§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.]
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. R. A. Butler)
The House will, I think, expect from me an account of the way in which the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government has developed since my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made his great speech on 11th May, when we last debated foreign affairs. I think it would be inappropriate for me to make a comprehensive review, or what is sometimes called a tour d'horizon, of every aspect of the international scene, but I know I can count on the consideration of hon. Members in describing to the House, as is my duty, the outcome of the Washington Conference, after hearing the reports of my noble Friend the acting Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
First, I should say a brief word about certain distinguished visitors we have had in London since our last debate, and whom we have been very happy to welcome here. The first was the German Federal Chancellor, whose character and influence cannot but impress all who meet him. The visit of the Turkish Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, which was a long-awaited and very valuable visit, made an equal impression upon us at the time of the Coronation, and shortly afterwards the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, Dr. Beyen, was our guest, to be followed by another outstanding European statesman, the Italian Prime Minister, Signor De Gasperi. We have also been pleased to see the Greek Minister of Co-ordination, M. Markezinis.
The Prime Minister himself had most useful and valuable conversations with the first four of these visitors and, as a result of these visits, my noble Friend was able to go to Washington knowing the views and the position of such valued North Atlantic Treaty partners as Turkey, the Netherlands and Italy and also of the German Federal Government as well. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister's illness prevented him from seeing M. Markezinis, with whom, however, I had a most useful conversation and I am sure that his visit will benefit the close and indeed historic, relations between this country and Greece.
212 I will deal next with the prospects for the conclusion of an early and honourable armistice at Panmunjon. In Washington the three Foreign Ministers reaffirmed their strong support for the efforts of the United Nations Command to achieve this and expressed the determination of their Governments to continue to work towards this end.
A month ago some new difficulties arose in South Korea at a time when all of us had high hopes that an armistice was about to be signed. President Syngman Rhee has since given assurances—which I have mentioned at Question time—that he will not impede the carrying out of the terms of the armistice agreement. Mr. Robertson has stated that we can proceed in good faith to sign an armistice when the Communists are ready to do so. After the United Nations Command negotiators had made all this abundantly clear, the Communists stated, at the meeting on 19th July, that, in view of the assurances given by the United Nations Command, they were ready to discuss detailed preparations for the signature of an armistice agreement. We have therefore every reason to hope that the agreement can be signed without further delay.
The three Foreign Ministers stated their resolve that if, unhappily, the other side should renew their aggression in Korea after an armistice and thus threaten the principles defended by the United Nations, their Governments would, as members of the United Nations, again support the restoration of peace and security. The House will probably recall the words used by the Prime Minister early in 1952:If the truce we seek is reached only to be broken our response will be prompt, resolute and effective.This still remains the attitude of Her Majesty's Government.
The Foreign Ministers also considered it prudent to emphasise that an armistice must not result in jeopardising the restoration or the safeguarding of peace in any other part of Asia. The hostilities in Korea have for three years acted as an absolute bar to any improvement in the general situation in the Far East. An armistice in Korea will not only be of the highest value of itself but, as the Foreign Ministers recognised, a step forward in the cause of peace everywhere. It will, in particular, give us an opportunity to settle 213 the Korean question by peaceful means at the proposed political conference and thus open the way thereafter for a settlement of other outstanding problems in the Far East.
Some hon. Members may urge us that, as soon as the armistice is signed, we should try to solve at once such difficult problems as Chinese representation in the United Nations and the United Nations strategic embargo. As the House is well aware, we stand by the United Nations Resolution of May, 1951, in respect of the export of strategic goods to China. What is more, we are carrying this out rigorously, and intend to continue to do so. At the same time, it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to develop trade in goods which are not the subject of security controls. We believe this trade in non-strategic goods is to the advantage of the free world.
Her Majesty's Government have already made clear that our policies on such subjects as Chinese representation and the strategic embargo will have to be reconsidered in concert with the other members of the United Nations at the appropriate time after an armistice, depending on how events develop in the Far East. Meanwhile, as the Foreign Ministers stated, our present policies should be maintained. We should resolve to move forward step by step. First after an armistice must come a political settlement in Korea, and then the best hope for the future will be a firm consolidation at each stage of advance.
There is one other passage in the communiqué published in the White Paper on the subject of Indo-China. The House will have taken note of the declaration made on 3rd July to the Associate States of Indo-China by the French Government. In that the latter express their willingness to promote, by negotiations, the independence and sovereignty of the Associate States within the French Union. This declaration was warmly welcomed at Washington by my noble Friend and Mr. Dulles, and I feel sure the House would want to welcome it today. The way now seems open for the French to do everything possible to satisfy the aspirations of the Associate States so that whatever doubts remain there and elsewhere in Asia as to the genuine nature of their independence may be resolved.
214 This is of particular importance at the present crucial stage of the struggle against the Communist Viet-Minh rebels, who continue to be encouraged and supplied by Communist China.
I welcome, therefore, this opportunity to endorse the tribute paid at Washington to the heroic efforts which continue to be made in Indo-China by the forces of the French Union, including the rapidly expanding armies of Viet-Nam, Laos and Cambodia, but great efforts are still called for if victory is to be won, and the House will, I am sure, be glad to note the encouraging and inspiring speech made on 16th July by the new Commander-in-Chief of the French Forces in Indo-China and also the news of the bold parachute operation by the French Union forces as a result of which a considerable quantity of Viet-Minh supplies have been destroyed. Her Majesty's Government, for their part, have given and will continue to give all such material aid as lies within our resources to the French Union forces in their struggle. A successful outcome of this struggle is a matter of the utmost concern to South-East Asia and to the free world.
I want to say a word about Egypt. My noble Friend the acting Foreign Secretary also discussed with Mr. Dulles the situation in Egypt. These talks confirmed the wide measure of agreement between us and our American friends on this subject. In particular, they showed that we both consider that the maintenance of an effective base in the Suez Canal area is essential in the interests of world peace. My noble Friend discussed in detail with Mr. Dulles the best means of ensuring this with Egyptian co-operation. In their discussions they were assisted by General Sir Brian Robertson who conducted the negotiations with Egypt on our behalf, in association with Her Majesty's Ambassador. There are as yet no developments which alter the situation as described by the Prime Minister on 11th May. His statement is there for hon. Members to study. We are willing to resume negotiations whenever the Egyptian Government are ready to do so, and General Robertson is available in Cairo. Meanwhile, we remain resolute and patient.
From now on I should like to deal with the main and central theme of the Conference, namely, the proposal for 215 four-Power talks in September on the subject of Germany and Austria. When we look on the results of the Washington Conference, I think we must agree that it has not only successfully established and consolidated the absolute unity of aim and purpose of the great Powers involved but has also marked a notable step forward towards the relaxation of tension. It is further evident—and I hope the House will notice this—that the line decided upon has the support of our North Atlantic Treaty partners and of the German Federal Government.
The Conference has also confirmed the wisdom of the main themes put forward by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his speech on 11th May. The first of these themes, which naturally fired popular imagination both here and in many other countries, was that no opportunity should be missed—indeed, one should be sought and found—to explore by direct contact any new mood in Moscow after the death of Stalin. My right hon. Friend's wish was to encourage whatever tendencies the new leaders of the Soviet Union might show for a genuine relaxation in tension and for the composing, or at least easing, of sources of international friction.
Another theme of the Prime Minister's, which has perhaps been overlooked in some quarters, was that the Western World must maintain its unity and strength and develop the institutions upon which our safety and continued prosperity depend. I have particularly in mind the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the existing or projected European organisations, the Coal and Steel Community, the European Defence Community and the European Political Community. These institutions are not, as some have thought, simply a buttress against the Soviet menace as it has developed since 1945. They are also—and this is even more important—a response to the requirements of the modern world for a closer working together of nations, great and small, in the interest of peace, security and welfare.
If hon. Members will turn to page 4 of the communiqué and read subsection (b) on that page, they will see that this is borne out in the terms of the communiqué from Washington. Even if, happily, some composition with the Soviet 216 Union could be obtained, these institutions would therefore be just as necessary as they are now. In any case, in the situation facing us they are vital to our security. It is the sacrifices and the efficient and loyal work responsible for their creation and development which are redressing, although we should remember that they have not yet redressed the balance of power between the Soviet Union and the West. It is only because the West has shown this unity and built up its defensive strength that there is now, as we all hope, a possibility of discussion with the Soviet leaders.
I would also remind the House of the importance which my right hon. Friend attached on 11th May to the German problems, which he described as, "of course, the dominating problem in Europe." He also said:Strong as is our desire to see a friendly settlement with Soviet Russia, or even an improved modus vivendi, we are resolved not in any way to fail in the obligations to which we have committed ourselves about Western Germany … which will in no way be sacrificed or … cease to be master of its own fortunes within the agreements we and other N.A.T.O. countries have made with them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515. c. 894.]The Prime Minister also made it clear that he did not think it impossible to reconcile these problems concerning the freedom and safety of Western Europe with the security of Russia. All of us who look ahead for wide, constructive possibilities to arise out of the Washington talks, will hope that the immense problem still of reconciling the general security of Russia with the freedom and safety of all the nations involved is by no means an insoluble problem.
It is only, I think, by recalling in this way the major objectives that were set out by my right hon. Friend on 11th May that we can properly judge what has been achieved at the recent meeting. Only thus can we assess what are the present prospects for maintaining the momentum and carrying forward his initiative for composing our great and very real differences with the Soviet Union without endangering the strength, prosperity and unity of our great Western alliance.
It was always intended, as hon. Members will remember, that before any fruitful discussions could be held with 217 Russia there must be some intermediate consultations between the three Western Governments—those Governments who share such great responsibilities in Germany and elsewhere. The House may remember that this was the objective of the Bermuda meeting. I might go back a little earlier than that and tell the House that early in June we received a proposal from the United States Government that there should be a three-Power meeting. The Prime Minister welcomed this idea and suggested Bermuda as a meeting place. The President at that time readily agreed. Unhappily, next day the French Government was defeated and a five-week interlude occurred before the date of a further meeting could be arranged. In the meantime, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister fell ill, and a different set of intermediate conversations was arranged on the Secretary-of-State level.
In matters of such vital importance it has rightly been found proper to consult other nations closely associated with us, more particularly our N.A.T.O. partners, and also the German Federal Government. In the fluid and baffling situation facing us there were many voices raised in many countries to suggest that, with the international scene shifting so rapidly, the prudent course would have been to modify our original design. We might have waited upon the further unfolding of the scene; we might have waited until the Prime Minister was completely restored to health; we might have waited to see whether a truce actually materialised in Korea; we might have waited for the result of the German elections; we might have waited for further and perhaps even more sensational events behind the Iron Curtain. Above all, we might have waited to see who are likely to remain the real repositories of power in Moscow, as they are the persons with whom it might be profitable to negotiate.
This was not the view taken by Her Majesty's Government. We felt that, above all, the momentum must be maintained; that we must work towards a possible improvement in the international scene; that the initiative must not be allowed to fail, and that whoever the real repositories of power might be, they should have no excuse for thinking that our desire for more normal relations or 218 our determination to base them on Western unity and strength had in any way flagged. That is why we went ahead as we did, and I am sure we were right to do so.
The Washington talks have revealed agreement among the three Western Allies about the desirability of high level talks with the Soviet Government at a date not too far distant. They have enabled the three Western Allies to agree on the best way to handle the new situation created by the stirring of the spirit of freedom in Eastern Europe. They have re-affirmed the necessity for maintaining, and even strengthening, the development of European unity, and the military defences of the West, and they have confirmed the soundness of the existing tripartite policies towards Germany, which have also enjoyed the support of the German Federal Government
I should like for a moment or two to examine these policies towards Germany. They can be briefly summed up under two heads. First, the entry into force as soon as possible of the Bonn and the European Defence Community Treaties. Secondly, the re-unification of Germany on the only possible basis consistent with German freedom, as set out in the Allied Notes of last year, culminating in our Note of 23rd September. This was most recently and clearly restated in the message sent to the German Federal Chancellor by the Prime Minister last month immediately after the strikes and other events in Berlin and East Germany.
The Washington communiqué, with the latest Note to the Soviet Government, has been made available to hon. Members as a White Paper. In it they will read the main themes in the Prime Minister's speech of 11th May and of the policy objectives I have just outlined. As I shall now show, the conclusions are in fact in keeping with the policies pursued by successive Governments. The fact that such agreement could be so quickly reached must be attributed to the wide experience and understanding of my noble Friend and of his distinguished colleagues Mr. Foster Dulles and M. Bidault.
Of course, there have been, and no doubt still are in some quarters, certain differences of opinion about the timing of such talks, about their nature and the topics which they should cover. There 219 appear even to be differences of opinion as to whether the protagonists are pygmies or giants. But I would remind the House that the resumption of contact between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers is not an end in itself but the means to an end, namely, the relaxation of international tension. And so the three Foreign Ministers have issued their invitation for a meeting on Germany and Austria to be held about the end of September, and we now await the answer of the Soviet Government.
I do not doubt that I am expressing the sincere hope of Her Majesty's Government, and of the House—and that this is shared by our United States and French allies, and by the peoples of all the countries concerned—that the Soviet Government will accept our invitation. I trust that these talks may be so conducted that they may lead the way to other talks of even wider import, such as the Prime Minister suggested in his original proposal for an unrestricted high level contact. These talks in September are intended not as a substitute for, but as a prelude to, such further discussions, if, as we and our allies hope, real progress can be made.
My noble Friend the Lord President of the Council stated publicly in America—and he has confirmed this to me on arrival in England—that the present proposal in no way excludes or excluded a widening of the present talks in terms either of personalities or of topics. Our aim is to build bridges and not to erect barriers. Equally the House must remember that to proceed as if no barriers exist might well only produce a cruel and mounting sense of disappointment and disillusionment. The House will recall that in his speech of 11th May the Prime Minister said that it would be a mistake toexpect that the grave, fundamental issues which divide the Communist and non-Communist parts of the world could be settled at a stroke by a single comprehensive agreement. Piecemeal solutions of individual problems should not be disdained or improvidently put aside."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 899.]Of course, it cannot be said that the problems now suggested for such piecemeal solutions are minor problems. It has become increasingly obvious in recent weeks that the key problem in Europe 220 and in Western relations with the Soviet Union is the problem of Germany. The events in Berlin and in East Germany last month and the Federal elections to take place in a few weeks have made this clear beyond all manner of doubt.
The age-long problem of French security, the renaissance of the Concert of Europe and the degree of continued collaboration of the United States with Europe may well alike depend on the nature of the German settlement. Any meeting with the Soviet leaders at any level must involve a discussion of the German problem. Nor in our view can Germany be treated in 1953 simply as an object for four-Power decisions, as the Russians still seem to think, if we are to judge from the last evidence we have, that is, the Notes exchanged last year.
The Western allies have long made it their practice to consult fully with the Federal Government on all matters concerning Germany and this was, of course, done in regard to the latest Note sent as a result of the Washington decisions. But before the German problem can be settled or a peace treaty negotiated, or even discussed, with the Soviet Government, there must be a free, all-German Government, able to negotiate such a treaty and free to decide its own international relations. Therefore, as the latest allied Note rightly emphasises, the first and essential problem to be discussed with the Russians is that of free elections throughout Germany and the formation of a free all-German Government. Once this has been done real progress can be made in negotiating a German peace treaty, in resolving the central problem of Europe and thus reducing tension in Europe.
These are not new and hurried decisions made in response to recent developments in Russia. Nor are they made in reference to the forthcoming German elections. We are following a consistent policy begun by Mr. Ernest Bevin, carried on by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) and pursued by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who, I am sure the House will be glad to know, is now on the high road to recovery.
I would remind hon. Members of certain passages in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary when we debated the German question in this 221 House nearly a year ago—on 31st July last year, to be exact. He then said that, if we did not complete our present policies—All chance of securing Germany as a partner in European unity and reconstruction would be lost. What is more, we might well be forfeiting the only opportunity of a peaceful re-union of Germany herself in the future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st July, 1952; Vol. 504, c. 1707.]My right hon. Friend added a reference to the Notes we were then exchanging with the Soviet Government, and said that, while we were ready to go into four-Power talks, we should not, because of that, relax the efforts in which we were then engaged. Those words remain as true today as when they were then spoken. He reminded us then, and that reminder is very necessary today, that, on the basis of the only proposals we had, or indeed have yet had, from the Soviet side, Germany would be precluded in advance from entering into regional associations with other Powers, and this would mean a Germany left in dangerous and irresponsible isolation at the heart of Europe. This is a fact which I know is in the minds of many hon. Members.
I can add to this that, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, the best security for all nations concerned against any such danger lies in the closest possible association of Germany, whether the Federal Republic or a re-united Germany, with such a purely defensive organisation as the European Defence Community, which is in itself part of another defensive organisation, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary would, I know, agree if he were here with what has been done in Washington.
I would further remind the House that what we are now proposing—and this necessarily follows from the proposals made in our Note of 23rd September last year—has had the approval of the German Bundestag in a resolution adopted as recently as 10th June by all the democratic parties, including the S.P.D., the Communists alone having voted against it. I think it would be worth while reminding the House of the five points which were themselves so widely supported in the Bundestag at such a recent date. The five points of the resolution were as follows: 222First, the holding of free elections in the whole of Germany; second, the establishment of a free Government for the whole of Germany; third, the conclusion of a freely agreed peace treaty with this Government; fourth, the regulation in the Peace Treaty of all territorial questions still remaining open; and fifth, the safeguarding of freedom of action for an all-German Government within the framework of the basic principles and aims of the United Nations.Such were the five points of the Bundestag resolution, and these points conform to the proposals made in our Notes last year, and to the proposals now put forward as a result of the Washington Conference.
We realise that this German negotiation will not be an easy task, but, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in his message to the German Federal Chancellor on 24th June, our proposals—provide the only basis for achieving our common aim of a Germany re-united in freedom.It is our hope that the Soviet Government may see their way to negotiate with the Western Powers on this basis.
Here I will leave the German problem and come to the question of Austria, which is also on the agenda. We have suggested in our Note that final agreement should also be reached at the proposed four-Power meeting of Foreign Ministers on the Austrian Treaty. This is, of course, a completely different question, and should be much easier to solve than that of Germany. Here again, we are still awaiting the answer from the Soviet to our Note, although admittedly a more recent Note, namely, that of 11th June last, asking the Soviet Government to say what Treaty they would be prepared to sign.
Does anybody suggest that Austria is a menace? Can it be said that it is a vital strategic centre capable of changing the whole balance of power? Of course, the answer must be "No." No such suggestion was made in 1943, when the Soviet Government agreed with the United States Government and with Her Majesty's Government that one of our post-war aims was the early restoration of Austrian independence, but, although more than 250 meetings have been held in which the Western Powers have made innumerable concessions, the Russians have hitherto refused to loosen their grip on Austria.
223 If it is suggested that the proposed German negotiations will be difficult and complicated, no such suggestion can possibly be made about the Austrian Treaty, which has stood virtually ready for signature for many months and indeed years. All friends of Austria will agree that here is a vital and essential step in restoring confidence in Europe. The proposed agenda, therefore, can in no sense be rejected as unduly limited or restricted or as covering only details, in which experts may get bogged down. It covers at once the central question for the future of Europe, and also the one question between ourselves and the Soviet Union which is already almost settled and which could now be settled at one meeting, given the will to do so.
If, as we hope, our invitation is accepted, we shall not enter these talks in any unduly rigid spirit. The Western Powers, like the German people themselves, want a peace treaty and want it as soon as possible, but there are certain essential principles on which there can be no compromise and without which no general agreement with the Soviet Union, however attractive and however much we all desire it, would be worth the paper on which it is written.
These principles can be summed up in the words—internal freedom of choice and security against external aggression for all the peoples and countries concerned, including the populations of East Germany and East Berlin.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman one question on Germany and Austria? He dealt in detail with the one new proposal which the Prime Minister made in regard to Germany when he talked about the Locarno spirit. Do I gather that the Prime Minister's one original suggestion has been smothered, and that we have gone back to where we were before 11th May?
§ Mr. Butler
No, Sir. If the hon. Gentleman had listened to my speech, he would have seen that I referred deliberately to the Prime Minister's view that he hoped that the security of the Western world could be combined with the possibility of assuring the security of Russia, and he made special reference to that at no inconsiderable length. In my very last 224 words just now, I was referring to the need for assuring internal freedom of choice and external freedom from aggression, and I would not for a moment deny that the contribution of the Prime Minister was an extremely important one, to which I deliberately made reference. To sum up what I said, those who look further than the Washington Conference for constructive and big possibilities should bear this in mind.
I turn now to the second main achievement of the Washington Conference. I would refer first to the fact that the three Foreign Ministers were agreed that it was inseparable from the achievement of our aim of negotiation with the Soviet Government and of finding an early solution for the German and Austrian problems. This was and is a re-affirmation in the communiqué that our fundamental aims—peace and security and the welfare of our peoples—can be gained only by maintaining and developing the unity and solidarity of the West. It was therefore agreed that we should all keep firmly, although unprovocatively, to the paths we have chosen, which are serving us well—the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and the closer bringing together of Europe through the Coal and Steel Community and the European Defence Community. I would recall at this stage the passage from the Washington Declaration of 14th September, 1951, signed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South, which reads as follows:The three Foreign Ministers declare that their Governments aim at the inclusion of a democratic Germany on a basis of equality in a continental European Community which itself will form a part of a constantly developing Atlantic Community.We are now continuing and carrying out that policy.
If the international outlook is brighter, as we all hope, this is due in large measure to the success achieved by the North Atlantic Treaty Powers and by the united efforts of its members in building up their defensive strength. As one who attended the last meeting of N.A.T.O. on behalf of the United Kingdom, I can say to hon. Members that one of the most inspiring experiences I have had was to see the absolute unity of purpose of the countries involved and the sacrifices that they and their peoples 225 are prepared to bear in order to keep up this defence effort.
It should be remembered in this connection that the Commonwealth countries have also played a noble part. I have often thought, and indeed stated, that we must match these efforts in collective defence by a more imaginative cooperation in the field of economics and finance, because these defensive structures must be built on a solid foundation if they are to endure, and we must at least get as close together in these fields of economics and finance as we have in the fields of foreign policy and defence.
It must now be clear to the British people that the mood of aid is passing away, and we must therefore prepare ourselves as a country to carry our immense defence burden under the proud flag of our own economic independence. We shall always welcome purchases of our equipment, and we have in the meantime some orders and some help on which we can rely. But the more we stand on our own economic and financial legs, the greater will be our influence and the better our voice in the counsels of the nations.
I shall be making an appeal tomorrow at the meeting of the National Joint Advisory Council for industry, describing the efforts we have still to make as a united country if we are to be strong and not dependent. Then, we must continue to support the cause of European unity—in the O.E.E.C., of which the Foreign Secretary is the Chairman, in the Council of Europe, in the Coal and Steel Community and in the European Defence Community, and this line is a vital element in the process of uniting Europe and of ending old quarrels, more especially the Franco-German feud.
It is sometimes forgotten how much we have already done in this direction, and even in this House there is sometimes a tendency—whether deliberate or otherwise—to appear to forget. It may therefore be useful, both here and outside this House, if I briefly sum up what we have done.
At the headquarters of the Coal and Steel Community in Luxembourg—the only body of this kind already in existence—there is a British delegation. We have made proposals, known as the Eden 226 Proposals, for close links with other European bodies through our joint membership of the Council of Europe. British observers have been participating in the meetings of the E.D.C. Interim Commission in Paris, which is preparing all the necessary plans to be put into effect immediately the Treaty is ratified. We have given far-reaching guarantees to the European Defence Community in our treaty with them, in the tripartite declaration on the European Defence Community and in the protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty.
Members of both Houses of Parliament took an active part last winter in drafting the Statute for the European Political Community—the basis for a European constitution. We took the initiative in putting forward practical proposals for close association between our forces, stationed as they are in such strength on the Continent, and those of the European Defence Community Powers, including joint training, joint manœuvres, the exchange of officers and observers and plans for the standardisation of tactics, logistics and weapons.
Finally, we have made proposals to the six Governments for a closer political association between the United Kingdom and the European Defence Community. These are still under discussion and cannot, therefore, be revealed in detail. I can say, however, that they have been generally welcomed by the Governments concerned and that negotiations on them are proceeding very satisfactorily. So I can say to the House that we are honestly doing our best all round.
