be in the spirit of that Treaty. The way in which the Egyptian Government are behaving at present is not in the spirit of the Treaty.
I have no means of telling what terms the Government are considering accepting, but after all they have said and all that has been said in the past, I cannot believe that they would allow us to be pushed out of a vital position, which we have every right to occupy, in the middle of a cold war and under the threat of a hot war.
Quite apart from the military considerations of which I do not profess to be a judge, I am quite certain that such an event would have most disastrous political and phychological repercussions throughout the whole of the Middle East and also throughout the whole of Africa. I think that if we were to pull out of Egypt with ignominy it would set up a general reaction—and we have already seen something of the kind happen— 677 which would have incalculable results, and which might lead to chaos and a power vacuum which would mean the end of any order or security throughout the whole area.
I have said that I fully realise the difficulties which confront the Government at the present time, and I equally do not think that anyone in their senses will deny that there are dangers in reaching an unsatisfactory agreement or in pulling out without an agreement. It is the thought of these dangers which is worrying me very deeply indeed. It is the thought of these dangers that has led me to put my name to the Motion on the Order Paper, and I can assure the House that I would not have put my name to that Motion unless I had been very profoundly disturbed indeed, as a great many other people in this country are.
What I feel myself has been expressed far better than I can ever express it by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in a speech which he made in May, 1946. My right hon. Friend, speaking with his immense experience as a strategist, had spoken in the earlier part of his speech of the vital importance to us of the Suez Canal Zone and of the absolute necessity of our remaining there. He concluded his speech with these words, and I remember thinking at the time how much better they expressed what I felt than I could ever express it myself, and I am encouraged and reassured by the thought that they express what I feel no less admirably at the present time:It is a strange thing to call upon brave soldiers to travel thousands of miles across the ocean to fight for great strategic objectives, all well-defined and fully declared, and then to turn round immediately afterwards, and discredit altogether those strategic objectives—or apparently do so—for which so many men, at our request and under our leadership, have come so far to give their lives. Apart from the interests of Britain, apart from the danger to Imperial communications in the Eastern Mediterranean, I say a shock has been given to the British self-governing Commonwealth, and their confidence in the guidance and leadership of the Mother Country has been painfully and injuriously affected by the apparent casting away of those interests which we have hitherto declared to them were vital.It always looks so easy to solve problems by taking the line of least resistance. Again and again in my life I have seen this course lead to the most unexpected result, and what looks like being the easy road turns out to 678 be the hardest and most cruel. No nation is so remarkable as ours for the different moods through which it passes, moments of great abjection, moments of sublime triumph, heroism, fortitude and then exhaustion. What has been gained with enormous effort and sacrifice, prodigious and superb acts of valour, slips away almost unnoticed when the struggle is over. I earnestly hope that the Government—with whom I do not attempt to pick a quarrel, but to whom I am giving a serious warning on this matter at this moment—will realise that there is only one safe resting place for this country, and that is the firm maintenance of the Treaty of 1936."—[Official Report, 24th May, 1946; Vol. 423, c. 778–9.]
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
This debate was originally announced as a debate on the Bermuda Conference, and it is to that subject that I wish to return the House. We have spent a lot of time today, first, on attacks from the other side on my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). The critics, few of whom are at the moment in the House, have had their answer, and a very effective one, and I leave it at that.
Wehave also spent a lot of time, usefully, I think, on the vexed problem of Egypt. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition stated clearly the attitude of this side of the House on the main points in dispute, and my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) also made a powerful contribution, with which I was broadly in agreement. For the rest, on the topic of the Middle East, I leave the Government to answer the roaring of their own prehistoric dinosaurs.
There is very little in the Bermuda communiqué on which one can bite, and virtually nothing was added to the communiqué by the Prime Minister today. I do not altogether complain about that. On the whole, I broadly accept what he said about limitations on publicity when heads of State meet. I mention this not so much to complain as simply to explain that such a lack of information, coupled with our knowledge that a Four-Power Conference is, we hope, impending, conditions what one can say on an occasion like this from the Opposition side.
It seemed to me that the Prime Minister's vagueness was coupled with a certain optimism. Whether that was only because of the beginning of the Christmas Recess or there was something 679 more behind it, I do not know, but I was glad to notice his optimism. I hope that the Prime Minister was right in appearing optimistic about the way that things might develop, but for those of us who do not have access to the secret minutes of what occurred at Bermuda, the signs do not at all support it; and it is my duty tonight to express some of the genuine misgivings which my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House feel, arising from the way in which the Conference was prepared over the last four or five months and even more, from some of the views expressed in fairly responsible circles, to some extent in this country, but even more in America.
