§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.]
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
What we have to talk about in any foreign affairs debate at the present time is the new situation which has arisen in the world in recent months and how we in this country can take advantage of it That was the theme of our debate on 11th May of this year. It was also the theme of the greater part of the debate yesterday.
One sometimes hears people talk as if the events of recent months, important though they may be, do not represent any real change in the sense that we can base any alteration in our policy on them. I feel sure that is not the general view of the public, either in this country or in many other countries, nor do I think it is the view of this House. It 385 certainly was not the view of the Prime Minister when he spoke on 11th May. I would remind the House of what he said.The supreme event"—and that is a very strong word to use, even for the Prime Minister—which has occurred since we last had a debate on foreign affairs is, of course, the change of attitude and, as we all hope, of mood which has taken place in the Soviet domains and particularly in the Kremlin since the death of Stalin."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 899.]I think that that estimate of the situation is very widely shared in this country and in this House. However we may judge it, we all feel that the change has, to say the least, opened up quite new possibilities which were not open to us even a few months ago.
From about 1948 onwards, and particularly, I think, from 1950, the policy of the Western Powers came increasingly to be based—very much against their will—upon the acceptance for the time being of a division of the world, and in particular a division of Europe and Germany, and upon the conclusion to which we were reluctantly being driven that the possibility of agreement on these major matters, so far from increasing, seemed always to be receding into the distance. Most of us felt that it was not likely to start coming nearer again until there was some alteration in the power balance of the world. I think it fair to say that those assumptions on which our policy was based have already been somewhat shaken, if not yet proved to be wrong.
I think it worth recalling that during the years when we were in that position we were constantly appealing to the leaders of the Soviet Union to change their policy. We assured them constantly that if they did so they would meet a ready response from outside. If I may be allowed to recall one personal instance, I remember very well making a speech on one of the main Motions in the United Nations General Assembly in 1950 on behalf of the British delegation, in which I said just what I have now said; and in which I said to the Soviet delegate that we would not, of course, be taken in by mere words, but that on the day when we saw the Soviet Union joining in practical co-operation we would take it as a sign that things were changing. Well, it may be there is that sign now.
386 The Prime Minister appeared to recognise that in his speech two months ago, and that is why we welcomed what he then said. In these circumstances, it is surely our task to consider what parts of the foreign policy we have been pursuing depend on permanent factors, and therefore probably should not change merely because some other Power, however great, alters its attitude, and which, on the other hand, were really no more than a response to Soviet post-war policy, and therefore need changing if Soviet policy itself is changed.
What I found so disturbing about the Washington communiqué which we have been discussing is that it seems to contain, quite literally, no hint at all of a changed situation and no sign whatever of any elasticity of mind on the part of the statesmen and of the Governments who subscribed to it. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, it shows too much emphasis on positions already taken up and what he called a tendency to stand pat. Despite the claim of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech yesterday, I think it is true that the White Paper nowhere reflects the initiative of the Prime Minister. There is in fact—and I say this having read it carefully over and over again—nothing in it which could not have been written a year ago and long before the death of Stalin or any of the recent events.
Stripped of its verbiage, which is considerable, the communiqué says, in effect, "Western policy as we have known it in recent years is unchanged. We are unaffected by the events of the past six months, and will you please be so good as to answer the letter we sent on 23 rd September about Germany?" That is all there is in the communiqué.
This is really incompatible—that is not too strong a word—with the Prime Minister's speech on 11th May. The reason so many of the speeches in defence of the communiqué made by hon. Members opposite in yesterday's debate were so ineffective is that one cannot approve of both the Prime Minister's speech and the communiqué. There was only one convincing and logical defence of the Washington communiqué in yesterday's debate, and that, oddly enough, came from my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey), who was a lone voice on our side, and indeed 387 a pretty lone voice taking into consideration both sides of the House. At least he was clear-headed enough to realise that if he thought the Washington communiqué good he must attack the speech of the Prime Minister on 11th May, and that is what he did.
He said that in fact he was glad to see from the Washington communiqué that the Prime Minister's policy on 11th May was now no longer in existence. I suspect there were one or two hon. Members opposite, in particular the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse) and the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) who in their heart of hearts felt the same way about it, though neither of them was prepared to engage in so outright a condemnation of the Prime Minister's speech as was my hon. Friend. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leicester, South-East did go to the length of saying that, though he regretted the Prime Minister's illness, he really was, on the whole, glad that it had not been possible to hold the Bermuda Conference.
Just how far we have slipped in the few weeks since our last debate must have been painfully obvious to anybody who heard the speeches of the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition on 11th May and who was able to compare them with the Chancellor's dreary and bureaucratic utterance of yesterday. This deterioration in the Government's policy is psychologically disastrous. The May debate on the Prime Minister's initiative gave a real lift to the hearts of everybody here and in Europe—and, for all I know, also to a large extent in the United States, though I have very little means of judging that.
Now we seem to have dropped right back into the swamp from which that raised us. The "Evening Standard"—not usually to be found in agreement with my right hon. Friends and myself—put it most succinctly in a very undramatic way when it said:Britain finds herself associated with a negative policy where she expected a positive one.Why has this happened? I do not think the reason is to be found in anything the Soviet Union leaders have done in the intervening weeks. I know of no justification for any departure from the Prime 388 Minister's attitude on that ground. The reason is simply the illness of the Prime Minister and the failure of his colleagues to follow up his initiative or to exert any influence in Washington where, as we all know, his original speech, was very far from being welcomed.
It is not much of a surprise to us that this should have happened following upon the Prime Minister's illness. We have always appreciated the situation as between him and the rest of his colleagues. It is almost exactly a year ago that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), in a typically flashing phrase, said of the Prime Minister:His difficulty is that he is trying to ignite a lot of wet flannel all around him."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1952; Vol. 504, c. 1528.]We have had plenty of the wet flannel in the last week or so both in Washington and in the debate yesterday. Indeed, but for the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and one or two of the other speeches from colleagues behind me, one could almost say that the spark which the Prime Minister struck two months ago would be wholly extinguished.
It is not for the first time in recent months that we on these benches have had to rescue the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary from the party behind them. [Interruption.] Hon. Members who cheer and jeer should look up the debate on the statement made by the Foreign Secretary, I think in February of this year, on a Far Eastern question, on the occasion when the United States took an independent decision without consultation about Formosa. They will find there that the Foreign Secretary got full backing from these benches and no backing at all—particularly in the debate which followed the statement two days later—from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House. I remember especially an influential right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway utterly repudiating the whole line that he had taken. The same thing was true to very nearly the same extent over the Sudan Treaty. We were prepared to back the Foreign Secretary. As we all know, we had very little backing and certainly no enthusiasm from hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the Foreign Secretary was almost let down by his own party.
389 All this is unpleasantly reminiscent of a previous and altogether lamentable period in Tory foreign policy. It reminds many of us—and it must remind those who were in the House at that time even more clearly than it does me—of 1938 and 1939, when the present Prime Minister was an outcast from the party opposite, when the present Foreign Secretary had resigned in disgust at his own party's foreign policy, and when the House had to take the right hon. Gentleman who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer as its main spokesman on foreign affairs. Now we have got the same two statesmen immobilised for the time being, tucked up in bed one on each side of the Atlantic, and we have to hear the same accents from the same right hon. Gentleman on topics of foreign policy. I can assure him that we like his accents no better than we liked them in those days.
There is so much about this communiqué that I do not like that I want first to mention a point on which I agree with those who signed it and that is on the stress they put upon the unity, and continued need for the unity, of the West. It may well be true that the removal of outside pressure—that is to say, pressure from the Soviet Union upon the Western Powers—may make it harder to maintain this unity in some respects, but I am sure that unity is none the less necessary for that. I have always stated that United States influence for good or for ill is bound to be immense, whether we are living amid soaring armaments and the threat of war, or whether we are in a different period perhaps of economic surpluses and the fear of unemployment; and in particular Anglo-American cooperation is as necessary for world development and economic stability as it can be for military planning.
Therefore, I think that Anglo-American and Western unity generally should be permanent features of our policy so long as we have any possibility of maintaining them, and I believe that we have. That is not to say that the change of atmosphere in the world will not in some degree alter relationships as between allies in the alliance. In so far as it does have any effect of that kind it would tend rather to increase the influence within the alliance of the less powerful allies, and in particular it should offer greater scope for the 390 exercise of influence through Commonwealth unity.
Most of our argument is rightly concentrated around the Prime Minister's proposal for four-Power talks. We all know the purpose of that. I need take up no time in describing it to the House. The purpose of the proposal was clearly an attempt to begin in the new phase by creating a measure of understanding, and if possible some degree of confidence, with a view later on to reaching specific agreements on larger or lesser problems. That is why the right hon. Gentleman talked about a small meeting on the highest level without too many officials and without a fixed agenda.
All of us here are bound to appreciate the difficulties in which the Government found themselves in trying to continue to press for an immediate meeting of Ministers at the highest level. Obviously, the illness of the Prime Minister practically rule that out for the time being. We heard yesterday how it was originally held up by the crisis in France. There were also some suggestions that we ought to hold up that type of meeting on account of the dismissal of Mr. Beria in Russia.
I will not go into that fascinating and extremely elusive subject on which my opinion is certainly not worth more than anybody else's, but I should have thought that we had little reason to imagine that that has a great bearing on Soviet foreign policy. In any case, we always know so little either about the causes of what has happened in the Soviet Union or about what is about to happen that we really cannot base our diplomatic strategy upon things of that kind. But in any case I understand that the Foreign Ministers will not meet until at least mid-September.
Many of us have thought that by that time Prime Minister would be available. The fact that the Chancellor was not able yesterday to give any indication when he thought the Prime Minister might be back only adds to our disquiet. There were in his speech certain rather vague prospects held out of a possible later meeting at a higher level. I hope that one of the Ministers who will speak today will be able to say a little more about that. The Chancellor's words were pretty vague. I do not think that anything of that kind was adumbrated in the communiqué.
391 If I am wrong, I hope that I shall be corrected, but I had no reason on reading the communiqué to think that this first meeting was likely to be followed at any early time by a high level meeting on general topics. The very vague words of the Chancellor did little to reassure me. But the real criticism of the Note addressed to the Soviet Union is not, in my view, that the Foreign Ministers felt that they were forced for the time being to drop the proposal for a meeting of heads of Governments. It was rather that the proposal itself, in the form in which it was put forward, was a complete reversal of the Prime Minister's idea. It is, in fact, a detailed proposal for what he called, in a rather curious phrase, a "hard-faced agreement," with many elements of the proposed agreement put in the document, instead of being the exploratory and good will type of initiative which the Prime Minister obviously had in mind.
It may be said, and indeed, it was said by one hon. Member yesterday, that this specific proposal to deal with one issue is really no more than what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred to in his speech in May, when he talked about breaking a log jam in a river by extracting one log in the hope that the whole mass would then begin to move. That image was entirely acceptable to both sides of the House and I should like to pursue it a little further.
It seems to me that what the Prime Minister has realised is that if we have a log jam in a river and the river is frozen hard, it may well be that the unfreezing of the river is a pre-condition of success even in removing one single log, let alone the whole mass. These analogies are always dangerous, and if one is pursuing the allusion of the river, one would have to admit that one can do little about the freezing of a river except wait for it to unfreeze.
The merit of the Prime Minister's proposal was that he realised that political unfreezing could be accelerated by the right kind of initiative, and that was what he had in mind. What, in my view, has clearly happened now is that the Prime Minister's policy, which was a policy of trying to encourage the favour- 392 able reaction that might be taking place in Russia, has now come into conflict with the alternative United States view, expressed by many responsible people in the United States, which I think Mr. Dulles has from time to time indicated he may perhaps share, that the moment of supposed Soviet weakness is the moment for the West to demand unilateral concessions before the West will do anything at all.
I am afraid that, in the limp hands of the acting Foreign Secretary, Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister's policy has been sunk without trace in that collision. I have specifically in mind the idea in the peculiar last sentence of the Note which was addressed to the Soviet Union about Austria. In the communiqué, there was a final sentence about Austria to which one cannot take exception, because it simply speaks of a meeting taking place at which the Austrian Treaty should be considered. Of course, it should; we all share the same view about the Austrian Treaty, and have done so for a long time past, but it was expressed very differently and more rigidly in the Note addressed to the Soviet Union.
It was said that this first meeting was intended to be only an initial meeting to take preliminary steps about Germany, but yet that agreement should be finally reached on the Austrian Treaty. I should like to know from the Ministers who will speak whether that is intended to be a pre-condition for the pursuit of negotiations with Germany or anything else. Are we to be told that at the meeting we are to demand final agreement on the Austrian Treaty, and, if not, we cannot go ahead? That, on the face of it, is the deduction which appears to me to follow from the difference between the phrase chosen in the Note addressed to the Russians and that used in the more general communiqué. I ask the House to consider whether anything could really be further from the spirit expressed in May on both sides of the House than a proposal of that kind.
I am not going into detail on the German proposals, because my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) will be dealing with that matter, and I will raise only one or two general considerations with regard to Germany. We can all surely agree that 393 our European policy, that is to say the policy of the Western Powers in Europe, has, in fact, been based in recent years on factors which are now changing, and especially since 1950 has been based on the fear of a large-scale military threat which might develop within quite a short period. That has been constantly under review and has constantly been modified, and with it the speed and scale of the arms build-up of the Western Powers. Equally, the so-called European Community, and especially the European Defence Community, has been based both upon the imminence of a great military threat and the need to do something very rapidly about a German contribution, and, unfortunately, the necessity to accept, for the time being, the division of Europe.
The policy of E.D.C. quite frankly was, and I maintain still is, a policy of a united Western Europe, and not of a united Europe. It was forced upon us by the tense state of relations in Europe, and how, in those circumstances, Lord Salisbury could put his signature to a document which said it was not linked to the existing international tension passes my comprehension. It is indeed wishful thinking with a vengeance. The whole section about E.D.C. seems to me to be quite unreal. It may be that the reason for that is the one attributed by my hon. Friends the Members for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo), Leeds, South-East and I think some others, namely, that it is really intended to be of electoral assistance to Dr. Adenauer in September. I share their views about that. It seems to me indeed to be quite improper to make an intervention in an election in another country in that way.
I am sure that the Government know quite well that, even the present limited relaxation of international tension, is enough to bring the proposals on E.D.C. to a dead stop, and that they are not likely to revive unless other proposals for re-unification should be tried and fail. That is why the Americans, who were wedded to the implementation of E.D.C., agreed to have these talks at all, because they really knew that until we had them and they had failed, there would be no possibility of their policy making any progress at all.
I want the most categorical assurance from the Government that the form of these German proposals—the most un- 394 promising form—was not their deliberate choice. I do not suggest that it was, but I think perhaps it was forced upon them by the United States Government in the hope that they would fail and that it would be possible to return to the plan for a divided Europe.
§ Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to intervene? Surely, he is making very heavy weather about this matter? He knows that the Bonn Government cannot commit East Germany to E.D.C. or anything else.
§ Mr. Younger
We can all speculate on that point, and it seems to me doubtful whether Dr. Adenauer expects to be called upon to undertake responsibility for Eastern Germany at all. It might not suit him if he were.
Changing the scene, I think it is a little surprising that so little was said after the two Front Bench speeches yesterday about the Korean truce. Perhaps hon. Members feel very naturally that we cannot now affect the truce negotiations, and, perhaps, can only keep our fingers crossed and hope that final agreement will take place. We all agree, however, that a Korean truce is a precondition of any progress towards a wider political settlement, and we ought to face some of the realities. It is very tragic that, after a truce has been held up, as we know, for some two years through the intransigence of the Communist side about relatively unimportant matters, it should now be in danger owing to the fanaticism of Syngman Rhee and his failure to understand why United Nations is in Korea at all.
Here again, I think the communiqué was unreal; like the rest of it it could have been written a year ago. I refer particularly to the passage mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman in his speech yesterday, in which it was said that the United Nations would take action to support peace and security if the Communists should renew their aggression after an armistice. That was an echo of what the Prime Minister said a year ago. I am not quarrelling with that, so far as it goes, but I ask why the phrase was so drafted as to cover only aggression from the Communists? Surely that is a very deliberate refusal to face the actual situation which exists in Korea at the moment?
395 I suppose anybody who is trying to negotiate an armistice at the end of a war always has in mind the possibility of bad faith on the part of the enemy, for in the nature of things there can be no mutual trust at that stage; but the specific fear of a renewal of hostilities after a truce has been signed undoubtedly comes a great deal more from the attitude of the South Koreans than from that of the Communist forces, and what the right hon. Gentleman told the House at Question time today only reinforces that. It was not even necessary to mention our South Korean allies by name in the communiqué. That might have been embarrassing. It was only necessary to redraft the phrase in such a way as to say that if aggression were renewed in Korea, the United Nations would again support the restoration of peace and security.
That would have been the real principle for which we are there, because we are there to resist aggression, and surely if there were to be a renewal of South Korean attacks in breach of a truce agreement, that would in fact be an aggression, and our obligations would be morally and legally the same in that case as in respect of any other aggression. I suggest to the Government very strongly that the motives which took us all into the struggle in Korea demand that we should stick to the same principle today.
It is fortunate that General Mark Clark seems to have taken a more realistic view of the situation than the authors of the communiqué. In so far as I am able to judge from the Press—one only has very limited information from that—I believe that he gave whatever guarantees he possibly could to the other side in order to persuade them that if they signed a truce, the truce would be kept. It is evident that he did not share Mr. Dulles's opinion that it was absurd for the Communists to ask for any guarantees at all.
What we were told today makes it very clear indeed that it is not absurd, but that it is only reasonable that the other side should be asking for some guarantees. It is no use our speculating without knowledge concerning what precise guarantees should be given. I would suggest one principle. It seems that for any guarantee to be effective, it must be 396 something which depends on intended action by the United Nations Command and not on the word of the South Korean Government, because we have been told so often that such and such an assurance has been given, only to find a spokesman of the South Koreans going back on it. Did they say they would renew the fighting after 90 days, or did they not? We have had many statements on that, and now we have the statement of the Prime Minister of South Korea. It must depend on what we have to do and not on what Syngman Rhee promises to do.
My right hon. Friend asked for the calling of the General Assembly, and asked for it soon. I am glad to see in "The Times" today that apparently arrangements are being made for a meeting on 12th August. I hope that by that time it may not be necessary to discuss how to get a truce, because the truce may by then already be achieved. But if by any chance it is delayed, I would say that by then the time would have come when the whole matter ought to be aired in the United Nations.
Apart from the question of getting a truce, there are all these urgent problems which will immediately follow. For instance, there is the nature and the composition of the Political Conference which is adumbrated in the draft Armistice Agreement. There is the question of the 1951 Resolution on the Chinese aggression, the question of the blockade of Korea and the question of trade with China. These things are very important, and if they are handled promptly and in an enlightened way they may have a very great bearing on the subsequent possibilities of a general political settlement in the Far East. There should be no delay about them.
Finally, of course, there is the whole question of the status of the Chinese Government and all that flows from it. I think that the Assembly is entitled to have its views heard on these matters and to take early action on them if it thinks fit. On the general Far Eastern question, it seems to me that the new situation does not so much demand that we here in the United Kingdom should change our policy in response to any changes there may have been, but rather that we are now offered a chance to carry out policies which we have frequently stated.