I can give hon. Members this assurance, but I cannot foretell the future. Whatever it may hold, our increasing strength and unity will give us hope, but we have still to struggle for security. Our part is clear, but it is not easy. We cannot yet judge the full significance of developments within the Soviet Union itself. Above all, we cannot assess the importance of the disgrace of the second figure in the triumvirate which took over from Stalin. We notice any straws in the wind which indicate a new mood. We shall grasp at realities. We welcome every sign of a lightening in the heavy burdens which have pressed upon the populations of the satellite countries. Whilst we must continue to counsel patience and restraint, we also pay a tribute to the populations of 227 those countries. In the words of the Washington communiqué, we wishto see true liberty restored in the countries of Eastern Europe.I think, in summing up, that our main satisfaction, as it was that of the three Foreign Ministers in Washington, is that our aims and purposes are united, that we are acting in concert with our N.A.T.O. allies and with the Federal German Government, that we are determined to preserve and develop our strength, that we face and shall exert ourselves to resolve grave issues. Surely we shall now inspire this unity and strength with imagination so that we may emerge from the cold threat of conflict and devote our lives to the warmer purposes of well-being and honourable peace.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
We all recognise the difficult position in which the Chancellor has found himself with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary away ill. We are all glad to hear that the health of the Prime Minister is improving and that the Foreign Secretary is soon to return to this country, and that he is also on the way to recovery. It would be useful if the right hon. Gentleman could tell us what prospects he sees of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary again assuming full control of their offices, because the subject which we are discussing today really arose out of the speech of the Prime Minister which suggested high level talks.
It was a great regret to all of us that, immediately following that statement, the right hon. Gentleman fell ill, and it is important for us to know whether there is still a prospect of these high level talks or whether the proposed talks by the Foreign Secretaries are a substitute. It is also important for us to know whether at those September talks the Foreign Secretary is going to be able to represent this country. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman can make any reply at all on that, because it is very difficult to discuss this matter, which is essentially one of discussions between statesmen, without knowing what statesmen will be available.
§ Mr. Butler
I made my speech. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman had better make his. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I have already indicated the improvements 228 in the health both of the Prime Minister and of the Foreign Secretary, and I am sure that it would be the wish of the House that they should so improve in health that they can shortly take on the duties to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.
§ Mr. Attlee
I echo that, but one would like some indication of when they will resume. I have not asked this question in any attempt to be offensive to the Government at all. It is a fact that we have been without a Foreign Secretary for a great many weeks and we have been without a Prime Minister also for a good many weeks. We have been extremely patient. In fact, we compare very favourably with the party opposite when Mr. Ernest Bevin was absent. The House and the country are entitled to more information than we have had on this subject.
The Prime Minister's speech raised great hopes. It was imaginative. It envisaged a meeting on the widest basis in an effort to take advantage of what seemed to him, and to all of us, some possibility of the loosening of the tension between East and West. Since then 10 weeks have elapsed and there have been various happenings. There have been the happenings behind the Iron Curtain. I do not know their significance. I do not think anyone knows, but the fact is that, broadly speaking, the trend towards a certain loosening of tension has continued. The position that we took up, and I think everyone took up, when we debated the matter on 11th May was that we should take the greatest possible steps forward to take advantage of what seemed—it might or might not be—a loosening.
We are all agreed that the tripartite conference at Washington was inevitably a poor substitute for those high level talks. We could not expect very much from it, but I must say that I think this White Paper is disappointing. It does not seem to be forward-looking enough or to be really in tune with the Prime Minister's speech. There seems to be too much emphasis on positions already taken up.
I find that same fault in the communication that was sent to the Soviet Ambassador in London. There we set out our position and seemed to expect that that would be accepted by the U.S.S.R. I find rather the same line on the Far East matter, and I shall deal with that later. 229 There again our position is set out and the other side are asked to accept it. That line is not likely to be very fruitful. It is quite idle to expect that those other Governments will necessarily accept just what we want. We would all like it if they would, but that is not the way things work.
I am not at all happy about the proposed meeting in September of the Foreign Secretaries. I quite agree—in fact I said so in my speech on the last occasion that we had a debate—that if there is some specific point on which we can get agreement, it will be all to the good, but I cannot regard the future of Germany as one of those points. The right hon. Gentleman himself said that it was a major point, and it is the major point. To suggest that talk at high level on that particular crucial question is likely to be fruitful by itself seems an entire illusion. We want free elections and we want a free German Government, but we have to think how these will fit into Europe.
On those points we may have a great many opinions and there are a great many fears. Undoubtedly there is still in Russia, and particularly in the satellite States, a fear of Germany. There is an apprehension in Western Europe and to some extent in this country of a Germany rising again as an armed menace to the world. Suggestions are put forward for neutrality, but they do not get a great deal of acceptance. Suggestions are put forward for some kind of control of German armaments. Well, we had some experience of trying to do that after the 1914–18 war.
It is an extremely complicated and difficult question, which I suggest is not solved merely by saying that we want to integrate a free Germany with the West. We do, certainly, but are we likely to get agreement from the U.S.S.R. on that proposal by itself? Therefore, it may be unfortunate to have a discussion on this German problem instead of the wide talk that was suggested by the Prime Minister.
Could not the conference take place in a rather different atmosphere, not in just dealing with the two specific points of Germany and Austria? We all want the Austrian Treaty, but I thought it was put rather abruptly in the communication to the U.S.S.R., in these words:Her Majesty's Government also consider that at this first meeting agreement should finally be reached on the Austrian treaty,230 It is an excellent idea, but I doubt whether we shall get it except in the context of some larger settlement.
The crucial matter that concerns all of us is the position of that great country, Germany, in the middle of Europe. She may again be a menace or she may not. She has to be given freedom. Is she to have complete freedom to be an armed Germany again? That is one question. Some people suggest that we should have a Germany disarmed in the middle of Europe, but there may indeed be a menace from a Germany that has no responsibility for defence at all. I suggest that the only possible way of discussing this matter is in the larger context of the future of a peaceful Europe. What we need is a Europe where armaments are reduced. I do not think it is any good proposing that we should have by itself a Germany kept down to a low level of armaments. We tried that before, but it did not work. It is only possible if we are to get some agreement for a reduction of armaments all round.
Is that impossible? I think the Prime Minister's speech indicated that he thought it was quite possible that in Russia they were getting tired of the burden of armaments and wanted to raise the standard of life of their people. I am quite sure that on the Continent of Europe and in this country we are tired of this burden of armaments. I am sure that they are in the United States of America. Everybody knows the difficulties of disarmament or of approaching disarmament, but I do not think that they are more difficult than what is set out in this White Paper, this attempt to reach this agreement on Germany by itself.
There is further the broader question. It is not only Germany. There is the future of the other States of Eastern Europe, of Poland, of Rumania, Czechoslovakia and the rest. There are indications that these are all very restive. It may be—one can only speculate—that the rulers of Russia themselves feel that it would pay them better to work for the development of their resources inside Russia and relax their hold on the satellite States. It may be so; I think it is worth trying out.
There is, I think, a great danger in always looking backwards in these matters. There is a great danger with the Germans in that. I think that there 231 are dangerous irredentist forces in Germany. Any number of re-allocations of territory can be made. I notice that point in the five points of the Bundesteg with regard to territorial settlements. But for 700 years the Slav and the Teuton have quarrelled about the division of those areas. I should have thought it about time that they stopped that and about time that they tried to settle down to make the best of what they have got.
I do not think it is any good trying to revise these things on some historical basis. Every country always has some historical reasons why it should have this or that. I was struck by this idea in the Prime Minister's speech of the labouring peoples of the world wanting to get away from this. Therefore, I rather deprecate this attempt to get a settlement on these two points. I fear it may spoil the subsequent conference.
I do not know—I cannot find out—when the Prime Minister will be able to take over or when the Foreign Secretary will be able to do so. I think at this juncture meetings of this kind are likely merely to bring out points of friction and not to contribute to the broad conception that was thrown out in our last debate. I believe that everywhere the world is waiting for a new start. I believe we thought we had got it. The Prime Minister's sudden illness was a thing which one could not foretell, but I really do not think that this White Paper is a continuance of that attempt to get a new spirit in the world.
Further, one could look at Europe by itself, but that again has to be looked at in the larger context. One needs to look at what is happening in the world as a whole and particularly in Asia. That brings me to the points that have been made with regard to the Korean trouble. We are all hoping that the Panmunjom negotiations may now come to a settlement. Personally, I think that there has been great patience shown for a very long time by the United States, and I think that General Mark Clark has played a very good part in the last few days. We all hope that they may come off—but what then? That is where I find again in this White Paper a tendency merely to stand pat.
I am not encouraged when I read a report in the paper today of what Senator 232 Knowland was saying with regard to the Far East. Almost inevitably, in a struggle in which the Americans have borne the heaviest burden, which we all gladly recognise, this must appear to many of them to be their fight; but remember, it is a United Nations' fight. A settlement of the armistice was, of course, a matter for the United Nations Command, but the political settlement afterwards is not a matter for one or two States, it is a matter for the United Nations.
Therefore, we would press that, right away, the Assembly of the United Nations should be called; first, because it is not certain yet whether this will go through; then, because I think there is need of the public opinion of the world to help in the control of Mr. Syngman Rhee, who very nearly upset the whole of this armistice and may yet do so again.
Thirdly, there is the kind of settlement which ought to emerge after Korea. I very much doubt whether, if we take this question merely on the matter of Korea by itself, we are likely to get a settlement. It is rather the same as the proposal in the West. We suggest to the Chinese that there should be a united Korea. They rightly or wrongly, are backing the North Koreans. They are asked to accept what we want. I do not think that we shall get that without something on the other side. They have in their minds, rightly or wrongly, Formosa. Chiang Kai-shek; and all these matters come together and should be fully discussed at the United Nations.
I welcome very much the statement made by the French Government regarding Indo-China: I only wish it had come earlier. But if we want to get that settlement I think that it has to be done in some wider setting. That is where one can bring both the West and the East together because it is widely recognised now that we shall not get a peaceful world unles we can raise standards in the less developed parts. There is a great opportunity there. If we could get a cessation and a reduction of armaments, it would set loose an immense amount of productive power that might be used for laying the foundations of peace and not the foundations of war.
Therefore, my view on this White Paper is that it is not a fulfilment of the expectations that we had from the last 233 debate, that it tends to be too narrow, tends to stand too much on positions already taken up. I am not for a moment suggesting that at this time we can throw away the Atlantic Pact—far from it. Obviously we have to continue to deal through strength, but I think that we have built up our strength and that these changes are due to some extent to the fact that we have built up this strength of the Atlantic Community. But I do not think that any of us wants to go on building, and building, and building it up. We would much rather get an agreement if we could get it at a reasonable level.
I would hope, therefore, that we would keep in mind all the time, first, the possibility of wide talks which will not necessarily bring great results at the moment, but wide talks in trying to get some conception of a peaceful Europe and a peaceful world. I am quite sure also that now is the time, as soon as the armistice has been signed, when the United Nations should take over this matter of a settlement in the Far East. I entirely agree that, as has so often been said, the Americans have shed their blood. So have we. We have played our part in Asia and we have great interests there.
I want to see flowing East and West trade in Europe. I want to see trade with China. Above all, I want to see intercourse between the peoples. I believe that there has been some relaxation. If the talks could only get towards our understanding each other and provide a meeting between peoples, then the position might be more hopeful. But frankly I do not think that the Washington talks have taken us much further on the road of peace.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
In rising to address the House for the first time, I ask the House to afford to me the indulgence extended to hon. Members on such occasions. I have but one advantage, if it be an advantage, in that I am the third generation to have the honour to sit in this House. My forebears, my father and my grandfather, however, sat as members of the Liberal Party. I am therefore satisfied that I have suitable ghosts who will prevent me from being too partisan either on this or. I trust, on other occasions.
234 Following as I do on the two statesmanlike speeches that we have heard this afternoon, it is with great diffidence that I invite the House to allow me to consider for a short while the two great issues of today upon which the peace of Europe and of the Middle East, if not of the world, depends. On 11th May the Prime Minister urged that unity, vigilance and fidelity are the only foundations upon which hope can live. I am sure that the House will agree that it is the careful pursuit of these virtues in practice which will ensure our success in maintaining the peace of the world.
The dominant issue in Europe is whether one can attain a united Germany upon terms which will maintain world peace. The dominant issue in the Middle East is still the problem of our base on the Suez Canal. This afternoon we have heard from the Chancellor of the Exchequer glad tidings indeed of agreement with the United States that the maintenance of a base in the Canal Zone is a necessary instrument for the preservation of world peace.
In the absence of agreement we face the unpleasant necessity in this area of providing 80,000 troops, including some of our finest fighting units, at a cost of £50 million per annum for the protection of £500 million worth of stores and installations. But until agreement, international or otherwise, is achieved, as I trust it will be, it is plain that we must stay, not merely because of the considerations of military strategy which are involved in this pivot of Middle East defence but also because of the psychological values involved in that area.
If we leave, the present dictator or his successor—the "dancing major" or whoever it may be—will seek to wipe out our efforts at justice in the Sudan, or to overthrow Israel, or to stir up dissension in a third direction in Africa. These are psychological factors of the very greatest importance. I feel sure that the majority of the House will agree that loss of our prestige there would be loss of our prestige in the world. Prestige in the Middle East depends upon strength and the length of one's purse. The considerations involved are different from those involved in other areas. These are the weighty factors.
235 Nevertheless, the information which I have been fortunate enough to obtain from many friends of mine who are serving in the Forces leads one to believe that some reduction in our Forces in the Canal Zone might gradually take place and indeed begin now. The conditions experienced by our troops there are very difficult indeed, but one cannot pass this subject without saying that they are very grateful to the Government for the facilities which are being provided at the present time. The postal facilities, for example, are excellent with a service taking only 48 hours and a cheap rate of 2½d. Thanks to the efforts of General Festing, sports facilities are now satisfactory and canteen and other social facilities have been rapidly improved.
But is it really necessary that the Para-troop Brigade, our only brigade of that kind, should be maintained for a period of nearly two years in the Middle East? Is it not possible that they might be relieved and brought back so that they may carry on their effective training? At present these fighting troops are engaged in the Canal Zone purely on guard duties. I feel that is a serious waste of the fighting personnel of the country.
If international agreement may perhaps now be obtained in order to reduce our Forces to merely technical personnel of some 6,000 or 7,000 as before the war, why should we not insist that part of the burden of their maintenance, until such agreement be forthcoming, should be borne by the United Nations? Why should the British nation, in defence of world interests, be compelled to meet the whole burden of defence in that area?
Passing from consideration of Egypt to the really dominant issue of Germany, we appear to be agreed in this country, as indeed is Russia, that Germany should be united once again. The natural desire of the Germans in this respect, which has been expressed quite clearly in statements by Dr. Adenauer, must become a reality sooner or later. One trusts that it may be soon. But surely our deep concern must be about the practical safeguards which must obtain before ensuring a reunited Germany. The Prime Minister declared on 11th May:We shall continue to play a full and active part in plans for the political, military and 236 economic association of Western Europe with the North Atlantic Alliance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 897.]This presupposes the inclusion of Germany. Indeed, we have heard this afternoon, and one could not fail to be most deeply impressed by the Chancellor's statements of further plans which apparently are being and will be pursued in this respect.
I feel, nevertheless, that it is only right that one should spotlight for a moment from these back benches the difficulties which are involved so that the country may appreciate them. Past history, and particularly a study of Bismarck, shows that the natural military alliance of Germany, if free, is in the direction of the Soviet Republic. The natural boundaries of Germany and the plains of Germany flow and stretch to the East and not to the West. The natural resumption of trade is with the East and not with the West. That is the background of German history. Post-war knowledge and present-day contacts with Germans and those closely associated with Germany support this view, for several reasons.
There is a very real fear in Germany of another war with Russia. There is obviously a very real fear in Russia that they may have another Stalingrad in a war with Germany. In terms of trade at present—I stress those words—they face more difficulties and more difficult competition in the markets of the West than in the markets of the East. It seems, therefore, that one must make of European unity a real truth, that one must open up the colonial empires of the other countries and encourage the markets of the Commonwealth, of our Empire, as well provide the persuasion that is needed to ensure that Germany faces to the West rather than to the East.
The vital question is that of the balance of power between Eastern and Western Germany. I pose this question: what would happen if Russia and the Western Powers were now to withdraw their troops altogether? Would there not be a situation such as was envisaged by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition on 11th May? Is that not the danger—a situation with East Germany, with its troops, perhaps 300,000, and containing the doughty warriors of the Wehrmacht, on the one side facing 237 Dr. Adenauer and his scholastic professors, on the other—a Lutheran East and a Catholic West of opposing factions.
Surely, little imagination is needed to appreciate the danger of a possible military dictatorship, the rise of an imperial Power arm in arm with an East German Socialist spinster, with the mother of the Soviet Republics, in the background—a mother-in-law able to provide a dowry of no inconsiderable amount, namely, the consumer markets of the East—a very real danger and, indeed, if it came about, an unholy wedlock. Therefore, one must face the possibility of a Soviet-German bloc along those lines within the next 10 years, and, if that position arose, the possible danger of yet a further world war thereafter.
Our aims, then, should be these. One should proceed, as has been said, step by step with patience to ensure German unity; to support the West German Government pledged to military, political and economic associations with the E.D.C. and the E.P.C.; in particular to strive to ratify the E.D.C.; and to ensure in the rearmament of Germany a true balance of power between East and West, before the unification of Germany is complete; then the Bundestag proposals to follow, with the free elections and a peace treaty after the integration of Germany with the West has been ensured.
I ask my right hon. Friend this question in conclusion. What further active steps can be taken to press for the integration of Germany, whether it be divided or united, into the E.D.C., and the closer economic association to which the Chancellor has referred? If we are united, vigilant and faithful to these ideals, I believe our hopes can be realised and that peace in our time can prevail. But if we fail in that project and if, therefore, a Soviet-German military alliance were ultimately to prevail, then the future of this country would be in danger; this Government presumably would take the blame, and the youth of our country in the future might have to face the further horrors of war.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
As one who has had a long experience in the House, may I assure the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) that I am speaking on behalf of the 238 whole House in tendering to him our very sincere and warm congratulations not only upon the subject matter of his speech, but upon the ease and conviction with which it was uttered. We look forward to hearing more contributions from him in the future. We are glad that he has followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, although some of us regret that he has departed in some way from the tradition they set.
We are glad to hear of the possibility of a truce being signed quickly in Korea and of the reopening of trade with China, so that China will be able to take her place among the nations of the world. We are also glad to know that there is a complete understanding between the United States and ourselves on the maintenance of that international channel, the Suez Canal. But, important as all those matters are, they are small compared with the much bigger question of the prospect of general peace in the world.
The question that I am asking, and which I am sure everyone would like to have answered, is: is the international outlook brighter today; is the tension relieved as a result of this meeting in Washington? I only wish that I could answer that question in the affirmative, but I cannot. I honestly cannot. When I compare what has been done and what the Prime Minister said in that remarkable speech of his on 11th May, I cannot but express my disappointment. That was an outstanding speech, broad in its outlook and its conception, tolerant in its views and perfectly prepared to understand the fears even of Russia and to come forward with a suggestion that nobody else has ever made. We were all proud that the initiative should have come from this country, and particularly from our Prime Minister.
Then we knew that there would have to be a meeting between the free nations before there could be a meeting between the four great Powers so that they might put their views forward, and that was the idea of Bermuda. Unfortunately, owing to the illness of the Prime Minister, that had to be cancelled, and this new meeting in Washington was substituted for it. I am sure that it was not in the minds of anyone that after the meeting at Bermuda a definite statement should be issued to the world making it perfectly 239 plain that whatever might happen with regard to Russia, those were the terms upon which we were going to a round table conference.
May I remind the House of the great words of the Prime Minister and point out that it seems to me that what has happened at Washington has been a retrogressive step from the position taken up originally. The right hon. Gentleman said:I must make it plain that, in spite of all the uncertainties and confusion in which world affairs are plunged, I believe that a conference on the highest level should take place between the leading Powers without long delay.The right hon. Gentleman emphasised that. It is quite obvious that that was the first matter in his mind—to clear the way, by a broader agreement and a broader understanding, to the technical matters that might have to be settled at a subsequent conference.
The right hon. Gentleman continued:This conference should not be overhung by a ponderous or rigid agenda. …If we refer to the White Paper and the statements which have been issued from Washington, what do they represent but a rigid and even ponderous agenda? A great many words have been used which add nothing to our knowledge. They are a reiteration of a whole number of cliches, which make them very ponderous indeed.
What they say is, "First, let us have a clear understanding. We are not going to talk to you about Germany unless you agree, straight away, to full and free elections throughout the whole of Germany, including your Eastern Germany, which you dominate at the present moment. You must give us that undertaking before we begin to talk." They then go on to say, "That will mean a free German Government. Then, and then only, will it be possible to talk about the terms of the treaty with Germany." That is laid down as part of the agenda, and the same thing applies in the case of Austria.
What is the difference between what has now been issued from Washington and what has been said, time and time again from the Despatch Box, by Foreign Secretaries? What is the difference between this Note, issued from 240 Washington, and the prior Note, about which the complaint is made that although it has been received by Russia no reply has yet been sent?
The Prime Minister carried the matter very much further than that. He said that we should not beled into mazes and jungles of technical details, zealously contested by hordes of experts and officials drawn up in vast, cumbrous array. The conference should be confined to the smallest number of Powers and persons possible. It should meet with a measure of informality and a still greater measure of privacy and seclusion.Then comes what I regard as the whole gist of what was in the Prime Minister's mind. He said:It might well be that no hard-faced agreements would be reached, but there might be a general feeling among those gathered together that they might do something better than tear the human race, including themselves, into bits."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 901.]That was a broad invitation to the powers in Russia, whoever they are. He said, in effect, "Come out. Let us discuss the general world position today. Everything will be open. We are not having an agenda of any kind or description. We, of the free nations, have already met, and have arrived at certain agreements as to how we should present the matter to you. They are already well known; there is no need to emphasise them, but we ask you to come along, and we will discuss the matter completely freely."
I should have thought that that was the one and only way in which we could bring any of the powers in Russia into open discussion. This Note has now been sent to Russia. It has already been delivered. It says, "We want a conference, not on the highest level, but between Ministers. They are to discuss these matters, and in this order." What is likely to happen? If a reply does come from Russia it will be, "We do not agree that those are the prior matters. Instead of discussing Austria or Germany we should like to discuss China, or the position of Formosa." Then there will have to be another meeting, and another Note will have to be sent.
Does that bring us any nearer agreement? The whole world is waiting for a relief of this tension. The right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition very rightly said that he believed that not only people in this country, but people 241 in the United States and in Europe were tired of a war tension. He could have gone further and said that every ordinary man and woman throughout the world is anxious for peace today, anxious for a relief of this tension.
If I could feel for a moment that our present approach was the right one I should welcome it, but I have seen this kind of approach tried time and time again, only to lead to failure. That is really what failed us as long ago as November, 1947, when the last meeting between the Foreign Ministers took place. There they were, surrounded, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, by an array of technicians, raising all kinds of legalistic points, about what was agreed at one place by one party and what was agreed at another place by another party. That is almost like trying to get an agreement in a dispute between two commercial firms, who leave the matter in the hands of solicitors, to carry on by correspondence. That method will never end in success.
The Prime Minister said that we should take it out of that atmosphere, and put it on the highest level. Let us have a general discussion. Let us begin afresh and say, "Look, the world is really suffering, and it is time we tried to relieve it of its suffering." I do not think that the world has ever been in such a state of flux and movement as it is at present. It is quite obvious that there are signs of disturbance in every country. We can see them in Russia, East Germany, and the satellite countries of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. Throughout the whole world there is this movement. Surely, now is the time for great statesmanship to take people along the road towards peace and not to stick to technical and narrow points which may prevent people from discussing them around a table.
If this conference has to take place in Washington—and I dare say that it has to take place there—it would have been better if no statement had been made. It would certainly have been better if no document had been sent to Russia saying, "These are the terms upon which we meet." It would have been very much better to do what the Prime Minister desired. We might then have had success.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Captain Charles Waterhouse (Leicester, South-East)
First, I should like to associate myself with what was said by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) in such appropriate terms about my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), who made an admirable maiden speech. I have seen my hon. Friend in battle on the hustings, and I can assure hon. Members that he is a doughty contestant there. Having heard him this afternoon, I know we all agree that no maiden speech was delivered with greater confidence, covered a wider field, or dealt with the subject more reasonably and eloquently.