One of our major misgivings arises from the lack of any real sign that on the Soviet side there is much readiness to change substantially the attitudes we have come to know so well about Germany, Austria and Europe. If I do not refer to that, it is simply because, obviously, the duty of this House is much more to examine the policy and intentions of our own Government than those of a Government whom it is so exceedingly difficult to influence.
I remind the House that the original invitation to Bermuda planned that there should be a conference which was to be a stepping stone for a meeting of four heads of State. As we understood it, it was to be a meeting where we would probe for information about what the new Soviet regime might be thinking, that we should give as much information as we could about our outlook on world affairs, and that we should give whatever assurances we could to encourage the new Soviet regime to adopt a new policy. The House will also remember that the Prime Minister said that there should not necessarily be any hard-faced agreements.
By the time that the second invitation to Bermuda was issue—one week after the delivery of the least favourable of the various Soviet notes—it seemed to me there was a very real danger that the new Bermuda Conference would be used for a precisely opposite purpose: not for probing with a view to further negotiations, but, as many responsible organs of the Press suggested, for deciding to give up the search for Four-Power agreement, in order that we might all get on with 680 Western integration, E.D.C. and the building up of our strength in the old way.
That was not only my view. It was expressed particularly in the American Press. I remember especially an article in the "New York Herald-Tribune" by Ned Russell, a very responsible writer, saying that Washington regarded the future Conference as a turning point in that very sense. To some of us it seemed that this Press opinion looked like being somewhat confirmed by the precipitate haste with which the three Western Governments seemed to interpret the least favourable—the worst, if I may so put it—of the Soviet notes as being an out and out rejection of all negotiation.
When our Note went back very quickly to the Soviet Government saying that we could only conclude that the Soviet Government did not wish at the present time to enter into any negotiations which might have positiveresults, it seemed to many of us that there was a little too much keenness on the part of many people to find that they did not have to go to the Conference after all because the other side had turned it down. I see the Foreign Secretary shaking his head. It may well be that he did not share that view, but I can assure him that there were many signs that that was a widely held view.
When the later Soviet Note appeared, the tactics and the tone of much of the comment changed, though I have to admit that we still do not know whether the Soviet Union intend a conference which will have positive results. All we know is that they appear to be determined that there shall be a conference.
I hope the Foreign Secretary will not feel aggrieved if I say to him that it is still somewhat hard to judge the real intentions of the various Governments who, we hope, are going to Berlin. One notices that many of the very influential people in this country, as well as in the United States, who are known never to have liked the Prime Minister's initiative in May and never to have thought it was a promising move, are now demanding that at the coming Conference Europe should make a clear-cut decision between on the one hand, as the "Economist" put it, an alliance with the United States and the building up of the Atlantic community and, on the other hand, a Soviet alliance which would mean the subjugation of Europe to Soviet 681 wishes. They are saying that, since in their view there can be no major or sensational agreement among the Four Powers, there must inevitably be a major disagreement, a split Europe, and the building up of rival alliances on each side of the Iron Curtain.
It is because we feared that this attitude might develop that we criticised the Washington communiqué of July, with all the conditions it laid down which seemed so different from the ones which the Prime Minister had envisaged. We feel it is better that we should have no conference at all rather than that we should go to one merely taking with us terms which we know are almost certain to prove unacceptable, in the hope that the other side will give us an excuse for following a course which we intended to follow in any event. That is putting it very bluntly and crudely, but it is a fear which is genuinely felt.
What assurances did the Prime Minister give us in his speech today? He said two things which seemed to add a little to the Bermuda communiqué, and I welcome both of them. First, he said that there would have to be many patient international conferences and that we must not hope too much of any one conference. I hope that by that he means that the British delegation, headed by the Foreign Secretary, at the Four-Power Conference will use all its influence to prevent impatience and to prevent a decision by the Western Powers to bring the thing to a close and to declare that the negotiation is off simply because there seems to be slow progress.
The second thing which the Prime Minister said was that he had impressed upon his colleagues at Bermuda the need for assurances to the Soviet Union. I want to probe that a little further. We all remember how the Prime Minister in May launched the idea of a new Locarno. Many people thought that was not an awfully happy way to formulate it. Nevertheless, the idea behind it was essentially sound, namely that one of the things motivating the Soviet Union was, clearly, her own security and that some way ought to be found of giving her an assurance about her security. I should like to know whether anything has emerged from that thought during the last six months. I see no indication of it in the communiqué.
682 I cannot help noticing that one of the things which Mr. Dulles said at his Press conference in Paris, when he was asked whether he had any idea aboutgiving some guarantee or undertaking, was that he did not see why the United States should say all over again what it had already said in general terms in the United Nations Charter. I do not know what the Foreign Secretary can tell us about that. Maybe he cannot tell us at all—I shall understand it—what he is proposing to put forward if he goes to Berlin. If afterwards we learn that absolutely no constructive proposals at all have been taken by the United Kingdom delegation to Berlin, he cannot count in advance upon our approval.