397 It is, of course, now more urgent that we should somehow or other manage to achieve evolution in United States policy, which has always been very different from ours. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) said when talking about Germany, it would perhaps be more difficult to keep our policies in line when the pressure was taken off. That applies very strongly here. Once the fighting stops, it seems much less possible than it has been merely to shelve the differences that exist between the United States and many of her allies.
If the Chancellor is right in saying, as he did yesterday, that we are sticking to our policy on the Far East, that surely must mean that the end of the aggression will revive our pressure for recognition of the status of the Peking Government, both inside and outside the United Nations. All of us recognise that the United States are in a very different position from us on this matter and that they may require time in which to come round to a different point of view from the one they have hitherto held. But I do not think that that alters our position, which should be made clear. The fact that it is made clear does not mean that we expect our Allies to swing round overnight, but the longer we think it may take them to change their minds, the earlier we should begin. We should seek to do this with the co-operation of the Commonwealth, most of the members of which have always thought that the policy of the United States was unrealistic.
I wish to recall the memory of the House to the very effective results which we achieved when there was a combination of members of the Commonwealth over the Indian Resolution last autumn in the United Nations. I must say that on all these general principles I do not like the overtones of the communiqué, or, indeed, of the Chancellor's speech. They do not seem to me to show the necessary attitude of flexibility at all.
I want to say what I am about to say in all seriousness and without wishing to be offensive. I like it still less that on this particular problem Lord Salisbury should represent the United Kingdom. I remember what his attitude was when he led the House of Lords in opposition and when I was at the Foreign Office. I remember how he described our recog- 398 nition of the Peking Government—which was carried out before the Korean war—as a catastrophic error. He always took a highly unimaginative, though no doubt perfectly sincere, view about this matter.
I feel that if it is a question of pressing the British view on these matters on the Americans, then, quite frankly, I would not trust Lord Salisbury an inch. I would expect no satisfactory result from conversations behind closed doors between John Foster Dulles, whose views we more or less know, and Lord Salisbury, whose views we also more or less know. I think that an additional reason for an early calling of the Assembly is to smoke out these gentlemen and to make them state their positions in the open where the public, not only of this country, but of all the continental countries, and perhaps especially of the Asian countries, can see what it is that they are proposing.
I only want to say one more thing about the Far East, and that is on Indo-China. It is hard for anyone to see a satisfactory solution to the Indo-China problem, and I do not feel that one can blame the Foreign Ministers for not saying anything constructive on the subject. But I cannot avoid the conclusion that this is another unreal part of the document. It opens an almost hopeless prospect to our French allies. This was never purely a military problem, and I think it can only end with some kind of a political settlement. As my right hon. Friend said, it has to be done in a wider setting than that suggested in the document. I hope this is fully recognised in Downing Street and at the Foreign Office, even if for perfectly good reasons it cannot be stated in a document like the communiqué.
I have not in the least over-stated the sense of deep disappointment and frustration which is felt in the country and which is clearly reflected in the Press of all political views at the way in which the Prime Minister's colleagues have allowed the torch which he raised to drop from their nerveless fingers. If the Chancellor was right, as no doubt he was, in telling us yesterday "We are honestly doing our best all round," then I can only tell him that his best is far too feeble, and that he must either do much better or hand over the reins to more purposeful drivers.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ The Minister of State (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
The outstanding impression upon my mind of the course of this debate so far, certainly as regards some of the earlier speeches yesterday and to some extent the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger), was the relish with which the Opposition have sought to invent and exploit an alleged rift between the Prime Minister and the rest of the Conservative Party. We can understand their difficulty. The Recess is very close. It is obvious how painful for them must be the continued contemplation of their own differences on almost every topic. When we add to that the clear evidence of the steady growth of this Government's influence in the country, we can understand their feelings.
§ Mr. Lloyd
It is very difficult for hon. Gentlemen opposite to shout out "rubbish" in face of the figures of the elections. As the influence of the Government grows in the country, so naturally does the mortification of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. We extend our sympathy to them, and no doubt they will receive it in the spirit in which it is proffered.
The outstanding speeches yesterday were those of the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo). Their themes were much the same, but the Leader of the Opposition did not seem to be quite so happy or so comfortable in his role as did the hon. Member for Reading, South. The hon. Member was quite at home in his first incursion into a foreign affairs debate. He described himself as:the veriest amateur … one who can bring to bear on it nothing more than a plain man's honest curiosity and simple judgment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 297.]The hon. Member proceeded to speak with great authority and to lay about him, to the enjoyment of all of us. Those of us on the Front Government Bench who were recipients of his wisecracks felt a certain amount of sympathy with his hon. and right hon. Friends who more usually receive them. I congratulate him on a 400 very entertaining and wholly mischievous speech.
Of the topics which have been raised by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, I propose to confine myself to the main theme, the proposal for a four-power conference which has come out of the Washington talks. The right hon. Gentleman was very critical of the phraseology of the communiqué. Necessarily when a communiqué has a tripartite authorship, and in this case a bilingual authorship too, it is not as precise or as terse an one would want. On the whole, despite the right hon. Gentleman's detailed criticism, I do not think this communiqué was any worse than most of those for which he and his right hon. Friends were responsible.
I would also remind hon. Gentlemen opposite of what the Leader of the Opposition himself said in the last foreign affairs debate on 12th May.It is necessary to be realistic in foreign affairs. So many critics do not realise that all international relations are a subject for compromise, and that one cannot do just what one would like to do. I know that my late colleague Mr. Bevin was often quite unfairly criticised because his critics said: 'Why do you not do this?' He could not do it because he had to act with others."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 1066.]The right hon. Member for Grimsby went on to pay lip-service to the cause of Anglo-American-French unity. He said that it was essential there should be unity in our relations with America and the countries of Western Europe. This communiqué resulted from the deliberations of representatives of three countries, and obviously there had to be a certain amount of give and take. The right hon. Gentleman made a most uncalled-for attack on Lord Salisbury, whose close association with the Foreign Secretary, and with foreign affairs in this country I should have thought entitled him to some credit and respect. We are perfectly certain that he discharged his duty in these discussions with honour, distinction and ability.
To arrive at a judgment whether there has been a bad or a good result we have to look at certain factors in the situation. The first of these is one to which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) made reference. It is the new situation which has arisen, in part owing to the 401 growth in the strength of the West. The two right hon. Gentlemen to whom I have just referred acknowledged that fact, and it is very important that there should be that much common ground between us. There are some people who seem anxious to forget the fact.
The assumption seemed to arise from certain speeches that we in the West now have overwhelming strength, and that we can therefore afford to mark time in N.A.T.O. and E.D.C. One hon. Gentleman suggested that we are trying to set ourselves up in a position of almost overwhelming strength, and even that we have now got it, and that we are not prepared to negotiate until we have it. That is not true. We are stronger, and there has been an improvement in our position, but we have not yet got parity with the Soviet Union. They have their 22 divisions in Eastern Germany out of the 175 of which they can dispose. The strength of the satellites is steadily growing and the process of modernisation of their equipment proceeds apace.
When hon. Gentlemen opposite talk about what the Prime Minister said on 11th May, they very definitely do not refer to passages in his speech which dealt with N.A.T.O. and E.D.C. My right hon. Friend said:We also declared our abiding interest in building up the strength and integrity of the European Defence Community.He also said in the same speech:We shall continue to play a full and active part in plans for the political, military and economic association of Western Europe with the North Atlantic Alliance.Towards the end of his speech the Prime Minister said:This would be the most fatal moment for the free nations to relax their comradeship and preparations. To fail to maintain our defence effort up to the limit of our strength would be to paralyse every beneficial tendency towards peace both in Europe and in Asia."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, cols. 896, 897 and 902.]
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to indicate that before we can negotiate with the Soviet Union it was necessary for us to get parity, and he mentioned 175 divisions. Does that mean that we have to wait until the West can mobilise an equal number of divisions before we are prepared to negotiate? It cannot be that.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I meant nothing of the sort. At the present moment there is overwhelming superioity of land forces in the hands of the Soviet Union in Europe. I am seeking to prove that any suggestion that we are in a position of overwhelming strength is nonsense. It is not so.
When references are made to the speech of the Prime Minister and to his suggestion that there should be these high level talks, people who emphasise that point do not emphasise the other part of his speech which dealt with the continuous building up of the strength of N.A.T.O and the E.D.C. Those two processes were to take place side by side, and the preparation for the high level discussions was to take place at the same time as we persevered with building up our N.A.T.O. strength. Running through the speeches there was a suggestion that we were to be criticised because we sought to continue to build up the E.D.C. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman give the quotation? I have read the debate very carefully and I do not think that I have seen any suggestion of that kind.
§ Mr. Lloyd
If the right hon. Gentleman will read HANSARD, he will find the suggestion made quite definitely that we should not continue to build up our strength at the present time. It was said that we were seeking to establish a position in which we would have an overwhelming strength and then we would not need to negotiate. Then one hon. or right hon. Member, I think the right hon. Member for Smethwick, said that now it is being suggested in some quarters that because the Soviet Union are in a weak position we should refuse to negotiate. As long as there is common ground between us that it is folly to relax, then, if I have made any mistake, I am glad to admit it, because this point is one well worth establishing.
Then we come to the next question, which is the assessment of the nature of this new situation. There has been a certain change of attitude on the part of the Soviet Union. I do not think that it is to be minimised or indeed exaggerated, and I think it profitable to look for a moment at what this new change amounts to. First of all, there have been 403 a certain number of individual gestures—the case of Robinson, the case of Bun-dock and the question of the Korean internees. Then there have been a certain number of courtesies over our Embassy in Moscow and certain other social relaxations.
Then we come to something rather more important. We believe that they have changed their attitude over the forcible repatriation of Korean prisoners of war. So far as Turkey is concerned they have abandoned some territorial claims put forward some years ago. So far as Austria is concerned they have made certain relaxations; they have separated the functions of the Soviet High Commissioner from those of the Commander-in-Chief Soviet Forces in Austria, and the former has been appointed the new Ambassador; they have lifted certain restrictions on travel and trade between the Soviet Zone and the rest of Austria. Similar measures were taken by the Western Powers some years ago and though the new measures are extremely welcome to the Austrian people it is clear that they are of form rather than of substance. There have been relaxations on travel in the Soviet Union itself but their restrictions are still more severe than are ours in this country.
In the Eastern Zone of Germany tight restrictions were imposed six months ago. These have been partially relaxed, but the present situation is not at all clear there and it looks as if some of them have been reimposed. We read in the papers this morning of the new Minister of Justice in Eastern Germany, who said that her predecessor was dismissed because he made the basic mistake of asserting that the workers had a right to strike. So the degree of relaxation in Eastern Germany is apparently not yet great.
I do not decry these gestures or the advances made. We welcome them and we must foster and encourage the tendency. It is not profitable to speculate or to try to decide upon the reason, whether it is a result of internal or external pressure, or more subtle tactics. But I think that we must all accept the Prime Minister's verdict that it may be a profound movement of Russian opinion. It 404 may be a profound movement and we, the N.A.T.O. Powers, must do nothing to check it. As my right hon. Friend said, we must build bridges not barriers.
But the Russians, as anyone who has had anything to do with them fully realises, are realists. We lose nothing by expressing our thoughts quite frankly on these topics. It would be a mockery of the sacrifices made over the past years to build up the defences of this country not to put the position quite frankly before the House, and, indeed, before the Russians. The position is that we have succeeded in building up our strength, that we have had these gestures and that we should consider and make the most of them.
What is the right way to maintain and assist the momentum of these new developments? The Prime Minister, after dealing in his speech with the building up of N.A.T.O. and E.D.C., referred to a conference at the highest level. He also said, and that is again something that is not always remembered:It would, I think, be a mistake to assume that nothing can be settled with Soviet Russia unless or until everything is settled. A settlement of two or three of our difficulties would be an important gain to every peace-loving country.My right hon. Friend also said:Piecemeal solutions of individual problems should not be disdained or improvidently put aside."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 899.]So far as the talks on the highest level are concerned, five weeks were lost owing to the French Government crisis, and then the Prime Minister was ill. But for these facts the talks would have been already arranged, if the other three parties had agreed. What action was possible, particularly when we remember that on 17th June there had been very important developments in the Eastern Zone of Germany? The decision was taken to hold the Washington talks. I do not think that any reasonable person could criticise that, and there has been an extremely useful interchange of views. The high level talks being out for the time being, should nothing have been done? Out of the Washington talks this invitation has emerged and I think that it is a reasonable one in all the circumstances.
405 I want to examine the invitation put forward with regard to Germany, and I would remind the House of something which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said at the Morecambe Labour Party Conference last year:Every experience we have had shows that when you are dealing with the U.S.S.R. they look at what cards you have got in your hand. It is really no use thinking that a gesture there will have much effect; that is not our experience.So, anyone going into negotiations with the Russians must have cards in his hand.
This Note has been described as an ultimatum and by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) as laying downa rigid and even ponderous agenda."—[OFFICIAI REPORT, 21st July, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 239.]Let us look for a moment at the Note. I do not think that anyone could dispute the second, third and fourth paragraphs. The second deals with the intensification of the universal desire to have peace more firmly established and to ease existing tensions. The third paragraph deals with the question of peace and states thatenduring peace can only be ultimately assured when certain basic problems such as controlled disarmament can be dealt with.…That was a thought which, I think, was in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition yesterday.
The fourth paragraph deals withThe conclusion of the German and Austrian treaties, which are long overdue.…Then we come to paragraph 5, which, I suppose, is the first paragraph which could be said to be laying something down. What is laid down is thatA German peace treaty can only be negotiated with the participation of a free and representative all-German Government in a position freely to discuss such a treaty. Such a government can only result from free elections.Is that an ultimatum or a proposition that the Opposition rejects? Is it suggested that one can make progress with Germany on any other basis? If the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues agree that that is the basis, why not say so? In fact, the Russians themselves have already said so in their Note of 9th April, 1952. They said that there should be free elections in the Soviet Zone of Germany. I do not think that 406 anybody can suggest that that paragraph in our Note is an ultimatum or that it lays down something which is unreasonable.
The next paragraph states that this is a problem:which is capable of early solution if there is good will on all sides. It is equally clear that no real progress can be made toward a general relaxation of tension in Europe so long as this problem remains unsolved.Again, is that an ultimatum? Does that lay down something which is unreasonable? Are people suggesting that that is not the way in which the matter should proceed. I quote from the Soviet Note of 10th March, 1952. It says:Naturally, such a peace treaty must be drafted with the direct participation of Germany in the form of an all-German Government. It follows from this that the U.S.S.R., Britain, the U.S.A. and France, which exercise control of functions in Germany, must also examine the question of the conditions favouring the speediest formation of an all-German Government expressing the will of the German people.Again, I suggest that that paragraph does not, in fact, represent the laying down of a condition or the issuing of an ultimatum; it is something which both parties at one time or another have accepted to be necessary.
The seventh paragraph of this Note deals with the history of the Notes; it recites the fact that no reply has been received to the Note of 23rd September, 1952, and then deals with the Bundestag Resolution. In the eighth paragraph comes the invitation:Mindful of the even greater urgency which recent events have given to German unification"—can anyone dispute that?—Her Majesty's Government are determined to make a new effort so as to bring to an end the abnormal situation to which the German people is subjected. They have, therefore, decided, after consulting the German Federal Government and the German authorities in Berlin, to propose to the Soviet Government a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union. This meeting of limited duration might begin about the end of September at a place to be mutually agreed. The subjects for discussion should be the following: (1) The organisation of free elections in the Federal Republic, the Eastern Zone of Germany and in Berlin.Then it goes on to say that this will involve the discussion of the variousguarantees for freedom of movement, freedom of action for political parties, freedom of the Press,407 freedom of association, and so on. By that item the Soviet Union are completely at liberty to put forward any proposal they want for a complete discussion on what is necessary to bring about the holding of free elections in the Eastern Zone.
Then we come to the second point in this eighth paragraph. The second subject for discussion shall beConditions for the establishment of a free all-German Government with freedom of action in internal and external affairs.That topic is perfectly open for the Soviet Union to put forward any proposals they like, and for the matter to be discussed. I have already indicated that they have admitted that it is a matter which must be discussed.
It may be suggested that the ninth paragraph is an ultimatum:These are essential steps which must precede the opening of discussions with the Soviet Government for a German peace treaty, itself a major element of a general settlement.The Soviet Union themselves have at one stage or another conceded that the peace treaty must be drafted with the direct participation of Germany in the form of an all-German Government. They have agreed that that Government must be produced by free elections. They have agreed that conditions must be laid down for the establishment of that all-German Government.
That being so, although it is true that on 23rd August last year the Soviet Union appeared to shift their ground as to the order of events, and laid down that there must be the peace treaty before the free elections for the establishment of a free all-German Government, it seems to me that that is no reason at all why we should not have another try to see whether we can reach a solution of the matter which, judging by the exchange of opinion in the Notes, might be capable of solution if there is a new atmosphere.
In our submission, the order of events which we have laid down there and the suggestions which we have made constitute a perfectly orderly, logical business, and that is a completely reasonable way to try to see whether, on one practical matter, we can get a measure of agreement with the Soviet Union in this new phase. In fact, I cannot really believe that that is contrary to the policy or the ideals which 408 the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and his friends have for so long advocated.
Now I come to the question of the future and the alternatives. It was the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey) who said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 321.]I endorse those words. That is how the hon. Gentleman described the Note, and that is an assessment with which I think we should all agree. I think that most hon. Members opposite, if they take the trouble to read the whole of the correspondence and the Notes which have passed to and fro, will agree that, on the whole, this is a reasonable basis. We quite agree that these four-Power talks which have been suggested should not be regarded as a substitute for the other high level discussions. It is quite true that the agenda even for these four-Power talks can be enlarged if the atmosphere is propitious, but it seems to us that the important thing is to get talking.
One hon. Member opposite spoke of the great value there would be in the ordinary social contacts of a four-Power meeting. It seems to us that there is force in that remark, and that the high level talks being necessarily postponed for the time being, the important thing is to get on with these interim talks dealing with one of the practical propositions which divide us.
There is in no sense a desire to depart from the terms of my right hon. Friend's speech on 11th May, but it does seem to us that it would have been much worse just to have sat back and done nothing and not sought to have got some kind of four-Power talks going in the meantime. That is the case which we put, and which we put with confidence. I am quite certain that the judgment of most people will be with us in that matter, and that the attempt to divide the Prime Minister from the rest of the party will fail.
The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) dealt with other matters, particularly relating to Korea and Indo-China. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will deal with those later in the debate. I want to assure hon. Members that, however much we may be 409 abused or reviled by hon. Members opposite, we are very conscious of the desire in every quarter that the ordinary people throughout the world should be relieved of this fear of war. The late Government and this one have pursued the objectives of a strong N.A.T.O. as the best security for peace. If hon. Members opposite wish to take me up on that remark of mine, I would say that that great man Mr. Ernest Bevin had a very great deal to do with the building up of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and that we have sought to carry on and continue that work.
We have also sought to reduce the tension in these international discussions by moderating the language. One of my first experiences after entering upon this office was when the Foreign Secretary made a speech at the United Nations in Paris, which had a very great effect indeed, when he made an appeal to change the whole tone of international discussions.