He began with the question of Egypt, and I should like to make that the first of the three short points which I want to put to the House this afternoon. I welcome the clear and categoric statement of my right hon. Friend that our base in Egypt is essential for world peace, and his final remark on this subject, that we shall be patient and resolute. I was glad to hear him reiterate and reaffirm the statement made by the Prime Minister on 11th May. That statement gave us real confidence. The various points he made were made firmly and clearly, and he made it absolutely apparent, by the general background of what he said, that the last thing he intended to do was to evacuate the Canal Zone.
Yet we can hardly open a paper for many days consecutively without finding that a correspondent is informed from some reliable source that something is being done about evacuation. In the "Sunday Times," yesterday, I read that "Mr. Dulles and the Marquess of Salisbury, last week, discussed in great detail British conditions in relation to evacuation." I submit that this reiteration of the idea of evacuation is doing real harm to our cause.
The Prime Minister has said that we are not going to evacuate. We know that we have far too many troops there; more troops than we want to have there, and possibly more than we can afford to have there, but between a reduction of troops, to the number of 5,000 or 10,000—as suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet—and evacuation, there is the whole difference between security and scuttle.
243 I hope and believe that the Government will never agree to evacuate the Canal Zone in that way. After all, we are apt to forget that we stand on definite Treaty rights and that they do not end in three years. We have a responsibility to the whole world for the maintenance of this base. I do not think we need fear that the Government will relinquish their great responsibility in that respect.
I must, however, express a fear. I do not think that we shall get any great help from our friends in the United States of America on this matter. They have made their position clear. They stand foursquare against all forms of imperialism, and they are to be the judges of what imperialism is. They advised us to get out of Hong Kong. They advised us to get out of Burma. They advised the Dutch to get out of Indonesia and the French to get out of Indo-China.
That is all very well. I do not grudge them the power of giving advice. They are the judges of their own affairs. They are content merely to dominate a couple of continents and to have strategic bases throughout the world and to exploit oil wherever it is to be found. I do not blame them for that. That is their point of view, and I hope that they will allow us to have our point of view.
That brings me to my second point. It is that President Roosevelt made these views of his perfectly clear first at Teheran and then at Yalta. He made it abundantly clear. According to General Eisenhower's "Crusade" he said to Stalin that "Russia and the U.S. were both free from the stigma of Colonial Empire building." That is a very fine sentiment; but I think that there have been few greater disasters in modern history than those conferences at Teheran and at Yalta. I do not want to use too hard a word but in my view President Roosevelt was completely hoodwinked by Stalin. He took the view that Britain was likely to be the trouble maker and the aggressor in the post-war world.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister must have had a shock when he discovered how the counterpoise in this committee of three was shifting. I hope that there is no fear of us, on our part, falling into a similar error today and taking the side of Russia against the United States. My right hon. Friend the 244 Chancellor of the Exchequer has given me no cause to believe that there is, but obviously there is considerable pressure in that direction. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition spoke of the possibility of loosening tension by general talks. He was against stating a view. He believed in wide talks.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) has just been asking what the difference is between our attitude now and our attitude of a few months ago. He asked for everything to be open. He was against any form of interchange of Notes leading to another meeting and other Notes.
Really, where does all that take us? Are not the interchange of Notes and official meetings always the necessary basis of any lasting agreement? Do either of the right hon. Gentlemen really believe that three men, however great, can meet round a table, with differences as great as those which divide Russia from Britain and the United States, and come to some agreement because of their charm of manner or their change of heart or something of that sort?
§ Mr. C. Davies
I agree with what the Prime Minister said. The Prime Minister said, "Let us meet without anything of this kind—without Notes." He said that it was not to be expected that they would arrive at a full technical agreement but, at any rate, the feeling would be all the better and they could start the technical discussion afterwards.
§ Captain Waterhouse
I did not read into what the Prime Minister said a declaration that we had changed our ground. Unless I made a wrong note of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's words, he asked, "What is the difference between what we say now and what we said before?" If one is always expected to change ground, to be advancing towards one's opponent in a discussion before one has started the discussion, surely one cannot hold any position at all. It is here that I join issue with the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Mr. Davies
That was not the point. What we said a few weeks ago is exactly what we are saying now—that there would be no point of putting into this Note to Russia the statement that we want a meeting with them on exactly the 245 matters on which Russia has already said she will not hold a meeting. Therefore, the Prime Minister said that we should put the matter on a broader basis.
§ Captain Waterhouse
There has been reference to a business meeting. If we are to have a business meeting we must know the business which is to come before the meeting before we attend it.
§ Captain Waterhouse
If the Prime Minister wants to go to a social function for lunch, that is a different matter. Here we are talking about a serious question of trying to get two opposing views together, trying to find a way of agreeing between opposing ways of life. That will not be done by any conference without preparation unless there is a real change on one side or the other.
We think—and I believe that the right hon. and learned Gentleman agrees with me here—that we were right in what we said some time ago. The right hon. and learned Gentleman believes, as I do, that the Russians were wrong. The whole basis of the Prime Minister's remarks was that he thought that there had been a change of heart in Russia. Do not let us be afraid of reiterating what we believe to be right. Let us have confidence that the Russians have changed their view, as the Prime Minister thought, and are coming towards our way of thinking.
Everybody in the House hopes that much will come out of the Washington discussion. There is no great evidence of anything yet. I share the regret that the Prime Minister's illness deprived us of the benefit of his presence in this House. I do not know that I really regret that he has not been able to go to these talks. I am not at all sure that the time is yet right for that, but I am absolutely sure—and this brings me to my final point—that the strain on Ministers of the Crown is becoming more than any man can possibly bear.
During the last Administration three highly respected Ministers had to leave office and go to their deathbed within a few weeks or months. In this Administration in the last two years there has been far too much sickness among Cabinet Ministers. Can one wonder when one 246 thinks what they are expected to do? The whole system is approaching a point where a change must be made or our practice of government will become virtually impossible. Of course, the biggest strain of all is on the Foreign Secretary. The late Ernest Bevin, the present Secretary of State, and now the Prime Minister, one after another, have paid a high price for their devotion to their duties.
We in this country pride ourselves on having the finest Civil Service in the world. We pride ourselves on having the finest representatives that any nation could look for. Our greatness in the past has not been built only on Ministers of the Crown: it has been built on the Stratford-Cannings, the Cromers, the Milners, who have had real authority in their posts. I am told—my hon. Friend will tell me whether I am right or not—that the Foreign Office is inundated today with despatches, telegrams, telephone calls. Last year the Minister of State spent about six months in the United States. It would be interesting if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would ask someone in the Foreign Office to give him a list of the number of times the Secretary of State and any junior Minister at the Foreign Office has been absent from this country within the last seven years. It would, perhaps, be rather disappointing if, after each absence, a note were made of exactly how much was achieved.
I suggest that a change has to be made here, and that it has to be made quickly. I believe that the proper place of a Foreign Secretary is behind his desk in the Foreign Office, where people will go to see him, and that only after all the preparations to which the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery has rather disparagingly referred must the Foreign Secretary be lured away from this country to go to a foreign country to a conference, and there to set the seal on something that has already been decided after the weeks and months of work.
I believe that the proper place for the Prime Minister is behind the largest and best cigar he can get in Downing Street or Chequers. I believe that the place of Ministers of the Crown is the position in which they can advise the Crown, and they cannot advise the Crown from foreign lands. I do urge my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is as tough a guy as any in this 247 House and shows no signs of breaking up himself, to bear what I have said in mind and, if he thinks well, to consider, with his ingenuity and in consultation with his colleagues, whether some way can be found of relieving the all too heavy strain which now falls upon the holder of the office which he is representing today.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse) said that the proper place of the Foreign Secretary was behind his desk in the Foreign Office. I do not think I really agree with that, for I think that the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers must move about the world and learn about it. I am sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree, however, that, at any rate, the place of the Foreign Secretary is in this House and not in another place, and I hope there is no prospect of the appointment of a Foreign Secretary who does not sit here and who is not answerable to this House.
While I was listening to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman I recognised how very difficult it must be sometimes for the present Government to have a flexible and realistic policy about Egypt, when people who speak with as much authority as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman does, with as much support, take up so adamant a line as he does, with no recognition at all of the real problems involved, such as the problem of how to maintain a base amid a hostile population, how to change this country's base into an international one.
§ Captain Waterhouse
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that we have shifted our position enormously in the last seven years. We have evacuated Cairo and Alexandria, and made every sort of concession to the Egyptians. They have not moved at all.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I do not really want to pursue that point. I think it is a very difficult one to discuss in public in the middle of negotiations, and I was just coming to a point where I was in agreement with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, for he said he did not want the United States to tell anybody what they thought imperialism was. I 248 do not want myself to be in a position always to be told by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman what imperialism is either.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to me to be showing in his new venture into foreign policy the same sort of optimistic complacency we have got used to from him in the field of finance and economics. He used again today a debating trick he has often used before in this House of assuming away the real, essential problem, assuming it out of existence, as if it were not there at all. Then he does not even have to answer it but can go on talking all round the edge of the problem. The truth is, I think, that we are in a much more critical and testing time for the West than the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to recognise or admit.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) very rightly said that everything is in a state of flux and movement at the moment. The whole situation is extremely fluid, and amongst the things in flux is the very basis of our Atlantic alliance. The whole basis of our Atlantic alliance has suddenly and unexpectedly come into question, and the main reason for that is that suddenly there has been a shift in our favour in world affairs. Suddenly we have moved from the defensive to being on the initiative, and, as is the case in all alliances, success often brings many more problems with it than adversity. Sudden success is very embarrassing to alliances because it suddenly brings into the foreground objectives about which it was very easy to agree between the partners so long as those objectives were in the remote future. They become very embarrassing when they suddenly come right up to the immediate present.
I do not want to go into why the shift has occurred, but I think the fundamental reason has certainly been the strength of the West. That has been the basic, underlying reason. There may have been internal changes in Russia which nobody understands. There has certainly been one factor that I regard as of immense importance, namely, the rising of the workers in Eastern Europe and in Germany. That is a matter of great importance to the general balance of forces in 249 the world because this rising, this spontaneous, genuine mass rising of the workers, has indelibly stamped the Russian role in the West—it is a different problem in Asia—as being imperialist, reactionary and oppressive. It has, I think, brought with it a permanent weakening of the Russian position in the West and a permanent corresponding strengthening of the forces of democracy in the West, and I think it has played a very great and important part, and is probably the main factor, in the shift suddenly in our favour.
But, whatever the reason is, there is no doubt that we have moved from the defensive to the initiative, and we are finding it extremely embarrassing because the main objective of the Atlantic alliance has thereby been transferred from the remote future to the immediate present. That objective has been to get ourselves into a position in which we can negotiate from strength. Now we are so much nearer to that position, so much nearer to being able to negotiate from strength that we are faced by the real problem instead of talking of it as something in the distant future.
It is a problem not before faced by N.A.T.O., and it is the problem of how to convince the world that we are genuine in our desire to negotiate. Nobody can tell if Russia is really willing to negotiate or not, but that is really irrelevant to this problem, because either way we still have to convince the world that we are genuinely desirous of negotiating. If we succeed in the talks then there will be a relaxation and disarmament, and so forth. If we fail and the talks break down, and the world finds that we are to blame, the whole moral basis of the Atlantic alliance will be in very great jeopardy. The doubt in the public mind not only in this country—perhaps, less here than in many countries—is about our sincerity when we talk about negotiating from strength. That is why the root, the basis of the Atlantic alliance is in question.
The only way to convince the world that we are genuinely desirous to negotiate is to be genuinely desirous to negotiate. There is no other way of doing it. It is no good accepting negotiations in principle and then raising a whole lot of unacceptable conditions which will make negotiations difficult if not impossible. Of course, we have to take 250 the realities of each particular situation into account. We do not live in a Utopia. We have to go to the utmost limit that the realities of every particular problem permit and adapt our policy to facilitate negotiations and not to make them more difficult.
It is by this test that we should judge the work of the Foreign Ministers as to whether they are, to the limit permitted by the realities of the situation, adapting their policies to facilitate negotiation. One can apply this over the whole field of foreign policy, to the Far East and so forth. I should like to apply it to one aspect which I think is the most difficult and important, namely, the question of Germany.
We are all agreed, I think, on both sides of the House that we must go for German unity, the reunification of Germany, because that is the one point upon which it looks possible that we may agree with Russia. The test which world opinion is going to apply is whether we are sincere in wanting this. The world and even Germany is full of people who say that they want German reunification, but who have a hidden fear of it and a hidden desire to keep a division in Germany and rivalry. There are a lot of people who want that.
Any policy which we adopt about German reunification is going to be very widely open to suspicion. I think that the Foreign Ministers in their communiqué have laid themselves open to very justifiable suspicions of this sort. They have put German reunification in the forefront of their proposals for talks with Russia, and they have taken, as a first step, free elections, which is obviously a right and sensible thing to do, but they have done this in a way which really does arouse very great doubts as to whether they really intend this to be a genuine first step towards a settlement with Russia.
I am particularly disturbed—and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman who replies will try to justify this—with the extraordinary emphasis which the communiqué places upon the European Defence Community. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer did the same thing in his speech. The Foreign Ministers put it in the first two effective paragraphs in the communiqué and give it immense 251 emphasis by putting it before anything else, and they deal with it at greater length than they deal with other very much important problems in the world.
They raise it to an absolute policy detached from everything else, and so did the Chancellor today. The communiqué makes the extraordinary assertion that E.D.C. is not linked with existing international tensions. I have never seen so extraordinary a statement in so important an international document. It is so far removed from reality that it must be supremely innocent or supremely sinister. I cannot see any other reason. It just is not true. I leave the choice to people to make for themselves. It seems to me that one essential condition if we really want German reunification is to suspend the whole E.D.C. policy while we are entering into these talks with Russia. If we do not suspend the E.D.C. policy, we are not really genuinely wanting talks with Russia.
I think that there is a simple and logical position here. The policy of E.D.C. and the policy of German reunification are really alternative policies at the present moment, incompatible policies. We cannot press for incorporating half of Germany into the West and at the same time press for absorbing the two halves of Germany altogether. It is like trying to use one and the same piece on the international chessboard in two incompatible combinations. This, as "The Times" pointed out this morning, is what the Foreign Ministers communiqué does.
Everybody knows that E.D.C. is bound to come up in talks with Russia, if there are talks with Russia. To exclude the E.D.C. policy as the Foreign Ministers do beforehand, and as the Chancellor did this afternoon, is really to ensure the failure of the talks with Russia and to make it look as if we wanted to ensure the failure of the talks. The Chancellor of the Exchequer argued—and I can see the point—that this policy of E.D.C.—and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will use this argument when he comes to reply—is part of the policy of keeping up the strength of the West. I am all for keeping up the strength of the West. But this does not depend on E.D.C., it depends on N.A.T.O. E.D.C. is not even there yet. It is significant that there is 252 no mention in the communiqué of ratification by France. That omission makes the communiqué very suspect. Without the assurance of French ratification—and this is something which the Ministers must have talked about—all this emphasis on E.D.C. in the communiqué is meaningless.
There are only two explanations of what was done by the Foreign Ministers. One is the desire to help Dr. Adenauer in the German elections, and the other is the desire to destroy the whole of the hope of future successful talks; or possibly both. I do not know, but there may be another explanation. I have tried hard to find one. I cannot find any other explanation than that, and if that is the explanation, or if it seems to the world to be the explanation, then they really will be condemned at the bar of public opinion.
There is one other condition if we are really serious about trying to get German reunification and making it clear that if there is a failure it is not our fault but the fault of the Russians, and that is to leave the maximum scope for manœvre in negotiations on the actual point of German unification when we meet the Russians, and not to lay down too many hard and fast conditions before we even get to the table.
I think that there are limits as to how far we can go in manœvre. I agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we cannot regard Germany as an object of barter or of four-Power decision. The limits to which we can go in negotiations must be determined amongst other things, by the desires of the German people. We cannot just treat them as if they were permanently conquered. We cannot at one and the same time give the lion life and liberty and divide up its skin.
We have to be logical about this. If we want the national unity of Germany, that carries with it, in due course, inevitably, a free foreign policy and armaments. We cannot reunite the German nation without giving it all the attributes that go with nationhood. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that any idea of neutralisation, however attractive it may seem, is impracticable. It is not enforceable and it would defeat the purpose of settlement with Russia, because if we did neutralise Germany it would be 253 a constant source of suspicion and temptation to East and West. It would defeat the purpose of settlement which is to get some sort of agreement between East and West.
I would say that if the neutralisation of Germany is the price that Russia wants for a settlement, then there can be no agreement. Then it would not be we who are to blame. It would be clearly the Russians who were trying to put forward an impossible and self-defeating policy. There is none the less some room for manoeuvre left. I cannot see why there should not be an interval of time between the acceptance of German reunification and the consequences of it, namely a free foreign policy and rearmament. The two are logically connected but they are not simultaneous.
I do not think, however, that there can be a long interval of time, because that would mean getting into all this contradiction of a policy of neutralisation. But if there were a short interval of this sort it would help, I think, very greatly to get a settlement of our problems with Russia on this German matter. It looks as if it might be accepted by Russia—one cannot be sure—but I am certain it would be accepted by Germany. It would be a price that Germany would be prepared to pay for reunion, for they want reunion very much, more than anything else and would be prepared to pay a price for it. Moreover, as every German knows, the problems that will ensue after reunion will be immensely difficult, such as getting the two marks balanced and in rearranging the flow of population. These immense difficulties will tax the German Government for a considerable time.
There is the final advantage that if there were an interval of this sort before Germany re-armed and had a completely free foreign policy, it would give a powerful motive to the rest of the world to use that interval to come to a full settlement, with the disarmament which would follow. The level to which Germany would arm, if rearmament should begin, would be determined by the level of armaments all round. That would necessarily be the case in the end because we should have no control.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Only the Germans could determine their own level of rearmament, but they would be very much influenced in fixing their own level of armaments by the level of armaments all round them. Therefore, the lower the level of armaments all round them, the more likely it is that the level of German rearmament would be within the limits of an international agreement about rearmament. There is no hint of any of this sort of flexibility or freedom to manoeuvre in the communiqué. As I read it—it is a little obscure—"free Germany" and "free German government" seem to preclude any manoeuvre of this sort.
Therefore, the test I apply to Western Germany fills me with great doubts about the communiqué of the Foreign Ministers. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that they have been standing pat too much and looking too much into the past. When we read the communiqué, the Foreign Ministers seem to be lost and uncomfortable in the new scenery of the international situation; they seem as if they are hankering after the relative simplicities of the old unbudging cold war. They have become accustomed to the gestures and the policies suited to it. It looks as if they are emerging into a new world where the whole landscape is different and they have not adapted themselves to it at all.
If that is so, or if it appears to world conscience and public opinion to be so, it will destroy—this is why I am disturbed about it; it is not just a question of political, diplomatic manoeuvre—the whole moral basis of our Atlantic alliance. Whether there are talks or not, and whether the talks succeed or not, if world opinion once begins to think that we are not genuine in wanting a settlement, once it is doubted that all our strength and all our armaments have been designed to get a settlement, then the whole basis of our Western alliance will be in question and the moral support for it in the world will be lost. This is the greatest disservice that one could do to the cause of democracy.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Reading, North)
I have been following as carefully as possible the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), but I must confess that I did not hear a great deal which could not be reconciled within the framework of the Government's proposals. 255 There were, however, one or two contradictions in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He advanced the quite reasonable theory that E.D.C., or its progress, would have to be suspended until the talks took place and proved successful or otherwise. A few minutes later he said that the one remaining obstacle to the coming into effect of the E.D.C. was French ratification and that there was no chance at all—I agree with him—of French ratification until the talks take place. So his aim has been accomplished in advance.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
My doubts arose from the fact that so much emphasis was given to it in the communiqué. The Foreign Ministers themselves must have realised that it was unreasonable. There must be some explanation why they gave it so much emphasis.
§ Mr. Bennett
Naturally, the Western Ministers have never concealed their aim to realise E.D.C. as soon as possible. But we are talking about what it is in the Note which has gone to Russia and the practical state of affairs. The right hon. Gentleman agrees with me that there is no immediate prospect of the French ratifying the E.D.C. while the talks are outstanding.
Earlier in his speech, the right hon. Gentleman also asked if we were quite sure that we really wanted German reunion and said too that many people in Germany did not want it although they paid lip service to it. A little later he said that the German people want reunion more than anything else. Incidentally I recently paid a visit to Germany and I incline to the latter view. The two are not easily correlated.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I should have said in the first case that I was talking about a certain number of political leaders. I agree that the German people want reunion.
§ Mr. Bennett
I thought, too, the Leader of the Opposition was a little ungenerous when he claimed that the Opposition had been extremely patient about the absence over many weeks of the Foreign Secretary. I had not the good fortune to be a Member of the House at the time, but I remember when the whole country had to be patient for a much longer period during the absence from 256 any effective control of the Foreign Office of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin. We do not stand alone in that respect, and it seemed a little ungenerous to make that point.
As a young man entering politics, one is taught that all things are possible in politics. However, when, during the last General Election, I and many others had to fight under the slur of being led by "Winston the Warmonger," I did not appreciate that within such a very short time I and my hon. Friends would be challenged as the betrayers of "Winston the Archdisciple of Peace." A marked change has certainly taken place in the intervening period in the Labour Party's views upon the Prime Minister.
I do not think that anyone or any case has been betrayed. When the Prime Minister made his announcement in the House on 11th May, all he said was that he wished to have three-Power talks with a view to all parties later agreeing to four-Power talks taking place at the highest level. It was always in his mind, as it would have to be, that if there were to be four-Power talks the agreement of everybody would have to be obtained, and, therefore, he could not give in advance a pledge that each and every Power would agree to such a course when it was put forward. However, in his absence the preliminary three-Power talks have taken place, although, owing to the illness of the Prime Minister, at the Foreign Secretary level. They have not precluded four-Power talks at the highest level in the future; they have merely set as an essential pre-condition that there should be another preliminary talk, four-Power this time, at the Foreign Secretary level to test whether there was real sincerity behind the recent apparent change of heart or mind by Russia.
I cannot see any harm in that, because one does not need to be either pro-Soviet or anti-Soviet to know that there are two possible alternatives before us. It may be that Russia has had a genuine change of heart and now wishes to settle down with the Western world. On the other hand, it is no good our blinking our eyes to the fact that it may be that the overtures which have been made are part of the Communist Russian design, at the highest level there, to prevent the growing unity and strength of the Western world and to separate us from our allies That may not be the right prospect but 257 it is something that we have to take into account. Why should we not, before proceeding with four-Power talks, attempt to find out whether or not the Russians are sincere in their offers?
What are the best tests that we can apply without being unreasonable in our demands? There is, above all, Austria. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer reminded us, during the war the Russians themselves fully agreed to the proposition that one of the first post-war aims of the Allies should be to restore a free and independent Austria in a peace treaty. All these years have gone by and it has not taken place. Is it unreasonable for us to say, in effect, to the Russians, "If you are sincere and you have had a change of heart, we want to find out first whether you will do what you promised to do 10 years ago."
If they do not want to do it, what are the reasons? I can imagine two. First, that they might want to keep their troops in central Europe with a view to using them strategically for a hypothetical future war of aggression, because militarily it is convenient for them to have a forward base in Central Europe. Second, and it may be both, not an alternative, because they want to maintain lines of communication with their satellite States so that they can move troops freely into Czechoslovakia, Poland or Eastern Germany should that become necessary. If, however, they have had a change of heart, why should they want to do that? So whichever way we look at it, there is no reason why the Russians should not give up all claims to remain in Austria and be willing to conclude the peace treaty that they promised in 1943.
Turning to Germany, for years past the Russians have been claiming that they want to back the re-union of Western and Eastern Germany and that they want elections throughout the free zone so that a free German Government can be elected which will be in a position to decide its own future. What are we asking them to do? Nothing more than they were saying was their desire during the period when first the late Ernest Bevin was Foreign Secretary and afterwards the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison); that is to say, that we should not proceed with the integration of Western Germany alone into our defence system but should give the whole 258 of Germany freedom to decide its future by having free elections.
Again that is all we are asking them to do as a proof of their sincerity. If all they have been saying over these past years is a true statement of policy, they should not regard either an Austrian or German settlement as a pre-condition of other points being raised, but should welcome both because both are what they have said in the past is their policy. We have therefore not laid down any horrible conditions which the Russians are not in a position to accept. As far as I can see, we have simply said that we want some proof of their sincerity in the widest field before we go on to the other matters outstanding between us. If they are prepared to give us that proof of sincerity, the communiqué and the Note make it perfectly clear that there are no inhibitions on our proceeding to discuss any other outstanding matters.