I want to ask something more about the remarks of Mr. Dulles in Paris. There is no doubt that the manner of those remarks shocked a large number of people. I am not going to comment on that aspect of the matter. I do not mind blunt speaking between allies, and provided the remarks represent what Mr. Dulles really meant, he may well have been right to make them. I am not complaining about the manner of them. I want to ask about the substance.
If one can sum up in a sentence as fairly as possible what seems to have been intended from a number of remarks scattered throughout his speech and the Press conference, what Mr. Dulles was saying to Europe, and particularly to France, was, "You had better form the European Defence Community, and form it quickly, or else the United States is liable to leave you to stew in your own juice." I dare say that last phrase covers a multitude of possibilities deliberately left vague. The only specific thing he said was that he would not drop the North Atlantic Treaty, but clearly the inference intended was that something unpleasant for his hearers was likely to happen.
That is a presentation of United States policy in an altogether too capricious light, almost a frivolous light. The United States interest in the defence of Europe does not depend, and never did depend, upon the E.D.C. My right hon. Friend said it was not of itself of absolutely prime importance, and I think that is correct. The Americans did not commit themselves in Europe for the sake of the French or for our sake, but because they 683 thought it was the major interest of the United States. Indeed, if I did not think that was the reason, I would not put much faith in it. I do not think they will jettison their own major interest as frivolously as those remarks seemed to suggest. Also, I do not think that friends of the United States will be impressed. Like Mr. Dulles, I think they believe in co-operation with their allies, to use his own words—so long as they pursue sane and sensible policies.I do not think the unreal "either, or" which he seemed to present was sane or sensible policy from the point of view of the United States or of anybody else.
Apart from that, what bearing, if any, does the Foreign Secretary think those remarks were intended to have on the Berlin Conference? If we are to take those statements at their face value, they certainly show the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as a somewhat unconvincing partnership, and they show relationships between the members which are neither as cordial nor as stable as I believe them to be. Further, they must suggest to the Soviet Government that they have only to find some means of ensuring delay in the ratification of the European Defence Community to ensure that the Americans draw back, in some way from their participation in Europe. Many of us think that this is one of the things which has been an objective of Soviet policy for a long time.
All those implications are somewhat dangerous. One thing is dear, that Mr. Dulles does not intend that any discussions on the European Defence Community should be expected at this conference. One must infer that, because one cannot talk to an ally in the terms in which Mr. Dulles talked to France about the European Defence Community, only to go four weeks later and bargain about it in a conference elsewhere.
This insistence on the European Defence Community as something beyond Four-Power discussion has made me wonder just what kind of negotiations Her Majesty's Government envisage when they get to Berlin. It has become fashionable to suggest that anyone who envisages any kind of Four-Power agreement which does not include the final conclusion of the E.D.C. Treaty and the 684 bringing into force of this conception, must inevitably be a wishful thinker about Soviet intentions or careless about Western defence or in some other way a dubious character.
Because that is a general belief, if the House will bear with me I want to read two short extracts from a posthumous article written by the late Dr. Ernst Reuter, the Mayor of Berlin. I have taken them from the United States magazine "World" which published the article in November, 1953, after his death. Normally I do not quote in my speeches, and I am only doing so now for two reasons: first, because Dr. Reuter is less open than any other European to the charge either that he is a wishful thinker about Soviet aims or intentions or that he does not care about Western defence; secondly, because I do not think that the public in this country has had the opportunity to hear even such short extracts as the few sentences I shall quote from this rather important article.
The first is this, referring to the attitude of the Allies to the E.D.C. and Germany:Many of them"—that is the Allies—tend to subordinate everything else to the European Defence Community and to suspect all Germans who fear that E.D.C. might jeopardise their chances of reunion of being soft towards Russia. It seems to me that exactly the contrary is true. E.D.C. is essentially a static concept that more or less resigns itself to Russia's permanent presence on the Elbe. By contrast, German reunion fits into the framework of a more dynamic policy that is trying to obtain Russia's withdrawal behind her own borders through negotiation.The second extract is:None of us will ask the Allies to sacrifice the defence of Western Europe to German unity, for that would leave all of us in the lurch. On the other hand, there is no point in going to the conference table with the firm resolve to eat one's cake and have it too. If the Soviets are allowed to get the feeling that they arc cornered, they are liable to seek desperate solutions.What seems essential to me is that the Allies approach the issues at stake with an open and elastic mind. They must be prepared for a give and take agreement without ever forgetting their objective: German unity and peaceful Soviet withdrawal. Neither E.D.C. nor neutrality should be treated as a sacrosanct dogma in such negotiations, for each means different things to different people.There are many other quotations like that which I could give if I had the time, 685 but I think that those views, expressed by such a person as the late Dr. Reuter, are entitled to respect, and I believe that those views are very widely shared by many of my hon. and right hon. Friends.