In the Far East our influence has been directed towards the limitation of hostilities to Korea itself. As mention has been made of the Indian Resolution, I think we can say that unless the whole weight of the British delegation had been thrown behind that Resolution I do not believe that it would have been passed. It was very much a Commonwealth business, and we were delighted to do every-think we could to break the deadlock which had then arisen. I think that in time the passing of that Resolution did have the effect of breaking that deadlock.
Now, in these new circumstances and with a new situation in Germany, we feel that we have to do what we can to break the existing deadlock over the German situation, or at least to see whether it is possible to make some progress towards the settlement of that problem. I hope that the Russians will accept this invitation. We shall work with them in good faith in order to enlarge the area of agreement. Then, in due course, when, I hope, we shall have seen the Far Eastern conference develop into a much wider one than is at present envisaged in some quarters, we shall be able to get on with the job which all of us want to tackle more successfully than it has been tackled in the past—namely, the regulation and the control of armaments throughout the whole world. Those are our objectives, and by those we stand.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Rochester and Chatham)
This is my first incursion into a foreign affairs debate, and I am conscious of my limitations. However, I am offered some consolation in the knowledge that a fellow trade unionist was one of the best Foreign Secretaries we have ever had. The most I can hope for is that the opinions I express will be considered by those who have experts to advise them and who have the means of getting more information than myself. I am sure that a good many of my hon. Friends would join with me—and so would some hon. Members opposite if they were allowed a free expression of opinion—in saying that they would rather have as a spokesman my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) with his strong conviction than the Minister of State who made such a weak and feeble speech today.
Everybody who has taken part in this debate has shown that the issue in the world today is not one of political unity, but who will build that unity, on what foundations, and for what purpose. Our greatest fear since 1945 has been the threat of Soviet imperialism, and it is quite right that we should organise our forces to resist it. The Western forces have joined together, and we must keep united and determined to resist aggression wherever it shows itself. The only policy the Russians understand is one which emphasises that determination. There must be no attempt in any way to weaken our common endeavour to resist aggression.
Having said that, however, it would be wrong if we did not take account of the fact that great changes are going on in Russia today. It is my belief that Stalinism is dead. I can give two reasons why I believe that is so. First, if we take the case of the Russian doctors, who doubts that if they had been found guilty some years ago there would have been no second thoughts, and that they would have been destroyed right away? That did not happen this time. In days gone by there were few doctors in Russia, but, owing to the growth of the Russian social system, there are now doctors in every town and district.
If the cream of the profession had been murdered, the repercussions throughout the whole country would have been tremen- 411 dous. The professional classes in Russia have grown in strength, and they are the thinking section of the community. An indication that the Russians are growing up in that way is the fact that their theory of biology has been changed in recent weeks. The general process in Russia is one of a change of thought, and we ought not to underestimate it.
The view has often been put forward that the reason for the Russian domination of the satellite countries was to give Russia a protective shield. I have not always taken that view. I am quite sure that the Russians, today, would have second thoughts and say that these satellite countries are now their soft underbelly. The reason they took in the satellite countries was to build up their own industrial capacity by exploiting the developed countries that bordered on their Western frontier. They have exploited those countries to the full and are probably now looking for a way to give them freedom without losing face.
The other great Communist country, China, is probably causing the Russians anxiety. I was delighted yesterday, to see that the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Sir W. Fletcher) has resumed an interest in public work. I am gratified to know that he is well enough to do that. His article in the "Manchester Guardian," on trade with China, was very realistic. We must recognise our opportunities for trade with China. We ought not to lose sight of the fact that Russian trading behaviour towards China cannot be very encouraging to the Chinese.
The Chinese are doing a very remarkable job in their own country. We have heard from all kinds of people, whatever their politics, that the Chinese are cleansing and beautifying their cities; that their railways are well maintained; that they have had currency stabilisation, and that they have carried out conservancy works on the Yangtse and other rivers. They are trying to build up their standards and—a most unusual thing in China—there is a clean Government today.
We are very proud of being a great democratic country but if we look into medieval parliamentary papers we find that although we have had rights and privileges for a long time, they were reserved for a certain class. In my view, the only way in which have been able to 412 build our democracy is by winning our freedom, extending our privileges and building habits of common life, and having those things buttressed by institutions. We should think of others who may be trying to do the same thing. It is wrong to think that we are unique in that respect. We must be careful that we do not find ourselves struggling to resist a danger that has already passed.
My greatest fear at the moment is of another kind of "ism," which has not yet been mentioned in this debate. I refer to Fascism. We should be wrong not to recognise that forces of reaction are at work even in this country, where one would have thought they were dead. I go home through the East End of London, and, last Sunday night, I saw a Fascist meeting which had attracted a great crowd, although I hope that some of the people were not interested in the creed. If Fascism can grow in this country, what about the two great Fascist countries we tried to destroy in the last war?
We destroyed Fascism there, but there are many people who still live and hope for a return to that system and who would like to seize power again. They would look for Jewish scapegoats or negro sub-humans. We must realise that that danger might arise again. I do not say that the more liberal-minded people will not do their best to stop it; I am sure they will, but I am a little nervous of what will happen if Germany is re-united, perhaps with the Communists in Eastern Germany allied with the totalitarians in the West. It is possible that there will be a development of a Fascist character, and we should watch the position.
The fundamental mistake we made at the end of the war was that we did not treat the Germans more generously. The men and women from the concentration camps who were released by us should have been given the opportunity to govern. Those people who were released from the prisons could have helped to build a democratic way of life in Germany. It still is not too late to give them all the help we can.
The Prime Minister carries a very heavy responsibility for the way in which things have developed. He encouraged everybody to believe that if we could get a Council of Europe the fear of a revival of German aggression would be removed. We know how little attention the present 413 Government have given to the Council of Europe. At the last meeting of the Council, I was astonished to find that no representative from the Government side was present. I know that the Under-Secretary was away, probably overworked, but the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs has attended previously. I have worked in the Commonwealth Office and I know the amount of work he has to do, but if he could not have been spared a Member of the Government should have been there to put their point of view.
I do not put that suggestion forward because I support the Council of Europe as a solution for European problems—it may be a dying institution—but because it was a great occasion. There was a meeting of the Council of Europe and the Common Assembly. Mr. Bevin always argued that we should not create a Council of Europe, as a political institution, before we had created an international Civil Service. He brought about the Brussels Treaty which, in the field of cultural relationships and social welfare, was to do much for Europe. In the organisation of O.E.E.C. he hoped to do the same thing in the field of economy, by getting civil servants together and building up this institution. We might have had a political machine to control them in due course. To create an international Civil Service was the essential thing.
The last meeting at Strasbourg was to give encouragement to this kind of development in Europe itself. There was the Schuman Plan. There the French, the Germans, the Dutch, the Italians, the Belgians and the Luxembourgers got together and said, "Let us have a great economic organisation in order to unite our countries and develop our common well-being." The joint meeting gave us an opportunity to express our views.
Upon this occasion Her Majesty's Government did nothing to give encouragement to something which might possibly remove many of the European conflicts constantly taking place. To talk, as the Chancellor did yesterday, of the support which is being given to the Council of Europe, in the knowledge of such events as I have described, is only paying lip service and not giving the cause the consideration or support which it deserves.
414 Perhaps I may turn from the Council of Europe and Germany and the development of Fascism to look eastwards, for we must look eastwards, too. It is not impossible for Japan and Germany again to see themselves as potential aggressors in a common cause. We have had many speeches on Japan in this House, seldom of a friendly nature, always against Japan because of their trade competitive spirit.
I am not in any way supporting that spirit, because it is wrong, but I have met many Japanese, as have other right hon. and hon. Members, and they are most anxiously co-operative and friendly towards us. We have to recognise their difficulties. Japan has nearly 90 million people, but is only half as big again as this country, with hardly any raw materials and so much mountainous country that there is very little arable land. Is it not obvious that before long these people must do something in order to live? Cannot we help them in any way?
I remember that when we were in Government—it is true this was before the Japanese Peace Treaty—we had conferences at which I remember the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) once taking the chair; and I should like to ask the Government whether at the last Commonwealth meeting there was any suggestion that the Commonwealth countries in Asia should get together and have a meeting with Japan to talk about common policy. Frankly, I am a little alarmed at leaving the question of Japan and Germany more or less entirely to the United States. I think we must take a much bolder view in trying to do something to prevent what again may be a great danger to the world and to help those people in those two countries who are trying to defeat Fascism.
If it were possible for Germany, Japan and ourselves, with our great industrial might, to organise not for war but to make an attack upon the problems of those under-developed countries, what good it would do to the whole of the world. It would remove many causes of friction, and we should build a peaceful community. It was with the knowledge that the Administration opposite does not think big enough, has no imagination and fails to tackle this job that I was compelled to take part in the debate today 415 and to join in the criticism which has been levelled at them.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
I cannot, to my regret, follow the argument of the right hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley), because it seemed to me that he left out of account altogether the urgency under which this debate is being conducted. The whole House is suffering from the inevitable eclipse of the Prime Minister's initiative. It was his initiative; without him it is not possible to fulfil it; and, therefore, if he is laid aside that initiative is, for the time being, eclipsed. The House is trying to see whether there is something which ought to be done now if the momentum, to use the Chancellor of the Exchequer's phrase, is to be maintained.
We were very glad by the way to find the enthusiastic support of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite for the Prime Minister's initiative. How different from the way in which they hailed it when it was originally launched. The Leader of the Opposition talked as if he himself had gone to Edinburgh and made the speech at that meeting suggesting that there should be a conference on a high level, or one would think the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) had immediately risen enthusiastically in support of the suggestion.
I well remember, when the initiative was made, the howls of execration which went up in every single speech from the Opposition and the statements that this was just a sort of amateur inrush by an excited old gentleman, which all serious-minded politicians and statesmen would treat with the contempt which it deserved. Now it has become the secret of the saving of the world. That is a very good thing, but I think that perhaps one or two rags of a white sheet might have been an appropriate garment while some of the speeches opposite were being delivered in this debate.
That does not get away from the fact that we are now apparently all in agreement that if a conference at high level could be secured, it could be a very good thing and a very desirable thing for the sake of this country and for the sake of the world. But it is no good running 416 one's head against a brick wall. It does no good to say that it would be a splendid thing if the Prime Minister were in perfect health for the conference to take place when my right hon. Friend has had to take a rest because of the fatigue brought on by this very work, for which, for a long time, he got but little response from hon. Members opposite.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I think the hon. Member might don his white sheet and sit silent for a moment. He did little enough to forward these great initiatives when they were originally launched.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
This is most important, coming from a Scottish Member of the eminence of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. Do I take, it that he is saying that if this initiative of the Prime Minister is not resumed, everything is finished? Is he saying that there is not enough initiative in this House, not enough belief and sincerity, so that we cannot accomplish what we are trying to do without waiting for someone to get well after an illness?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
If the hon. Member had greeted that initiative with enthusiasm when it was made in the capital of Scotland, we might by now have been further on, but now that we are missing the figure who alone could be the appropriate figure to secure the high level conference suggested—[HON. MEMERS: "Oh."]—who alone could be the appropriate British figure at this moment to attend the high level conference—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Does any hon. Member suggest that anybody would go across the street to hear that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was going to a four-Power conference?
We are following out the initiative of the Prime Minister. We did our utmost, first of all, to support it when it was launched, and secondly, to maintain it when he brought it forward on the Floor of the House; and, thirdly, we are trying to see what can be done in maintaining the contacts while this initiative is temporarily suspended. I do not deny at all that the proposed Bermuda conference and the proposed conference of Foreign Secretaries will in no way take the place 417 of the conference at high level which was suggested.
In any comments on the relative importance of the speeches which have been delivered, I would say that to my mind far and away the most important was that of the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey), who took a realist view and looked at the matter sincerely. I differ from his views. I think it was a good thing that the high level conference should have been suggested. Since the high level conference is now out of the question—for which we are sorry, but we agree it is out of the question—let us see what is the next most important thing.
What has been said this afternoon, does not seem to me to strike the really important theme, which is the rebirth of Germany. We are not discussing whether Germany shall be reunited or not. Germany has been reunited; it was reunited on that day in Berlin when the people rose with bare fists against the tanks. The spiritual reuniting of Germany was there. What had happened before? West Germany was afraid of East Germany. Certainly, many of the Germans I met when I was there were divided in their opinion as to whether they should or should not strain every nerve to bring about the reuniting of Germany there and then. All that was swept away in that afternoon in Berlin.The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.It is not the first time that a dead man has won a fight.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
It is the first time I have known the right hon. and gallant Gentleman support a strike.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
It is not the first time we have defended revolution. In Scotland, the Tory Party was always the party of the barricades. We have died for our King. We have died for many things which hon. Members opposite did their best to denigrate. We are not afraid of standing up for our principles in Scotland even, if necessary, with arms in our hands. We know what happens when men with arms in their hands or without arms in their hands go into the streets against tanks. Believe me, it is not a strike. It is much more.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
Is it really the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's view that Dr. Adenaeur is now straining every nerve to unite Germany?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I certainly believe that Dr. Adenaeur, as, I think, the hon. Member would agree, is very much more anxious for the immediate unity of Germany than he has been in the past, and that he is pressing in every possible way for the forwarding of this cause. Why, hon. Members themselves said that it was Dr. Adenaeur's pressure that had brought about the invitation to Russia to join in four-Power talks about Germany.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Really, the hon. Member is getting a little too Machiavellian. He should really restrain himself, in some of this complicated argument, to the columns of the Press, where, I think, it can be worked out more carefully than in interjections across the Floor of the House.
I say that the difficulty before us is this: that Germany is rapidly reasserting her position as a first-rate Power in her own right. We are talking here about what we shall do about Germany. We seem to be forgetting what Germany will do about herself, and that is the problem to which we have to address ourselves.
I certainly agree that in the case of Russia we have to maintain and increase our contacts. I have done my best, in my own humble way, to seize every opportunity I could get of maintaining contacts with and trying to understand the outlook of that country. But at the moment the most important thing is Germany.
At any rate, a conference of the Foreign Ministers would do something towards forwarding the discussion of that important subject. I do not go quite so far as the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East, who said that it was far and away the best thing that had happened and far better than a conference at a higher level would be. I do not think that is so, but I think that the concentration, the focusing, of the attention of the Powers of the world upon this vast emergent problem is 419 the most important thing we can do just now at any level of diplomacy, high or low.
The constructive suggestion of the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East was that there should be elections, that there should be a Germany free, as I understood it, politically and economically, but that it should continue to be occupied by the troops of both countries, that is to say, by the N.A.T.O. troops on the one side, and the Soviet troops on the other. That seems to me an unreal approach. I do not see freedom under those conditions. It seems to me that sooner or later, and sooner rather than later, that situation would break down, and I think, in the circumstances, would break down by some more or less violent assertion on the part of Germany, and that is the danger before us all.
It is quite true that at present the Russian forces are enormous and overwhelming in their strength. They moved, in an afternoon, four divisions at full strength into East Berlin. They accompanied them, according to General Gruenther, with 450 tanks, which is far more than the tank force four Allied divisions would have had if they had had to be moved. They are certainly in overwhelming strength, but there are elemental forces against which even tanks cannot stand, and the danger before us is that Western Germany, finding herself in a position to assert her unity with Eastern Germany, may do so and then should proceed to further steps. That is the danger that is in front of us all, and these further steps are the steps which in the past led to the Second World War and might in the future very well lead to the third world war.
Negotiation, therefore, at some point or another is an indispensable necessity, and in that negotiation both sides will need to give up something, and certainly the Soviets will need to give us something. They are at the height of their power just now. They will need to withdraw from at least some of the positions, both material and moral, which they claim to occupy at present. I do not say that we ourselves need not make concessions also.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
To ask a back bencher to draft the peace treaty between this country and Russia and Germany and the rest of the world on the Floor of the House of Commons in the middle of a speech is to ask him to assume a position of arrogance which, however delightful it may be for the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), I do not feel myself competent to take. I say that on both sides concessions will need to be made, and that at that moment bitter accusations of appeasement will be made on each side.
This is not the first time that an attempt to settle world differences has been made by an Englishman, and although it is the habit just now to cast derision, and scorn, and abuse, upon Neville Chamberlain for trying, yet remember that the same fate will come on anyone who begins to bring that attempt forward and tries to push it home. We are already seeing the United States faced with an agonising choice; whether she is to allow a war in Asia to drag on, or whether she is to coerce a country which has given up a terrible deal of its blood and its resources for its anti-Communist position in the world. That is the position on the other side of the world. Anyone who attempts peace will not receive bouquets only: he will receive brickbats, and he will be fortunate indeed if he does not receive bombs and daggers. For all that, it will have to be done.
Of course, at the moment we have hon. Members opposite, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) for instance, talking of "Smoking out" the acting Foreign Secretary. How long ago is it since he and his friends were all casting every kind of flowers in his way when he was taking a course of conduct which commended itself to them? Smoke him out? I suppose they would smoke out the Foreign Secretary, too. Let hon. and right hon. Gentlemen remember that at that time when they applauded my noble and my right hon. Friends, the two stood together. There is nothing more offensive, if I may say so, than to see men who have no right to assume, to arrogate to themselves, the right to use such language, barking at the heels of men—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—who have done far more for this country than they have done.
421 We are faced, admittedly, with a very difficult position, a position in which, let us face it, the House as a whole has experienced a sense of frustration—in which the world as a whole has experienced a sense of frustration. The danger of these moments is that they may not recur. The fall of the French Government was a tragedy. It held up the first opportunity of talks at a high level. I do not need to stress to this House, or indeed to the world, the importance of the illness of the Prime Minister. I was very struck with the account an observer gave me who watched the Coronation television in Germany, and of the Germans watching the television screens. While there was applause, naturally, for the Queen and the great pageant that was going on the ovation was reserved—for whom? The Prime Minister of this country. In a way, not a very good sign, because it shows that the Germans are hungering for a figure, a diety, they can follow again; but it is certainly true that the eclipse of that figure has left a darkness over the world where they had hoped for illumination.
I am sure that the acting Foreign Secretary was right in the step which he took to press on with the arrangement for a conference of some kind. It is perfectly true that it will be a very much more circumscribed affair. It may well be that it will be much more trouble to get the Russians to come into such a discussion as that than it would have been to get them to attend a meeting at high level with the great world leader; but at the moment he is not able to go to such a meeting. If we cannot get the best we must work for the next best, but we must work honestly and sincerely. I do not think that any good is done by representing this as a cunning dodge worked out by the Cecilians and their friends. Reference has been made in this debate to the Cecilians as having nervous hands from whose grasp things easily escape. But they are very tough and resilient negotiators indeed; and this is not the only generation in which they have proved that.
We are waiting, and must wait, for an occasion when the initiative for high level talks can be taken up again. We must then do our best to obtain a bi-partisan foreign policy if we are to carry on these matters with any hope of success. The successes in foreign affairs in the last 422 Administration were very largely due to the fact that, so far as possible, we on this side did adopt a bi-partisan policy towards the foreign policy of Mr. Ernest Bevin.
I think it is not too much to ask of this House that in world affairs we should expect from the Opposition the same support as we extended to their Foreign Secretary when he himself was carrying through a very difficult task, and, at the time, was in very severe ill-health.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
It is a little false modesty, I think, on the part of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) to refuse the invitation of my hon. Friends behind me to explain to the House what proposals he would make in the way of concessions in order to try to get some agreement with Russia. Of course, it is well known that the views of back benchers are not so weighty as those of the Front Bench. Nevertheless the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is an important back bencher and has held many important offices. If I may say it to him without offence, he is one of the elder statesmen now on the back benches, and I hope that when he next speaks on these matters he may give us the advantage of his experience and wisdom to say how we can help to solve a question which is hanging over the heads of countless nations, including, I believe, the people of Russia.