Meanwhile it is clear that disarmament is not for a moment capable of any practicable or favourable or even positive discussion as long as the outstanding matters of Austria and Germany are not settled, because as long as Russian troops are where they are in Germany, as long as they control the satellite States in the way they do now, and as long as the) keep a military grip on Vienna, to suggest that we can leave those things on one side as technicalities, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) was claiming we could do, and proceed to talk of disarmament, that is completely unreal.
In his opening speech the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition seemed to think that we could not claim any of these things unless we were prepared to offer some quid pro quo. If it is impossible to go ahead with disarmament in the present state of tension, what quid pro quo have we left in Europe? If we are not to suffer an appalling moral reverse, we cannot reach any settlement by which we accept as permanent the boundaries of the present cold war and keep the satellite peoples permanently under Russian domination. In that respect, during the last foreign affairs debate I welcomed particularly the speech of the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) who made much the same point as I am making, though much more eloquently. He said, in effect, that we 259 should not bargain for security in this country at the expense of the Eastern satellites by appearing to accept a status quo which would be immoral. Moreover, even if we were prepared to be immoral and to accept that, it would be impracticable, because, whatever we might accept as the status quo, recent riots in Eastern Germany and elsewhere have made it clear that the people there are not prepared to do so. Therefore, any such pact would only be illusory because the people themselves would do their best to destroy it.
What therefore the Government have done is to follow the same lines of policy as the present Opposition were seeking to do after the war, that is, to come to a settlement with Soviet Russia but to have some prior reason for believing in the sincerity of their offers before proceeding to further interminable conferences which all too often in the past have been used simply for a exchange of abuse.
Now, finally, I should like to foresee what I feel the Government ought to do if these talks fail. I am as hopeful as anyone that this is a genuine change of heart on the part of the Russians, and that therefore they will not object to coming into these talks and clearing up the outstanding matters of Austria and Germany before proceeding with others. However we have to face the possibility of the failure of the talks, and in that case I urge the Government not to delay the integration of Western security any longer by permitting France to hold up all our plans by delaying E.D.C.
E.D.C. is, after all, nothing more or less than the Pleven Plan, a French plan, under another guise. It is surely unreasonable of the French to have conceived and developed the plan under one name and then to be almost the only power which prevents its ratification under another having persuaded the others originally to back it. Therefore, if these talks fail, I ask the Government to say firmly to the French that if they do not like their own Pleven Plan in the form of E.D.C. we cannot tolerate any longer the delay of the integration of Western security, and we should put forward some other suggestion.
That suggestion to my mind should be to say that we wish to bring as much of 260 Germany as wishes to join us within the N.A.T.O. organisation. When I was in France a few weeks ago I put this point of view to a number of Frenchmen. I thought I would get violently attacked immediately but, instead. I found an interesting point of view. To my surprise they rather welcomed the suggestion and said that, after reflection, they preferred the idea of Western Germany going into N.A.T.O. than into E.D.C. They feared that if they were closely integrated in E.D.C. Germany, being the stronger Power, sooner or later and by one manoeuvre or another, would drag France into a drive eastwards to recover the lost provinces of Germany. Within N.A.T.O., being a looser organisation, the same danger would not arise since it would be much more difficult for Germany to drag her partners into a war to recover her Eastern provinces.
I do not know whether that was an isolated French view. Whether it was or not, we have a right in this country, and the Americans have a right, to demand that no longer shall our common security be held up by the objections of one country to the ratification of a plan that they themselves conceived and suggested. Therefore, I ask the Government to take action along the lines I have suggested if the worst comes to the worst and the proposed four-Power talks fail.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I should like to point out certain unrealities in the speech of the hon. Member for Reading. North (Mt. F. M. BENNETT). When he asks France to face realities, I ask him to refer to the communiqué, on page 4 of which there is this kind of verbiage:Convinced that no effort should be spared to strengthen European unity within the Atlantic Community, the three Ministers have noted that the Coal and Steel Community, the result of a French initiative, is now operating successfully.Does the hon. Member accept the implication of the European Coal and Steel Community? We are a country which is having to import coal, and the French, with what the hon. Member called their flim-flam plan, and with what is to be a Green Belt plan for agriculture, have their plan for coal. If the hon. Member wants the French to do something for European defence, how far are the Government and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite prepared to throw in their 261 weight with the European Coal and Steel Community for a start?
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett
I had not intended to interrupt but the hon. Member has asked me a question. I cannot develop that whole argument now but would be quite prepared to do so at another time. It appears to be quite unrelated to the main theme of my speech. Although I was not in the House at the time, I was in the Gallery, and I do not remember any marked enthusiasm among hon. Members on the opposite side for joining in the Schuman Plan when it was a practical proposition.
§ Mr. Davies
I agree; we are not enthusiastic.
This country, and the Government and Members opposite, are suffering under certain illusions. We are no longer in the Victorian era, when our forces were all over the world and we were certainly a world power. First and foremost, we are talking of virile foreign policies at a time when we have to import coal, and at a time when the Government have taken £539 million worth of goods which were, so to speak, on the shelves of the British economic pantry. The present Government imported £539 million fewer goods by using stocks that the Labour Government had piled up and put on the pantry shelf of Britain's stockpile. We are—I include hon. Members opposite—at the same time talking about keeping up our armaments so that we reach the highest point of firing power when we have the lowest stock of raw materials and food to maintain that firing power.
I want the country to face the realities of Britain's position before we talk so vigorously about telling the French to do something about their position. We are getting less production per year than when the Labour Government were in power. That is nothing to smile about. It is one of the tragedies of Britain's present system. I happened to be the only Member of Parliament who suggested some years ago to my own party when in Government that we would have to import coal.
We had a terrific hue and cry from the party opposite when we had to import coal because of the taking over of the coal mines and because of the antiquated type of mining that had gone on under private enterprise and had allowed the 262 mines to deteriorate. Now, the Government have to face this reality. If they are not prepared to accept Russia's approach, they are leading themselves into a position that will seriously undermine the only type of leadership, the moral and spiritual leadership, that Britain can give to the world.
We were told that we must strengthen our resources until we were level with the strength of the U.S.S.R. Apparently we have reached that pitch. Now, we are told that we can wait, because disintegration is beginning to take place in the Russian Empire and among its satellites. I warn the House and I warn anybody who believes that disintegration is taking place that that might be one of the biggest mistakes of people's lives, If anyone feels that the wise thing now is to undertake psychological propaganda and a war of words to get revolts within the U.S.S.R. and within, say, China or South-East Europe, it may be that we are wasting our words on the desert air and the propaganda will work backwards.
That happened in the First World War. The Germans went in with their huge cartoons with British Tommies caricatured as vile looking men holding a poor little Persian to the mouth of a gun. The second picture was the vile Tommies whipping the poor little Persian, and the third picture showed them blowing him to death. Under the first picture the Germans said, "This is what the British will do if they come into Persia." A couple of Persians, looking at it, said, "If this is what the British will do, we had better not annoy them." In other words, the propaganda worked backwards. Britain should be trying to give leadership to the world, and if at this juncture we do not, in the words of one of my hon. Friends, show that those who genuinely want peace are seeking to restore liberty, hope and human dignity, we lose the moral leadership of the world.
I have two other points to mention, one of which is the four-Power Conference. It is ridiculous to talk in terms simply of a four-Power Conference. Asia is a reality; it is there. A four-Power Conference discussing Asia, with the presence merely of Russia, America, France and Britain, would be useless without drawing into the conference the one country in Asia which has the dignity and the position to give a certain amount of leadership—namely, India.
263 India should have been invited to help at the conference and to guide us in the problem of solving the terrific national upsurges that are taking place all over Asia and South-East Asia. I am not one of those who went up and down the country hurling personal epithets at the present Prime Minister. [An HON. MEMBER "Who did?"] Ninety-nine per cent. of it was propaganda that worked backwards, like the Persian propaganda. It was thought that it would be a point against the Labour Party made by the national Press, but to their horror the propaganda worked a little bit backwards—it backfired. It is of paramount importance to bring into these top level conferences the experience and judgment of India.
I do not subscribe to the theory that in the first analysis the revolutions in Asia and South-East Asia have anything to do with Communism. I am convinced that what happened in Malaya had, in the beginning, nothing to do with Communism, because I was there when it happened. [Laughter.]
§ Mr. Davies
Neither has the position in French Indo-China anything to do with Communism. Anybody who looks at the story of the national struggle of French Indo-China is misnaming that struggle by calling it a Communist revolution. It is time that the white races realised that Asia and South-East Asia refuse any longer to stand on the sidelines of European imperialism. Consequently, I regret that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not informed the House more deeply what he means by extending material aid to French Indo-China.
Do the Government mean that if we get a Korean truce there will now be an opportunity of extending aid to France and intensifying the war in French Indo-China? We should know that, because my experience with most French people—although I admit it is dangerous to generalise—is that the majority of them are sick and tired of the war in French Indo-China, which is sucking away the lifeblood of that great civilised nation. By using the phrase, which was previously used by the Prime Minister, that we are prepared to be prompt and resolute in action and saying that we would extend material aid, does the British 264 Chancellor of the Exchequer mean that, without any further discussions, once the Korean war is finished, there will be an extension and intensification of the war in French Indo-China?
I think the House should have a categorical answer to that question. I have not forgotten that one N.A.T.O. conference stated that it was interested in the subject. Are we to creep slowly into the position, because of responsibility to N.A.T.O., in which British troops will be put into French Indo-China? The mass of the people here, however they may vote in the polling booths, are also sick and tired of their boys being sent all over the world to fight battles which they know in their hearts have nothing to do with the maintenance of liberty.
What is the good of pretending that we are defending liberty all over the world and that all these people are Communists? While we are sitting comfortably in this British House of Commons, Korean men and women, on both sides, are being turned into charcoal by the napalm bomb. We have become indifferent to the facts of war, but at one time in this House, John Bright was courageous enough to resign from office over the Egyptian situation. Today we seem to accept as inevitable the mass intensification of war and to believe this dream that we are protecting liberty.
All the time we maintain these wars we are searching people's houses and calling people Communists if they happen to have a slightly different point of view. The result is that this sort of thing is creeping more and more into British national life and creative thought and the decent element of mankind is thereby eliminated. It is no good pretending as someone did with a little chop logic in the last foreign affairs debate—ostentatiously reading from the 1936 Treaty with Egypt running through the phraseology which was dead and dry as dust—and dealing with words when the hon. Member should have been dealing with human beings and then saying that we are entitled to keep 10,000 men in Egypt. I believe it is possible to keep our technicians there. The Egyptians would agree, provided that the orders went through an Egyptian to our technicians. We seem to be giving very little away.
265 We all hope to see the Foreign Secretary back in the House very soon. I once asked him if he would give encouragement to an oil conference in the Middle East; Syria, for instance, does not want American aid. I believe that Britain should give a lead to the Arab world. Kuwait has more income per population than any country in the world because of the natural luck of having oil on that island. I believe the Arab world could form its own Arab aid or a kind of Schuman Plan for the Arab world from the royalties from Kuwait. In addition to the progress of the Israeli world, the Arabs, working together, might find the formula of mutual aid in the Middle East.
It is no laughing matter when we think that after about 50 years Persia is still a beggar sitting on an empty petrol tin. Apart from about 70,000 people in Abadan and its environs, who have a slightly higher standard of life, the mass of Persian people have received very little benefit from the rich oil deposits there. The truth of the oil situation is clear. An American oil well can produce 12 barrels a day, whereas a world oil well can, on the average, produce 20 barrels a day; but a Middle East oil well can produce 5,000 barrels a day. That is why we are in Egypt and the Suez Canal and why America is interested.
Could not the House of Commons take some initiative today instead of speaking like bureaucrats? Most of the speeches of hon. Member's opposite have been dished out of the bag of some Foreign Office official who looks on the Middle East as they did in the days of dear old Queen Victoria. Humanity is on the move and it is time the Government were able to distinguish between facts they are able to change and facts they cannot change. They should have the courage to change the facts they are able to change. One fact they could change is the entire atmosphere in the Suez Canal area. They would do so if they were prepared to make concessions. What concession is there in the Washington communiqué? The Russians are being asked to negotiate, but we say we are not going to move an inch from A, B, C and D. That is not the spirit of negotiation; it is an ultimatum.
We came to the House today expecting the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is 266 the bright boy of the Tory Party, to give a dynamic lead to the country. Instead, we got a dusty Foreign Office brief and he seemed afraid that he would upset the Prime Minister. He is afraid to upset the non-Butlerites. Here we see a party split from top to bottom, some supporting the Prime Minister, some supporting the new bright Butlerite Socialist approach and some not prepared to give a lead in world affairs. In other words, we see a party afraid to go into a General Election. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Here we see a party afraid to go into a General Election, but leading the country gradually into a crisis of international affairs and the greatest crisis in economic affairs we have ever known. They talk politics and foreign policy as if they were living in the 19th century.
This Government which has consumed raw materials instead of exporting them, a Government which has had to import coal and a Government which, when productivity is going down continuously, still talks of armaments and keeping divisions all over the world, should not only be out of office, but should be impeached.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
The hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) always interests the House, sometimes instructs it and not infrequently diverts it, and the speech to which we have listened has succeeded in all those three respects. I must say, however, that there is no split in the party on this side of the House. Unfortunately, from his point of view, it is the other way round, although I am not so sure in the matter of foreign policy which is the more dangerous, the split on the other side of the House or the efforts being made by the more responsible Members to-paper over the cracks.
There are one or two points made by the hon. Member to which I will refer in the course of my argument, but I want to confine what I have to say to what the Chancellor called the main theme. I start by saying that I welcome the Washington communiqué and that I welcome the proposal to have a conference with a specific agenda. I welcome, too, the definition of the dominant purpose of the three Governments which is contained 267 on page 3 of the communiqué, where it is defined asto seek solutions fulfilling the common hope of their governments and peoples for peace, freedom and justice.There are to some extent general and abstract terms; but I am convinced that only a peace based on justice and freedom is either morally worth while or strategically sensible. I believe, too, that only such a peace has the stuff of permanence in this world where, though the lamps of liberty may sometimes burn low, fortunately they are never wholly extinguished.
The proposal for a Foreign Ministers' conference has been denounced by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite as a false step. I do not think that that is in any sense an accurate description, for I believe that this is a step in the right direction—not the only step and not necessarily a final step, but, nevertheless, a step in the right direction; and there is certainly nothing in this conference to prevent the later holding of a high level conference.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
Neither to prevent nor impede. To delay, possibly, but of course the delay in holding such a conference would not necessarily be a disadvantage if by the time it comes to be held it is held with a better prospect of success. I do not know whether the hon. Member adds a knowledge of history to his other versatility, but he will remember that the history of high level conferences insufficiently prepared has not always been a happy one. He will recall the meeting on the Field of the Cloth of Gold and the Treaty of Tilsit, and, more recently, the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, all of which were high level conferences which failed to achieve in the long run what was expected of them.
It is the timing of high level conferences, even more than of other international conferences, which is of vital importance. It seems to me that right hon. and hon. Members opposite have rather carefully skirted round one intervening circumstance which has affected the timing of a high level conference since the Prime Minister made his speech on 11th May. That, of course, is the 268 eclipse of Beria from the Soviet hierarchy, which has revealed the deep and fissiparous tendencies within that hierarchy.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
Is the hon. Member carrying his argument to the length of saying that he is glad it has been found impossible to hold the conference in Bermuda?
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
No, Sir. Only the hon. Member could possibly have drawn such an inference from what I said. What I said, quite specifically, was that there was in this conference no impediment to a further conference and that it might be that the final conference would turn out to be better for having had this one. I then proceeded to discuss the intervening circumstance which may have some effect upon the timing of the conference—that is to say, the dismissal of Beria.
I notice that in the Motion of certain right hon. and hon. Gentlemen normally associated with the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), put down just over a fortnight ago, they press for an early conference with the Soviet leaders—in the plural. There is an overwhelming presumption that, at the time, what they were pressing for was a conference with Malenkov and Beria, but at the time they put the Motion down the position was that Malenkov had already denounced Beria as a public enemy of Russia.
§ Mr. Mikardo
As one who signed that Motion perhaps I may be allowed to say that the inference behind it was a very simple one. It is not for us to decide who are the leaders of Russia any more than it is for them to decide who are the leaders here. If we call for a conference between the leaders of countries we mean whoever are the leaders at the time the conference takes place. Neither here nor in Russia are political leaders permanent.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
Again, it is a question of timing. It is obvious that the hon. Member and his colleagues put down this Motion in misunderstanding of what the position really was, which is another illustration of the ignorance of the extreme left of conditions and views in Russia which they purport to interpret with such exceptional authority.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I certainly did not know, but then I did not put down a Motion in these terms and I do not pose as interpreting with particular authority what happens in Russia. I want to put this question, because it has not been answered satisfactorily as yet: apart from exploration, what do the Opposition expect would come by way of settlement from an immediate high level conference?
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I am asking what the Opposition expect and I have taken the precaution, the hon. Member will be glad to know, of consulting this week's "Tribune" to see what help I could get from that. It was not of very great assistance because all the "Tribune" says is that it will give a chance to end the division of Germany and a chance to seek a new settlement of Europe. As far as the first point is concerned, that, of course, is exactly the subject matter of the proposed Foreign Ministers' conference in the autumn.
As far as the second point is concerned, I am still awaiting a more precise definition from the Opposition as to exactly what conditions they would consider desirable as the terms of a general settlement. Would they, for example, consider the recognition of the status quo as the suitable basis for a settlement? Would they regard the permanence of the Iron Curtain frontiers as a suitable basis for a settlement? If not, what is the suitable basis which they suggest? I hope they do not take the view that the Iron Curtain frontiers form a suitable basis, because they could hardly regard that as a suitable outcome of six years of struggle for liberty or as a suitable signpost for the future of mankind.
The House is entitled to know what sort of settlement they have in mind. We knew what it was between 1945 and 1950. For example, Mr. Bevin could at any time have had a settlement on the basis of capitulation, but to his eternal honour that is exactly what he was not prepared to accept, although that was not for lack of urging from the extreme Left of his own party.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has completely given up the Prime Minister's 270 idea of 11th May, when the Prime Minister said:It might well be that no hard-faced agreements would be reached. … At the worst the participants in the meeting would have established more intimate contacts. At the best we might have a generation of peace."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 901–2.]For that reason the Prime Minister argued for no such rigid agenda as appears in this White Paper. What has happened to all that?
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
It has been made quite clear that the Prime Minister still took the view of the ultimate settlement which he took before. What I am seeking to inquire, and the House is entitled to know, is what is the basis of settlement proposed by the Opposition? The time will come when the Leader of the Opposition may have to decide whether Bevinism can continue after Mr. Bevin has gone, or whether the foreign policy of the Opposition is now as prescribed by the "Keep Left" group.
I would suppose that the requirements of a general and ultimate settlement are these. First, a thawing of the cold war. Secondly, the relaxation of the Soviet grip on the satellites. Thirdly, a general reciprocal limitation of armaments. The third of those matters was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech. There is this apparent difficulty about having an early general settlement, including a settlement of the question of the limitation of armaments with the Soviet, that in this atomic age, limitation of armaments obviously requires international inspection and supervision. How can we hope to get that from a country which has so very rigid a control of movement within its own frontiers? That ultimate settlement, I would think, can only follow on some relaxation of the Iron Curtain.
The expectation of a speedy general settlement going beyond the specific matters proposed to be dealt with rests on the basic assumption that there has been a fundamental change of policy on the part of the Soviet Union. Some hon. Members appear to be able to accept that assumption more easily than I think it right to do. As we know, there is some evidence in this matter. There is evidence of some domestic easement on the 271 part of the Soviet Union. They cut consumer prices; but then, of course, consumer prices were high. They mitigated the severity of the penal code, but the penal code was harsh. They introduced some easement into the position of satellite countries, but the good effect of that was quickly mitigated by the harshness with which the rising in Berlin was suppressed—a course of action which very properly evoked a motion of protest from some hon. Members opposite, to which I was proud to add my name.
So we have this vital question of whether it is a change of policy or merely a change of tactics on the part of the Soviet Union. In considering the answer to that question, we have to look not only at the evidence of these matters to which I have referred, but also to the official Communist doctrine—or at any rate Stalinist doctrine—that the strategic objective must remain unaffected, whereas tactical adjustments, and even temporary withdrawals, are necessary and permissible in pursuit of it. Further, the "Pravda" editorial dealing with the dismissal of Beria did identify him as a capitalist agent when denouncing him after his dismissal.
I think that on all the evidence it is wrong to make any quick assumption as to what is the answer to this vital question. That does not in any way mean that the project of a high-level conference is wrong or unwise, because it would serve a useful purpose as a medium of exploration and as a forum where the general basic requirements of an ultimate general settlement could be prescribed and discussed. But to take the vital step from exploration to settlement it is necessary that there is a bona fide change of policy on the part of the Soviet Union.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite seek to say that the gulf is a gulf between a high-level conference and a Foreign Minister's conference. I do not agree. I think the gulf is rather between essay and achievement, or more precisely, between exploration and settlement; and that if a gulf which can be bridged only by the action of the Soviet Government. I think it is clear that the Foreign Ministers' Conference will provide early evidence of how far that gulf is likely to be bridged, more particularly because the 272 two subjects on the agenda are those which a high-level conference must instantly have come to as soon as they sought to progress from exploration to settlement.
The first of these subjects, the Austrian Treaty, is a problem which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett) rightly said, puts to the test the bona fides of the Russian change of intention, if change of intention there be. The only justification for delaying that Treaty is the fact that the presence of Russian troops, permissible in present circumstances until the signing of the Treaty, enables pressure to be maintained on Hungary and Roumania. Therefore, it is a splendid chance to demonstrate that the old doctrine of power politics—the Stalinist doctrine—does not apply, by making haste to sign the Austrian Treaty.
The German question is, of course, a good deal more difficult. The solution of free elections and an all-German Government, with a choice of international association, is not ideal, because of the risk involved. But it is the only apparent solution that I, at any rate, can see. The Potsdam idea of a divided Germany is dead. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) was clear and eloquent on that subject. The idea of a united but neutralised Germany is only a degree less practicable, and is dangerous alike to Germany and the Western Powers. We do not know whether Russia will still want that since the death of Stalin. We know that they did before. The Foreign Secretary, in a debate in the House in November, 1951, said:The Russians would want it.…There is nothing in the world they would like better than a disarmed vacuum in the centre of Europe. That is just one part that a country like Germany can never play."—[OFFICIAI REPORT, 20th November, 1951; Vol. 494, c. 347.]I think, therefore, that the solution proposed is the only practicable solution although it involves the terrible risk of Germany moving into the Soviet bloc.
In spite of all the historic and economic considerations put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) in an excellent maiden speech, I still hope and believe that the risk is very small—or at any rate, is small. 273 On the other side we have the splendid progress made by the Federal German Republic under the Government of Dr. Adenauer. We have the contrast there between East and West Germany, and the chilling experience of Communist administration in practice in East Germany. Even were there an absorption of Germany into the Soviet bloc it would be only temporary. I think that the experience of 1939 would be repeated; there would first be competitive armament between the two countries and then quite possibly a conflict, which would be to the great detriment not only of the peoples of those countries, but the world as a whole.
I feel that in the long term it is better not only for the peoples of Germany and the Western World but for the people of Russia that Germany should be attracted rather to the Western Powers, because they would act as a brake on aggressive intentions. Surely, not even the most fevered Communist imagination could regard Great Britain or France at the present day as a potentially aggressive Power? I therefore believe that this is the outcome which will be best, and that our Government is charged with the duty of doing all that it properly may do to see that it comes about. They must take steps, also, to guard against the odious possibility that the Soviet Union may seek to attract a reunited Germany by the bribe of non-German territory.
I want to come now to the question of what Russia would get from these talks. The Leader of the Opposition rather seemed to go on the basis that, in such a settlement or in such talks, there must be a quid pro quo for each concession. I do not believe that a settlement can be arrived at on that basis of arithmetical computation. Not only is it incompatible with the requirements for a general settlement, but it is, in fact, illogical in view of events since 1945. After all, after 1945, Soviet Russia pushed her dominion eastwards and ended with vastly inflated territories.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
Be that as it may, clearly Russia cannot be given a quid pro quo for every retreat from a position which she should not have assumed. To accept that principle would involve accepting the propriety of her post-war 274 conduct, which, with great respect to the hon. Gentleman, we did not approve. It is obviously quite contrary to the suggestion which we are asked to believe that there has been a change of heart and policy on the part of Russia which calls for a new approach—to say, at the same time, that there must be a precise quid pro quo for every concession which they make in retreating from the Stalinist position which they say now should not obtain.