Whether this problem of E.D.C. is part of the negotiations or something to be kept outside the negotiations, how it will be handled in Berlin will be one of the things affecting our verdict, after the event, upon the policy followed by our own Government. I am afraid that I may sound in all this a bit carping, but the Foreign Secretary will appreciate that we have been given nothing very positive to go on, because there is nothing in the Bermuda Conference communiqué or in the Prime Minister's speech today. It was right, therefore, that I should express these misgivings in the hope that the Foreign Secretary would give me assurances on some of them and pay attention to some of the arguments which I have advanced.
I should like to end on a more optimistic note. Despite the fears which I have expressed on this matter I believe that President Eisenhower's speech on atomic energy is something to be very much welcomed. I frankly do not know how practicable or how important in the sphere of atomic control are his suggestions for such things as a bank of atomic energy, but I welcome a number of the remarks scattered throughout his speech which indicate a real turn in United States thinking towards the need to find a way of co-existence with the Soviet Union, the acceptance of the need for patience and for a long-term as well as a short-term policy, and the specific statement that the Americans will not shun the conference table.
All these statements encourage me to hope that the Western Powers in Berlin, even if, as I think, they have left themselves rather little room for manoeuvring, intend to make some progress and that, whatever else may emerge, they will not say in Berlin, "That has failed, and we can now go back to the straightforward policy followed in the last two or three years of building up strength, which does not involve any of the troubles and moral dilemmas which are inevitably involved in negotiations. I hope that the Foreign Secretary can give us some reassurance on some of these points now 686 but, whether he can or not, it will inevitably be by performance in Berlin that the policy of Her Majesty's Government will eventually be judged.
§ 9.19 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)
The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) has made, as he always does, a very thoughtful and constructive speech, and where it was critical I have no cause to complain. I welcome that speech the more, as also the speech of the Leader of the Opposition earlier this afternoon, because I personally think we are at a very grave and critical turning in international affairs.
I have had some years' experience of these matters now, and I find that the position in which we stand now—this is how I feel—is one where there may be far-reaching, hopeful developments if everybody will try to approach their task in that spirit, or where we may get into the greatest difficulties and entanglements if the spirit, shall I say of the Palais Rose—I do not refer merely to one country—were to prevail.
I should like first, in reply to the right hon. Member, to make a reference to what he said in respect of tactics in regard to the exchange of notes. I thought he was perhaps a little less than fair to the Western Governments in that respect. We said in effect, as I remarked to this House in our last debate, that we are perfectly ready to meet and discuss Germany and Austria at any time and at any place. I do think the fact that we took that position, a very clear and very free position, did have its influence—that is my judgment—in, I shall not say forcing, but encouraging, the Soviet Government eventually to reply yes and to suggest a place of meeting.
I do not think it would be right to say that any blame attaches to the Western Governments in this matter. In fact, I rather hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would have felt it to have been—I shall not say a British diplomatic success, I do not claim that, but—a Western diplomatic success. The Russians felt they had no alternative but to say yes, which is a word which, from his experience, the right hon. Member knows they find difficult to pronounce.
I wish to make a comment on what the Leader of the Opposition had to say 687 about President Eisenhower's remarks on atomic power. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that these matters are technically extremely difficult. Nothing is easier than to get enmeshed into every kind of tangled technical pronouncement so that one can scarcely hope to find one's way through them. But I thought that perhaps the main quality of President Eisenhower's announcement was that he tried to get away from all that. What he offered was, in effect, that the countries of the West—the United States, ourselves and Canada—who have first-hand technical knowledge of this subject, and Soviet Russia from behind the Iron Curtain, should go into a meeting, which could be a private meeting, in order to try to work out and discuss these matters. It seemed to me that this was the first initiative since the famous Bernard Baruch proposals, to which the Leader of the Opposition referred.
I hope, and Her Majesty's Government hope, that the Soviet Government will treat these proposals in the manner in which we know they were intended, as a serious effort to get out of the very dangerous position in which we now are. I believe that if they are so received then there is a chance for statesmanship to cope with this terrible power, this terrifying power, which the more one learns about it the greater alarm one feels. I believe this is a chance for statesmanship. I am quite confident—I know that the Prime Minister will endorse what I say—that if the Soviet Government will come to these discussions, which have no preconditions of any sort or kind, to discuss these proposals under United Nations auspices, from what we know of the United States Government position, they will not find them ungenerous in their attitude.