One thing which will emerge from this foreign affairs debate is that the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer has helped to dissipate a good deal of the good will which the Prime Minister created by his speech of 11th May. After all, that is no light matter, and hon. Members should not look a gift horse in the mouth in the shape of the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) and his hon. Friends. Since the Prime Minister made that speech they have been saying orally and in writing in their various newspaper organs that the Prime Minister is really the leading statesman in the world and what he says now in this respect goes. The speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday was in direct contrast to the imaginative speech to which we listened from the Prime Minister.
We cannot look at these matters in isolation. We have to take them together, 423 add them up and see what they amount to. The speech of the Prime Minister, with whom many on these benches and some on the benches opposite have been in disagreement, was a speech which caught the imagination not only of this House but of people outside it. The Chancellor, in his narrow, dry-as-dust appreciation of realities with its consequent effect on the whole House which we observed yesterday, because quite a number of hon. Members were in a somnolent condition while he was speaking, deflated the effect of the Prime Minister's speech some two months ago.
As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman, I thought that he was miscast for this particular problem. It seemed to me that the effect of some of his remarks was like that observed at company meetings when the chairman addresses a small number of shareholders, gives them an account of the business during the past year and ends up with a vote of thanks to the staff. The right hon. Gentleman even omitted the vote of thanks from his speech yesterday.
What are the two vital factors to which we have to apply our minds in the present circumstances? I think that they can be summarised in two questions: What does Russia want, and what do the Western nations want? The answer to these two questions, if they can be solved, will give us peace and a chance of living free from the anxiety with which we are all faced today. Everybody realises, however small his intelligence may be, that there are two opposing blocs in the world—the Russian bloc and the Western nations bloc, one of them highly aggressive and the other concerned to defend itself against attack from within or without.
If I may, in a brief speech, deal with these two points, I hope that I may be able to make one or two suggestions which might even be taken up at a high level or a lower level conference. Let us take the case of Russia first. I am not going to attempt to speculate on what is going to come out of the present situation in Russia; I am not equipped to do that. But at least I am able to say that, as a result of my experience since the First World War—since the Russian Revolution—we do know where Russian policy stands, because it has been the most consistent policy of any nation since 1917.
424 What is that policy? It is world revolution. It is inherent in the Marxist dogma, and Russia and her satellites are constantly saying that they are the only countries which have and practise Marxist Socialism. All Communist parties everywhere are attuned to one wavelength—Moscow—and that is in a sense the degree of their great power. That is why I say that there is grave danger from within as well as from without in various countries where the Communist Party exists in large numbers. The technique of that policy varies only slightly from the fifth column of the Nazis, which we knew and experienced in recent times.
There are those who say that the death of Stalin has changed all this—I wonder whether they are right; I doubt it. There are signs that the events following the death of Stalin are taking the same course as those which succeeded the death of Lenin. Beria's may be the first of great purges, like those which followed the death of Lenin. Beria's liquidation may be the prelude to a struggle for power in Russia which will throw up another Stalin, and his name may not even be Malenkov. However, that is Russia's affair, although most people will say that it is our affair to the extent that it affects international relations. That is what we are concerned with, and I take it that the purpose of the debate is to try to find some solution to the problem. As the Minister of State said, there are signs that Russia's internal problems may induce her to modify her rigid attitude towards world affairs. Some people even refer to it as a "liberalisation" of Russian foreign policy, which is surely a misuse of the English language.
What does Russia want? I believe that we can say, without fear of a difference of opinion, that she does not want a hot war. That is definite. Whatever speculations we may make about Russia, she does not want a hot war because she knows that, if it happened, it would result not only in the destruction of a large part of Russia but probably also in the overthrow of her existing dictatorship. As the Minister of State said, Russians are realists. Russia is undoubtedly suspicious and afraid of Western strength and purpose. To some extent, she has reason for that. Probably one thing that will emerge from the discussions, if they 425 take place, is that Russia will not agree to the unification of Germany, which would result in Germany being a free, democratic and independent nation, free to make alliances or treaties with other free nations.
Russia has had experience of Germany, and we should bear that in mind when we make our assessment of the situation, because only if we do that can we arrive at a possible compromise. Russia knows, as a result of the riots which have recently taken place in the Eastern zone, that Communism is hated by the German people, and I suspect that she realises that the People's Army, or police, as she calls it, which she has armed, is unreliable. She also realises that that hatred, if it grows, will one day take its revenge, and the Russians are afraid of German revenge if Germany is allowed the chance of turning East, as she did in 1941.
That probably accounts for Russia's strategic purpose in creating vast buffer areas as far ahead of her own frontiers as possible. Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Balkan States, the Baltic Provinces, Austria and Eastern Germany are Russia's Maginot Line or Western Wall, and by means of this the fortified area is extended in great depth far away from Russia's frontiers. Strangely enough, the answer to the Russian question which I posed may be as simple as the answer to the Western one—security from attack.
What does the West want? It can be summed up in a sentence—peace and the opportunity to develop a civilisation which permits a man to call his soul his own. Unless in any arrangement that we can make with Russia we are sure that we can preserve that right and freedom, we had better not make any agreement with Russia, because we cannot compromise on that issue. At the moment we are denied that possibility because of the fear of Russian aggression, and we are compelled to maintain huge armaments to prevent ourselves from being over-run by the mass of armed power—175 divisions, the Minister of State said—which Russia has maintained since the war. Anything that we can do to lessen this burden on all peoples is worth while.
Therefore, in common with many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I 426 welcomed the Prime Minister's imaginative statement to the House on 11th May. To use the Prime Minister's words, a meeting of leaders—… might do something better than tear the human race, including themselves, into bits."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 901.]What have we to lose by such a meeting? In all probability, we have a lot to gain. I regret that the Chancellor's speech seemed to descend from that spiritual plane to a much more mundane conception of what is required, and that is the burden of complaint of my right hon. and hon. Friends who have spoken.
Nevertheless, the Western Powers must know what they want in specific terms. I find no fault with the statement of some of those terms set out in the White Paper, at any rate in principle. The only fault that I have to find is with the form in which the terms were expressed and the Note which was sent to Russia. It was like a businessman writing to his opposite number, "Dear Sir, These are the heads of agreement at our next meeting. Please sign on the dotted line." No businessman could hope to do business in that way.
The principles in the White Paper are not disputable to any large extent. Nobody disputes the necessity for a German Government representative of a united Germany, and even Russia has conceded that. All nations, not excluding Russia, say they want a peace treaty with Germany. But only Russia says that she does not want a German Government free to decide for the German nation what treaties she shall make with other free nations. Therefore, even if we did have free elections in Germany and a united Germany with one Government, it would be a mockery of democratic government or the sovereignty which would have to follow that unification if we denied Germany the right of every sovereign nation to make its own terms with its neighbours so long as they do not conflict with the general laws of nations, particularly those enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.
§ Mr. Usborne
If the situation happened to be the other way round and the possibility was that the Communist Party would win the all-German elections, would my right hon. Friend be advocating absolute sovereignty thereafter for 427 Germany to make alliances as she wished?
§ Mr. Bellenger
My speech so far indicates that I am certainly not in agreement with Communist policy as I have understood it since the 1917 Revolution, because that policy proceeds from a dictatorship and I do not believe in any dictated policy. Consequently, I should have to be in disagreement with the Communist Party, and I hope my hon. Friend is, too.
Any peace treaty made with Germany would have to include two matters, frontiers and defence. We know the difficulty about the eastern frontier of Germany, the so-called Oder-Neisse line. Some people, including some hon. Members, say that it should rest where it is, but the German people will not let it rest there. I would remind the House again that all parties in the German Federal Republic which are going into the election on 6th September are agreed that that frontier is not the final frontier of Germany.
Now I want to make a suggestion which may seem far-fetched, but a lot of these things are far-fetched until we get down to the policy of peace-making. Is it not possible that Germany and Poland could settle their frontier problems in a peaceful manner if they were free to do so? There are many in Germany who think they could. Of course, we do not know what they think in Poland because they are not free to express themselves. If such a settlement were reached, would it be impossible to get a substantial guarantee by the great Powers to under-write that settlement? Would it not be worth while, for the sake of peace in Europe, for the sake of something which because it was left unsolved brought this country, and thereby the whole world, into conflict with Germany in 1939?
Why not create a neutral belt in Central Europe to include the Balkans, Czechoslovakia, Germany and Austria which would not necessarily mean a demilitarised zone? If that were possible and we had that great area neutral in the sense that Switzerland is neutral, it would give a two-way assurance, both to the central Powers, to Germany and to 428 Russia, to the East and the West, provided it was based on a democratic way of life. Again it may seem far-fetched but Switzerland has lived on this farfetched policy for a very long time.
Perhaps this may have been in the mind of the Prime Minister when he talked about a new Locarno Pact in his last speech, although I think that more substantial guarantees would be required and a more permanent settlement of frontiers needed than were provided in the Locarno Pact. But until we get more solid guarantees than we have now, are we so certain that E.D.C. is as dead as a lot of people make out? I was never enamoured of E.D.C. but it seemed to offer a hope of integrating the forces of Western and Central Europe. It seemed to offer some hope of a commonwealth which would spread from a defensive pact to economic and political pacts too. I am not at all sure that at the moment we have anything better to put in its place.
Even assuming, however, that E.D.C. is dead or no longer desirable, what takes its place failing a breaking of the present impasse? N.A.T.O.? But the North Atlantic Treaty alliance is one of sovereign States with national armies. Is that what those hon. Gentlemen want who talk about doing away with E.D.C.? There is not one military leader, certainly not in France—and that also goes for certain responsible civil leaders there too, who at present advocate E.D.C.—who can contemplate an effective Western defence with Germany as a vast no man's land, open, as no man's land was in the first war, to raiding parties on both sides? If, therefore, E.D.C. goes, what takes its place?
My own feeling about the Foreign Ministers conference is that it is a case of putting the cart before the horse. I hope it will be successful in breaking down the present intolerable anxiety which hangs over the heads of us all. For that reason alone we are bound to wish it luck, but I hesitate to express my own doubts about its outcome in precise language. None of us on these benches can but feel that whereas the speech of the Prime Minister on 11th May offered some faint hope of the lifting of the international clouds, the speech of the Chancellor yesterday has brought those clouds down to earth.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
I hope hon. Members will not be daunted by the somewhat voluminous notes I have brought with me. I have brought them in order to be brief because, when I let myself go on an un-pinioned wing I am apt to wander all over the sky, and this kind of note keeps me on course, as it were; and I am anxious to do that today.
This is a very important debate and I shall begin my speech, which will not be long, by a glance backwards, because we are apt to forget that the Europe we are now discussing was divided in 1945 and is divided today by a line dictated not by any political considerations but by military operations. I have never believed in my heart that this line could be permanent. Of course, it has been hardened by the Iron Curtain to a point at which it might fairly be described as semi-permanent. Why? Mainly because of the two hammer blows delivered some years ago by the Soviet Union, the seizure of Czechoslovakia and the blockade of Berlin. It then became apparent that the intentions of Russia at that time were aggressive in character, and that Germany was the focal point of an intensive struggle for power on the continent of Europe.
This called for an improvised policy on the part of the Western Powers. It was adopted by the Government of hon. Gentlemen opposite. It aimed at a restoration of the balance of power in the world by re-armament, and by the re-creation of the Atlantic Community which had been so unfortunately and precipitately dissolved at the conclusion of the war. This necessarily involved some limitation of the conception of European unity, in fact a pretty sharp limitation. I shall revert to that point in a moment. All I want to say at this juncture is that the policy inaugurated by the Labour Government, and carried on by Her Majesty's present Government, has been successful, and we are apt to forget that fact.
The menace of Russian aggression has receded and the tension has slackened, not simply because Stalin is dead. It is due primarily to the fact that a balance of world power has been to a large extent restored. I am not talking in terms of divisions, I am talking in terms of the realities of modern military power. Both 430 parties in this House deserve full credit for this and, of course, also the United States of America.
Inevitably, while this improvised policy was being pursued, the policy of the Western Powers was forced into a mould and, within that mould, certain European vested interests—as my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary for State well knows—sprang into existence, idealistic in character, but none the less formidable on that account, and powerful because they were fostered and directed by a group of able, sincere and determined men and fertilised by American subsidies on a pretty substantial scale. The names are familiar—Schuman, Spaak, de Gasperi, Adenauer and, last but not least, Monnet. Their objective crystallised as time went on into a six-Power continental federation; and at that time it seemed to fit into the general conception of the containment of Russia at the line of the Iron Curtain. And the Western Powers, having thought about the matter and studied the tune, learned the tune and proceeded to play it with great vigour.
Meanwhile events took charge, as they often do. The death of Stalin and the risings in East Germany have produced a sea-change. Of that there is no doubt. We do not yet know much about it. We are not seeing the play. I wish we could. I am sure it is very good drama, and at moments maybe melodrama; but we are in a literal sense on the other side of the curtain.
All we can say with any degree of assurance, therefore, is that something pretty important is happening on the other side of the Iron Curtain. And the Prime Minister, with that unerring instinct in great affairs which I have seen displayed by him over and over again in this House during the past 20 years, showed himself aware of it. I may perhaps add that he has not always commanded the unanimous support of this House, even when his instincts were at their best.
On 11th May the Prime Minister played a new tune. This came as a great shock to those both in Europe and in the United States of America who had just succeeded in learning the old one. At the same time, it brought hope to millions of people who had begun to despair. Then he fell ill, and his flute is for the moment muted. In the circumstances what could 431 the Foreign Ministers be expected to do in Washington? Surely just what they did. They had not learned the new tune, so they went back, doubtless with a certain amount of relief, to the old one. They certainly did not take their eyes off the score to any marked extent.
I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State when he said this afternoon in what I thought was a remarkable speech, that this old score contains some pretty good passages. He was very careful in his speech to read out the best passages it contains. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I agree with him. I think some of the passages are pretty good, but others are a little bit out of date. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Yesterday all that the Chancellor of the Exchequer could really do was to report to the House that the old tune was still being played. He could do no other; and, indeed, he played it as well as it now can be played. The fact remains that it is out of date, and will no longer do. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
I want to say this in all sincerity. Applied to the present international situation it can be interpreted, left just as it is, as a demand for unconditional surrender on the part of the Russians in advance—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I wish hon. Members would not cheer my remarks. It upsets me. As I was saying, it could be interpreted as a demand for unconditional surrender on the part of the Russians in advance of a conference. That is not the intention. We all know in our hearts that it is not the intention, but that is what it sounded like. When all is said and done it is a rigid little tune, which affords little scope even for minor variations; and we have at present no alternative.
Here I am going to do something which I very seldom do, but I am going to do it because I think it will be good for all of us. I am going to quote from a most remarkable article written by Walter Lippmann who is perhaps the shrewdest commentator on international affairs alive in the world today. Some hon. Members may have seen it already, for the passage which I am going to quote is taken from the article entitled "The Mould is Broken."Against the imminent breakdown of the existing West European diplomatic structure there exists—so far as I can discover—no re- 432 placement, no substitute, no second line of diplomatic defence. In Washington, in Paris, even I believe in London except as Churchill is playing by ear, in Rome and in Bonn, there is apparently no policy, no planning, not even some leading idea on what to do in case the Soviets have decided to bring about the unification of Germany and the enormous consequences which would follow, such as the evacuation of Austria, and some lifting of the Iron Curtain to restore contact with Eastern Europe. … It is imperative that the Western Allies … should form a policy which is founded not on the partition of Europe, but on the ending of the partition in Europe. The mould of our present European policy is broken. No amount of exhortation or threats of the ending of subsidies can repair and restore it. The popular tides in Western Europe and the actions in Eastern Europe coming from the new régime in Moscow are releasing new forces all over Europe. They cannot be led by the existing formulæ, they cannot be ruled by the existing rules and plans. They will get entirely out of hand … if in place of the contracted and dismembered Europe we now support we are unable to propose a true all-European system.I believe that that is profoundly true. The conception of a Western union limited to Western Europe is part of the improvised and temporary policy which we had to adopt, and rightly to adopt. But this is not the true vision of the Europe of the future, and I want to say to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State——
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
May I put this point to the hon. Gentleman? He has told us that our policy is being successful. Why should we change the tune while it is being successful? We cannot have a united Europe whilst there is a Communist bloc. Under the pressure that we have created that bloc seems to be disintegrating. Why remove the pressures now?
§ Sir R. Boothby
Because events have changed even if the hon. and learned Member's mentality has not. The hon. and learned Member has just given an indication of what I said, namely, of being in a rigid mould. His brain is in concrete. He cannot see that events are now changing Europe. Forces have been released all over Europe, and things are happening which may take the concrete out of the mind of the hon. and learned Gentleman and will let things happen there, too. He will have to think. It is a painful process, but sometimes we all have to think about policies which may have been first class for a given period, but not when conditions are changing. 433 Conditions are now changing; and there is no good fiddling away at the old tune regardless of what is happening because, first of all, it palls, secondly, it becomes out of date, and thirdly, in the end no one listens to it.
§ Sir R. Boothby
That in itself is a marked change. There is a tremendous difference between success and failure. To begin with, our policy was a failure because we had not got one when the Russians started on their aggression in Europe. We then got a policy; it was successful, and that is what accounts for the change. When a commander is winning a battle, he sometimes has to decide to pursue the enemy; and we may well have to decide to pursue further the policy which we are following at the moment, on somewhat different lines, I am not speaking in purely military terms; but if we find ourselves in a situation of flux the thing to do is to take advantage of it, and seize our opportunities, and not remain stuck and bogged down in the same old mould. Surely the hon. and learned Gentleman realises that.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made two points in his speech yesterday with which I want to deal. He said in the course of his speech:The best security for all nations concerned … 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1953; Vol. 518; c. 221.]On this I want to say a word to the Government. They cannot really believe that the Russians would agree to a re-armed and re-united Germany joining E.D.C. as part of N.A.T.O. They could not. Would the French agree? Indeed, they would not. They will not even agree to half Germany joining the E.D.C.
I hold no brief for the Russians, but they have had the Germans at their throats during the last decade, and one thing that they would surely ask for is some safeguard against a repetition of that unpleasing experience. That is what I imagine lay behind the Prime Minister's reference to Locarno—something in 434 the nature of a two-way guarantee; and I think that that is a hopeful line of approach.
There is another difficulty. The Bonn Government have no right to commit the hypothetical Government of a re-united Germany to E.D.C. or to anything else. I am fortified in this view by M. Rolin, one of the great international jurists of our time, as we found to our cost at The Hague Court when he appeared for the Iranian Government in the oil dispute. He said categorically to the Council of Europe:Bonn cannot bind East Germany.I believe that to be true; and I believe it is also true that a united Germany, if it came about, would mean the end of the European Defence Community in anything like its existing projected form.