In any event, future concessions must have some regard to past actions, and, because of that, it is quite true that the appearance of concessions will be greater on the Russian side if there is to be any satisfactory settlement. There is nothing to wonder about in that, because it merely parallels the extent of the advance made by them in the post-war years. That is not to say that there will not be a very real gain for Russia if this thing goes through, because they can gain by agreement what they cannot get by individual action, and that is security.
Here, I think, is the crux of the whole matter. Security of what? The Western Powers are not in a position to underwrite Russian security based upon the Iron Curtain frontiers as they are today, and this is made quite clear in the communiqué, which says of the three Governments:The same spirit inspires their desire to see true liberty restored in the countries of Eastern Europe.The policy of the Western Powers is ultimately aimed at self-determination for these peoples. If, on the other hand, the Soviet Union means security within their 1939 frontiers, they can have something which should be of inestimable value to them.
The Leader of the Opposition posed the question whether Russia had now arrived at the point of realising that she would do better to cultivate her own resources and relax her grip on the satellites. I think there is no doubt that, even from their own point of view, in the long term they would be much better advised so to do. I think that, in the long term, a fair deal for the satellites now would benefit future Russian security just as would acceptance of a right solution of the German problem.
Therefore, in summary, the position as I see it is that we are in a position now 275 to make immediate progress with the Austrian Treaty and the German problem in the Foreign Ministers' conference in the autumn. Thereafter, we should seek such wider progress on the subject of the satellite countries as seems possible from the Russian reaction in the Foreign Ministers' conference. Beyond that, again, lies the wider question of the reciprocal limitation of armaments, which seems to me to involve a greater liberalisation of the domestic situation in Russia than we have arrived at. It is, therefore, to some extent speculative to discuss that in any detail now.
I ended a speech on the international situation in December, 1950, by saying that, in my view, two things were necessary for an improvement in the situation. The first was more liberal statesmanship behind the Iron Curtain, and the second was more effective statesmanship by the Western Powers. So far as the more liberal statesmanship behind the Iron Curtain is concerned, we have had some evidence, with which I have dealt; but we still await much more positive signs before we can move on to the question of the limitation of armaments, which is the basis of any general and ultimate agreement. So far as the statesmanship of the Western Powers is concerned, I think that my right hon. Friends have earned the confidence and the congratulations of the House and the country by what they are trying to do in that respect.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Mr. W. T. Proctor (Eccles)
The world situation changes very rapidly, but not as rapidly as the policy of the Tory Party. We have just listened to a speech which is a complete repudiation of the policy put forward by the Prime Minister. The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) has not been content to put forward illustrations from the present time, but has had to take illustrations from history to show that top level conferences never succeeded; and he instanced the Ribbentrop-Molotov conference as one that did not succeed. For my part, when it took place, and since then, I thought it was one of the most ghastly successes in the history of the world.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
The hon. Gentleman must try to get this right. I threw out, in answer to the hon. Member for 276 Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo), certain historical illustrations of high level conferences that had not succeeded, and which had not, perhaps, been very well prepared for. I did not suggest at any time that high level conferences never succeed. I certainly made it quite clear, in answer to the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine), that I did not at all deviate from the suggestion of the Prime Minister. I said that the suggestion was a good thing, but that the timing of it was obviously affected since then by the question of the dismissal of Beria, apart from anything else.
§ Mr. Proctor
The hon. Gentleman expresses with very great clarity the thoughts that arise in the Tory mind, and, when he takes such a long time to answer an interjection, it shows that he is in great difficulties. His very answer clearly showed that the suggestion, which went right through his speech, was that top level conferences did not succeed, and the only suggestion he made about the proposed conference was that we, the Opposition, should say what we hoped to get out of it. What was clearly in his mind was his idea that high level conferences could not be a success, thus abandoning the proposal of his own Prime Minister.
I shall take a risk and say what I hope to get out of the high level conference, and the first thing I would hope for would be freedom for the people of Eastern Europe. I say that, in a high level conference that is to accomplish something of historical importance, that freedom for the people of Eastern Europe must be one of the things that we must have uppermost in our minds. Then there must be security for Russia, security for Europe, and possibly, I hope, the lifting of the burden of armaments throughout the world. Following on that, there must be a programme of economic reform throughout the world on the lines of the proposals put forward by the Labour Government, on the lines of the proposals put forward in America by Walter Reuther and on the lines of the great speech made by President Eisenhower not so many weeks ago. That is what I hope might come out of a high level conference.
Although we supported the Prime Minister in this proposal, I am not too happy as far as the Prime Minister is concerned. When he goes to a conference, I reserve the right to see what comes 277 out of it, because I am not quite certain that the kind of world which he intends to build is the kind of world which I want. Though the Prime Minister is the elected representative of the British people, I reserve the right to judge what comes out of such a conference.
I know that what the Labour Party desire to see come out of it are the things I have indicated. The world situation has very much changed, and I hope that the position so far as Russia is concerned has changed for the better. There is a new Government in Russia. No one can say what the policy of that Government is, but we hope that the aggression, almost direct and the indirect, which has been followed by the Russians for the last seven years has ceased. If it has, then we can hope for a very great change in world affairs.
I think that the Soviet Union lost the battle when she laid down the gauntlet, and that the free nations, by rearming and by making such tremendous efforts to stabilise the world, have brought about the present situation. I hope that the Russian leaders will recognise that tact. We, too, must recognise what is the present position. What we want is the kind of spirit which we thought existed in 1945. We should be prepared to play our part in an endeavour to bring about once again a situation in which we can sit down with the leaders of Russia and of the European and world nations and re-plan the world.
What can we offer Russia at the present time? Someone asked what Russia was to get out of it on an arithmetical calculation. Any nation that can get peace out of a conference today is more than amply rewarded. That is what we want to get out of it. I believe that there is a good chance at this four-Power conference of coming to an agreement on the question of armaments in Europe, because I do not believe that the European countries are anxious to rearm. I see no evidence of any anxiety on the part of the Germans, the French, or any other European country to rearm.
This may be a golden opportunity of getting peace for generations by deciding what is to be the level of armaments. It would be a great thing for the Russian leaders at the present time to be able to sit down at a conference with representatives of Great Britain, Europe and 278 America to decide not on how many armaments, but on how few armaments are necessary throughout the world. I said earlier that many great changes have taken place in the world, but I think that the greatest change of all is that which has taken place with regard to Germany.
Many of us were concerned about the fate of Eastern Germany, and were wondering what was happening there. We have heard a lot about the extent of the rearmament of Eastern Germany and about Soviet propaganda in Eastern Germany, but one thing that we are sure about now is that the particular kind of Communist colonialism practised in Eastern Europe has made it certain that Communism such as is practised in Russia is out, as far as Germany is concerned. That is a great factor in the history of Europe. Russia would do well to recognise it, and Europe would do well to welcome it.
We can only deal successfully with Germany on a basis of equality. When we decide what is to be the future rearmament of Germany we shall be making one of the great decisions of history. I am anxious to make certain that we shall never again have German aggression on a nationalistic line. Therefore, I say that any rearmament of Germany must be done within the framework of some international organisation. I am ready to make the supreme sacrifice on this basis and to say that what we apply to Germany I am prepared to apply to ourselves. If we do that, then I think there will be a possibility of rebuilding Europe on a basis of peace and friendship.
I now turn to the very great change which has taken place in America. There have been many disputes and many differences of opinion in this country on the question of America. I have taken every opportunity to pay tribute to the great American nation for what it has done since the war. I do not say that the Americans have done more than they should have done, but I am so used to people not doing as much as they ought to do that I am thankful when they come anywhere near it.
By making a contribution of 36,000 million dollars for economic aid to the rest of the world America has done a very wonderful thing. But that was the America of Roosevelt, the America of 279 Truman and Acheson, and in mentioning another name in that connection I run a risk with my own party, but I must mention Vandenberg because he gave that stability which made these things possible and brought the support of the better part of the Republican Party to the aid of the Administration.
It is a very different America with which we are dealing at the present time, an America which has abandoned economic aid. The vast riches placed at the feet of America and the vast power which she exercises in the world have not been naturally developed. They have come as a result of two great world wars. The American people would do well to realise that that position has not come about through a natural process of economic change and to consider the great responsibilities that go with the great wealth and power which they enjoy.
On numerous occasions the Government have indicated that they are in favour of trade, not aid. I believe that the reason for that is because they have been clearly told that there is no aid for them. In my opinion the Americans have made a mistake in taking up that attitude. It is a fateful decision that affects the free world. If they refuse the aid and decline the trade the position of the world in the future will be chaotic. It is the duty of statesmen in Europe to tell the American people, if necessary over the heads of the American statesmen, that that is the position.
Now I would say a word about President Eisenhower. He won the American Election by putting forward a progressive policy. I do not believe that he would have won it unless he had done so. Therefore, he stands in a position of immense responsibility, and it would be a disaster for the world if, as a result of Eisenhower's personally progressive policy, the forces of reaction were allowed to triumph. I believe that on the action of America depends the future of the free world.
It is useless for us to pretend otherwise. There have been many disputes about what we did on rearmament. I studied that question very carefully when the matter was going through. My right 280 hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition clearly indicated during the whole of that period that this was a collective effort, and that it was necessary for us to receive guarantees with regard to aid and trade and for us to protect ourselves economically. The present Government may think that they can maintain, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, the immense burden that we have undertaken without American aid, and without a world planned along sensible lines, but I do not believe that it can be done. It is far better to tell America that now, and to ask that these policies shall be reviewed very carefully.
There is a great opportunity for peace at the present time, but it is not possible for the Oppositions of the democratic world to leave everything to their Governments. Oppositions as well as Governments have responsibilities, and I should like to see the Oppositions in Europe getting together. I want to see the Social Democratic party of Germany in much closer contact with our Labour Party than it is at present. I want to see the Socialists of Western Europe all together, hammering out a policy. If Her Majesty's Government are totally unable to approach the Russians on a high level basis for a conference, the Social Democrats of Europe should get together to make the new policy for Europe which I have outlined, and which will bring us peace and economic rehabilitation.
It is the duty of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench and of the leaders of the Labour Party to make these contacts in Europe and to see whether we can devise a policy, because I am sure that before long the Oppositions in Europe will be the Governments of Europe. That is the great hope of humanity. This Government is a strange contradiction in the modern world: it is impossible to run a modern civilised society without national and international planning, but we have the ridiculous position today of a Government being in power that do not believe in planning anything. The ineptitude with which they are dealing with this situation indicates that they are bungling the affairs of this country. The sooner a Labour Government is substituted for the Tory Government the better for the world.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
Except for his peroration, his misinterpretation of some words that fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) and his mistrust of the present American Administration, I agree with very much of what the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) said.
§ Mr. Longden
As far as Europe is concerned, I listened with great disappointment to what fell from the Leaders of the two Oppositions. Their speeches were riddled with defeatism. The Leader of the official Opposition rightly said that nobody outside the Kremlin could say what was in the minds of the people inside the Kremlin, yet most of his speech was devoted to explaining what he thought was in their minds. Nothing, so far as I know, that has happened since the Prime Minister's speech on 11th May has derogated in any way from the aims and intentions which my right hon. Friend then uttered. Neither of the right hon. Gentlemen gave any credit at all to my noble Friend the acting Foreign Secretary for having persuaded the American Administration to come into four-Power talks at any level.
§ Mr. Longden
The hon. Gentleman may have more information about what went on than I have, but that was my impression.
I welcome the communiqué which was issued after Washington, firstly because it reaffirmed the faith of the free world in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It is my firm belief that in that Organisation lies the best hope for peace and prosperity for the free world. I believe, as has been admitted on the other side of the House, that this is the instrument which is responsible for the change of voice from the Kremlin. None of us knows whether it is a change also of policy, but this is the instrument which will keep the peace.
N.A.T.O. includes free Europe, or at any rate 13 European States. It is to that component, that circle, that I confine my remarks this evening. Otherwise I shall be abusing the privilege of having caught 282 your eye, Sir. Furthermore, I am a United Kingdom delegate to the Council of Europe and I welcome this all too rare opportunity of saying something about what happens there.
I want to cast my mind back to April, 1945, when the present Prime Minister sent that famous telegram to Stalin. I will not read that telegram now, because my right hon. Friend himself read it on 11th May and it will be fresh in all our minds. We must all admit that it was a remarkable forecast of what might happen after the war and that it was a frank and friendly effort to avoid its happening. The hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), who is no longer in his place, will be pleased to know that in that telegram the Victorian era had passed. He may remember the passage from one of Queen Victoria's letters to one of her Ministers in which she said "The Emperor of Russia will be very much annoyed, but that is neither here nor there." There was none of that spirit in my right hon. Friend's telegram. Alas, his efforts failed. All the good will which was bubbling up throughout the war towards our ally Russia, or towards the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, soon evaporated.
We thought that Russia wanted peace and prosperity just as we did, but they did not desire that. They did not honour their Yalta commitments, they added 23 million free European peoples to their Empire, they have retained German prisoners of war to this day, they have not got out of Austria, there is the childish vituperation to which we have all listened from "Pravda" and Moscow radio, and there is the fifth column of men and women who have renounced their natural allegiance to God, their countries and even to their families in order to continue their treacherous work in all the countries of the free world. So we had the cold war. I would like to read to the House an extract from something said by Edmund Burke because it is very topical:We are in a War of a peculiar nature. It is not with an ordinary community. We are at War with a system which by its essence is inimical to all other Governments; which makes Peace or War as Peace and War may best contribute to their subversion. It is with an armed doctrine that we are at War.
§ Mr. Longden
I am sorry but that quotation swam into my ken unaccompanied by its context. I will endeavour to find out and let the hon. Gentleman know. I have no reason to doubt its authenticity.
So we had to try other and more expensive methods. First, the United States of America with its Marshall Aid offered freely to Russia and the satellite States, and the O.E.E.C. and the E.P.U. which sprang from it. Next, the United Kingdom's initiative in the Treaties of Dunkirk and Brussels. There was the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at Zurich when he asked France to lead Germany back into the family of Europe. This led up to The Hague Conference. I am sorry that that Hague Conference was boycotted by the Labour Party—the Government of the day. I fear that it was because they were pursuing the will-o'-the-wisp of a Socialist Europe. What a futile and arrogant line to take, as if the opinions and feelings of anyone who is not a Socialist could not be tolerated. I hope very much that that no longer applies in any part of the House.
There is the Council of Europe, the 15 European States which meet at Strasbourg to exchange views and to get to know each other. It is no good blaming the Council of Europe for not taking effective action, because it is not an executive body. I am certain that it fulfils a very useful function indeed in the modern world. I, therefore, welcomed my right hon. Friend's statement on 11th May:We have Strasbourg and all that it stands for, and it is our duty to fortify its vitality and authority tirelessly as the years roll on."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 894.]
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
The hon. Gentleman has been a representative at Strasbourg for the same time as I have. Can he tell me of any occasion on which the Government which he supports have done so?
§ Mr. Longden
I am not aware of any occasion whatever when the Government which I support have done anything to prevent the Council of Europe uniting and getting together. If the hon. Gentleman has the good fortune to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, perhaps he will enlarge on that point, because frankly I do not know what he is getting at.
§ Mr. Longden
The hon. Gentleman is accusing the Government of not having taken any steps to enforce the vitality of the Council of Europe. I do not agree with him.
§ Mr. Longden
Meanwhile, France, the third of the three Powers, took the initiative in suggesting the Schuman Plan which has produced the European Coal and Steel Community. All three of those Powers signed the Treaty of Washington on 4th April, 1949. In this North Atlantic Treaty Organisation free Europe is the weakest link. Why is that? It is partly because some of the Governments of the larger States are unstable, but mainly because of the Franco-German problem.
One solution would have been to keep Germany unarmed, occupied, and neutral. I think we are agreed on all sides of the House that that is utterly impractical politics. The second solution would have been to invite Western Germany to become a full independent member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; but France refused that solution and herself proposed a third—the European Defence Community within N.A.T.O. That Treaty was signed in May, 1952, but has not yet been ratified even by France.
We cannot blame the French nation for mistrusting Germany. Western Germany today is under able, honourable and efficient leadership, but who can vouch for tomorrow? We can blame France—or at any rate we can deplore the fact that France has been paralytic-ally inactive over the past year, for time is not on our side. The E.D.C. Treaty provided for a European Political Community to control the army. It is indeed essential, as I am sure all will agree, that such an army should be civilly and democratically controlled.
Last September the Council of Europe invited the European Coal and Steel Community to constitute an Ad Hoc Assembly to draft a treaty to embody the Statute of a European Community. It 285 gave it six months. On 10th March last, exactly six months after they had been commissioned, the Ad Hoc Assembly presented the result of their work to the Foreign Ministers of the six States. I shall not weary the House with an explanation of the constitution. We are not wedded to every comma in it but, if it were ratified, it would provide that within two years the European political community should take over control of the European army and the Coal and Steel Community. Of course, other functions could be added as time went on and, above all, other nations could join.
It would be a first step towards European federation. Whatever its ultimate fate I think that the utmost praise is due to the lay parliamentarians of those six States for having produced an historic document. I know that some hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House do not agree with either the European Defence Community or the European Political Community. I do not know whether they think that we are wasting our time and that the work can never come to anything—in which case I respectfully accuse them of defeatism—or whether it is that they fundamentally disagree on the whole problem. But I have always believed in it and I have always lent my feeble weight at Strasbourg to the project.
I believe that it would guarantee peace in Europe by the voluntary confinement of France and Western Germany within an inner circle of the European community. Secondly, I believe that it would make for the increased prosperity of our continental Allies. Increased productivity and co-ordinated defence will lead to reduced taxation and high taxation, whatever hon. Gentlemen opposite may think, is a brake on human activity.
Above all, E.D.C. would strengthen N.A.T.O. which would form the outer circle which would contain the two age-long belligerents, the Teuton and the Gaul. If I may digress, I would say that I am sorry that some States will not measure up to their responsibilities and that they remain content to let others bear the burden for them. I am also sorry that other States are not considered "good" enough to join us as full partners in peace though, should war break out, we should be glad enough of their help. So it was with pleasure that I for one 286 read what I consider to have been a remarkable communiqué after the Washington Conference. I consider that it was remarkable because it was clear and forthright and instilled with unity and determination.
I want to remind the House of one or two of its paragraphs:The three Foreign Ministers have reaffirmed their resolve to pursue vigorously the policies upon which their Governments have agreed within the framework of the Atlantic Treaty. These policies include the work for European unity of the six European countries…Next,The Ministers reaffirmed that the North Atlantic Alliance is fundamental to the foreign and defence policies of the three Governments.So it is.The establishment of the European Defence Community constitutes a necessary step to the same goal; meanwhile the work of creating a European Political Community is being pursued by the six Governments.These are the things which they say it will do:
On 7th August the six Foreign Ministers are to meet to discuss this draft. It is not a good time with unstable Governments in Italy and in France and with general elections just coming on, but I would say, "Drop finally and for good any idea that the United Kingdom should, or ever will, join a European Federation." We cannot do so. It has been explained to the European countries times out of number why we cannot do so. We have never pretended that we would do so. There is no need for us to do so.
- "(a) the above institutions of a European Community will strengthen the Atlantic Community and will in turn be strengthened by association with it;
- (b) those constructive efforts to build a stable, secure European Community are a major contribution toward world peace…
- (c) such a Community, peaceful by its very nature, is not directed against anyone… Indeed, the provisions laid down in the European Defence Community Treaty are a guarantee that its forces would never be used in the service of aggression;
- (d) designed to put an end to the conflicts of the past, the European Community does not exclude any State;… "
We all know what this country has done to help in other ways. The various steps that we have taken were detailed by the Prime Minister on 11th May. Secondly I would say, "Do not regard 287 the action of the American Senate in giving President Eisenhower discretion to withhold one million dollars of American aid as a threat."
§ Mr. Longden
I do not think that it is a threat. The Americans are realistic people. They naturally weigh the amount that they spend. It may be that they will come to the conclusion that Europe is not worth spending more money on. They believe, rightly or wrongly, that unless these European nations are what they call integrated it will be no use spending any more money. That is all. If Europe will not help itself the United States may come to rely upon herself alone. That would be a pity, because the abandonment of isolationism by the American nation is one of the miracles of modern times.
To France I would say, "Now is the time to rope Germany in, even though she is not yet re-united." Over and above our guarantee to France she can rely on the United States. I believe that a Germany in N.A.T.O. is a guarantee to the U.S.S.R. as well.
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
When the hon. Member speaks about Germany being included in N.A.T.O., is he prepared to allow Germany to go into the N.A.T.O. arrangement without any guarantee that she will make no territorial claims?
§ Mr. Longden
I think that at the moment the proposals are that Germany should come into an E.D.C., which in turn will be controlled by the European Political Community, which in turn will be part of N.A.T.O.
§ Mr. Longden
I hope that I am right, and if I am right I ask the Government to carry on the good work. In any event I hope that the free world will not allow itself to be deviated from the path which we have laid down, which leads to the goal of N.A.T.O. Nobody is threatened, and N.A.T.O. is the one guarantee of peace and prosperity.
I would respectfully put my last words to Her Majesty's Government. They are, "Use all the means at your disposal for forming public opinion and for helping public opinion to know what our aims are and to appreciate the points of view of our Allies." In the free world, at any rate, foreign policy in the long run must depend for its success upon the support of public opinion. That is why I think that our foreign policy in this country has been so successful ever since the war. It is because it has had the support of both sides of the House and of opinion in the country. But there is a danger that on both sides of the Atlantic opinion is being passively allowed to form itself or is being actively led astray.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) began by referring to the speech of the Prime Minister on 11th May, to which he paid a great compliment. I want to pay an equal compliment to another speech, made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, which was equal to the Prime Minister's speech in temper, authority and purpose. There are times when this House has a really electric atmosphere and 11th May was one of those occasions. One realised that the House of Commons, which often talks to the world, was talking to the world on that occasion.
It was one of those days when, after a long period of diplomatic inaction and morass, hopes began to spring in the world because the Soviet Union stated that there was no issue that could not be settled by process of negotiation. The speeches on that occasion matched the issues which were involved. Today's speeches, so far, have tended to run on the lines of a serial. Sometimes, in listening to a debate on foreign affairs, one has an impression which drives one to utter the conclusion, "This is where we came in." The debate seems to go on and on and the 289 same points are elaborated, built up, spread out and protracted until one is lost in the verbiage and the kernel of the few essential factors cannot be found.
I should like to deal with some of those factors for a few minutes, because it is always sensible to look at the issues involved in world policy through the eyes of the people with whom we are trying to deal. I believe that at present it can be said that the diplomatic corps of this country have more elbow room than they have had for some time. It is elbow room of which we ought to take advantage. That is why when the Prime Minister suggested that a meeting of heads of State should take place without a strict agenda his suggestions were received with general acclamation. Had it taken place the leaders would have been called together to discuss mutual difficulties at the top level.
I must be cautious in my speech. The past seven years have taught me to be cautious in the field of foreign affairs. We must remember a man of great stature, a great trade union leader who, unfortunately, died too soon, not only broken in health but also broken in heart. He died of a broken heart largely because of the terrific endeavours that he made in foreign affairs, which never reached fulfilment. There was a man used to difficult negotiations in his own difficult field, yet it is true to say that he never met anything so consistent as the dark theme of Soviet policy during those difficult years. There was never one slight deviation on the theme of Soviet policy all these years.
When one looks back on the policies of Yalta, Potsdam, Casablanca and Teheran, one can see one central theme running right through them. It is when one reads the history of those days and sees the misjudgments of great statesmen like President Roosevelt in regard to the Soviet, that one becomes extremely cautious of how we should proceed. If one looks back at the Palais Rose conference, when the deputies of the foreign nations were given the task of forming an agenda, one recalls that they met week after week and did not succeed in their task.
The first question we have to decide is whether the policy of the Soviet Government, following the death of Stalin, reflects a change in tactics or in strategy. 290 It is always as well to view these issues through the eyes of the Kremlin, and that is very difficult because one is never sure whose eyes one should be looking through. I should imagine that the top 12 in charge are looking over their shoulders to see who is next to "get it in the neck."
No one would have thought that in a little over 12 weeks a person with the power of Beria, controlling the secret police of all Russia and the satellites, with an armed police force equipped with tanks and field guns, would have been labelled before the free world as a traitor to the cause which he was supposed to be serving. That is a remarkable thing, and one begins to wonder what will happen next, and whom we shall have to deal with.