So far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned—and who can doubt that it is the position of the Canadian Government, too?—we shall do everything that lies in our power by contribution, direct or indirect, to bring about the success of these discussions on atomic issues. I can tell the House that we felt—I know that I did and I think my right hon. Friend did also—the impact of this topic so tremendous on the whole of our thought and discussion that some of the things we have discussed—Foreign Office problems 688 of detail—important though they are, seemed puny pawns in comparison with the great danger that these master chessmen present to the future of the world. I wanted to say that to the right hon. Gentleman, because I think it is our biggest issue in international relations.
I must deal with a number of topics, but I wish to reply to one other question raised by the right hon. Gentleman. He asked me about the Tripartite Declaration of 1950. I am able to tell the House that when I last met my French and American colleagues in London, we reaffirmed that Declaration. It remains the basic policy of Her Majesty's Government and there is no change in respect of it.
I wish to deal now with our negotiations with Egypt. Though I am not going into any detail about it, I must recapitulate a little recent history, and only very recent history. In May of this year, the Egyptian Government broke off discussions which had then been proceeding for, I think, about three weeks. They were discussions on an attempt to replace the Treaty of 1936. Then, in July, General Robertson returned to Cairo, and thereafter we began what have been called informal talks with the Egyptians. I must mention that it was in accordance with the wish of the Egyptians that discussions took this form.
I understand that there can be strong feelings on this topic in the House, and, indeed, on both sides of the House. It is an extremely difficult issue upon which to defend the conclusions, and to balance all the varying interests and feelings that it arouses. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred to his own experience in these negotiations, and I make no complaint if my hon. Friends have strong feelings on this matter. I willingly grant to them the same sincerity in their feelings as Her Majesty's Government have in theirs. But I think it of the first importance that we understand what at present we are trying to do.
We are not—I repeat, not—now trying to revise the Suez Canal Convention which has no terminal date at all. We are trying to discover whether there is sufficient agreement on principle to make possible the negotiation of a treaty—
§ Mr. Bevan rose—
§ Mr. Eden
I assure the right hon. Gentleman I am quite right. I only want 689 to distinguish in the minds of hon. Members between the Suez Canal Convention and what we are now doing, which is an attempt to negotiate an agreement of principle to replace the Treaty of 1936. It is quite a different exercise, and much of the confusion in the speeches to which I have listened this afternoon is due to the belief of hon. Members that we are doing the two things at one time. But they are completely separate targets. At the moment all we are trying to do is to see whether we can settle the heads of agreement—that is what they are called.
Admittedly that is often the most difficult part of any negotiation. But if we succeed in reaching heads of agreement agreeable to the Egyptian Government then, of course, they will be announced to this House, and a full opportunity will be given to this House to debate them.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North) rose—
§ Mr. Eden
Just two seconds, and then I will give way to my hon. Friend. I think it is important that the House should understand what it is asking about, and if after that my hon. Friend does not understand I will gladly give way. Some of my hon. Friends have asked for an assurance that the House will have an opportunity for further discussion, and Ithink I had perhaps better deal with that before giving way. I regret that we are not prepared to give these assurances. We are not willing to break off discussions with the Egyptian Government in existing circumstances. In our judgment negotiations should continue. Now I will give way to my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Eden
With respect to my hon. Friend, I do not really think that there is a great deal in that. The 1936 Agreement goes on without dispute until 1956, except that the Egyptian Government have denounced it. We do not accept their denunciation. I would like to negotiate an agreement which would come into operation and take the place of the 1936 Agreement which runs out in 1956. What I am telling the House is that if we reach 690 these heads of agreement, then the House will have every opportunity to discuss them, but there cannot be any details of a treaty until the heads have been reached. The promise which I will not give to the House is that if we reach the heads of agreement, we will not go on and try to prepare the treaty.
Therefore, the position of the House is doubly safeguarded. Normally, a Government and a Foreign Secretary have the perfect right to sign a treaty without any sanction from this House at all, and then, if he is a wise Foreign Secretary, he brings the treaty in due course to the House for its expression of opinion. As I say, here the House has a double safeguard. We have not yet begun to negotiate the actual terms of the treaty. We are trying—because that is the method which the Egyptians prefer—to reach the heads of agreement. If we get them, the House will then have an opportunity to debate them, but I am not prepared to postpone negotiations or delay the matter over the Christmas Recess.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. He referred to the heads of agreement. Can he confirm or deny that the evacuation of troops from the Canal Zone and other important matters would begin to take effect from the conclusion of the heads of agreement, and would not have to await the ratification of the treaty?
§ Mr. Eden
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. I am pretty certain that no action of any significance would occur unless the treaty had been signed. I honestly do not believe that the House of Commons has ever been given fuller assurances about any agreement. The ordinary practice that I adopt is that the Government are responsible for the treaty and that the House either ratifies or approves it.