It is time we faced up to that fact and did not go on making of something which is almost certainly not going to come about a sort of pillar of our policy. It is the claim of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) that because he thought the E.D.C. was a fine idea two years ago, it must be a fine idea for ever. He cannot bear the thought of giving up any ideas which he once held. The hon. and learned Member will never get on at this rate. I cannot understand why he is in the party of the Left. He is now far to the right of the party of the Right
I am sorry for detaining the House, but I have been in this business a long time and think I know a little about it. I just want to say this about the offshoot of the E.D.C—the E.P.C., the European Political Community—which is the last thing that has been inflicted upon us. I am absolutely certain that no permanent solution to the political or economic problems of Europe is to be found in the creation of a political sub-unit of an already truncated continent, based not so much on an awareness of common interests as of mutual suspicions, and based further upon a temporary and uneasy balance of power between France and a divided Germany.
There is no real hope in this theme for the future of Europe. It will lead—it has, indeed, already led—to the further division of Europe. It has no roots in history or in geography. It is totally devoid of mass emotional appeal. 435 And the draft constitution—I do not know whether anybody has read that document, but it is really grotesque—sets up two Governments, each to prevent the other doing anything.
The proof of the pudding is surely in the eating. Schuman has gone. De Gasperi is in difficulty. Adenauer is vulnerable. The E.D.C. sticks. The E.P.C. is stillborn. Only the Coal and Steel Community survives, and that is because you can do to coal and steel what you cannot do to human beings.
Why is all this? It is because the policy with which all these men and projects are associated constituted a specific reply to a specific threat—namely, the presence of the Red Army in the heart of Europe, face to face at the Elbe with the forces of the West. If there was a disengagement, if the two great power systems were separated by the kind of buffer system indicated by the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), an entirely different picture would present itself. A Europe in which Germany and Austria were no longer partitioned and occupied would be a new Europe—even the hon. and learned Member for Northampton must admit that; and for the solution of its problems, surely new and larger and more flexible remedies would have to be devised.
Our policy in recent years has been framed on the assumption that the partition of Germany and of Europe would continue indefinitely, and that is the policy advocated by the hon. and learned Gentleman now. The question that we have got to ask ourselves, and ask ourselves very seriously indeed—it underlies the whole of this debate—is whether we want the re-union of Germany and the liberation of Austria as immediate objectives, and the re-union of Europe in a growing freedom as an ultimate objective; or whether we do not.
A Western community can be built on a united Europe or a divided Europe; but it cannot be built on lip-service to the first, accompanied by a tacit understanding that it must be prevented at all costs, because, as Sebastian Haffner said in the "Observer" last Sunday, the Western community would then have a lie at its heart, which sooner or later would destroy it.
436 We must not compromise over these things. We must make up our minds, one way or the other; and it is not altogether an easy decision. There are strong arguments in favour of division, and we all know it. We have had quite a lot of trouble from a united Germany during the past century, and have suffered pretty bitterly at her hands. For my part, I believe that we should make a strenuous, although, perhaps, a last, attempt to achieve German re-union and Austrian liberation within the wider context of a general European settlement.
I sincerely believe that, and this is the reason. I cannot help feeling that sooner or later there must be either a detente or an explosion between the Communist and the Western worlds. If there is to be a detente, Europe must be united in a new, a larger and a more flexible mould under conditions which will give a sense of security—I attach importance to this, and am sorry that it was not mentioned in the communiqué of the Foreign Ministers—to the Soviet Union, because that they will ask, and to that, I think, they are entitled. We have to bear this in mind.
I see no other road to an enduring peace. We may well fail. If we do, we shall be driven back on alternative, but inferior, arrangements and solutions. But it is conceivable that the problems of tomorrow will be those of trade, of full employment and of international economic organisations to satisfy the needs, not of war, but of peace; and so long as this hope exists, we must try, and go on trying.
In conclusion, I would just say this. It does not mean—and here, I hope, I bring some assurance to the hon. and learned Member for Northampton—the disbandment of N.A.T.O. On the contrary, it means a further development of N.A.T.O., especially in the economic field. We have at present no master plan and no central organ of decision to direct the policies of N.A.T.O. on a global scale, as they should be directed; and, in any circumstances, that is a calamity. It also means, I think, a revival of the Council of Europe, which is now dying on its feet. I still believe we could make something of the Council of Europe. It is sometimes difficult to believe, but I have not lost faith in it.
437 Above all, as I said just now, it means thinking again, which is always a painful process. The fact remains that the notes which the Prime Minister struck on 11th May were fresh notes. They were clear notes, and they have lingered in the memory of many people all over the world. I suggest to the House that our immediate task is to learn the tune that he played and then to orchestrate it, for it is certainly the best tune I have heard for a long time, or that any of us are likely to hear for a long time; and perhaps it is the only tune that can save our civilisation.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)
No one would accuse the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) of singing the old tune. He wrote his own score, and it was a remarkable and sincere one. I do not think that there are many people in the House, on either side, who would disagree with the sentiments which he expressed. He faced up to the situation with a courage and realism which was lacking from the communiqué issued after the Washington Conference. For one who has supported so assiduously as the hon. Member has done the foundations of the Council of Europe and its subsidiary bodies, to come out with those clear statements concerning the position in Europe and the organisations in which he has played so important a part was a courageous effort indeed.
The hon. Gentleman reflected the difficulty in which Members on the other side find themselves. It was reflected also in the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) earlier this afternoon. All Members, I think, on both sides of the House, are agreed that four-Power talks should take place—there is no difference between us on that. I think that the vast majority on both sides favour these talks taking place at the highest level. Therefore, we find on the other side Members trying to justify the poor compromise which was reached at Washington, an unhappy compromise which might, because of its limited scope, in itself prevent the higher level talks ultimately coming about. The question is, at which level should these talks take place?
The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove, the Minister of State earlier 438 and the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday, made the excuse for the delay in high level talks, first, on the grounds of the fall of the French Government—which we have to accept—and, secondly, of the illness of our Prime Minister. The latter is most disturbing because these Foreign Ministers' talks are not to take place until the middle of September at the earliest—possibly even later. Surely this House has reason to hope and expect that the Prime Minister would be available for talks at that date. If the talks are not to take place until then, why is it that they cannot take place at the higher level, which is the desire of most hon. Members? These are just excuses on the part of hon. Members opposite.
I thought the Minister of State this afternoon failed completely to answer the very forceful and convincing criticisms of the Washington communiqué and the action to be taken put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger). The Minister failed to understand and grasp the criticisms which have been made from this side of the House. I certainly share those views in regard to departure from the original proposals of the Prime Minister on 11th May, the narrowing of the scope of the proposed conference and even the shadow, or ghost, of an agenda which now is incorporated in the Note addressed to the Soviet Union. I have reason to dread that ghost because of my experience at the Palais Rose, a conference frequently referred to during this debate.
Whether this meeting succeeds or not—if Russia accepts and it takes place, even at the lower level—depends on at least four factors. The first is the spirit in which the participants enter the conference. That applies equally to the West as to the Soviet Union. Secondly it depends upon the flexibility with which the West and the Soviet Union are ready to adapt their present policies to changing circumstances, if the circumstances are changing. Thirdly, it depends upon there being no pre-committal as to the policy we will pursue in that conference or of demanding concessions from Russia. We must go into that conference without committing ourselves in advance to what must come out of it. Finally, there must be no agenda for that conference, because if there is an agenda there is the danger 439 of pre-commitment and the situation may possibly be made far more difficult, and the chances of success that much the less.
I fear that the communiqué which we are discussing contains all these dangers and that each one is present in the basis on which it is suggested the talks should take place. First, it defines the scope of the meeting and limits it to discussing the two items which are referred to in the Note to the Soviet Union. It narrows down the scope of the conference to discussing the question of Germany itself and the conditions under which a German Government must be created. That in itself might cause procedural difficulties with the Soviet Union as soon as the conference takes place.
In fact I would say that in limiting the scope in this way and trying to define the agenda of this proposed conference the West are doing precisely what we accused the U.S.S.R. of doing at the Palais Rose. We then accused Russia, quite rightly in my view, of wanting to draw up an agenda which committed the Foreign Ministers in advance to the decisions they would make at that conference. They proposed a prejudiced agenda and the conference actually broke down, finally, on that very issue.
It may be that for specific problems it is possible to act in that way, but where, as in this case, the relationship between the great Powers is such that there is continuing international tension, the alleviation of that tension can only be brought about through an adaptation of our long-term policies and not simply the solution of short-term problems. At the Palais Rose the difficulty was that the policy being pursued by the Western Powers, the long-term policy, was immutable. We had embarked, quite rightly, on the N.A.T.O. policy and as soon as Russia made any attempt to enable the question of Western defence and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to be discussed and reconsidered, the West refused to allow that to go on the agenda. Once the Russians, through M. Gromyko, saw that the West were adamant in their refusal to allow N.A.T.O. to be discussed, the conference was doomed to failure and could not possibly have succeeded. What I fear now is that by committing ourselves in advance to agreeing only to a united 440 Germany, provided it be in E.D.C. or N.A.T.O., we shall meet the same fate at this forthcoming conference, if it takes place, as the former Government met at the Palais Rose.
On that occasion the will for agreement was not there as far as Russia was concerned once she saw she could not undermine the Western defence programme and policy. The will for agreement was certainly there on our side and my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) was doing all he could in his anxiety to bring a conference about, but the time was inopportune and it was impossible to agree on an agenda for a meeting of Foreign Ministers to have that conference. The West was right at that time because N.A.T.O. was the right policy, and still is. N.A.T.O. was the only possible counter-stroke to the aggressive policy which Russia had been pursuing, the Stalin policy of aggression.
N.A.T.O. of which Ernest Bevin was the main architect, as has been pointed out in this debate already, has had some results and is partly responsible for the change in the situation. Here I agree with the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, that changing circumstances require an adaptation of policy, and a changed situation faces us today. Because of that we must not stubbornly adhere to policies which are no longer applicable. It may well be, taking the long-term view and looking far ahead, that our policies have to be adapted drastically to the changed situation. I do not think anyone can deny that the circumstances have changed substantially.
In the first place, the U.S.S.R. are no longer in a position to commit aggression. I know the Minister of State pointed out earlier the large number of divisions at the disposal of the Soviet Union and said that we must not exaggerate our strength in relation to the Soviet Union. That may well be, but I suggest that in view of the internal position in Russia, and in view of the uncertainty as to the leadership and internal stresses and strains which are quite clearly taking place, Russia is not at present in a position to commit the aggression which we were fearing so much in the recent past. Her long-term Communist policy may well not have changed, but her immediate tactical or 441 strategical efforts might well now be subject to change.
Secondly, the position of the satellites has also changed substantially, because what occurred in Eastern Germany and in Berlin has brought fresh hope and encouragement to the satellite countries. Persons who were previously in despair now have fresh hope for the future, and Russia can no longer depend upon those satellites in the way in which she could when Stalin was in power.
The third factor which has changed the situation is the growing strength of the West—that the West is not only stronger physically from the military point of view but that her alliances are far stronger, that the alignment of the Western Powers is far more effective today than it was 12 months or two years ago. One of the reasons for that is the change in the Balkans, where we have a pact between Turkey, Greece and Yugoslavia, and Yugoslavia coming closer and closer to the West.
I was very glad to note the proposal regarding talks to take place in Washington about the military assistance to be given to Yugoslavia. At the same time I very much regret the short-sighted and rather petty-minded objection on the part of Italy to those talks because, after all, Italy is herself a Member of N.A.T.O. and has responsibilities towards her partners in that organisation. Further, it is in the interests of all the N.A.T.O. Powers that there should be this close alliance with Yugoslavia of the remaining N.A.T.O. States and that the problems between Yugoslavia and Italy should be settled. For Italy to put obstacles in the way of such agreement is most unfortunate at this time.
The final factor which has changed the situation and which makes this adaptation of policy in the future so necessary or so desirable is that the imminent fear of war has been removed from the peoples of Europe; that whereas up to the recent past there was hanging over us this shadow of war—was war likely to come within the next few months or the next year or so?—that imminent fear has been lifted to some extent. Obviously we have not complete security and there is a necessity to maintain our strength and be on our guard. The fact remains, however, that the fear is lessened very sub-442 stantially today so far as the peoples of Europe are concerned.
Taking the long view, I suggest that this new situation may require a new policy, that no agreement is possible with Russia today any more than it was at the conference in Paris just over two years ago so long as the West rigidly adheres to its determination to bring Germany into Western defence through E.D.C. Here again, I entirely agree with the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire. This is where the communiqué falls down completely, that it does in effect pre-commit the Western Powers to insisting that Germany—a united Germany—must be a member of E.D.C.
This was confirmed immediately after the Washington Conference, when the Foreign Office spokesman for the Government stated to the Press that we wanted a united Germany "firmly anchored to the West." We have suggested a conference to the Soviet Union to discuss the future of Germany, and a united Germany, but we have qualified it by saying, "We want a united Germany but only on these terms." These terms are completely unaccepable to Russia. Russia cannot possibly accept a united Germany on those terms.
A united Germany and E.D.C. are inconsistent; we cannot have both. We shall either have a united Germany and no E.D.C. or we shall have to abandon the hope of having a united Germany and ultimately a united Europe; we shall have to accept the position that we are divided into two blocs, and go the whole way and have Germany inside N.A.T.O. We cannot have a united Germany on the one hand and that united Germany simultaneously inside E.D.C. or inside N.A.T.O. The Russians are not in a position to accept that.
What, then, is to be done in those conditions? Quite clearly a united and free, sovereign Germany is the desire of everyone in this House. But if we get a united Germany, and an attempt is made to neutralise her, that neutralisation can only last for a certain time; we shall not be able to prevent a free and sovereign Germany from taking up whichever alliance she prefers to embrace. We must accept that position, and we cannot be certain which way Germany will ultimately go. 443 From our past experience, from the lessons of history which we can peruse, I think that Germany will choose the course which suits her nationalist aspirations at that particular time. We have to accept that position:
In those circumstances, what is the way out? It is very difficult to find. In my view, both Russia and Western Europe are equally fearful of Germany; both have had the experience of German aggression in the past, and both, therefore, must ultimately be given some security against it. The relief of tension can only come when Russia, on the one hand, is assured that she will not be the victim of German aggression again; and, on the other hand, France and other Western European countries have to be equally assured of their security against the re-emergence of German nationalism and militarism. Equally, the West has to be secured against a Russian-German alliance; and Russia will also need to be assured that there is no danger of a German-Western alliance.
How can these apparently almost incompatible objectives be arrived at? Ultimately some form of guarantee all round will have to be found. Looking ahead, my view is that the solution can only be a guarantee of the security of Russia, on the one hand, and the security of Western Europe, on the other, with Germany inside that security arrangement. Russia's fear of Germany and of Western aggression, which are sincerely entertained, must be removed. That long-term settlement will be very difficult to achieve but I consider that the ultimate, the long-term aim, must be to end the policy of containment which is now pursued, and has quite rightly been pursued in the circumstances, by the Western Powers; the containment of what was considered to be a potential aggressor must come to an end.
We have to regain Russia as a powerful ally. That is a long way off, and it is too early to say how it can be done, but ultimately, perhaps, N.A.T.O. will have to be converted from the powerful military alliance which it is at present into a form of mutual guarantee against aggression, perhaps incorporating, on a far wider and comprehensive scale, Germany and Russia as well. It is to that end we have to look.
444 No one would deny the urgency of having this four-Power conference, the urgency of bringing some relief to international tension, because unless we relieve this tension and bring to an end, or alleviate, the cold war, we cannot pave the way to disarmament. And until we have done that this country will be economically stultified. The articles which have appeared in "The Times" during the last few days showing the very difficult position confronting this country of finding sufficient money to pay for the increase in the mounting defence bill, and at the same time maintaining—not improving but maintaining—the existing social standards, reveal the urgent necessity to pursue some policy to this end. Incidentally, until we do we cannot possibly become economically independent of the United States.
I would say of Mr. Ernest Bevin that his greatness as a Foreign Secretary lay in the wide vision which he had and I am very proud to have worked with him. This vision of the former Foreign Secretary enabled him, in matters on which he felt strongly, to rise above Foreign Office briefs, drawn on traditional lines, and strike out on his own. He achieved a great deal, but unfortunately today we seem to lack the presence of anyone on the benches opposite who is pursuing a similar policy at the Foreign Office.
We now have the greatest opportunity for advancing towards a secure world in view of the situation in Russia, but that opportunity has not been seized on. The initiative of the Prime Minister was accepted and welcomed by this House, but the communiqué shows it has not been followed up, and that is most regrettable.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Smithers (Winchester)
I agree with the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) as to the greatness of the oportunity at present offered to this country and to the Government. But with many other things in his speech I disagree. One of them is his apparent assessment of the nature of Marx-Leninist doctrine. The hon. Member indicated that some kind of general settlement with Russia might be possible, if we could give her "assurances." I do not believe that will ever be so, as long as the Soviet Union continues to conduct her policy according to the theories of Marx and Lenin.
445 I much prefer the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Basset-law (Mr. Bellenger) who spoke of the consistency of Soviet policy. It would appear that if one thinks of Soviet policy as being something constant and unremitting, something which never loses sight of its objective, but always seeks to advance, assurances are of no value unless there is a need to be assured—in other words, unless those assurances are backed by strength.
I hope the proposed four-Power talks will bring some advantages. I do not doubt they will be well managed and may do so; but it would be a mistake to lead the country to suppose that they will result in a final settlement, or that the advantages they may bring can be more than temporary. No lasting change in the situation between East and West will be brought about by negotiation. In my view we can alter the situation to our permanent advantage only by altering the bases of power. That depends not merely upon arms or diplomacy or alliances, but upon political arrangements, both internal and external, and upon a combination of all of the various weapons we have been endeavouring to use during recent years.
It is particularly important to realise that the menace to us from the other side of the Iron Curtain is essentially political in its nature. The political offensive conducted by the Soviet Union has merely used military and diplomatic methods as its weapons. If we have to meet this situation it is necessary to see where and in what way we can decisively alter the political basis of power. I believe that it is in Europe that a great opportunity is offered to us at the present time.
The elements available to us in Europe today which await leadership and organisation are the science, skill and industry of Germany, the raw materials and the colonial interests of France, the manpower and colonising ability of Italy, the seafaring skill of Scandinavia and many other disorganised, but valuable elements. If we really want to alter the bases of power and thus make a contribution towards a permanent settlement, we should do everything we can to create from them a compact, formidable, peace-loving democratic State in Western Europe.
446 Much of the argument today has turned on whether Europe can be united, or whether we should consider Europe in its present divided state. I listened with great attention to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) and I agree with many of the things he said. But I consider that he over-estimated the change which has taken place, and that today it would be unrealistic to base our policy on the assumption that we can unite ail Europe in the near future. Therefore, what I have to say is based on the opportunities offered us within the compass of free Europe as it exists at present. Yesterday the Chancellor said:It has become increasingly obvious in recent weeks that the key problem in Europe and in Western relations with the Soviet Union is the problem of Germany."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 219–20.]I agree, but I would prefer to put it in another way; that our ability to solve the German problem, admittedly the key problem, depends on creating a European State powerful enough to contain Germany, and flexible enough to permit Germany to exercise within it all the various talents of which the German people are possessed. If we could create this structure, containing Western Germany, we should not only be able to resolve the German problem but, as a consequence, to make sure that the "Pax democratic" if I may so style it, would prevail for a very long time, because the real basis of power would have been altered in a revolutionary manner.
But the position of Western Europe at present is very disquieting. If the E.D.C. succeeds and is formed, it seems inevitable—I think one ought to say this—that sooner or later in its present state it will be dominated by Germany. If the E.D.C. does not go through, in the absence of any other plan it appears to me that Germany will be far the most powerful and effective unit in Europe, and I think there is grave danger that a chaotic Europe would be all too easy a prey.