In my opinion, there can never be a democracy with three people occupying the top position of the Soviet Union. One has got to emerge. Who it is to be, no one knows. When this triumvirate was formed, I said to myself, "It will be Beria first and Molotov second." I was wrong. But I think that in the end Molotov will emerge as the top one of the three. The man in charge of negotiations is never put in the forefront. Even in Britain it is not Harry Pollitt; it is Palme Dutt. That is the case in every nation. When we are dealing with a man who is conducting negotiations involving issues which affect the rest of the world, it is best to be cautious.
What we can be sure of is this. The world has now reached a military stalemate. There can be no victory in Korea unless the United Nations intend to pursue an all-out war. Nothing that President Rhee must be allowed to do should delay for one moment the signing of an armistice. The Far East, and especially Korea, want a breathing space as soon as they can get it. There has been talk in this House and in the newspapers about extending the war to China, but it has never happened. I have never believed that the Chinese people themselves would ever become Communist. The matriarchal and patriarchal system in Japan and China are so ingrained that they do not lend themselves to Communism as such.
Here we have a vast impoverished continent which has been war-ridden, 291 perhaps for 400 or 500 years, and which has never been allowed to develop. Out of this new system of government may come an agreement whereby the peoples of China can enjoy a fuller and happier life. That is why I am thankful that wiser counsels prevailed when we advanced to the Yalu border in 1951, and China was not invaded. There are issues in China which will resolve themselves.
The elbow room which we can exercise diplomatically in China is vital to us. Let us look at Manchuria. Russia got a strangle-hold on the raw materials of Manchuria, and the Chinese will not tolerate this for ever. China will begin to want to lead her own life, and that is when British diplomacy will exercise its great force. We talk of genuine fears. Russia and America have genuine fears. So have we. But let us remember that in this global strategy, if we can resolve the difficulties which confront the peoples of the various continents on the basis of parity of responsibility and mutual aid, we shall have got somewhere.
We talk of the American attitude to Formosa and our attitude to Chiang Kaishek. But let us consider the Philippines, Hawaii and Pearl Harbour, and bear in mind that the bomber stations on those islands constitute a defence of the whole of the waterways of the United States. Tribute has been paid to the United States and to the aid which she has given to the world. I fully endorse that, but let us remember that we in this country have very little time, for reasons which we all know. If a period of comparative peace comes to the world, a period in which industry has to live on its own initiative and exports, then Great Britain will be in a very poor position. These vast markets in the East are as vital to us as to anybody. The quicker we can have them opened to us, the better.
It will not always be possible to sustain the life of the people in these islands on the standards which we have achieved unless we get an expansion of trade. It may so happen that once the American aid on which Japan is at present largely subsisting comes to an end, Japan will become an active competitor at lower prices in the Far Eastern markets. We have the same problem in Germany and France. Indeed, there is the same problem all over the world, of countries build- 292 ing their manufacturing secondary exports, which will compete with the goods that we sell. Unless we can produce our capital goods at prices which can compete with those of other countries, especially Germany, we are in for a very rough time.
I remember my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition saying, in a previous speech, that when the river is jammed with logs it is best to try to extract one log to get the rest moving. Which log do we take out? Is it to be Korea, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia or Poland? Which log should we take out to get them all moving? We have to make up our minds to take one log out. I fail to see why we do not regard Germany as the major problem. If we can get a settlement over Germany, all the other problems will fall into their right perspectives.
We must remember that when we talk about freedom we are talking here, in the British House of Commons, with the right to walk outside without being arrested, so long as we remain within the limits of the law. But things do not happen like that in some other countries. No one can deny that Czechoslovakia was not a great democracy in the days of Masaryk and Benes, but she went the way that Poland went. The whole world on the other side of the Iron Curtain is seething with discontent.
Russia, although she did not know it, lost the battle for Europe at the time of the Berlin airlift. If we had failed then, the position would have become extremely difficult for Western Europe. This effort, in some ways comparable to our effort in the Battle of Britain, owed its success largely to the drive and initiative of General Clay, of the United States. The effort was made; it cost British and American lives, but if we had failed then the signal would have been given for Russia to go ahead.
We have N.A.T.O., and we have the E.D.C. It is asking a lot to include Germany in such organisations. She was responsible for two world wars and enormous bloodshed, destitution and poverty in Europe, but if her inclusion is the only guarantee that France will accept, what are we to do? Whatever happens, we must not allow the United States to withdraw from N.A.T.O. That 293 would leave Germany the dominant power in Europe.
The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. G. Longden) expressed the fear that America might return to a policy of isolation. She can never do that; she is too heavily committed the world over, but we must make sure that she never leaves N.A.T.O. The question whether or not to include Germany is a matter for high politics. The question whether it will bring about a period of guaranteed peace, with effective guarantees with regard to armaments and a general drive, afterwards, for disarmament in Europe and, it may be, in the world, needs careful consideration.
The comparable decision at the other end of the scale is whether China should be a member of U.N.O. We recognised the Communist Government of China—and I do not think that either side of the House regrets it—although China did not recognise us at the time. If there has to be some straight and hard talking between us and the United States on these points, let us have it.
Great hopes sprang up in the world after the two great speeches in this House on 11th May. During the last seven years the world has had only the golden threads of hope to hang on to. If those hopes are to be realised, and we can clearly see the way ahead, let us by all means have the meeting between the heads of States, which the Prime Minister suggested, as quickly as possible. Let us go forward and realise that, perhaps for the first time for two or three decades, the world may again live in peace.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr (Cambridge)
I am glad that hon. Members on both sides of the House have paid their tributes to the United States of America. I know that some of the things which the Americans say about us simply madden us, and some of the things we say about them madden them, but I recall the old proverb:Little pebbles hurt more than large stones.However, these are differences between friends. The future of the world depends on the alliance of the free peoples of Europe, the British Empire and Commonwealth, and United States of America.
294 Today, hon. Members have been discussing the possibility of four-Power talks. The objective of those talks is peace. We all realise that this country must have peace if it is to recover in the second half of the 20th century. I expect that hon. Members listened, as I did, on that morning of 6th June, 1944, when heavy, droning bombers overhead foretold the invasion of Normandy, and we all prayed that that invasion would not prove to be a second Passchendale or a second Dardanelles.
To bring peace to the world we shall have to solve two great problems. First, there is the overwhelming problem of the growth of population and, secondly, there is the even more pressing one—the fact that world production is not keeping pace with that growth of population. We have to find the answer, whether we are Communists or Democrats and whether we live in Asia, Europe or the Americas. If good intentions on our part had been able to produce peace we should have had it long ago.
I well remember the gestures of good will which we made towards the Russian people during the war. I remember Lady Churchill's Red Cross Fund; the presentation of the Sword of Stalingrad, and the Red Army Week. When the late Mr. Bevin—whose death we all lament, and who was so greatly respected—made that 50 years' treaty with the Soviet people, I hoped that we should have a certain guarantee against a resurgence of German aggression. But, alas, we were deceived.
§ Mr. Kerr
That came as a result of Russian action. I had not fully read my Karl Marx at the time. I hoped there would be no cause for conflict, politically or economically, between the peoples of the West and the Soviet Union. I confess that I was wrong. We realised, from the time of the Berlin airlift onwards, that the relentless strategy of the Soviet ruling class was the fostering of world revolution.
I now submit that the policy of peace through strength has alone been responsible for the improved situation in the world today. The hard fact, from which we cannot escape, is that the alteration 295 in the balance of power has caused the Russian leaders to think we hope in terms of conciliation. The fact that the United States have great industrial resources, that its strategic air force can deal formidable blows, has deterred the Russian general staff rulers from possible recourse to further aggression.
We must face the fact that we may now be seeing a Russian retreat from Europe. It may be true that the Russian leaders have realised that the workers of Europe are not at heart, or by instinct, collectivists. They are individualists, by tradition and education. They think in terms of a home of their own, a job, a living wage, and a chance for their children. The Russian nature is different. When I was in Moscow in 1937 I was very impressed, when I went to some of the great collective tenements, by the fact that all the inmates would collect in one room, on certain nights, to discuss a great topical question. They have a collectivist instinct, which does not exist in Europe.
Therefore, when we go to these conversations we must realise that a Russian retreat in Germany may likewise mean a Russian advance in Asia. For amongst the people of Asia and Africa there exists a situation, exploitable by Communist propaganda, a new nationalism, the raucous voices of the colour conflict. I would say that there would be one test of Russia's good intention on these forthcoming conversations. I give this in the words of Mr. Vyshinsky, "Peace is indivisible." If Russia aims to alter her policy she must end the cold war first and foremost. A major strategic objective of our policy must be to prevent the peoples of Asia ever uniting in a mass against us. We must offer a better way of life than can the Communists.
Secondly, the question of Germany was mentioned in the course of the debate. There are many important facts arising from the situation in Germany. First, no German will rest so long as Germany is divided. Germany is determined to build up a united country. Further, we cannot hope to defend Europe without the help of German contingents. Lastly, we must face the prospect of a powerful Germany, in alliance with the free 296 peoples, and, at the same time, able to dominate them in a way which she has never been able to do before—even by force.
I therefore support the theme put forward by the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. Healey) when he spoke at Strasbourg, that the one solution in the long run is to bring Germany into N.A.T.O. Our French friends will fear this prospect. But the decisive factor is surely this: for the first time in history the great power, wealth and resources of the United States, allied to the British Empire and Commonwealth, is invested in support of the people of Europe. It is within the wider framework of N.A.T.O. that the enormous potential resources of Germany must be harnessed to the resources of all the free people. And it provides us with the only sure guarantee that a united Germany will not, at some future date, pick a quarrel with the East and drag us unexpectedly into war.
If we place some hopes in these conversations we know, at the same time, that the balance of power is the decisive factor. But we also know, that the balance of power may preserve peace but it cannot win peace in the long run. I do not think that war ever really solves our difficulties. We beat the Japanese, but the Japanese problem remains. We beat the Germans, but the German problem remains. I believe that we can only unite people if we unite them in joint service to joint ideals.
A short time ago we all went to the great Coronation service in the Abbey. I recall a leading article in "The Times," which said that the great Gothic Abbey, which superseded the Abbey of Edward the Confessor, was designed as a symbol of reconciliation between the Norman and the English people. It was designed in the wonderful style of the Gothic art which, in the words of Henry Adams, the American historian, was the only "Art that flung its passion against the sky." It was a symbol of service to a joint ideal. Only that will win peace in the long run. We have to ask ourselves what our policy should be, not which is right, but what is right. When we have decided, let us do it.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Mikardo (Reading, South)
If I do not begin by commenting on the speech which we have just heard from the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Hamilton Kerr) that is not out of any lack of courtesy to the hon. Gentleman but because he confined his remarks for the most part to general propositions and general principles which I am sure would command support and respect from all sides of the House.
I feel almost that I ought to preface my remarks by the conventional plea for the indulgence of the House, because although I have been a Member for eight years this is the first time that I have spoken in a foreign affairs debate. In recent times these debates have largely been conducted by a handful of hon. Members on both sides of the House who have come to acquire a reputation, and in a few cases even to earn a reputation, as experts in this field. Perhaps it would be a refreshing change for the House to hear the views of one who is the veriest amateur in this subject, one who can bring to bear on it nothing more than a plain man's honest curiosity and simple judgment, one, in fact, who may almost claim the honour of speaking not for the wise, the learned and the experienced, but for the man in the street.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) reminded us that two months ago the ordinary folk of this country, and of many other countries, experienced a surge of excitement as a result of the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in our last foreign affairs debate. For years they have been weighed down by the perplexity and the threats and fears of the cold war. They could not see how it was ever going to end, but they had a feeling that there was just a chance of bringing it to an end if only the leaders of the four great Powers would get together and really have a genuine shot at it.
The ordinary people just could not understand why this idea of a high level conference, an uninhibited and straight-from-a-blank-sheet-of-paper conference, which seemed an obvious and simple one to the man in the "pub," got no public support except from a very few of my hon. Friends on the back benches on this side of the House. Then, on 11th May, the Prime Minister became the most notable 298 and the most important convert to this idea. His plea for a top level conference, and especially for a conference unhibited by officials or detailed agendas or a lot of punctilio, sounded a reverberating note right round the world and brought a new hope to millions of people who had almost given up daring to hope.
Then, last week, in Washington, Lord Salisbury muted down the reverberating chord which the Prime Minister had struck to the plaintive peep-peep of a penny tin whistle. Today, the Chancellor did very much the same. He dealt a death-blow to the policy which the Prime Minister announced on 11th May. The whole burden of the Chancellor's speech today was, "I come to bury Churchill, not to praise him." That was a piece of Anthony's speech, delivered not by Anthony but by Brutus.
It was obvious on 11th May, while the Prime Minister was speaking, that many of his right hon. and hon. Friends, on both the back benches and the Front Bench, were by no means enthusiastic about the fresh initiative that the Prime Minister was taking, and, indeed, some of them have not been at all enthusiastic about it today. I suppose they felt it was much too unorthodox and much too unconventional and much too independent for the strait-laced conventions of the Conservative party.
Then the Prime Minister went sick, and the lesser men all around him got to work to tear down what he had been trying to build up. It was the mediocrities of the Conservative Party, the same people who had kept the Prime Minister out of office for all those years before the war, who seized on the opportunity presented by his illness to betray his hopes. It was the mediocrities of the Conservative Party who rather meanly seized the opportunity presented by his illness to betray the hopes which he himself had built up. While the cat was away, the mice started to eat away the foundations of his house.
If any hon. Member opposite thinks I am putting that a bit strongly, he has only to compare the rousing words of the Prime Minister on 11th May with the mock-Machiavellian, second-rate, dishonest verbiage of the Washington communiqué. I shall not quote in detail what the Prime Minister said about his hopes of a high level conference because the right hon. and learned Gentleman the 299 Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) gave it in full, but I shall pick out two phrases. The Prime Minister talked about a conference which…should not be overhung by a ponderous or rigid agenda….What does that look like in the light of the Washington communiqué? The Prime Minister also talked about a conference which should not be…led into mazes and jungles of technical details, zealously contested by hordes of experts and officials.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1lth May. 1953; Vol. 515, c. 901.]What is left of that in the light of the Washington communiqué?
It is obvious what the Prime Minister had in mind when he said that. He was hoping that personal and not too formal contacts between the great men of the great Powers would break down the East-West deadlock. He was hoping by this means to create a climate of relationships in which a more formal and detailed conference, later, would have some chance of success. Above all, he was hoping, as he frankly said, to take advantage of the new situation in Russia and give encouragement and help to the liberalising elements in the Kremlin in their struggle against the obstinately hostile sector of Russian opinion. His actual words were:I am anxious that nothing in the presentation of foreign policy by the N.A.T.O. Powers should … supersede or take the emphasis out of what may be a profound movement of Russian feeling."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 900.]That was a new and really independent British initiative. It was the first time that Her Majesty's present Government had done anything more than allow itself to be dragged along at the cart-tail of the United States of America. But the communiqué which the acting Foreign Secretary signed last week was a complete and abject surrender. Mr. Dulles must have been very pleased to discover that the acting Foreign Secretary has considerably less guts and considerably less independence than Syngman Rhee.
In the light of all this, it is no wonder that the Washington communiqué has affronted almost every section of British public opinion. I do not suppose that one could spread the gamut of the British Press any wider than the space between the "Daily Mirror" and the "Observer." 300 It was the "Daily Mirror" which described the communiqué asa distressingly platitudinous document which seems to have been drafted by the dead right foot of Mr. Dulles.Going to the other end of the gamut, there is Mr. Sebastian Haffner, who wrote of the two Washington communiqués in last Sunday's "Observer," in equally powerful, though slightly less colourful, language:The two overlong communiqués read in parts more like extracts from a Republican election speech than like the businesslike statements of responsible statesmen; some passages … bear little relation to the realities of the situation and others are frankly sheer gibberish.I am bound to say that I agree with him. What does the House make of this passage from the communiqué:Since the European community corresponds to the lasting needs of its members and their people for peace, security and welfare, it is to be looked upon as necessary in itself and not linked up with existing international tensions.One could not find anything more polysyllabicly platitudinous even in a Cominform communiqué. In fact, this is almost identical with, and highly reminiscent of the language of the Cominform communiqués.
I am sorry to have to say it, but I cannot escape the conclusion that the invitation extended to the Russians in the Washington communiqué has been deliberately designed to ensure that there will not be an agreement with them. The Western Foreign Ministers have gone out of their way—my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) pointed this out most clearly and cogently—to present the Kremlin with a set of conditions in advance which they know perfectly well that the Kremlin cannot and will not accept.
On this, I quote Mr. Haffner again. He wrote:The Russians are invited to sit down to discuss a very narrowly circumscribed, and somewhat one-sidedly selected, agenda: the organisation of free elections in Germany, the establishment of a German Government … and the Austrian Treaty. It strikes the eye at once that on all these three items the Russians, to assure the success of the conference, would have to make considerable concessions and the Western Powers would have to make none.Mr. Haffner goes on:It is certain that … the attempt to impose one-sided, piecemeal concessions on 301 the other side while reserving and maintaining all one's own cold war positions … is doomed to failure from the start. There is no earthly reason why the Russians should agree to free German elections only in order to see the whole of Germany, instead of one-half of it, added to the opposite camp in a continuing cold war.What then has become of the Prime Minister's anxiety that our presentation of foreign policy should take advantage of what, as he said, may be a profound movement of Russian feeling? Out of the mystery that surrounds what has been happening in the Kremlin during the last two or three weeks—I agree with those who have already spoken that no one knows precisely what it means—one thing seems reasonably clear, that there are some people in the Kremlin who are less hostile and some who are more hostile to the Western world.
That is as far as one dare go. What the acting Foreign Secretary and his colleagues did in Washington is the very opposite of what the Prime Minister wanted to do. They have encouraged our intransigent enemies and discouraged those Russians who seem to want to find some way in which they can live at peace with the world.
Not only does the Washington communiqué appear to aim at the continuation of the cold war in Europe; it also appears to aim at the continuation of the troubles in Asia. The acting Foreign Secretary seems to have run away completely from the Government's past position about the recognition of Communist China after a Korean truce has been signed. Moreover, the Foreign Ministers very foolishly committed themselves to what can only be an indefinite extension of the war in Indo-China.
One of the things that make European problems so difficult at present is the seemingly chronic weakness of our friends in France. That weakness, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) reminded us, is due primarily to the long, arduous and expensive campaign which they have carried on for so long in Indo-China. Does anybody really expect that, when a truce is signed in Korea, French public opinion, which is already not very enthusiastic about the Indo-China campaign, will be willing to accept a situation in which France will be the only Western country carrying on an active war in 302 Asia? I do not believe that that will be so.
It would not be so bad if the French were winning it or if they had any expectation or any reasonable hope of winning it. The Chancellor reminded us today that the new French commander in chief, General Navarre, spoke glowingly about the prospects of victory. We all know that generals and parliamentary candidates always speak glowingly about the prospects of victory whatever they feel the situation really to be, but it is clear that, in fact, General Navarre is not all that optimistic.
This is what an authoritative report says about his recent inspection of the campaign and of the situation in Indo-China:Despite his optimistic public assertions on victory prospects, it is understood from members of his own staff that the General was seriously alarmed by his first visit of inspection and came back convinced that there is at the present time a quicker build-up of weapons, and more particularly of manpower, on the Communist than on the French side.All round, then, it looks as though the Western Foreign Ministers, in respect of both Europe and Asia, are trying to encourage or frighten the Eastern Powers into continuing their intransigence. And this situation makes nonsense of the past attitude of Her Majesty's Government and of the American Government that we must build up our armed forces in order to be able to negotiate from strength.
For the last year or two the State Department has been telling us that the time was not opportune to negotiate with the Russians because we were comparatively weak and they were camparatively strong. Now the Americans say that the riots in Berlin and the upheavals inside Russia prove that the Russians are weak and we are comparatively strong, so there is no need to negotiate with them. That is their line, that when you are weak and the other fellow is strong, it is the wrong time to negotiate; and when you are strong and the other fellow is weak, you then have him on the run and there is no need to negotiate. So, in either case, you never negotiate.
It may be asked why, if that is the view of the American authorities, the State Department agreed to even an inadequate four-Power conference, a doomed-to-failure four-Power conference, of the type 303 described in the Washington communiqué. The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. G. Longden) said that Mr. Dulles agreed to it because Lord Salisbury persuaded him to do so. The hon. Gentleman must be even more naïve than he looks, and that is something which it is difficult to believe.
The real answer to the question, why did Mr. Dulles agree to this, is the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick. It is simply that Mr. Dulles' rôle as Secretary of State is at present only his secondary rôle; his primary rôle is to act as election agent for Dr. Adenauer in the forthcoming German elections. Dr. Adenauer is the darling of the State Department.
I was in the United States when the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were there. They left and then, a little while afterwards, Dr. Adenauer came over. It was noticeable to see the difference in the treatment of the two right hon. Gentlemen on the one hand and Dr. Adenauer on the other. The two representatives of Her Majesty's Government were treated like poor relations who had dropped in to borrow half-a-crown. They were seated well below the salt, and Dr. Adenauer was seated well at the head of the table and given all the choicest pickings off the fatted calf.
It is Dr. Adenauer, after all, who for a long time has been the most notable and most persistent opponent of four-Power talks on German unification. Then, on 17th June, there were those riots in East Berlin and (hey led to such an upsurge of feeling in Germany in favour of unification that Dr. Adenauer realised that he could not maintain his opposition to four-Power talks without seriously damaging his electoral chances. Therefore, he told the State Department that he agreed and the Washington communiqué explicitly mentions his agreement. He told the State Department he agreed that there should be four-Power talks, but he has only done it to tide himself over until after polling day on 6th September. I promise the House—and I am quite happy to be challenged on it after the event—that we shall see the attitude of Dr. Adenauer to the four-Power conference hardening all over again the minute the election results have 304 been declared, indeed, the minute the last vote is cast.
The real objective of the Ministers' meeting in Washington was not to reset the world stage; it was the much lower objective of carrying out an electoral manoeuvre on behalf of one of the parties which is to contest the West German elections. We are almost back in the days of the Palais Rose in 1951, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) has such bitter memories. We are in a worse position than we were then because, that conference started, although it did not take long before it went wrong, as a genuine attempt to reach agreement.
Now I do not believe that genuineness is there. As "The Times" said last Friday—and "The Times" is not normally critical of the Foreign Office:The decision to invite the Russians to talks on German unification … was agreed to by Mr. Dulles with marked reluctance.So we are starting in an even worse position than we started that awful 19 weeks in the Palais Rose, and that is not an augury for the success of this conference. One cannot escape the conclusion that the Government, with the hand of the Prime Minister off the helm, has blundered badly in this matter and has suffered a resounding defeat on the diplomatic front.
Finally, I want to comment briefly on one other subject which again deals with a diplomatic defeat of Her Majesty's Government. That subject has already been mentioned once or twice today. It is Egypt. Seeing the mess that the Government have got themselves into in their negotiations with the Egyptians, one cannot help recalling the fine words which they all uttered during the General Election campaign in 1951. In those clays their spokesmen went around the country making light of the Egyptian problem. They said it was easy, that it was only the Labour Government that was bungling. All that had to be done was to change the Government and have a Conservative Foreign Secretary and the thing could be settled almost by the waving of a magic wand. The Prime Minister himself said on 17th October, 1951:The sooner the present tottering Ministers are replaced by a stable British Government with a strong majority and a long period 305 of calm and steady rule before it, the sooner will the dangers of violence and loss of life in the Middle East be diminished.I ask any hon. Gentleman opposite, I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of State, whether he can say, after the events of the last few months, that the dangers of violence and loss of life in the Middle East have been diminished since the party opposite took power. Of course they have not. There we see all their team—the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the acting Foreign Secretary, the Minister of State, the Joint Under-Secretary of State—all of them outwitted, outfought, outgunned, by an Egyptian major with little experience in diplomacy but with a considerable talent for dancing in his underwear.
The right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who on the subject of Egypt roared like lions in the General Election campaign of 1951, are now revealed for what they are—poor little lambs who have lost their way, baa, baa, baa. In almost all these fields, wherever one looks, one sees that in foreign affairs Her Majesty's Ministers present at this time, more than at any previous time, a sad picture of men weak and uncertain and blundering.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Fitzroy Maclean (Lancaster)
The hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) told us that this was his maiden speech in a foreign affairs debate. I hope that he will make many more of these speeches, because foreign affairs debates are apt to be rather dull performances and he certainly contributed something very much livelier than we are generally forced to listen to. I enjoyed every moment of it. I was also particularly grateful to the hon. Member for summing up so concisely, for crystallising, so to speak, the arguments which have been advanced by speakers on the other side of the House, starting with the Leader of the Opposition and runing the whole way through.