I am now telling the House—or part of it—that the moment we get the heads of agreement, a public statement will be available and the House will have an opportunity of debate. The assurance I will not give is that we shall delay reaching the heads of agreement, if we think it right to do so, during the Christmas Recess. Now, is that satisfactory to everyone concerned, and, if not satisfactory, at least fair?
691 I must tell my hon. Friends that I am most reluctant to discuss details of these negotiationsnow. If one does that while negotiations are in progress, it is always a most unhelpful thing to do to oneself, because if one is not very careful it gives the Power with whom one is negotiating both an advantage and a grievance. I am afraid I cannot further develop my speech with a rumbling comment behind me—I am sorry, but it makes it most difficult, and this is a very important topic.
It is well know that there are two major points which are at present outstanding, and neither of them is what the right hon. Gentleman would refer to as, I think he said, minor points about which people get worked up. One concerns the avail ability of the base in time of need and the other, uniforms. Both of these are major points. On both—although I need not explain why because I think the House knows it—we have made our position clear to the Egyptian Government some weeks ago, and that position stands. It may be that we shall not reach an understanding. If so, I and my right hon. Friend think that this will be a misfortune, because an Anglo-Egyptian treaty can be a real advantage for both our countries and for peace in the Middle East.
Now, for our country, I submit to the House that the advantages will accrue by an opportunity to redeploy our Fighting Forces for the defence of the Middle East, and for the discharge of our responsibilities in that area in a manner more in accord with the strategic needs and conditions of our times. We can also hope for some financial easement, and I think that anybody who does not want this agreement to be reached ought to bear in mind the possible financial consequences. As for this redeployment, which I ask the House to consider, we must bear in mind the change which has taken place since N.A.T.O. came into the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece and Turkey are now both members of N.A.T.O., and the position of Turkey is decisive in this Near Eastern theatre; they are now the southern buttress of N.A.T.O.'s defence.
I would ask the House to think of this. Suppose our hands were entirely free tonight, the position of Greece and Turkey would play a dominant part in 692 the disposition of our forces. But we are not entirely free, and why? Because of the problem of the base in Egypt, some of which, at any rate, is physically immovable. Our concern with this base, like our concern for the Canal—and let me add that one does not defend that merely by sitting on it—is not a selfish or an old-fashioned imperial interest. It is a responsibility which we have to discharge effectively in relation to the modern needs of Middle Eastern defence. That is what an agreement could mean for us.
What could it mean for Egypt? It could mean an end of a period of confusion and strain and maybe, if the Egyptians desired it, a resumption of relations such as those we had after the 1936 Treaty. Economic advantages for Egypt might also flow from this. For the Middle East as a whole, this could open a new era. It could be a decisive step towards increased co-operation and general security. Therefore, we do not want, and we do not intend, to abandon our responsibilities in the Middle East.
If, however, we cannot get an agreement we shall have a new situation, and we shall have to reconsider our whole position in the light of our needs, our interests and our obligations. I can assure the House that we shall face that situation resolutely if it arises, but our firm policy is first to see if it is possible to achieve a reasonable settlement. That—no more, no less—is what we are trying to do at present.
References were made to the Sudan and the result of the elections. We have been told that the British lost the elections. What are the facts? We have kept our word to the Sudanese to bring them rapidly to the stage of self-government as a prelude to self-determination. That promise has been made repeatedly in this House ever since 1936, without challenge from anybody. We kept that promise. So far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, we have abstained from interference in any way in the Sudanese elections and we have done our best to see that they should be free and impartial elections. The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) said that we have lost them. We did not consider that we were taking part in them. That is only one stage. There are other stages 693 to come before the Sudanese can decide their future. Our whole purpose is still to see that they should have a free choice, and that purpose stands, independent of the question of the agreement on the Canal Zone.
There have been suggestions that our prestige has suffered as a result of the Sudanese elections. I do not accept that. It can be read in many ways. It has to be realised that there are new forces of nationalism stirring in the world today, and they are as strong in Arab countries as they are anywhere else. Her Majesty's Government do not believe that it is a wise policy to try to suppress these movements or to hold them back by force of arms.
§ Mr. Crossman
What I said was that, as a result of leaving Neguib for three months as the sole man claiming to give independence, and not granting it quickly but haggling, we lost the advantage.
§ Mr. Eden
We have not lost them, because we have not been taking part in those elections. I should have thought that a Member of the Opposition party would have understood that the whole tradition of our handling of these matters is that the future must be decided by the country itself. The hon. Gentleman criticised us, but I noticed in a Turkish newspaper the other day an article discussing this very question, and I read something which the hon. Gentleman did not say. It praised Her Majesty's Government for British honesty and impartiality in the elections. I think that tribute is worth more than any criticism that the hon. Gentleman can make. This is exactly what we want to ensure in all the countries where we have special responsibilities for stewardship. I think that in all these countries our record is a very proud one.