I am sure that N.A.T.O. is no alternative arrangement. It is very useful and valuable but it is a diplomatic and military alliance. It is in no sense a substitute for political integration. I do not think that anything short of political integration can safeguard us against the danger which threatens from Germany 447 from which we have suffered before on two occasions.
I do not want what I say on the subject of Germany to be taken as being in any sense anti-German or unfair criticism of the Germans. Since I was a student I have always had a particular liking for the Germans. I have always tried to preserve my belief in the many admirable elements in the German nation. But experience has taught us—and we cannot overlook it—that the Germans are politically unstable. From such researches as I have had the opportunity to pursue in the post-war period, I am convinced that internally Germany is more unstable politically after the experience of the Second World War than she was after the experience of the First World War.
That is not to say that the present leaders of Germany are not admirable and enlightened men. I got into considerable trouble from some members of the British public for saying in a recent television programme that I thought there were many such and that we must help them to retain control of their country, to whatever political party they may belong. But the danger is that with the rapid growth of Germany these moderate men will be swept away by others more ruthless and dangerous.
The traditional policy of the balance of power in Europe—a balance of power which Britain has always sought to control by, as it were, intervention from the sidelines—breaks down hopelessly if I am right in my fears as to the future development of Germany. In order to be dissuaded from that view, I should want two assurances from Ministers. I should want them to be able to tell us first that the Government really think that there is no danger of German domination of Europe, and second that there is no danger from German internal political instability.
I do not feel that any Minister could give those assurances, certainly none who knew Germany well today. We have, therefore, a plain choice between seeing Germany dominate Europe in the not-too-distant future—and that I believe inevitably means war at some date—or, on the other hand, of ourselves not dominating but assuming the leadership of Europe—and that is the best hope of peace.
448 We are, therefore, confronted with a painful and difficult choice. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) yesterday said something which I have always believed to be profoundly true in foreign affairs. It is something which we ought never to lose sight of. It is that we must so often choose between courses each of which is disadvantageous but one of which may be less disadvantageous than the other. I should be the last to urge upon the Government a crude federal solution in which Britain was to enter Europe and become a member of a European federation, simply because we feared that unless we did so, other undesirable consequences might ensue. At the same time, in weighing up the advantages of associating ourselves with the Powers of Europe against the disadvantages which might ensue from various kinds of commitments, we have to weigh most carefully the real and immediate danger to peace if we should be confronted by a Europe dominated by Germany.
We have been told upon many occasions that the close association of this country with European Powers is incompatible with our obligations to the Commonwealth. I have in the past accepted that theory at its face value but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East pointed out, times are changing and we must have new thoughts. In recent months I have been asking myself whether there is a real basis for the view that a united Europe with a Britain closely connected with it—perhaps partly integrated with it—is necessarily antagonistic to the interests of the Commonwealth.
I would not pronounce on that now, but it is one of the questions at which we must look again. As far as I know from the opinions expressed by their representatives, the Dominions do not by any means hold an intransigent view in this matter. I must not speak about our Colonies; but as far as the French and other colonial Powers are concerned, there would seem to be every advantage to their colonies in having an extremely close association with a more powerful and more wealthy metropolis. I feel fairly sure that if we re-examine the relationship of Europe and the Commonwealth we shall find that their interests 449 are so largely complementary that the more closely we can devise links with Europe the more we shall benefit the interests of the Commonwealth.
That is all the more so in view of the economic difficulties of our time and the fact that we are seeking to force unwanted manufactures on to the United States; whereas we should be much more usefully employed concerting measures with the European Powers to produce in the undeveloped territories the raw materials which the United States would really like to have.
I therefore hope that the Government will go forward in the determination to create in Western Europe a powerful compact State. It is worth the while of this country to make considerable sacrifices to see that State come into being. If it does not we may be called upon to make a very much greater sacrifice for our failure.
My last words are on the subject of timing. At the end of the war Britain's right to lead Europe was unchallengeable. Every nation in Europe would have accepted our leadership. All of them looked to us to propound to Europe a new way of life, higher ideals and the imaginative approach to the future which our record during the war seemed to suggest we might have to offer. The United States was unqualified to provide the leadership which was expected from us; Germany was unacceptable, and France unable to give it.
Those considerations are still true today. I am sure that still today Europe would accept from us a powerful and decisive lead in this matter. I would not dream of saying to the Government how far I think they ought to go. This is far too complex and difficult a matter. It is far too controversial to be handled here today. But I do not think that there is much time to lose in making up our minds whether we or whether the Germans will lead Europe. Today I believe the Germans would still accept our lead. I am sure that the French would. But I am not sure that in two years' time the opportunity will still be offered to us.
I fear that Germany may then be so strong that she will not care, and that France will be so alarmed that she will not dare. I would say to my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State, whose 450 knowledge of European matters is naturally very great, that the Government should press on with their plans for the consolidation of Europe, and that they have not much time to lose if they are to take advantage of the opportunities which still offer.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)
It has been rather remarkable that so far in this debate few hon. Members opposite have really defended their Front Bench. They are obviously as disquieted as we are on this side of the House at the course of events since the Prime Minister's speech of 11th May last. It is true, and cannot be denied, that we have receded a long way from the high hopes that were expressed all over the world at that time towards the possibility of world understanding on many of the problems that beset us.
All sorts of excuses may be offered and put forward, but, when we consider that the Prime Minister said that the obvious thing to do was to have talks without conditions, and that the results of that were talks in Washington which immediately set out talks with conditions, there could hardly be anything more opposite to what the Prime Minister intended. None of the verbal acrobatics on the other side of the House can possibly reconcile these two events.
There is a feeling of disquiet running through the minds of all kinds of people, who had very high hopes arising from the Prime Minister's speech. It was not that the Prime Minister had said anything particularly new. The things he said had been said before, but he chose a particularly good time to say them, as he so frequently does, and it was because of the timing and of the events of that time that the world set such store on what he said.
As I listened to the debate yesterday and today, it seemed to me that we were all wearing white robes and haloes. Everything that we have done is right, and everything that is wrong has been done by Russia; we have never been guilty of doing anything that we ought not to have done, whereas Russia has always been guilty of doing it. It struck me that, if we could have had a visitor here from another planet, with a limited knowledge of our past experience, and he had listened to the debate yesterday, he would have come to the conclusion that 451 the world had suffered from two world wars, both initiated by Russia, and that Germany had been the unfortunate victim. That is the only conclusion to which he could come from the nature of the speeches which were made.
It really is time that we began to get ourselves back into a proper perspective of the mess we are in and how we came to be in that mess, and not be quite so soft-hearted as far as Germany is concerned, but be more understanding of how Russia must be feeling. I would remind hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that there have been certain grounds for suspicion in Russia as to what were our real intentions in the activities of the West. It will be remembered that it is not so many years ago that the hope was held in high places, and unfortunately, even openly expressed by people in those places, that Russia and Germany would destroy each other.
Russia cannot easily forget this sort of thing, nor can she forget the fact that, at present, the United States is establishing defensive bases in the Pacific. It is true that they are only defensive, and that, although the guns point towards China and Russia, there is no real intention to use them.
There will always be suspicion so long as these things go on in the world, and, therefore, we must approach the matter from the point of view that, if we are suspicious, as we are entitled to be, of some of Russia's intentions, it may equally be the case that Russia can be suspicious of our intentions, and, further, that her suspicions may go further back and be more deeply rooted than our own suspicions of Russia.
It is against that background that we have to consider how we should talk to Russia in regard to affairs in Europe and the world as a whole. If we are to talk to Russia, ought we to impose conditions? Suppose we start by taking the other fellow's point of view? I have never thought that it was a bad thing, as a negotiator, to start from the other fellow's point of view. What did Russia suggest? A united Germany, free elections, a Germany with her frontiers guaranteed by the four Powers, and with very limited armaments. What is wrong with starting from that?
§ Mr. Smithers
After all, Communist theory does lay down that the capitalist countries will destroy one another, and that is also part of the bargain.
§ Mr. Pargiter
That has little to do with the suggestions Russia made as far as Germany is concerned, and, even if it were so, if it is not true that the capitalists countries will destroy themselves, what harm is done in that respect?
If Russia has brought forward this suggestion on the basis that the capitalist powers will destroy themselves, and if, then, they do not destroy themselves, because of the inherent contradictions in capitalism, it is just too bad; but that would not affect the position of being able to say that Russia was to be trusted if she was prepared to give a joint guarantee of Germany's frontiers.
Even a small country like Poland has some regard for this sort of thing, and may well want to know whether her frontiers will be guaranteed, and, in view of the fact that we started one war in her defence, the fact that that country has a different sort of Government today would surely not prevent us from giving her assistance again if she is the victim of aggression from anywhere, and if she were a member of the United Nations.
Let us be quite clear where we are going. It seems to me, that, while we may still have a four-Power conference on the Foreign Minister level, it will be no substitute—and I accept it—for a meeting at the top level, but, at least, it could start without conditions, and it could carry out the proposal which the Prime Minister really intended at that time. He intended that it should begin without a studied agenda and with such general objectives as might occur to those taking part when they met. I admit that it will probably be very difficult to get America to come in on those terms, because it is fairly obvious that, at no time from the beginning of this matter, have they been sold on the idea of high level talks with no preconditions.
The American approach is entirely different from ours in that respect, and what we have to do is not to let the Americans convince us that we ought to have conditions attached to any talks before we go into them, but to convince the Americans, and utilise our European 453 allies in convincing the Americans, that that is the wrong approach, and that we must go into these talks quite free from any pre-conceived notions as to what conditions may arise from them.
I am one of those—one of many millions in this country—who have a greater fear of the possibility at some future time of German aggression than of Russian aggression. It may be right or wrong, but, with our background of two world wars, we cannot divorce ourselves from that sort of feeling. Therefore, when we talk about protecting Germany, let us by all means guarantee Germany—and I have no objection at all, or to her playing her part in the form of guarantees which may be given—but let it be a guarantee on all sides, and let it be a guarantee to which Russia is freely a partner. If we can establish that, surely, we shall go a long way towards establishing the future of Europe.
When we talk, as some hon. Members talked yesterday, about the liberation of the satellite countries, let us be quite clear that liberation will not be achieved from without. Liberation—a better term would be liberalisation—will only occur from within, and it will only come with security. Liberalisation will ultimately come in Russia itself, but it certainly will not come as long as there remains suspicion of our intentions, and so long as she fears, rightly or wrongly, that she is likely to be the subject of attack from the capitalist countries. We must be clear that Russia must feel herself secure to pursue her own policy to secure the economic well-being of her own people. When she feels she can do that without fear of any possible aggression from our side, then liberalisation will follow.
What ought we to do about that? We ought to encourage trade relations wherever we possibly can. We certainly ought not to adopt, so far as the Far East is concerned, the American idea that we have to cut down and reduce to the lowest possible minimum trade with China. If we want to reach a stage of liberalisation and freedom in the world, we must try to understand the idealogies of the different peoples, and be prepared to live and let live.
We do not appear to be travelling very far in that direction. While we might be prepared to proceed on those lines, 454 America is not. Another thing we ought to know is precisely what some people in the State Department have said to Syngman Rhee, because from time to time we get different versions as to the guarantees given to South Korea in connection with the Korean situation. If there have been any secret guarantees, we are entitled to know what they are, We want a much stronger denial of the statements that have been made from South Korea than has yet been given from the State Department, and I think that as partners we are entitled to have it.
A good deal of stress has been placed on the E.D.C. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The view has been expressed that N.A.T.O. is sacrosanct. We must begin to think again. I hope that, ultimately, we shall get away from any idea of defensive or offensive alliances anywhere in the world, and that we may return to the concept of the United Nations so that we can deal with things from that basis instead of on the basis of treaties made betwen separate nations on whatever pretext.
I agree that in the circumstances in which we found ourselves N.A.T.O. was inevitable, but I believe that if we were to say that we do not regard it as an end in itself and that, given a better world situation, we should be quite prepared to abandon N.A.T.O. in the interest of joint organisation in the United Nations, we should be going a long way towards world appeasement. We must make these moves. It is no use expecting Russia to make them.
The unification of Germany is of paramount importance to us as part of a world settlement. It is of far greater importance to us than to any other country. Our economic equilibrium and our stability depend on our ability to trade, and as long as that ability is held up by the artificial barriers that exist between nations at the present time, so long will our economy worsen. Therefore, it is in our interest to remove the barriers.
I hope that some more thinking will be done before the Foreign Ministers meet, and that they will agree that they are to meet without any pre-condition with regard to Germany or Austria, and will be prepared to look at the Russian point of view, examine their proposals and then come to conclusions which may lead to a lasting understanding and real peace in the world.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
One of the remarkable events of this debate, clearly reflected in the speech of the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter), has been a nostalgia for the Prime Minister. At any rate, it can be said that even if he has not yet achieved the peace he will be regarded in history as the greatest architect of peace in his time.
I wish to deal with the central theme of the debate—the problem of Germany; but, first, I propose to discuss shortly another aspect of European affairs, the Council of Europe. I feel sure that any hon. Members who have been to the Council of Europe would wish, like myself, to pay tribute to a distinguished Frenchman who was killed only last week in a motor accident in France—M. Jacques Camille-Paris, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe. All who knew him greatly liked him and much admired his passionate devotion to the unity of Europe.
Few hon. Members have spoken about the Council of Europe in this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby) said that it was dear to his heart. My hon. Friend has a large heart and many loves. In his own words, his mind is able to fly on unpinioned wings, with or without notes. But those who have spoken about the Council of Europe seem to confuse its purpose and its power. I believe that it has been and can still be a considerable influence in stimulating and, in some cases, leading European public opinion on some of the great issues of our time.
Its influence has lain largely in the standing of such delegates as the Prime Minister, whose physical presence at Strasbourg meant a very great deal after the war. I believe that all representatives realise the value of the intimate contacts that the Assembly affords. It has, of course, no executive power, and I submit that the time is not ripe for any European Parliament, with any merging of sovereignty which that implies.
How, then, can we attempt to revive the authority of this body which, I agree, is very much on the decline at the moment? I feel that we can do it by trying to merge the various European 456 bodies under the authority of the Council of Europe, and to do so at Strasbourg, which is a French city only two miles from the German frontier, and which was chosen as a symbol of the end of the bitter wars between France and Germany. We cannot escape the reasons for the Council of Europe's decline. I am afraid that one of the reasons is that the pressure of outside tension has begun to relax. A second reason is undoubtedly that power rests with the six member States of the Coal and Steel Community.
I submit that it is not enough that Great Britain should have a delegation at the seat of the High Authority at Luxembourg. I think that this country should enter into a direct treaty with the Coal and Steel Community, realising, as we do, the enormous industrial potential and economic power that this six-Power federation presents to the basic industries of this country.
I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will try to give us some more definite information about something which the Chancellor mentioned yesterday. He said that negotiations were going on behind the scenes to secure a closer political association between this country and certain European bodies, notably the European Defence Community. I believe that in a two-day foreign affairs debate the House should have the fullest information about any negotiations of that kind which are going on behind the scenes.
I return to the central theme of Germany. I do not hold the view which was put forward by the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger), that the Prime Minister's policy has been weakened by recent events. In some ways, I feel that it has been strengthened, and for these reasons. Since 11th May, a very great deal has happened. We have had the long protracted time without a Government in France, and we have had, of course, the Prime Minister's illness. We cannot escape the fact that our chief ally is very doubtful as to the wisdom of joining in these informal high level talks. I feel that if we are to have this Foreign Ministers' conference, we can at least keep something in reserve. We can keep our highest card in reserve, that of the informal talks at high level between the heads of States.
457 Another justification of the Prime Minister's policy is the fact that American doubts have given way to the recognition of the strength of European opinion that a move should be made at this time of apparent easing tension to try to find out whether the new Soviet policy is really a change of heart or only a shift of tactics. I believe, therefore, that the spirit in which we enter this conference is of supreme importance. We have somehow to try to keep what has been described as the Prime Minister's "large and generous vision," to try afresh, in a genuine desire to reconcile the security of Europe with that of Russia.
Whatever we may think of Russia's intentions, at the conference we should try to carry out a strategy of peace, not that of cold war. We have to consider whether what we propose is of advantage to the West, to Germany, and to Russia, while assuming that the overriding aim of all is to win, in the Prime Minister's own words,the only prize left to win, peace in Europe, the key to peace in our time.Many people have said that the present policy is no different from the policy of a year ago. There have not been many constructive proposals made in the debate as to what alternative policies we could put forward. What have we put forward? We asked something which had already been agreed to by the Soviet Union, namely, free elections in Germany and a united Germany. The Leader of the Opposition made one suggestion yesterday, that this was the time to consider general disarmament. The "Daily Worker" today carries the banner headline:Attlee calls for cuts in arms.I submit that this is not the time. The whole justification of our being able to hold this four-Power Conference at all is due to the strength and unity of the West.
The other proposal which, I see, was put forward yesterday was advanced by the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker). He suggested that the whole concept of the European Defence Community should be postponed because it was potentially, he maintained, a threat to Russia. Surely he remembers the guarantee laid down in the European Defence Community Treaty, that this 458 force would never be used for aggression. The whole difficult subject of E.D.C. needs the most careful consideration at the moment. It is obvious that France will not ratify the Treaty before the four-Power conference. Suppose that France did ratify. Is E.D.C. the safeguard against that which all Europe fears, a strong, sovereign Germany at its heart?
In politics, that which matters most is timing. Had France ratified the E.D.C. Treaty earlier, at the time of the original concept of a European Army put forward by the Prime Minister against the background of the time, I believe that it would have done a great deal to resolve French fears and to rebuild the unity of the West. Events have moved very swiftly since then. We have now a new situation in which we are discussing not Western Germany alone but the question of all Germany, a sovereign Germany, able to command her own forces both at home and abroad.
If Germany becomes a sovereign State, even were she to be a member of E.D.C. it would not prevent her having a separate army as well. We have of course first to conclude the Peace Treaty, and the Four Powers might well hold a watching brief for a time and agree to a limitation on armaments. But if we offer Germany the unity of her State we must go into this conference with a genuine offer. The party opposite, in their time of office, pledged us to partial rearmament of Germany. At the forthcoming Socialist Conference there will be advocates of no rearmament of Germany at any time at all. All of us who have in the past had their own involved in the two world wars of this century perfectly understand the fears which are expressed in such an idea.
From the moment when we were victorious over Germany, there were only two paths open to us to tread. The first was to occupy Germany for ever. The second was gradually, through the years, to give her more and more authority over her own affairs until such time as, inevitably, she must command her own foreign policy and have power over her own defence forces. Against those facts we have a fearful choice in the present Very grave situation. Therefore, we 459 should ask for a time limit to the ratification of the European Defence Community Treaty.
In the swift movement of events we dare not drift on and on, nor dare we postpone ratification. We have a right to expect a contribution from Germany to the defence of the West. We all understand perfectly well what lies behind France's inability politically to ratify E.D.C. The instability of her Government has not been so much in her economic affairs, which are grave enough, but have always been on issues of foreign policy.