I have never seen such a display of disingenuousness and shadow boxing in all my life. Hon. Members opposite start by assuming that the whole idea of high level talks with Russia has been dropped, that that policy has been thrown overboard and has been sabotaged by the present proposals, and so on. That shows a complete disregard for the facts. The party opposite do themselves less than 306 justice in taking that line. Not only that, but they also expose themselves very badly indeed. When one considers their record in the matter of relations with Russia, they do not have very much to be proud of.
What did we inherit from the party opposite? When the present Government took office, we inherited from them a complete deadlock as far as our relations with the Soviet Union were concerned. There had not been any conversations to speak of for a very long time, and the last ones had ended in complete failure. What is more, at the General Election which resulted in their being, quite rightly, removed from power, they did everything in the course of their Election campaign to queer the pitch for their successors.
Most things are fair at a General Election, but when a country has been trying to have a bi-partisan foreign policy and has up to a point succeeded—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] When hon. and right hon. Members opposite were in power, we supported them in the main on all the big issues of foreign affairs. The Leader of the Opposition must know that on a great many occasions we supported him when a great many hon. Members behind him did nothing of the kind, and it was only thanks to the support of this party that he managed to carry that policy through.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
The hon. Member has said that with regard to Russia his party inherited deadlock. Now he claims that there was a bi-partisan policy. Would he not also claim responsibility for that deadlock?
§ Mr. Maclean
We supported the measures of which we approved. We did not support the deadlock. We were not responsible for the detailed carrying out of the then Government's policy. We certainly supported the general lines of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin's policy. We do not accept responsibility for the fact that there was a good deal of bungling on various levels.
The fact remains that there was what was generally agreed to be a bi-partisan foreign policy—or perhaps it would be more correct to say that the previous Government enjoyed a substantial measure of support from this side of the House in matters of foreign affairs and 307 of defence. In spite of that, in the course of their Election campaign hon. Members opposite did everything they could to queer the pitch for their successors. The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) went so far as to say that if a Conservative Government were returned the country would be involved in war with Russia within 12 months. That was spread all round the country in every constituency. It was one of the biggest smear campaigns in our history.
§ Mr. Maclean
Having done that, and having done everything they could in that Election campaign to queer our relations with Russia, and having laughed at and dismissed as a mere Election stunt my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's appeal at the Election before in his Edinburgh speech for high level talks with the Russians, hon. Members opposite now have the audacity to set themselves up to criticise the very satisfactory result which has been achieved at the Washington Conference.
The fact is that, if the Russians want agreement with the West—and to my mind that is at the moment an open question—they will not be put off by a few drafting points or by the fact that the preliminary conference is held between Foreign Ministers rather than Prime Ministers. Why on earth should they?
Reference was made earlier in the debate to the Soviet-German Pact. How was that negotiated? The Soviet-German Pact was negotiated through the ordinary diplomatic channels. The negotiations were conducted secretly and against a background of mutual hostility and abuse by permanent officials. It was quoted just now as an example of a high level conference, but as far as I remember it was only brought on to a high level on 23rd August, 1939, when Ribbentrop flew to Moscow and that evening he and Stalin signed the agreement. But all the preparations were made, not on a political level at all; they were made through the ordinary permament officials. That is a very good example of the fact that if two countries want an agreement they will get an agreement.
§ Mr. Attlee
On that point, I understood that the hon. Member blamed us because we had not obtained talks between our Foreign Secretary and Molotov. At that time there was always clamour for a higher level meeting. Now it is the other way.
§ Mr. Maclean
Why does the right hon. Member assume it is quite the other way, that there is not going to be a meeting between Prime Ministers, and all that has been dropped? What reason has he for saying that? These preliminary discussions may not be on the very highest level—they are on the Foreign Ministers' level—but that is not a reason why they should not succeed. I am pointing to the Soviet-German Pact which someone called a "disastrous success," as an example of how top level preliminary conversations are not an essential condition to an international agreement. There is no reason why talks on a broader basis should not follow later.
I cannot understand why hon. Members opposite dislike so much the idea of stating our attitude over the key problems of Germany and Austria at the beginning. The Russians never fail to state their attitude over these problems. Why should we not mention in advance one or two things we want to discuss? That does not preclude us from discussing other questions, nor does it preclude the Russians from stating their attitude. Why should hon. Members assume that because we have taken a perfectly reasonable attitude on these questions it means these negotiations are going to break down and the whole idea of high level discussions is to be dropped? I see no reason for that at all.
On the question of the discussions and how they are likely to proceed, I must say I am all in favour of talking to the Russians. I think that to say one is not going to talk to the Russians, or that it is dangerous to talk to them, is pure defeatism. There is no reason whatever to make a bogy of the Russians. What is absolutely essential is that before we go into such conversations we should know what our own aims are, and that we should bear in mind certain very important considerations.
As we all know, there have of late been a number of very important changes in the Soviet Union. It is very difficult for anybody outside the narrow circle of 309 the Kremlin to know exactly what those changes in personnel and changes of policy really mean. In fact, I would say it was impossible. But I do think we want to be very careful—as one hon. Member opposite said in a very remarkable speech—not to make the assumption that these changes mean a fundamental change of attitude. We do not want to make the assumption that they are necessarily strategical changes. They are much more likely to be purely tactical changes.
If we look back over the last 30 odd years we shall find that there have been a great many shifts and changes in the course of Soviet policy. But so far, though this may not necessarily apply in the future, the basic aim of Communist policy has always remained the same, namely, the destruction of the non-Communist world and the substitution of a Soviet or Communist regime in as large a part of the world as possible. Sometimes they approach that object gently, sometimes they approach it more violently, but up to the present that has remained the constant aim of their efforts. That is why it is so dangerous to start talking, as some hon. Members opposite have done, about the special qualifications of a Socialist Government for talking to the Soviet Government. It shows a complete misapprehension of what it is all about.Left will talk to Left in comradeship and confidence,said Mr. Bevin in June, 1945, and, as somebody said just now, he lived to realise how wrong he had been. This is shown best by something Lenin said when he was asked whether the Communists should support the Social Democrats. He said:We will support them as the rope supports the hanged man.That is something which I think hon. Members opposite would do very well to bear in mind when they are talking about ideological differences.
To sum up, let us by all means have talks—preliminary talks on a lower level and subsequent talks on a higher level, but, above all, let us avoid wishful thinking. In particular, there has been wild speculation about the significance of the removal of Mr. Beria. A great many varying interpretations have been put upon his liquidation. Again, it is bound to be a matter of 310 guesswork, but I should say that it is most probably an internal affair, a question of personalities, a phase in the internal struggle for power, which need not necessarily have any international significance at all.
I was in Moscow when Mr. Beria was first appointed to the job of Commissar for Internal Affairs 15 years ago. He has had a very good run for his money because in the two or three years before that they had run through two or three Commissars for Internal Affairs. I remember seeing them go, one after the other. The usual procedure was that they were first appointed either Postmaster-General or Commissar for Water Transport. That was always a very bad sign; it meant that liquidation was about to follow. I remember seeing Yagoda, who was one of the most notorious chiefs of the O.G.P.U. in the whole history of the Soviet Union, in court after his own trainees, after the police officials he himself had trained, had done with him. It was not a very pretty sight indeed to see this man reduced to a state of abject submission by the people he himself had trained.
That followed a real or imaginary plot, but the important thing was that Stalin managed to strike first. Now Stalin's successors are, in my opinion, behaving in very much the same way. I am sure that the important thing in the Soviet Union, and perhaps in other circles, is to have complete control of the party. We all have party conferences approaching so perhaps that point is worth bearing in mind for us, too. It certainly applies in the Soviet Union.
Even though he has been in power for 15 years and even though he had behind him a force of tanks and field artillery, I think it would be a great mistake to assume, on the strength of Beria's liquidation, that the whole machine is breaking up, or, alternatively, that there is likely to be any radical change in Soviet policy. His liquidation may well have no effect on Soviet policy whatever. Certainly we should be very mistaken on the strength of it to relax our efforts in any way or to be any less watchful than we have been in the past. I think the leading article in "The Times" this morning put it very well when it saidthere has been no basic change in the facts of power.311 I am sure that is the assumption we should work on.
One thing is certain. The situation in the world and in Russia at the moment is in a state of flux. It is as uncertain as it can be, and to my mind that makes it all the more necessary for us to be strong and to have a firm policy and to act in concert with our allies. I welcome the Washington communiqué because it shows we are doing just that. Any settlement we conclude with Russia must be negotiated from strength. That does not mean that I oppose disarmament. But our position in relation to the Soviet Union must not be one of weakness but one of strength.
Any settlement must be negotiated jointly with our allies. There can be no question of a separate deal, a separate peace. It must on no account betray the principles for which we stand. It must not prejudice the national rights of Eastern European countries which at the moment find themselves under Soviet domination. On no account can we leave those countries to their fate. Once again I was glad to see that explicit reference to the countries in Eastern Europe made in the Washington communiqué. We have very definite obligations and commitments towards them. At the present time there are signs that the Soviet grip upon them is loosening—after all no one ever retreats unless they have to. And for that reason we must take the riots and unrest and disturbances behind the Iron Curtain seriously. With all that going on, we should do nothing which might possibly give the impression that we are leaving the people of Eastern Europe to their fate.
The cold war is still on. We do not want to continue it any longer than need be, but so long as it does continue we must take advantage of any passing weakness on the other side. We may be sure that they will take advantage of any weakness we may show. If we are proposing to drive a bargain it should be the best and the hardest bargain we can obtain. I do not believe that a settlement with Russia is impossible even though there is a fundamental conflict between our two ideologies. At one time it seemed as if it was impossible for the Moslems and the Christian world to live side by side in peace. But that has been achieved and I see no reason why a 312 similar result may not in time be achieved between the Communist and the non-Communist world.
Before the war we went through a period of relative quiescence so far as the Soviet Union was concerned. It was, so to speak, contained and gave relatively little trouble to anyone. If a balance of power can be established which keeps Russia quiet, I do not see why that should not happen again. But any such settlement must, I repeat, be based on Western strength, on Western unity and, above all, on Western loyalty to Western principles. If we betray those principles or show weakness, if we allow a wedge to be driven between ourselves and our allies, nothing will prevent this country and the world from becoming involved in another war.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, South-East)
I fully agree with the interpretation of the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Maclean) of the meaning of Beria's dismissal. I believe that it is not likely to prove very significant in foreign affairs. It is mainly a reflection of an internal struggle for power in the Soviet régime.
I should like to start by paying the Government some courtesies, none the less sincere for being conventional. First of all, I want to say how much I hope the Foreign Secretary will soon be back in control of British foreign policy, and, secondly, that I hope the Prime Minister will soon be back in his normal duties as the leader of the Government. Thirdly, I wish to congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the agility with which he tried to reinterpret the Prime Minister's speech of 11th May as compatible with the results of the recent Washington talks.
I find myself in a very small minority on both sides of the House in not sharing the general enthusiasm for the Prime Minister's recent foray into the field of diplomatic affairs. In my opinion, his speech of 11th May did much more harm than good. It is quite true that it fired the popular imagination throughout Europe, and some of my hon. Friends were so impressed that I almost thought they would change their personal allegiance. In my opinion, the concrete results of the Prime Minister's speech of 11th May were much more bad than good. One incidental minor result was 313 that it destroyed the stability of democracy on the Italian Peninsula, a point on which I shall have more to say later. It certainly delighted the Russians, who made that quite clear in "Pravda" articles, but it was not, in spite of all that, a very great contribution to peacemaking, because it annoyed all the allies without whose co-operation we cannot reach a settlement of any outstanding issues with Russia.
In the one sphere of foreign politics—the Middle East—in which it is in the Prime Minister's own hands to implement his policy, the Prime Minister seems to have put himself at the head of the "Keep Right" revolt against his own Foreign Secretary's attempts to make friends in the Arab world, with the results that we have seen in the last week in Ismailia. Personally, I shall not regret it at all if there are no more similar outbreaks of the old Adam in the Garden of Eden.
I do not myself, therefore, regret the temporary disappearance of the Prime Minister's original proposal for a conference of the Big Three Prime Ministers. It was quite clear in his speech that he did not intend to include the French Prime Minister. It has been said by earlier speakers that, if the Russians really want to reach a settlement, we are likely to find that both sides can use the usual normal diplomatic channels. We have found that to be the case on the question of the Berlin blockade, and of the Korean truce, and also, significantly, during the last week, in the resumption of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Soviet Union, because the first sign that the Russians wanted it came from the diplomatic approach of their diplomatic representatives in Sofia to the diplomatic representative of the Israeli State. I see no reason to believe that, if the Russians genuinely want a discussion of any outstanding issues, they will not make that attempt in the normal way through diplomatic channels.
I could not help avoiding the feeling when I read the Prime Minister's speech—I was in Strasbourg at the time—that he was hankering after the great days of Yalta and Teheran, when a few men, of whom he was one, sliced up the world into spheres of influence in an orgy of power politics. That proceeding was both 314 possible and necessary at the time, when we were allied with the Russians in a war against a fearful enemy who was by no means yet defeated. In the present situation, it is neither possible nor necessary, nor right, because the Big Three Powers cannot any longer, nor should they attempt to, decide the fate of all the other nations in the world against their opinion and without consulting them.
In fact, we are witnessing this year a most important change in the whole of world politics—a change that has been referred to variously by earlier speakers as a great flux. What is happening is that the post-war period of world politics is coming to an end, and world politics is no longer dominated exclusively by the three surviving victorious Powers. There are now other countries which can think and act for themselves in Europe, in the Middle East and in Asia.
It has become very apparent during the last few months that Britain and America, who since the war have largely set the whole tone of the policy of the Western World, can no longer count on the automatic support of their European allies. This was inevitable in any case as the continent of Europe recovered from the damage of the war, but it has been hastened by two other events.
First of all, the Americans, for some reason best known to themselves, have thought fit to announce two years in advance that there will be no more foreign aid after 1955. It is rather surprising to watch them, after having made this announcement, trying to exercise increasing pressure on their European allies when there is less force behind the arm which is trying to apply the pressure.
The second factor which has hastened this process is the apparent reduction in the Soviet threat to the Western World. In my opinion, the main purpose of the shift in Soviet policy—it is a genuine shift in policy, although it also has tactical aims—is to speed up the disintegration of unity in the Western World which has been built up since 1945, primarily under the aegis of Britain and the United States.
The fact is that the unity which has been built up in the West since 1945 is now more vital than ever, whether or not Russian policy continues to be a threat, because, with all the other countries in 315 Europe, in the Middle East and in the Far East coming on to the international stage in their own right, the world will soon relapse into the traditional anarchy of power politics, of which the inevitable end is war, unless something is done to reverse the process. In fact, this is precisely the prediction made by Mr. Stalin 18 months ago when he initiated the shift in Soviet policy in his famous pamphlet "The Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R."
How are we to react to this extremely dangerous situation which is developing? We must somehow try to get back the impetus behind the movement towards unity which has been built up since 1945, but we must recognise that any unity which we hope to build up must be based on the consent of all concerned, springing from genuine intellectual conviction. We can no longer rely to the same extent as previously on bribes or bullying.
We have seen on two occasions recently how the direct exercise of pressure by the United States Government on an Allied Government has had precisely the opposite results from what was intended. One case was the Italian elections, where the open intervention of the American Ambassador in Rome had a disastrous effect on the prospects of the Government. Another striking case was a series of threats made by the American Government to cut off economic aid to Europe if the Continental countries did not ratify E.D.C. There is every evidence that these threats have had the opposite result to what was intended.
The plain fact is, as many thoughtful writers on foreign affairs, such as Walter Lippman, have recently pointed out, that policies which have so far been dependent on American pressure are beginning to break down. The most important of these policies is the attempt to build a Continental Federation or European Community in Europe.
Several previous speakers have complained about the inordinate attention paid in Washington communiqués to European Defence Communities and to allied organisations. I think there is a very good rule in such cases, the motto to say nothing but good of the dead, or, as the Prime Minister would say, de mortuis nil nisi bonum. The fact is that the craft of European Community is 316 patently foundering in front of our eyes, and I think we can well leave it to spokesmen of the Government party in Strasbourg to fire expensive torpedoes at the sinking ship.
The main task which we now face is to get ahead with solving the problem of Germany, which is now already as the Federal Republic, a great Power in its own right. The problem can only be solved if we bring Germany into the only framework where she can have equality without predominance, and the only such framework is that of the Atlantic Community which was built up after 1945 in the first instance as a response to the Soviet threat.
The first big obstacle to that, of course, has been the sidetracking of this whole activity into the fruitless channels of the European Defence Community. I think we can neglect that, because it is certainly dead. The other great obstacle to including Germany into the Atlantic framework has been the argument, on which there was a great deal to be said on both sides, as to whether Western Germany should first be integrated into the Atlantic framework or first united with Eastern Germany.
But that argument has now been settled by the facts. The fact is that the German people will not want to be integrated into the Atlantic Community and the French people will not allow them to be so integrated until both have proved to their own satisfaction whether a settlement of the German problem is now possible by negotiations with Russia. That, and not the eloquence of the acting Foreign Secretary, is the reason why the conference at Washington proposed these four-Power talks.
There has been a natural reluctance to negotiate a settlement with Russia during the last few months because the Western Powers feared that they might find themselves divided once the possibility of negotiation really arose. The remarkable fact is that on Germany, which is the key to any settlement in Europe, there is remarkable unity both of aim and method among all the persons concerned on the Western side; both the Government and the opposition parties in Western Germany and in all the three Western Allied Powers, are agreed that German unity is 317 only acceptable on condition that there are free elections in the Soviet zone, and secondly, that a united Germany has freedom of foreign policy, freedom to choose her friends.
Let us be clear what freedom of foreign policy means. It means in practice at the present time freedom of Germany to join the West. There is no question whatever that a united Germany which came about this year would choose the West. It would be quite incapable of defending itself without Western protection for a long period, and the addition of the ruined Soviet zone to the Federal Republic would set back West German recovery by years, unless the united Germany were helped by the West pumping in supplies over a period. There is no question at the moment that a united Germany would join the West. If we got a united Germany, freedom to choose her friends would mean freedom to join the West.
The remarkable extent of agreement on this has been shown by the action of the main opposition party in Germany, the S.P.D., in voting for the Bundestag Resolution and also by the French Socialist Party, the largest single democratic party, and the most important opposition party, in France voting strongly against neutralisation of Germany at their party congress a fortnight ago. There can be no doubt in any of our minds that if we enter negotiation with the Russians on Germany unity, those conditions are what we must aim at. There is a case for arguing that it was very unwise of the Western Governments to embody these conditions in their Note to the Soviet Union as an agenda for the conference. I think it was very unwise indeed, and that the criticism made of that action is fully justified.
On the other hand, if the Russians really want a settlement of the German problem on any terms which are acceptable to the West they will certainly not be put off from entering negotiations by any awkwardnesses in the framing of the Western Note. If the Russians want a settlement they will approach us and take an opportunity of having a settlement, and they will not be put off by any stupidities in the form in which they have been approached.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)
The hon. Member said that it was unwise to insert certain conditions in the invitation issued to the Soviet Government. Perhaps he would not mind specifying what he thinks were the things which were unwisely inserted.
§ Mr. Healey
The Note which was sent to the Soviet Government, which is published today in a White Paper, concludes:The subjects for discussion should be the following:The Russians might well object when they get this Note that they cannot agree to the achievement of Western aims being made the agenda in the discussion, and that is how the agenda is drafted at the moment. On the other hand, if they want a settlement I think that they will not argue debating points like that, and far too much attention has been paid to debating points in this discussion up to now.
- (1) The organisation of free elections in the Federal Republic, the Eastern Zone of Germany and in Berlin….
- (2) Conditions for the establishment of a free all-German Government with freedom of action in internal and external affairs."
If we get these talks with Russia, and I sincerely hope that we shall, let us be quite clear that if we can get the unity of Germany under any acceptable conditions that will be by far the best result of the discussions, even from the point of view of selfish Western interests; because the sooner we get German unity the better for us, the less price we shall have to pay the Germans or the Russians for it and the less dislocation it will cause to Western policy for including a united Germany in the Western alliance.
But it is possible, of course, that the Russians will not meet all the conditions which we would consider the basic essentials. If that is the case it is absolutely vital that it should become clear from the negotiations that the break-down is the fault of the Soviet Government. If that does not become clear to both the German and the French people the present stagnation in Western policy is certain to continue, because Germany would not want to commit herself to the West and France would not want to see her integrated with the West.
319 That means that if in any negotiations Russia offers a large part of what we are asking we must be prepared to offer some concession on our part. I agree that we cannot weigh concession against concession, as somebody said, by a mathematical computation, but we must be prepared to show the Germans and the French, as well as the Russians, that we are prepared to give up something ourselves. Both positions on Germany are very rigid indeed, but I believe that there is one point on which flexibility is possible. There is no possibility whatever, of course, of a concession on a free election. That is an absolute sine qua non of any agreement whatever on German unity. Also I do not think that we can get a concession in principle on the question of freedom of foreign policy.
The neutralisation of a united Germany would be profoundly dangerous to the West and to Germany. It is the most important single factor here. The neutralisation of Germany would mean the withdrawal of all N.A.T.O. troops from Germany west of the Rhine. If that happened we would be giving up the possibility of defending N.A.T.O.'s northern flank, including the whole of Scandinavia and Holland, and would be making it almost certain that we could not defend France either, because there is not sufficient depth behind the Rhine for defending France.
The result is that the neutralisation of Germany would mean the breakdown of N.A.T.O., and the disintegration of the whole of the Atlantic Community. The second point of equal importance is that the neutralisation of Germany would only work as long as the Western Powers and Russia distrusted one another less than either of them distrusted Germany That certainly is not the case at the moment.
Of course, it would be very dangerous to accept neutralisation on a temporary basis, as was suggested earlier in the debate, because this moment is the one moment when we can be sure of a united Germany joining the West. If we have a united Germany neutralised and then give it time to lose all its dependence on Western support, by the time we give up neutralisation Germany is bound to join the East, so that we get the worst of both worlds.
320 On the question of neutrality we cannot budge an inch but we can budge an inch on the question of German rearmament. We can budge a great deal, because it is possible to integrate a united Germany politically and economically into the Atlantic community, provided the Atlantic Community is strengthened in the economic field, as the Chancellor suggested, without a united Germany at least in the early stages being militarily integrated with the Atlantic community.
The idea that a united Germany should be allowed to join E.D.C. is preposterous. The reason that the French will not ratify E.D.C. now is that they do not want to be locked up in a cellar with 50 million Germans. If it is a question of being locked up in a cellar with 70 million Germans, there is no question of the other countries in E.D.C. going through with it at all. Therefore, if Russia does offer free elections and, in principle, the freedom of foreign policy, the Western Powers should be prepared to concede German rearmament at least for the time being. That would mean that N.A.T.O. troops and Russian troops stayed in Germany as they do at present, but that we have a united German Government elected by free elections, free to integrate itself politically and economically with the West.
That is exactly the present situation of Austria. It is not a very nice situation but it is better than the present situation of a divided Germany with all its future potentialities for war. I believe that the Australian solution of the German problem, if rumour is correct, was at one time favoured by the Foreign Secretary himself. I am certain that the overwhelming majority of Germans would be prepared to accept unity at the price of continued disarmament under these conditions, and I know that the whole of the French nation would be only too glad. But it is conceivable that Dr. Adenauer himself might not be so prepared.
Here I must refer to the blatent and flagrant intervention of the Western Powers in the forthcoming West German elections. It is quite inexcusable, and it comes very ill from members of a party who have so often sneered at the Labour Party for wishing to pursue a Socialist Foreign policy. A foreign policy which depends entirely for its success on the permanent survival of an old German 321 statesman in power in Germany, although his party is dwindling in importance every day, is not even sensible.
I can understand if the Prime Minister has a guilty conscience after the catastrophic consequences of his last speech on the elections in Italy. But I would ask him to bear in mind that the intervention on the Government side of the American Ambassador in Rome was equally catastrophic to the then Italian Government, and it may turn out that the Western attempt to bolster Adenauer in this flagrant way—and we have seen other examples of it this week—will have the opposite result. Some of the damage which has been done could be repaired if the Allied Powers would consider associating the future German Government, whatever its political complexion, with the four-Power talks in some way or other. I leave that as a thought for consideration by the Government.