There are other examples besides this. What about Iraq, for whom at one time 694 we had a full mandate, to whom we gave freely and by agreement her now complete independence which she has long enjoyed—a country with whom we have friendly relations? What about the far more recent example of Libya? [An Hon. Member: "British Guiana."] I do not think that is the fault of Her Majesty's Government here. I thought that had been debated before. The hon. Member can put that out of his mind, and think of Libya, a country in North Africa inhabited by the Senussi—[An Hon. Member: "India."] Hon. Members might let me continue—a country to whom we offered independence in the war, who has now attained her independence and with whom we have a treaty. Those are in complete accord with the tradition which we have tried to observe.
I have a great deal to say about Europe, but I must utter one sentence about Persia. My right hon. Friend dealt with it, but I want to add this. I am sure that this House will endorse our conviction that to resume relations with Persia will strengthen the ties between us, and our hope is that it will shortly lead to a settlement, satisfactory to both of us, of all our common problems. The Persian Government may be sure that we approach those problems in a spirit of good will. We are following with very real interest and sympathy General Zahedi's Government's efforts to restore Persia's prosperity and bring happiness to her people. I must express our thanks, too, to the Swiss Government, who looked after our relations during that unhappy period, and also to the United States Ambassador in Teheran, Mr. Henderson, who played a most selfless and helpful rôle in bringing about an improvement in relations.
I was asked some questions about Korea which I must deal with. This political conference, which we are very anxious to settle, was discussed exhaustively at U.N.O., in August. We had a distinct view which was not the majority view and was not accepted by the United Nations, but we abided by the resolution which the United Nations passed. In October there was a deadlock. We played our part—my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State in particular—in trying to resolve that deadlock. As a result of the joint efforts of all concerned, we reached agreement for this meeting at Panmunjom.
695 Mr. Dean has represented the United States, and countries which fought under the United Nations' flag, very well and very patiently in these negotiations. I was glad to hear the tribute which the right hon. Member paid him. He has given a remarkable example of the new art, in this strange modern world, of handling publicly all the most detailed and complicated technical details imaginable, and his patience has been outstanding.
A number of concessions have been made by him, one after the other, to try to meet the Communist point of view. The Communists have made no concession. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, on this occasion, that there can be no doubt where the fault lies, but that does not prevent us from still being most anxious that the conference shall meet, and we shall do all in our power, as we have done heretofore, to bring it about.
I must say something about the prisoners of war. The period of explanations ends on Christmas Eve, and 30 days after that, unless the political conference has come to an agreement about their future—that is, the future of the prisoners who have not chosen repatriation—the Commission's period of custody comes to an end. Our view is that that is the position, whether or not the political conference meets before 23rd January. I am glad to understand from the right hon. Gentleman that that is also the view of the Opposition Front Bench. We are in consultation now with our friends and allies about that situation, and only this afternoon my right hon. Friend had a discussion on this matter with the Leader of the Indian Delegation to the United Nations, Mr. Krishna Menon, who is on his way home from New York today.
On the wider question of a Far Eastern conference, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. But we want to get an agreement to set up a political conference and to deal with the question of prisoners of war. After that agreement we shall work to secure a wider settlement of Far Eastern problems, including that of Indo-China.
I have less time than I should have allowed myself to deal with a number of complicated questions and the Berlin Conference. My right hon. Friend spoke of the work we did at Bermuda. Since 696 then I have had meetings, as the House knows, with the Foreign Secretaries, who are my principal colleagues, and with Dr. Adenauer. I want to give the House, first, the broadest conclusion which I have derived from all these talks and from my experience since I came back to the Foreign Office. I have come to the conclusion that the policy which we have been following broadly—I am not dealing with detail now—over these last years is substantially right and does not need to be changed. All our allies and friends are agreed upon that.
I would add that, by and large, it is true that this is a policy which we have inherited from the late Mr. Ernest Bevin, and I do not quarrel with that. An hon. Member mentioned that fact in the last foreign affairs debate. I am not at all ashamed that there should be a continuity of British foreign policy. Broadly, our aim has been twofold, and it still is. It is to build up a deterrent to aggression and to establish a position of strength, from which we can negotiate at least an easement of tension and, if possible, a settlement of disputes with the Soviet Union.
There are quite a number of chapters in this story. The most important is N.A.T.O., a remarkably successful international experiment. I should like very much opportunities to be given for Members of this House to know more of the work and achievements of N.A.T.O. In relation to other international organisations it has much less than the fame that it deserves. Now it is an effective working organisation which fills a real international need. Four men, four names, come to my mind, within the organisation for that achievement. First there was General Eisenhower, as he then was; Lord Montgomery, who has worked from the very beginning in N.A.T.O., willingly accepting a subordinate capacity; General Gruenther; and Lord Is may who, on the Political side, has worked a remarkable improvement of the whole of our arrangements within N.A.T.O.