Does France realise the alternative to the ratification of E.D.C.? Does she realise that unless something is done within a definite time limit the Western Powers will have to offer to Germany full membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, with all that it implies in privileges and responsibility for defence? France will say, as she has said in the past: "What is to be our safeguard?" Surely, to merge a united Germany in a force which is larger than Europe is a safeguard which will place the problem in its right perspective. We all know that there are opportunities within the framework of N.A.T.O. for any nation to withdraw. Nothing can stop a Hitler or a repudiator of international agreements except the strength and unity of the free world.
The longer we wait and do nothing, the longer we wait for ratification of E.D.C. which never comes, the sooner Germany will find herself able to stand alone and able to play off East again West. That will be the time for a bold stroke of Soviet policy to offer Germany a united country in return for a neutrality pact. If Germany were free at this time she would be anti-Communist, but I am not so sanguine as the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey) as to believe that she would necessarily become an ally with the West. Obviously, we cannot force her to join us, but an early offer of membership of N.A.T.O., with all that it means in defence, and in expansion in the economic field, gives a real chance of Germany to enter a voluntary, active partnership with the West.
If, however, the conference fails, or if Russia rejects our offer to meet at all 460 with the West, I believe that the movement to join the free nations would be encouraged. Then will be the supreme chance for France to ratify E.D.C. If she does not, and if Russia should seek to pursue a policy of drift, hoping that there will be disintegration among the free Western Powers, I believe that we must then offer N.A.T.O. to Germany, before it is too late.
Hon. Members have quite rightly asked what Russia can expect from all this. First, I think that a united Germany would certainly relieve Russia of serious embarrassment in Eastern Germany. Secondly, I think that Russia has much danger to expect from an independent, neutral Germany with no responsibilities and possibly a national army. Thirdly, it is for us to show that Germany united as a member of N.A.T.O. gives some guarantee of security, because we know quite well that we shall never use that organisation to go to war. It is up to us to prove that the free nations of the West are genuine partners. We must not only say what we mean, but also be seen to mean what we say.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
I hope that the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) will not think me discourteous if I leave her pleasant speech virgo intacta and leave the south side of Aberdeen city to go to the eastern part of that county and to the remarkable speech of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby). I have listened to the whole course of this debate and I feel that his was the only speech from the other side of the House, including that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of State, which showed the remotest idea of the actual circumstances in which this debate is being held.
The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire began by reminding us of the circumstances which had flowed from events since the end of the Second World War. He spoke of the hopeless situation into which we had got ourselves a few months ago. Indeed, it would have been one of the most optimistic Members who would have said that the cold war did not seem to be set for the second half of the 20th century and that there was little or no prospect of an immediate break in the clouds. It would have been a very 461 sanguine Member who would have said that we had more than a slight chance of keeping the cold war cold. The whole situation, six months ago, was one in which there was little or no hope or prospect of any reduction in the increasing rigidity of the divisions which separated the world.
Then, as the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire reminded us, we had a change in Soviet foreign policy and we had the Prime Minister's speech on 11th May. It is perfectly true that that speech had little or no relation to anything that had gone before, but that, of course, did not matter very much. The point was that he seized the initiative and grasped that there were changes in the world which had considerable importance. The Prime Minister's speech of 11th May brought a new hope not only to ordinary people in this country, but to the people in America, in Russia and in China. The hope engendered at that time created an atmosphere which I do not think it would be putting it too highly to say was almost electric. But, as I have said, the speech bore no relation to what had gone before and it certainly bore absolutely no relation to the Chancellor's speech yesterday.
The Prime Minister's speech was a speech completely in isolation and unrelated to the normal traditional trend of Tory policy. The reason for that is that the Prime Minister's foreign policy has been always independent of the party whom he leads, and, of course, it was far too much for hon. Members opposite to accept that speech and leave matters lie. I have never seen a more sick looking lot than hon. Members opposite on 11th May when they listened to the Prime Minister. It is quite inconceivable that the political party who founded their whole foreign policy during the last 30 years on a pathological hatred of Russia should allow a situation to continue in which a Tory Prime Minister talked about peace, never mind whether he talked well or indifferently. The fact that he talked peace at all was something remarkable to expect from a Tory Prime Minister.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Does the hon. Member expect us really to ignore the fact that not only did the Prime Minister make a speech two years earlier at Edinburgh suggesting these talks but that he and the party fought the General Election on that?
§ Mr. Donnelly
The right hon. and gallant Member made a speech this afternoon in which he told us of the great virtues of the Prime Minister and how impossible it was for anything to be done while he was ill. I can appreciate that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, sitting, as he does, below the Gangway, is anxious to ingratiate himself with the Prime Minister even at this time in his political career.
It is quite inconceivable that the Conservative Party's traditional foreign policy should allow the situation to which I have referred to go on for very long. After all, was it to be expected that the party who sent Sir John Simon to Geneva to defend Japanese aggression, would boggle over principle? Was it to be expected that the party who aided and abetted German rearmament in the 1930s under Hitler would be squeamish about another risk to peace in the world? Was it to be expected that a political party who dragged the good name of this country in the mud at the time of Munich would have any scruple about national pride or being subservient to America? Of course not.
It was not to be expected that the initiative from the Prime Minister, on 11th May, would receive the united and sustained support of his party for very long. While they were busy looking for a chance of getting out of this situation, the party who always believe in their divine right to rule found another sign of divine benediction in the Prime Minister's illness at the very moment of his success. The party were doubly lucky, because they had two tailor-made men ready for the hour in the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Marquess of Salisbury.
The Chancellor had made a place for himself in history as being an extremely good Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at a very lean period in British history. It is perfectly true that the Marquess of Salisbury was guilty of a profound indiscretion in 1938, but it is not only in Communist countries that people can remould themselves. It is on record that the noble Lord was an intransigent opponent of recognition of the Chinese People's Government, and he was a vociferous critic of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) at the time of Abadan. 463 It is good Tory politics for a Tory leader in another place to always refuse to recognise any situation even if it happens to be a change of government of one-fifth of mankind. Equally, it is traditional Tory policy to wave the big stick and threaten those who are weak. That is a policy which the present Colonial Secretary is pursuing with considerable success.
There, as I said, they had in the Chancellor and the Marquess of Salisbury two people who were admirably suited to the situation. What happened? The Tory Party collected themselves together and put the Chancellor of the Exchequer back in his traditional role, which he pursued so successfully at the time of Munich, stone-walling any questions put to him in this House. They took the Marquess of Salisbury from another place, gave him a good dusting and sent him to Washington.
The Marquess of Salisbury had two additional qualifications. It has been well known for some time that he has been one of the most determined opponents of the Prime Minister's policy in the Cabinet. The Marquess of Salisbury—I make this specific charge in this House today—was opposed to the whole conception of "Big Four" talks as enunciated by the Prime Minister. The Marquess of Salisbury went to Washington, and I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer this question: is it not a fact that at one stage during those talks he found himself actually in a minority of one in Washington in his opposition to the four-Power talks on Germany? Is it not a fact that the Marquess of Salisbury had to cable the Cabinet and ask for their instructions before he would do anything about agreeing to the idea?
Is it not a fact that when the Marquess of Salisbury got to Washington he found himself to be the most determined opponent of the whole conception of "Big Four" talks, and that he was surprised by the fact that Mr. Dulles and M. Bidault were far more ready to talk to the Russians than the representative of Her Majesty's Government? Is it not a fact that all this newspaper talk of the initiative shown by the noble Lord is nothing but a "phoney" fabrication of what actually happened? Is it not a 464 remarkable situation in which someone suddenly appears as the acting Foreign Secretary, whom we cannot get at in this House and whom we have no means of questioning in this House, is able to exercise this astonishing, surprising and dangerous influence on the whole trend of world affairs.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. R. A. Butler)
The hon. Gentleman has referred to me. In case silence should appear to indicate assent, let me say that I cannot regard anything that he has said as in any way accurate. In any case, my noble Friend will be able to defend himself and his policy with accuracy in another place.
§ Mr. Donnelly
May I repeat the specific question to the Chancellor? Is it not a fact that the Marquess of Salisbury cabled the Cabinet before he agreed to the four-Power talks between the Foreign Ministers in September? Is that a fact or is it not? Has the right hon. Gentleman any answer to that?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member is making a speech, and he had better proceed with his speech. He cannot expect to be allowed to conduct it as if it were a cross-examination.
§ Mr. Donnelly
Certainly, Mr. Speaker, but the right hon. Gentleman denied what I have said. I repeated the specific question and the right hon. Gentleman remained silent. I will leave hon. Members to draw their own deductions from the right hon. Gentleman's silence, and I will proceed.
The situation which has arisen is extremely serious indeed. The Prime Minister took an initiative which has been lost or thrown away. The present Government, in the speeches of the Chancellor yesterday and of the Minister of State today, have shown little or no idea of how they are to proceed. We are going back to the well-trodden paths which have served us so well, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said yesterday. That was a fair definition of the new foreign policy which is a reversal of all that took place before the illness of the Prime Minister.
What we would like to have from the Chancellor or from the Under-Secretary are specific answers to some specific questions. First, what is happening in Korea? 465 Obviously, that marks the beginning of any possibility of scaling down the cold war. The Chancellor—I appreciate his reasons—said this afternoon at Question time that he did not wish to make any ill-considered statement about the Syngman Rhee Government and their refusal to accept a truce. What I, and I am sure the whole country, would like to know is whether or not Her Majesty's Government are determined to insist that that truce should be signed, and whether the general policy of the United Nations as agreed between us, the United States and the other countries concerned, is to sign this truce or whether we are to be blackmailed into the continuation of the war by this aged and reactionary man?
That is the question which the whole country want answered, because not one of us is prepared to risk the life of one British soldier and set it against the life of Mr. Syngman Rhee or of any of his colleagues in the South Korean Government who wish to continue this war because of their wild and grandiose schemes or because of their personal megalomania. This cannot go on any longer, and the Governments concerned must be prepared to take resolute and, if necessary, effective military action to see that the truce is observed. We cannot have one law for the Communists and another law for Mr. Syngman Rhee. Either we mean collective security, or we do not mean it. I am opposed to the conception of withdrawing altogether from Korea.
§ Mr. Donnelly
At this stage it would be defeatism. We have gone so far, and I was one of those—I agree that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) was not—who supported the initial action in going to Korea at all. My hon. Friend's position was perfectly logical, but mine is equally perfectly logical.
§ Mr. Donnelly
Perhaps I might suggest what we should lose if we left Korea. The first thing we should lose would be any hope of making the United Nations an effective force. The whole conception of the United Nations would be destroyed. I believe in the United Nations. I know 466 that my hon. Friend takes a completely different view of these things, and I agree that he is entitled to do so.
We want to know what is going to happen. The Government must give us an answer before the House rises for the summer Recess, because we shall be away for a very long time and all sorts of things can happen. Naturally, those of us who feel some measure of responsibility and concern about this matter would like to know before we adjourn what is to happen.
The second thing we have to do when we consider Korea is this. If we get the truce signed, as we hope we shall, we must see that it is not broken by Mr. Syngman Rhee or by General Chiang Kai-shek. I thought it was ominous and significant that at this time General Chiang Kai-shek should have chosen to launch another attack on the Chinese mainland. If this sort of thing goes on for any length of time, or on any scale, the dangers of an outbreak of war in the Far East are considerably increased.
Our task, I suggest, is to tell the United States Government while the political conference is going on in the Far East, that we are just as determined to see that General Chiang Kai-shek does not launch any attacks on the mainland as we are to see that the Chinese do not launch any attacks on Formosa. Any fresh outbreak of that conflict will exacerbate the situation and will make talks, conferences and hopes of solution impossible. It is important that we should see that the political talks are held in a cool atmosphere.
The third, and very relevant, way of reducing the temperature and of oiling the wheels of peace is to draw up now constructive plans for East-West trade. If we do not do it, other people will. The Japanese are already taking advantage of the embargo which Her Majesty's Government are carrying on, to trade with the Chinese themselves, and it will not be very long before they have considerably expanded their trade so that the Chinese market in consumer goods will be going primarily to the Japanese and we shall be arriving too late with too little and with no chance of success.
What I should like from the Government is a stage by stage plan drawn up, so that at one stage we can start taking 467 off the banned list a certain set of commodities, and then at another stage the freeing of a new list of commodities. While I recognise the political difficulties of East-West trade at the moment, and while I would be the last to suggest that we should be sending strategic goods to any of these countries while the present military situation exists, we must be ready with constructive proposals to see what we can do the moment the tension decreases.
I would commend to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the report of the Boyce Mission, which was sent to China by Sir Stafford Cripps, when he was President of the Board of Trade, to explore the possibilities of Sino-British trade. We want another Boyce Mission to go to China, and we should also consider the possibility in inviting a Chinese trade mission to this country. China is one of the largest markets in the world. It is tenanted by over one-fifth of all mankind. China is just beginning her industrial revolution. The population is rising at the rate of 10 million a year, and there are enormous opportunities for British industry.
I warn Her Majesty's Government that if they are not ready to take advantage of this situation other people will do so, and then it will be too late. It is the job of Her Majesty's Government to conduct their policy in the interests of Her Majesty's subjects, and not to worry about Senator McCarthy in Washington. If they do that, not only will they improve our economic situation but they will reduce the temperature of the conflict which divides East and West, and make a substantial contribution towards other and bigger things which are to come.
The next question to which Her Majesty's Government must direct their attention is that of the "Big Four" talks, over and above the Korean truce and the future of Germany. As has been said by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) and others, the communiqué of the Foreign Ministers in Washington, and the Note which has been sent to the Russians, set out terms which are obviously completely unacceptable to the Russians. Why should they agree to a united Germany and the consequent abdication of their 468 power in Eastern Germany, simply to see that united Germany integrated with the West? No sensible and realistic person in the Kremlin could possibly agree to such a set of terms. To them it would represent an unconditional surrender of their position in Europe.
The job of this Government is not to close the door but to keep it open, to keep the position fluid, and to see that none of these rigid agendas is insisted upon. It is not too late to water down some of the proposals that have emanated from Washington. If the Government feel that these proposals cannot be watered down, and that nothing can be done, we might as well put up the shutters and have the cold war on again. It would mean that the change of policy had not been worth while, that the men in the Kremlin who said it was impossible to work with the West were quite right, and that the Prime Minister's speech was one which emanated from an old and broken politician, about to retire from the scene.
It is imperative that we should get back to the situation on 11th May, and the initiative we had then, and to see that none of these doors are shut and that there is a possibility of an agreement with the Russians on Germany. In my view, the only possible terms of agreement on Germany are that there should be some kind of neutralised Germany. I cannot see that it is a feasible proposition to have a neutralised Germany with the West responsible for the defence of Germany while, at the same time, the Germans are capturing the markets of the world and finding their industries unhampered and unfettered by the burden of armaments which our industry is now carrying.
A condition in any talks on a neutralised Germany should be that the Germans should make a contribution—comparable to which they might have made in the form of arms for Western defence—towards the economic aid of the undeveloped areas of the world. I throw that out as a constructive suggestion for overcoming this difficulty. The Russians cannot afford a Germany which is integrated with the West, and we cannot afford a neutralised Germany where the total burden of defence is to be borne by us. What we can all afford is a neutralised Germany with the Germans making a comparable contribution to a pool for 469 aiding the undeveloped areas of the world.
I go further, and offer another possible basis of discussion and a talking point. As we get further measures of agreement with the Soviet Union and China—and we must consider that we shall get them—and a lessening of the tension, we should try to get agreement on the scaling down of the rearmament programme. As each amount of rearmament is scaled down, a comparable contribution should be made by Russia and the West to the common pool which has been created and which would have originated out of the German contribution for aid to the undeveloped areas of the world.
If we do that we are meeting the other fear which is haunting us—the fear of peace bringing unemployment and depression. I suggest that this is the kind of constructive suggestion by means of which we can go step by step and, at the same time, overcoming many of the economic problems which would inevitably arise. Unless we are prepared to make an effort on these lines it may be that we shall be set back to the same situation in which we were six or eight months ago, and the cold war will be on again, with this difference. The situation will then be worse than it was before the attempt was made, because avenues will have been explored and found to be culs-de-sac.
This may be our last chance to achieve a solution of the problem of the cold war. This debate is taking place at a time of enormous change and upheaval in the world. It would be a grave charge to make against any group of men, of whatever Government, that they sat in the Cabinet room in Downing Street and failed to take any opportunity to reach agreement between East and West before not only this country, with its treasures, freedoms and heritages, but the whole of civilisation as we know it today, is lost in an atomic war.
Moreover, it is a great mistake to assume that the walls of Jericho will collapse, that the Iron Curtain will fall and that the Soviet States are in such a state of tension that they are militarily weak, even though they may be having political difficulties at the moment. It is a great mistake to proceed on that line without being prepared to meet every overture which the Russians make at least step by step. Every time they go a step 470 forward we should be prepared to take a step ourselves.
It would be a grave mistake for us to imagine that the events in Eastern Europe denote military weakness. They are far better seen in the context of ordinary happenings in societies which are being industrialised for the first time. It was the same in Britain. In the 19th century this country was not militarily weak, but there was considerable political dissension. There were the Reform Bill riots and the Chartist riots. If one starts educating people and training them to use machines it is inevitable that they will insist on some say in the political direction. The happenings in the Communist countries should be seen as the logical corollary of the gradual industrialisation of the eastern half of the world.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
Would my hon. Friend maintain that East Berlin has just been industrialised?
§ Mr. Donnelly
No. My right hon. Friend is quite right on that point, but what is happening in East Berlin is a further stage in what is happening in Poland, Czechoslovakia or anywhere else, so far as we can see from the newspapers. It is the expression of the feelings of people who are educated and have been industrialised, and who want to have a say in their own Government. I may not have expressed my point accurately, but the argument still applies.
I say that it would be a mistake to read into it any sign of military weakness in the Communist half of the world. On reflection, Berlin is probably a special case, but the other Communist countries are not, nor is the Soviet Union. We shall probably see many more dissensions in future. And why not? The main point is that we must not be guilty of wishful thinking in any hopes we may express about changes which are likely to take place. Our job is to be courageous. We have to say that we are prepared to meet any overtures which are made, and to take an independent line, if necessary. Our job is to see that we appeal to the peace-loving peoples of all countries in the world and that our policy is not dictated by a few people in Washington like Senator McCarthy.
Our job is to remember that there are two Americas—the America of the vacillating politicians and political guttersnipes 471 like Mr. McCarthy, and the America of the ordinary, decent, idealistic people, warm and generous, kind and humanitarian. If they are now prepared to give a lead on those lines, then Her Majesty's Government will measure up to the challenge of our times, but if they are not prepared to give that lead, then Her Majesty's Government and all that this country holds dear will disappear in the chaos which is likely to result.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)
I want to be brief, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) will therefore excuse me from devoting much of my speech to what he said. I would merely deprecate very strongly the attack which he made on the Marquess of Salisbury. The hon. Member for Pembroke was not in the House before the war when the Marquess of Salisbury was a Member of this House and a colleague of the Foreign Secretary, but had he been here he would have realised that the attack which he has just made was wholly unwarranted and unjustified.
It seems to me that there have been two fallacies in some of the speeches made today on both sides of the House, and I want to say a word about both of them. The first is that some people have convinced themselves that since the death of Stalin and the liquidation of Beria a new situation has arisen in Russia. Who is able to say that that is so? We just do not know. As the hon. Member for Pembroke said, it would be wrong to be over-optimistic on this point because we just do not know. Some of us may be optimistic enough to hope that there has been a change. We can all hope. Nevertheless, those of us who have studied the history of the Soviet Union and the Marxian theory realise that, although there may be changes in tactics, although there may be advances and retirements in accordance with the situation from day to day, the policy as a whole has not changed since 1917. That view is supported by the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), who said the same thing.