I feel that the Washington Conference has made a most valuable step forward and that, on the whole, it has pulled back Western policy on to more sensible lines, and although there are certain absurdities and stupidities in the actual framing of the documents which emerged, there has been created a basis for genuine negotiations with the Soviet Union on what is by far the most important of all the problems at present dividing us.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. C. J. M. Alport (Colchester)
I am sure I am not alone in this House in saying that I always listen with the very greatest interest to the contributions of the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey). Hon. Members on this side of the House do so, particularly, because we are always intrigued to find how far his presentation of the problems of foreign affairs differ from those not only of one or other group in his party, but, so far as I can make out, from everybody else in his party as well. It may be that our observation is inaccurate, but, for somebody whom we recognise as an expert, it seems peculiar that we should hear his lone voice condemning the Prime Minister for taking an initiative which the rest of his party, and public opinion generally throughout the Western World, has complimented and supported him in taking.
There is no reason why the hon. Member should not take an individual point 322 of view in this matter, but what rather worries hon. Members on this side of the House is the almost joyous way in which hon. Members opposite—particularly the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East—proclaims the death and the complete abandonment of E.D.C. The politics of this country at the present moment are littered with the abandoned brain-children of the late Socialist Administration, and E.D.C. is surely one of those.
§ Mr. Healey
Would the hon. Member agree that the proposal to form a European army was first made by the present Prime Minister at the Council of Europe in August, 1950, and that he then supported a resolution for the creation of an army with a federal superstructure, and did not deny the suggestion that he might be its Minister of Defence?
§ Mr. Alport
Whether or not he denied that suggestion, the proposal, emanating from the Pleven Plan, was taken up with very great alacrity by the late Administration, and was given, as we understood, it very great support. Now we find that it has been suddenly and completely abandoned, and instead, so we are instructed by the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East, we have to look upon the Atlantic Community as providing a prospect for that renewed unity which, I quite agree, is so essential at the present time.
It is surely not very encouraging to those whom we are asking to join us in unity in the Atlantic Community to find us simultaneously abandoning, apparently without a care in the world, the previous structure of unity upon which we placed so much reliance. I should have thought that a perfectly satisfactory and proper explanation of the attention paid to the E.D.C. in the communiqué was the feeling of the three Foreign Secretaries that it was quite vital that, at the present time, we should try to make up the ground which has undoubtedly been lost, mainly as a result of the fears of the French, and to try to carry through that experiment in European co-operation at a time when, as the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East quite rightly says, there are signs of the breaking up of that close unity of Western countries—particularly in Western Europe—which has existed in the last few years.
323 One of the things we must certainly do, at a moment when we no longer fear the Russian menace in the way we did two years ago, is to make sure that we do not surrender the unity and strength which made that freedom from fear possible. I agree that there is much to be said for a development of the Atlantic Community. It is most important that hon. Members on both sides of the House should pay full attention to the development of the idea of European unity, without which, in my view, many of the advances we have made during the last few years will be lost.
I am conscious this evening, and other hon. Members must surely have been conscious too, that in speaking on Foreign Affairs at the present time one runs a greater chance of being wrong than almost at any other time during the last seven years. I think that it is incumbent upon those of us who have the temerity to try to contribute to this debate to attempt to give the assumptions on which our remarks and conclusions are based. I think that the very remarkable speech of the hon. Member for Hammersmith. North (Mr. Tomney) was a particularly good example of the way in which we should apply ourselves to our problems at the present time.
My argument, for what it is worth, is based on three propositions. The first proposition is that the riots and strikes which have occurred in Berlin and Eastern Germany and in other satellite countries are of major significance to the future of Europe. They have turned, in my view, the satellites from being an asset of strength to the Soviet Union into being a potential liability, not only in peacetime but more especially in war.
I do not believe that the men equipped with the responsibilities of power in Moscow can ignore the portents of these strikes and unrest and the meaning this must have to Russian security in the West. I would have thought, therefore, that it would have been in the interests of Russia to be relieved so far as possible of direct responsibility for the administration and subjugation of these territories. I would have thought that now, as at no other time since 1945, there is a reasonable chance of Russia trying to withdraw—obviously from her point of view without loss of face or prestige—from the morass 324 of hatred and opposition which exists so far as the Soviet Union is concerned, and which has been the result of six, seven or eight years of Soviet domination of these countries. Therefore, if that is in the interests of the Soviet Union, I should have thought that if we were going to deal, as I hope we will, with the problem of Europe in negotiations with Russia we must deal with it, not as a German problem alone, but as a problem of Germany and the satellite countries as a whole, because I do not believe that these two problems can be disentangled.
The second significant thing which has happened during the last few weeks is the appearance of Germany as being the main political problem in foreign affairs. We have since 1946 been grappling with the problem of Russia. Now, as one hon. Member said, it seems to be almost a case of "this is where we came in." It is Germany once again that is our problem. It is my view—and I do not claim that I am any more right than anyone else—that the problem of the future development of the forces within Germany is not a problem of expansion towards the West but is now the problem of expansion towards the East. I believe that there are still forces within Germany that might, unless controlled, at some future date, not in the next five years or 10 years or perhaps even 20 years, lead Germany once again to try to repeat the experiment of 1914 and 1939, and that third time be successful.
I do not believe that these are the dominant forces in Germany at the present moment, but I think they can become the dominant forces unless we are thinking, in framing our policy, in terms not of this year or next year but of the next 20 years or more. It would be the gravest mistake if, in order to solve the immediate problem and to relieve ourselves of the immediate tensions, we were to create a new and even greater problem and greater tensions in the future derived not from the conflict between East and West, between Communism and the West, between Russian expansion and the West, but from the danger of a future development of German expansion once again.
As I have said, I believe that that expansion would not be directed against the West in the future. I believe that, if there is any lesson which any future 325 German statesman must learn from the experience of the last 50 years, it is that in trying any attempt to expand westwards the Germans bring themselves up against counter forces which will always defeat them. Therefore, it is towards the East that the danger lies. Even if I am wrong in all this supposition, I think these are the views and this is the appreciation which would be in the minds of Russia, and not only in the minds of Russia but also particularly in the minds of the satellite countries. If we are to bring liberation to the satellite countries—I believe that to be right—then we must not liberate them from Russia whilst at the same time placing them in jeopardy—they might suppose it to be in jeopardy—of German expansion in the future.
I believe there is a way of synthesising these two problems. If we can ensure some relaxation of the hold which Russia has upon the satellites, the quid pro quo—the Latin tag so often used in this debate—must be to ensure both for Russia and for the so-called satellites that their integrity and security in the future will be protected against the dangers of territorial expansion from Germany eastwards.
I realise that this is a very difficult subject indeed, but it is absolutely the key problem which we have to face at the present time. I have asked many German friends what is the meaning of German unity. Those words have been used often enough in this debate. What is German unity? What does it mean in terms of geographical expression, and if it means something today, can we be certain that it will mean the same thing in 10 or 20 years' time?
These are perfectly legitimate fears for us in this country, and for the French, and, indeed, for any of those countries which were involved at one time or another in two great world wars. It would be not only wrong with regard to the interests of our own people and those of the Western World but also a wrong to the Germans themselves if we did not get the Germans to face up to that problem at the present time. I believe that the future of Germany can rest in the hands of men who are willing and able to ensure that Germany makes her real, proper contribution—her historic contribution—to the free Western World, but 326 it is in Germany's interests, just as it is in our interests, that we do not leave a loophole to someone who wishes to follow in footsteps of the past to create or exploit an issue of German expansion in the future on a basis of nationalism which will lead to a return to a dictatorship of expansion which we have twice seen in our lifetime.
That is a problem which must be tackled. If we are prepared and able to tackle it now, I believe that, whatever might be the immediate reaction in Germany, it will be far easier to tackle it in 1953 than it would be to tackle it in 1963 or 1973 if the problem arose then. By tackling it and by ensuring that there is an understood and guaranteed definition of the meaning of German unity before we start talking about it too glibly, we shall make the best contribution to a return of confidence between East and West, involving at the same time the liberation of those satellite territories in the East which would be in the best interests of the Soviet because they would provide the essential buffer between the Soviet and Germany.
My third proposition is this. I am no expert in European affairs, or in the Council of Europe, but I feel the time may have come when the rhythm and pattern of our foreign policy and foreign relations over the last 400 years should be changed. Hon. Members will remember from their school days that Mary I, after the loss of Calais, went to her grave believing that the word "Calais" would be written on her heart. What was the significance of that? It was not a question of economics, of the value of Calais from a strategic or economic or material point of view. It represented the loss of the great mediaeval interests which Britain had on the Continent of Europe. During those years all our energies and inspiration, and our great cultural contacts, were directed to the Continent. It was only when that failed, and our interests and energies were forced out to the West, that we realised that the Continent was not as essential to us as mediaeval man had supposed.
I believe that times have changed and that the continent of Europe is just as essential to us today as it was in those days when we seemed so close to it and the New World was unknown. I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer catalogue 327 the commitments which Britain has undertaken on the continent. I was also glad to hear him say that we were going further than that, and that at the present moment discussions are taking place for a basis of political association.
I know it is an idea which causes a great deal of heart-searching on both sides of the House and, indeed, throughout the country. We are frightened of the idea of being federated, of having our liberty of action fettered by being too closely associated with the Continent. I understand that clearly, but I am not sure that this attitude is not a relic of 400 years of freedom and exploitation and expansion not on the Continent of Europe but away to the West and to the South.
I am sorry to put this against an historic background because it may seem so remote, but it may mean something to the House when I say that the connections we had in mediaeval days have some application to our present problems. We should accept the disadvantages, accept the commitments, accept all the hazards which a closer connection with Europe involve. I do not believe that this would mean a conflict with our Commonwealth or Empire interests. I do believe that unless we are able, with our leadership and through our contribution, to maintain the stability and integrity of Europe, it will not be possible on the next occasion to rely simply upon our connections with the Commonwealth and the outside world to rescue us and Europe together from the conflagration which may take place.
Therefore, what we really require is not only to make our contribution and to accept our commitments, but to undertake the leadership in Europe which that will entitle us to claim. The reason why the design of E.D.C., the design of the Schuman Plan and the design of these various institutions upon which Western European unity is based is not congenial to us is primarily because we have no part in deciding what their design should be. Now, I believe, we have perhaps learnt from our mistakes and we are accepting, through the policy of the Government, the new atmosphere which exists in the world and with that a new role for Britain, a role which will not be any 328 less significant and satisfactory for its people than the role which we have had historically during the last 400 years.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
As the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) was speaking, I was trying to complete the linesAn oyster is a gentle thingand will not come unless you singbut his reference to school days drove that right out of my head, because I can remember him as a captain of boxing who landed a straight left and right hook on many occasions. We were in the same weight at that time.
The hon. Member made a moving speech. I was particularly impressed with how, at the beginning, he attacked my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. Healey) for saying that the E.D.C. was dying and not doing anything to revive it. I say tonight that the Council of Europe is dying, and I want to know what the Government are going to do about it. The hon. Member looked back 400 years. I want to look forward only 50 years. The hon. Member referred to our role, and I should like to know whether this is not the guide for us: why should we accept a role as a constantly grumbling appendix of Europe when our real destiny is to be the heart of an Atlantic community?
In my submission, the Council of Europe is dying. The Consultative Assembly has certainly never recovered from its betrayal—that is the only word for it—by the Prime Minister. Are the Government going to let it die, or will they, as I suggest they should, transform it and its Committee of Ministers and Consultative Assembly into an Atlantic Council, with a Committee of Ministers and a Consultative Assembly? Such a Consultative Assembly could have a real purpose, unlike the Strasbourg Assembly with its parochial European outlook, which is of little significance in an age in which Europe has ceased to dominate the world.
An Atlantic assembly of Western Europe and the United States and Canada being the meeting place of parliamentarians and not of Governments, there could be freer discussion than is possible between representatives of Governments because at that level every word matters. 329 It would lead to a genuine exchange of views between parliamentarians, who would thus learn a great deal of the way in which other parliamentarians are thinking.
To some Governments, especially a British Government, these meetings of parliamentarians are suspect. Our Governments, and particularly the Foreign Office, view with horror international meetings of men and women without responsibility. I understand that this tradition blinds us to the fact that in many other countries like the United States and France the views of parliamentarians are exceptionally important—in many cases more important than the views of Governments. We have begun to understand why so many United States senators conceive it to be their duty to attack their Government, even if it is the Government of their own party. The separation of power appears to them like a divine command.
But we have not yet begun to realise that in a country as near as France even a former Prime Minister, who has had the difficulties with which French Prime Ministers are faced, feels and thinks in his attitude towards a Government primarily as a parliamentarian and only secondly as a Minister. I have heard former Prime Ministers discussing the instability of French Governments and in each case they spoke as parliamentarians who conceived it their first duty to tear the Government down and not, as Ministers, to keep a Government in being.
I believe that one of the first things we should recognise is the very much greater importance that should be attached in foreign affairs to the views of what we would call back benchers in countries other than our own. We must not think of other countries organising their parliamentary and political life in the way we do.
During the time that I have been a United Kingdom representative at Strasbourg—the last 18 months—like other hon. Members I have had many lessons given me of the different trends and different points of views of continental politicians. I certainly never remember a debate at Strasbourg which made the faintest impression on the current of affairs in Europe. I see its significance only as a means of educating parliamen- 330 tarians from the 14 different European countries in the different points of view, the different trends, of other parliamentarians.
How much more important is it for parliamentarians of the countries of Western Europe and North America to learn from each other why they are thinking the way they are and what they are thinking. At Strasbourg we sit in alphabetical order. If there were an Atlantic assembly then, assuming that we had the same arrangement of seating, we would have everything to gain by having Senator Taft sitting next to M. Teitgen, Chairman of the M.R.P. in France and Senator McCarthy sitting next to M. Macass, a very distinguished Greek representative.
In this House we spend many hours and days in the course of a year discussing the affairs of Asia and Africa. We meet men and women from the parliaments of the new Asia and Africa who come in our Commonwealth Parliamentary Associations and other bodies. In an Atlantic assembly, without realising it, we would act as interpreters of the new Asia and the new Africa to American Congressmen, who have no such contacts and no such experience as we are fortunate enough to have.
Even at Strasbourg, like other hon. Members, I have found that some of our fellow Europeans, for example, the Scandinavians, who have little contact outside Europe except in shipping, often appear to us to be surprisingly ignorant of events in Asia and Africa which we all accept as a matter of course. That is no reflection on them, but arises from the fact that they do not discuss and debate these matters at home. They have no reason to do so. How much greater, then, is the gap between United States Congressmen and the new Asia and the new Africa?
My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney), who referred to the problem of the difference of opinion between the United States and this country about China, understated the problem. It is almost a question of there being one European point of view and one American point of view. Almost without exception, United States Congressmen take one point of view on China and almost without exception European parliamentarians take another point of 331 view; we all recognise the great difficulties which may confront us in the months to come because this wide divergence has grown up.
I believe that the existence of such an assembly as I have outlined would have gone a long way towards preventing that taking place. In what I do not regard as a very original choice of words, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that Her Majesty's Government were "ready to grasp at realities." I ask him to consider an Atlantic council as a political reality. It would start with many advantages.
First, there is no likelihood of it wasting time with long arguments about federation and with the frustration which occurred at Strasbourg because so many Europeans were led to pursue this policy by irresponsible statements by Conservatives who ought to have known better, as well as by one member of the Labour Party. There would be no likelihood of federation being discussed at such an Atlantic council because the 150 million citizens of the United States would not contemplate federation with the 300,000 citizens of Luxembourg, even if they were to contemplate federation with the 200 million of the four most populous Western countries.
Even the voting in such an assembly would take into account the size of the United States if it followed the Strasbourg pattern, as I suggest it should. At the United Nations, where Governments are represented, the United States and the United Kingdom each have only one vote, just as the Yemen has, but it is recognised at Strasbourg, and would be recognised at this Atlantic assembly, that voting should bear some relation to the size of the country. For example, Luxembourg has three representatives at Strasbourg whereas we have 18. On a populalation basis the United States would have over 50, although since they have only 530 members of their two Houses, they would be unlikely to take up their full membership in such an assembly. The point is that there would be sufficient of them to see that all the geographical and sectional interests of their hugh continent were represented.
The second advantage which I believe this assembly would have is that it could learn from the mistakes of Strasbourg. 332 I refer to such mistakes as we have had inflicted upon us this year with the requirement that Members of Parliament go three or four times a year, or even five times a year, to the Assembly at Strasbourg. This ignores the fact that for any Member of Parliament to mean anything in an international assembly, he has to be firmly based in his own national parliament—and there is no more certain way of weakening his position in his national parliament and in his country than for him to become merely an itinerant internationalist. But they could learn by those mistakes and have no more than two meetings a year.
The third advantage is that they could learn from the successes of Strasbourg. I submit that one of those successes is the choice of the city which is the meeting place of the cultures of two of the most important European countries, Germany and France. It is rumoured that it was chosen only because Sir Gladwyn Jebb went to Strasbourg University. I am not interested in the reason, but it was a happy choice. Were we dealing with an Atlantic community we would have to consider whether a city like Quebec would not be a suitable meeting place. There, 200 years ago, was the battle which decided the future of North America. It may well be described as the meeting place of English and American Protestant culture and the Catholic culture of old France.
The fourth advantage I see from this Atlantic assembly is in the timing. Four or five years ago it would have been impossible to contemplate such an assembly. Today, most Western European countries have had the experience of dealing with Canada and the United States, and working with their Governments in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It is, therefore, not beyond the bounds of practical politics for us to develop an organisation which recognises the importance of parliamentarians as opposed to Governments. As I said, recent events have shown us that in the United States and in France parliamentarians can be even more important that Governments.
I do not wish it to be thought that my suggestion is that the N.A.T.O. Organisation should develop a consultative assembly. That would raise complications which are unnecessary and should 333 be avoided. There are obvious difficulties, such as the fact that Portugal, a member of N.A.T.O., could never be a member of a consultative assembly because it has no democratically elected Parliament. That is why Portugal is not in the Council of Europe today. On the other side of the coin, we find the bigger complication in the fact that Germany and Sweden are not members of N.A.T.O. I am not offering this Atlantic assembly as a development of N.A.T.O. but as a consultative assembly modelled on the dying Consultative Assembly of Europe so that continental and North American parliamentarians as well as British parliamentarians may learn from each other.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to the constantly developing Atlantic community. We pride ourselves on being realistic in politics and I wish the Government to show evidence of that. We should no longer accept as inevitable our role as the constant grumbling appendix of Europe. Instead, we should become the heart of an Atlantic community.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I had intended to raise a matter which is allied more closely to the beginning of this debate than to the end. But first I would say a few words concerning my feelings about Germany. During this debate I have been remembering a reference in Lord Rosebery's book about Pitt, in which he said something to the effect that every so often the Russian Empire feels the desire for expansion. This is usually gratified at the expense of the Turks—I suppose today we should substitute Yugoslavia for the Turks—with the result that the Western Powers do their best to prevent this process, with much the same effect as pruning would have on a healthy young tree.
I cannot help feeling that, at the end of the war, we might have realised that the damage had been done before the war had ended, and that everything we did from then onwards to push Russia back, or to get her to recede behind her frontiers, was likely to be done in her time and not in ours, and that much waste energy could have been avoided. That is a rather sorrowful reflection, but I am inclined to think that it is probably 334 nearer the truth than many others we have heard on this subject. I believe that the damage was done at Teheran and Yalta, and that once we allowed Russia to get as far West as she did, it was entirely up to Russia when she withdrew from that line, and that nothing that we could do, short of starting a world conflagration, was likely to push her back.
I am quite horrified to hear in this debate today from a number of speakers the idea that one of our duties when the talks take place must be to offer something to Russia. In the name of conscience, has not Russia taken enough from the free world since the war? Have we now got to give her still more? I should have thought that if we could have seen Russia giving freedom to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, we might have said that Russia had done something for which we should give some return, but, until something like that occurs, I do not see why we should give one single thing to Russia.
That is all I propose to say on that subject, beyond this—that I believe that one thing which we have to consider so often in politics is which is the worse of two worlds, and to try to avoid having the worse of the two. I say that the worst of the two worlds as far as Germany is concerned would be a Germany re-united and tied up with the East. I would say no more on that subject, because I am not sufficiently expert in German affairs to know the details of the matter, except that the paramount issue in my mind would be to avoid a re-united Germany going towards the East and going in with the Soviet Union. Do not let us imagine that there must be a majority for the Communist Party in Germany for that to happen, because there was no majority for the Communist Party when Ribbentrop signed the pact with Stalin before the war.
The other subject which I wish to raise is one which I think I can claim to know a little more about, and that is the question of Egypt and the Middle East. There is one large problem there which we tend to overlook in all these difficult negotiations about the Canal Zone, and it is that, in addition to the rather natural desire of the Egyptians to try to remove us from the Canal Zone, 335 I believe that they have had another reason for wanting us to go which we have ignored rather too much. I believe that that reason is that they want us to go so that they can, one day and in their own good time, try to redeem the shocking defeat which they had at the hands of the Israeli troops when we were setting up the State of Israel. The hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner), who is sitting opposite, may find what I am about to say strange, coming from me, but I hope we shall be more or less in agreement.
I am of the opinion that there is one very dangerous dilemma in which this country may find herself in the Middle East unless fairly prompt action is taken. It is this. Let us suppose that we were so to denude our garrison in the Canal Zone to the level of maintenance troops, and that we had adequate safeguards—or safeguards which might be considered adequate—so far as our return is concerned. Suppose that the Egyptian Government decided to send their army into Israel. It is absolutely certain that the Kingdom of Jordan would have to come in with Egypt, if only to support her own interests. We should then be in a very unpleasant dilemma because, on the one hand, we are guaranteeing the frontiers of Israel jointly with other Powers, and, on the other, we have a treaty of alliance with Jordan.
Therefore, if that situation should arise, we might find ourselves in the unfortunate position of either having to abandon Israel or break our treaty with Jordan, or sit on the fence. If we sit on the fence, then one thing is certain—we shall have a conflagration in the Middle East which will get out of control and which will result in a terrible loss of life. I doubt whether we should ever be able to control it by ourselves. Therefore, it seems that what we must avoid is any likelihood of the Egyptian Army ever again invading Israel.
One of the things which have been troubling a great many of us for a considerable time, especially those of us who have been regular Service men, has been the appalling effect upon morale of boxing up our troops in the Canal Zone for such a long time under the conditions in which they are now living. A fairly close 336 relation of mine recently went out there, and he described the conditions as being little short of living the life of a prisoner of war. That is probably the nearest and most apt description which I could give of it.
Something has got to be done about that. We cannot leave a number of men, particularly of our Regular Army, living in such conditions for ever. I believe that one way of overcoming this difficulty, without at the same time losing face or endangering our interest, would be for us to move the fighting section of the troops in the base at the moment, or a sufficient quantity of them, to maintain law and order—and that is the important thing—somewhere else in the Middle East.
There is one thing about which I have always disagreed with the Prime Minister, and that is the statement which he made at the beginning of the 1945–50 Parliament in which he said that he saw no strategic importance in our staying in Palestine. I always disagreed with that view, and always agreed that Palestine, or Israel as it now is, must inevitably be of immense strategic importance to us.
I do not think that we want to stay in the Canal Zone for the sake of the Canal, but we must be somewhere near that region because it is the junction between two great continents. History shows that long before the Canal was built, that area was vital, and it will remain vital whatever Lord Montgomery or anyone else may say.
I believe we might thus be able to do something that Israel very badly wants us to do, and not do something which would make our relations with the Arab States even worse than they are at the moment. It would maintain our strength in the Middle East and would keep a bastion in the area against possible aggression from the Soviet Union. It would mean, perhaps at the price of considerable economic aid, giving Israel financial assistance, on the understanding that our troops could go perhaps to Sarafand or North of Acre, where considerable activity took place during the war. Let our fighting troops be in that area and the Suez Canal base remain where it is, with a maintenance squad.
337 We should then achieve many objects that we ought to achieve. We should overcome the problem of the morale of the British Army, Egypt would be deterred, after our pulling out, from attacking Israel through the Sinai Peninsula, the political solution of the Israel-Arab problem would be very greatly facilitated, the refugee problem would be eased, and peace, I believe, would be guaranteed between the Arab States and Israel. We should still maintain a bulwark against the possibility of a Russian coup in that area, and maintain our traditional role of keeping the peace in the East. All these things are important to do. We shall never solve the social problems of the East until we solve the political problem, and that is what we must do.
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.