Here I come to the point that the right hon. Gentleman asked me at the conclusion of his speech. Within N.A.T.O. it was intended and is still our hope that E.D.C. should work. I would recall that E.D.C. was originally a proposal put forward by our French friends. It was put forward to meet the accepted need for a German 697 military contribution as long back as September, 1950.It was then that N.A.T.O. passed its resolution. Since then there has been varied progress, till we signed the Treaties last summer, varied progress towards ratification, and, of course, France in particular has still to take her decision. M. Bidault has more than once made it clear to us that this is a dramatic and far-reaching step which France has to take. I think we have sympathy and understanding with her in this decision.
Many hon. Members of this House have spoken of alternatives to N.A.T.O. The more one examines those alternatives in detail, the greater do the difficulties become. Let me just give the House one example. E.D.C. has in itself any number of safeguards and restrictions that various countries, members of E.D.C., voluntarily entered into.
It has a common programme for armaments and for control of the armaments industry, and that is immensely important, including control of exports and imports of raw materials and atomic production. All these things are dealt with in agreement between the E.D.C. countries, and the cumulative effect of this is to hobble national adventure and encourage international co-operation.
Does the House really think it would be possible in any short period of time, or any period of time, to integrate all this difficult agreement which has been more than a year in preparation into N.A.T.O., which has so much a looser setting altogether? Frankly, I think it hard to believe how it could be done.
Now as to our position. We have given six specific guarantees in treaty form to France. We are now considering further arrangements between us which will take the form of a new protocol which is being negotiated by the six Powers. Our discussions are still going on, and I shall give the House full information as soon as we have reached agreement. We are anxious to help to any extent we can. I do not think there is any new chapter in which there is any further contribution we can make, but the House must remember that among the supporters of E.D.C. are the small countries of Europe, even those who are not members, not least the Socialist Governments, for instance, of the Scandi- 698 navian countries who are constant supporters of E.D.C. because they believe that is the only method by which the problem can be settled.
§ Mr. Eden
The Norwegian Government are certainly strong supporters of E.D.C. If the hon. Gentleman has any doubt, let him send a postcard to the Norwegian Foreign Minister. I have no doubt whatever of the answer he will get.
I must deal with our thoughts in connection with Berlin. There is an argument, and I must face it, that we should not proceed with these arrangements when Russia is at last showing, or shall we say may be showing, signs of willingness to meet us around the council chamber. I cannot altogether accept that argument. Russia has long since completed much more rigid and complicated alliances in the East with her own satellites, whom she rearmed long ago in defiance of her own treaty obligations, and she has long since armed the East Germans and built up a formidable military force.
But it may be, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, and as my right hon. Friend indicated in his speech of 11th May, that the problem of security is one of those which Russia has in mind. It may be that, in spite of the fact that we have all undertakings towards her under the United Nations Charter and in spite of the continuance of the Soviet Treaty with us and other engagements—it may be that in spite of all that Russia feels the need for further security assurance. If that is so, and if we are able to make some progress in our discussions in Berlin, then I think we shall be able to find some means of helping that situation. We are discussing these matters now, and not altogether unsuccessfully.
But what I must say to the House about Berlin, in conclusion, is this: the right hon. Gentleman just said to me, "Do not bring these discussions to an end if you are making slow progress." Incidentally, I must not go on too long; I must not make the mistake which was made the other night. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Please do not bring the discussions to an end if you are making slow progress."
699 I beg the House to believe that of course we shall not do that. If there is any kind of progress at all, however slow, I am perfectly confident that none of the Western Powers will want to bring those discussions to an end. At the end the right hon. Gentleman very generously gave me the good wishes of the House in the work which I have to do. I have no illusions about what are likely to be the difficulties of these negotiations. I know the story, I have read the record, of some of the meetings in which Mr. Bevin had to take part, but I am not going solely weighed down by the thought of what has always happened before but in the hope that if we make a serious and earnest attempt we shall be met in like spirit.
Only two undertakings I will give the House. If we see an opening anywhere to make progress we shall take it. I truly believe that is the mood of all the Western nations. Of course there is some scepticism. Of course we can find examples of it from time to time in the Press of any country which we read. We cannot have been through all these experiences without people knowing a little about how Soviet Russia often negotiates.
But on any sign of willingness to meet us on any point, we shall be ready to do our part. Although I admit the auspices are not entirely favourable, although I know how immensely complex and difficult it is, how hard the course will be to steer, we shall go there in the New Year, if the Russians will meet us, not in a spirit of defeatism or scepticism, but in an earnest attempt to meet what at least all the peoples of the world desire—a lasting settlement of peace for Europe.
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.