The second mistake which has been made today is to suggest that we are slipping away in the momentum of our foreign policy. I do not think that foreign 472 policy is a thing which we can produce in a day. It is a thing which is built up over the years. The hon. Member for Pembroke said that on 11th May the Prime Minister spoke out of the blue. I agree that he did; there was no consultation with anybody and he spoke out of the blue. The picture which I want to draw of foreign policy, however, is that it is built up over the years as a continuous process.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) pointed out that this was not out of the blue, but that it was presented at the General Election and that the Election was fought upon it.
§ Captain Duncan
Not this big, top-level meeting at this particular time. That is not what my right hon. and gallant Friend said. The question is, are we or are we not slipping away in our initiative? Are we or are we not maintaining the initiative? Those are some of the questions based on the idea that we do not produce a foreign policy in a day but build it up over a period of years. Perhaps I may give some instances of the build-up.
First of all, there was the Berlin airlift, which I think was a decisive moment in the development of post-war foreign policy. The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) referred to it yesterday in a speech with which I very largely agreed. Next, there was the decision taken by the United Nations to fight in Korea—another turning point in the build-up of a policy of initiative. Next, there was the E.D.C. Treaty which, although not yet ratified, was nevertheless a getting together in the West. Then there was the building up of strength through the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. All these things were building up the whole time, seeking to gain the initiative based on strength.
The latest manifestation was my right hon. Friend's speech and the Washington meeting, and these are all part of the series. Looked at from that point of view, we can claim that we have maintained the initiative. In this connection I want to call attention to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said yesterday, as reported in column 217 of the OFFICIAL REPORT. After speaking about 473 the fact that the French had had no Government for five weeks and that the Prime Minister had then fallen ill, he said that we might have decided to do nothing except wait, and continued: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.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 217.]That is the answer to the charge made by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, but repudiated by his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey), that there had been a slipping away of the initiative. I do not believe there has. Admittedly, we have not got all we aimed at, because of the unfortunate circumstances which I have already mentioned, but I do not believe there has been a slipping away in foreign policy. Certainly I hope that the Russians will respond to the invitation which has been sent to them to attend this meeting. I am quite certain that the agenda, about which there has been comment, is not firm but can be added to or subtracted from if necessary. If the Russians accept the proposal, they can ask that other matters should be added to the agenda. I am certain that the matter is not so closely tied as has been alleged, and that is proved by the words of the White Paper.
So far, I think we are right in pursuing this line, in building up strength and, through strength, building up the initiative and a momentum. The great thing is to keep it going. Nevertheless, we must not blind ourselves to the enormous difficulties which lie ahead. First of all, there is Korea. There are two things, at least, arising in Korea about which I am not at all happy. First of all, the White Paper says that the three Powersagreed to pursue every effort to assist the stout-hearted and sorely tried Koreans to reunite peacefully under institutions of their own choosing.That means the whole of Korea. It does not mean simply South Korea.
§ Captain Duncan
We are hoping for a truce in Korea, and a truce will mean a standfast on the lines which our troops occupy now. We are told that there will 474 be a guarantee to President Syngman Rhee of some form of support to him in the future. If the dividing line is to remain where it is in Korea, President Syngman Rhee will not have a viable unit to govern because southern Korea is all agricultural and the northern part of Korea is where the industry is. What does this mean? The communiqué talks of reunification… peacefully under institutions of their own choosing.What does that mean? Let us hope we get some good answer to that in the event; but is that compatible with the next paragraph but one? That paragraph says:The Foreign Ministers were of the opinion that an armistice in Korea must not result in jeopardising the restoration or the safeguarding of peace in any other part of Asia.I should have thought that the biggest advantage of having an armistice in Korea from the Chinese point of view would be that it would release troops to invade, if they want to, Indo-China, Siam, Malaya and Burma. It is going to be a very difficult problem to make a peace in Korea which will not only eventually re-unite the whole of Korea but will also stop the Chinese going anywhere else. I do not know what the answer to that is. I am only trying to point out some of the difficulties.
We come to Indo-China. I welcome the French initiative taken quite recently to make political agreements guaranteeing the independence of the three States in that country. I hope that the leaders of those States will accept the French offer and negotiate a successful agreement on dominion lines, that is to say, as free and independent nations in the French Union. I welcome also the military initiative of the French north of Saigon. It is the first time, I think, there has been a real French attack on the enemy, instead of purely defensive measures. I welcome also the aid given by the United States and ourselves to the French in Indo-China.
Let us not, however, blind ourselves to the fact that peace is a long way off in Indo-China, that things are not good. The strain on France herself is great, and I hope that the Government will do all that they can to maintain the strength of France morally and physically both in Europe and in this tremendous struggle for France in Indo-China.
475 Then we have Malaya. Nothing has been said about Malaya in the last two days, as far as I know. Admittedly, things are better, but we still have 70,000 men there. There is no sign of a settlement, and the strain on us of keeping 70,000 men out there, with all the problems of leave, transport, and maybe casualties, is showing no sign of amelioration.
Then we have Egypt, and 80,000 men there, and an annual cost of £50 million. I am glad that the Government have, in their own words, been resolute and patient, and I hope that they will still remain so, because I believe that the only way in which a settlement can be reached is by the British being resolute and patient. None the less, it is a big strain on us, an economic strain, which may well be playing the Soviet game. We have got to measure very carefully the balance between the economic strain of our commitments abroad with the real, vital British interests in our foreign affairs.
Then we have Trieste. I should have thought that something could have been done to settle this trouble between Italy and Yugoslavia, but I suppose the answer is that we cannot settle Trieste until Austria is settled. There again is a strain; not so great, but still a strain on the economic resources of a sorely-tried nation like ours.
So many people have said almost everything there is to be said about the trouble of Germany and Russia that I, in the short time I want to worry the House tonight, do not propose to say very much about it. It is, of course, the central, main problem of our time. I would only say this. It is no use being over-optimistic, in hoping for changes in Russia, which do not come off. As time goes on Germany is going to rise whether we like it or not, and something has to be done some time—I am not qualified to say what the answer is—to try to rescue Europe from its present vacuum, which may well be filled by the traditional leaders of Europe, led, it may be, not by democrats but, it may be, by some future führer in the end which may plunge us into a third world war. Let us, therefore, not be too optimistic about the future; let us not be over-confident; but let us strengthen our weaker allies and not place undue confidence in unprepared conferences.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Angus, South (Captain Duncan) gave us a most interesting speech. I should have been happier about it if he had shown in what way he thought that the Washington communiqué, under the shadow of which we are having this debate, had given rise to a reasonable sense of optimism as compared with what was the case before that communiqué was issued. He did not do that. He spent a good deal of time discussing that communiqué; he criticised, rightly, as I thought, a good many of the things that were said in it; but I must say that by the time he ended, I had formed the opinion that he would have been better employed if, instead of going into his discursive criticisms of the communiqué, he had used the word used in the "Observer" last Sunday about that communiqué. It was described, as to much of it, as "gibberish." And that was what it was. So much of it was meaningless. He obviously thought this; but he put it in more dignified language.
I think this debate has been a most remarkable debate; and not least because of the speed with which it has been shown that a vessel can alter her course when the hand of the master leaves the helm. Inevitably our thoughts must have been taken towards the Kremlin when we thought of how quickly this change had come about since the Prime Minister's departure. I certainly thought how quickly another change came about—in the Kremlin—when the strong hand was removed from the controls there.
In yesterday's debate not a single Tory Member shed any tears about the departure from—the abandonment of—the main theme in the Prime Minister's speech of 11th May, which was that there should be a four-Power meeting at the top level without agenda—somewhat to paraphrase his words. We had remarks from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is the acting Prime Minister, about high level talks which were suggested by the Prime Minister; but it was top level talks which the Prime Minister suggested. I was not a bit surprised, therefore, to hear that the Prime Minister was reported in the "Evening Standard" last night as being bitterly disappointed about the result of the Washington Conference.
477 Although we all regret the reason for the absence of the Prime Minister, I never thought that I should regret his absence on political grounds, but I am bound to confess that I do now. It was the Prime Minister who made this broad gesture to the whole world, which began to give hope to the world again that things were really going to move in the matter of bringing the two great power blocs together at the highest possible level. That is the thing which has now been abandoned completely, and the Tory Party have presented themselves before the House as a spectacle of a lot of aimless cattle milling about on their own muck in a yard, unable now to produce any real policy for the conditions of today, and going back merely to policies which were thought about and which may have been suitable in bygone times before the Prime Minister made that epoch-making suggestion, and before the conditions had changed which led him to make it.
It will not have passed unnoticed in the country, even if it has passed unnoticed on the other side of the House, that when the Prime Minister made that speech we on this side welcomed it straightaway. We believe that wherever a good suggestion comes from, we must support it, and we did that in this case most sincerely and wholeheartedly. We have been chided for not having supported the Prime Minister when he first made the suggestion at the time of a former General Election. We did not think then that it was very sincerely meant or likely to be acted upon by him; but now that it has been made and acted upon we have supported it most sincerely and have continued to do so in its main theme—to a four-Power meeting at the top level without agenda.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
Would the hon. and learned Member not agree that the Prime Minister's suggestion was warmly welcomed on all sides and in papers of every variety of political view?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
The first speech from the other side of the House which even began in words to cover up the absence of any warm feeling for that suggestion, and to attempt to show that it had been welcomed in the past and was still tolerated, was the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). Never did I 478 think that the cattle were more aimless in their milling around in their own muck than when the right hon. and gallant Member spoke. Muck, however, is excellent stuff. It is good fertiliser, and I believe that that display by the Conservative Party of their complete disagreement with their own leader the moment that his strong hand has gone will fertilise an excellent Labour victory at the next General Election.
This big change that there has been in the Government's policy was entirely unnecessary. Some people have been suggesting that because the Prime Minister, with a great name and a great reputation, and because the Foreign Secretary, with another great name and a great reputation, were withdrawn for a moment from the scene, it was impossible to have four-Power talks at the top level. What a lack of confidence that shows by hon. Members opposite in their own acting Prime Minister. I do not know whether this view will be popular on this side of the House, but I have much more confidence in the acting Prime Minister than most Members opposite appear to have. I wish that he would come out and lead his party in the direction in which the Prime Minister wanted to lead it before he became ill—namely, towards these talks, without agenda, at the highest level.
By those talks it would be possible to find out whether there is a will to settle. If it is found that there is such a will, then a subsequent meeting can have all the experts, all the Press publicity and the agendas. And that will to settle can be implemented once it is found to exist. The trouble is now that the agenda may be only too likely to act as a brake upon there being a meeting at all; and if there is a meeting, it may well act as a brake upon the success of that meeting.
In the agenda—I need not go into details; these things have been mentioned already in the debate—three things are mentioned as to the subjects for discussion. The fact that only those three are mentioned will lead to them being thought of on the other side of the Iron Curtain as being exclusive. On all these three points—the all-German elections, the unification of Germany and the Austrian Treaty—the only concessions which could be made are concessions by 479 the Russians. Has not the non-signing of an Austrian Treaty been one of the main weapons in the armoury of the cold war from the point of view of the Russians? Why should they be expected to hand it over now without concessions from our side?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
There might be concessions about E.D.C. and even about N.A.T.O. We might have to be prepared to throw all those things into the melting pot. We have merely mentioned three things on which there is no possibility of concession by us, but merely all gain. Is it very clever that all those things have been suggested in an effort to come to a compromise with one's opponents?
It simply is not in the nature of things, when opponents meet together to come to some kind of agreement, that all the concessions should come from one side. The mentioning of these three things exclusively as an agenda in the communiqué after the Washington Conference—that miserable confabulation—at the end of a meeting which we hope will not be resumed, was tantamount to saying—although I do not believe that our Government or the French Government meant it, and probably not the United States either—that we do not want to have the talks. That is a regrettable thing to have to say, especially if one believes, as I do, that the Government were sincere in wanting to have a meeting with the Russians.
Therefore, it behoves the Government at the earliest possible moment to do all that they can to remedy that mistake. The mistake of the agenda is easily remediable by making it absolutely plain that, although these subjects are put forward tentatively for discussion, they are not by any means exclusive and that nothing is barred.
I believe that ordinary people, in all lands, want the two opposing blocs to come together at the top level, and that they think that peace is possible if this can be arranged. They realise well enough that previous attempts at negotiation have become bogged down. They believe, nevertheless, that a new attempt, in the new circumstances of today, might 480 be successful, particularly if it were free of the trappings of agendas and masses of experts all round the Ministers concerned, and provided it were pressed with sufficient sincerity, determination and courage. Any Government which failed to take the opportunity to make that high level contact would, in my opinion, earn the execration of its people. I believe, on the other hand, that any statesmen who have the courage to attempt to bring that about would earn the gratitude of people of all parties.
Why is it that Governments seem to lag behind the ordinary people in humanity and in the sympathy of their approach to human questions—indeed, in ordinary common sense? What devilish fetters are there which hold back Ministers when their hearts tell them to go forward? I want to appeal to the acting Prime Minister, for whom I have a very great respect. I want him to make this matter his own, to throw aside the conventional fetters of diplomacy and to follow his heart. Let him have confidence that the people of this country would be behind him in any attempt he made on the top level to further these talks between the four Powers. He is as top level as most. Let him have confidence that the people would be behind him in it; and then he might well go forward and win for them the peace which all so earnestly desire.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. C. E. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
I have listened to nearly all the speeches made yesterday and today and I must frankly confess that I think hon. Members opposite in general and, if he will forgive me saying so, the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) in particular, have made rather heavy weather of the debate.
We all know perfectly well why the Bermuda Conference never came off. First, it was due to the five weeks' delay during which period there was no French Government, and secondly because of the regrettable illness of the Prime Minister. I cannot see why hon. Members opposite should take such violent exception to a conference of Foreign Ministers of the three Powers taking place in Washington as an intermediary stage. Yesterday the Chancellor made it perfectly plain that if a four-Power Foreign Ministers 481 Conference were successful, it would in no way preclude a conference on a higher level, subsequently, between the heads of States. I thought this was an admirable preliminary canter and the agenda suggested in the communiqué was ideally devised to test the sincerity or otherwise of what may or may not be a new mood in the Soviet Union. What has been suggested in the communiqué is that the four Foreign Ministers should discuss the smaller and bigger problems of Europe.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu
Would the hon. Member suggest any single way in which concessions could be made under these three items from the West?
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe
I am just coming to that. Personally I am getting a little tired of continual suggestions that concessions should always be made by the Western Powers when no concessions are ever made by Russia——
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe
In this communiqué we have suggested that the talks should comprise the smaller problem of Europe and the bigger problem, the smaller one being the question of the Austrian Treaty. As far as I know, on that there is no outstanding major difficulty if the Soviet Union really want a Treaty. The bigger problem, which of course is a much bigger one and raises much bigger issues, is the problem of Germany. The Leader of the Opposition seemed to take exception to the fact that, as he said yesterday,There again our position is to set out and the other side are asked to accept it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 229.]I do not think it is altogether out of place to point out that the Soviet Union themselves are never very loth to set out what their views are for any forthcoming conference. The real point is that there is a fundamental difference in the interpretation which the Western Powers place on a conference and the interpretation which the Soviet Union places on a conference. The Western Powers go into a conference, certainly with certain principles in their minds, but prepared to make certain concessions according to how the conference goes, whereas it has been almost invariably the case with the 482 Soviet Union that they have regarded a conference as a convenient opportunity for stating minimum demands, from which they will not budge, and usually using it as a sounding board for world propaganda.
The Leader of the Opposition also said yesterday that he did not like the idea of a possible meeting in September of Foreign Ministers. He said:I am not at all happy about the proposed meeting in September of the Foreign Secretaries. I quite agree … 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.He went on to say a few sentences later:To suggest that talk at high level on that particular crucial question is likely to be fruitful by itself seems an entire illusion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 229.]Of course the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly entitled to that view, but I think we ought to be told by the right hon. Member who is to wind up for the Opposition what he thinks would be the value of talks on the highest level, however vague the agenda might be, if these talks were not to cover Germany. What value would he put upon them? We do not want talks on the highest level in order to enable Mr. Edgar Sanders to be released, although I hope he will be. But how could talks on the highest level produce any dividend at all unless Germany was one of the subjects to be discussed? Germany is the problem child of Europe and the division of Germany reflects in a small degree the division of Europe. We have somehow to solve the problem of Germany.
I do not know how we could ask anything less than we have asked for in this communiqué. Does the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) suggest that we could ask anything less in relation to Germany than free elections in Germany?
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe
Let me finish the sentence. Does the right hon. Member suggest that we could ask anything less than a free all-German Government? Does he suggest we could express anything less than the hope expressed in the first paragraph of the communiqué that 483 we should like to see true liberty restored in the countries of Eastern Europe?
Why should right hon. and hon. Members opposite take any exception to the views expressed and the points set out in that particular communiqué? Had anything other than those items been suggested, had any less explicit views been put forward, we should have been expressing views not in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
No one, as far as I know, knows whether the Soviet Union will accept the invitation. I do not know the significance of the internal troubles in the Soviet Union. Various views have been expressed as to whether the removal of Beria has been a victory for the moderates, or for the extremists. On that subject anyone's guess is as good as mine, and many may be better than mine.
I have often wondered whether the Soviet Union can for an indefinite period hold down to the intense degree she is now holding down all the satellite countries. I have a feeling at the back of my mind, which many hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House may share, that the Soviet leaders are now perhaps on the horns of a dilemma. The dividing line between the satellite States as an asset and as a liability may well be very evenly balanced. The men in the Kremlin can ride the satellites on a looser rein, in which case they risk losing some control; or else they can re-impose an even more rigid discipline than they have already tried to impose, with the result, which we know, of riots in Eastern Germany, Poland and elsewhere. We have also to remember, when talking about the satellites and the dilemma of the men of the Kremlin in dealing with them that, whereas the population of the Soviet Union have had three generations of Sovietisation, the satellites have had only one; there is quite a difference.
It is difficult to say whether one is justified, or to what extent one would be justified, in being optimistic about the chances of the Soviet accepting the invitation to come to the talks, or, if they were to do so, what are the chances of the talks being successful. I do not think that the speeches which have been made by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite in this debate have exactly enhanced the chances of a successful result; I 484 rather doubt it. It is perfectly true, as speakers on both sides of the House have mentioned, that it will be extremely difficult to get agreement about Germany. We have to face that difficulty because the real issue is whether or not the Soviet Union dare run the risk of allowing the Germans to hold free elections in the Eastern zone. Here we have to insert a very big question mark.
I am quite certain of one thing, that Soviet policy is still mainly directed, and still more so as they get into difficulties within their own satellite countries, to sowing seeds of disunity in the West. I am equally certain that of all the solutions to the German problem, the one which they would most like would be a neutral Germany, over whose body all the Western Powers would squabble. I am sure that of all the possible solutions to the German problem a neutral Germany is infinitely the most dangerous. Of course one has to admit that any policy with regard to Germany is subject to risk.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Could the hon. Member tell me what the great majority of the people in Germany, who have suffered from two wars, would lose by a neutral Germany?
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe
I think that the hon. Member knows perfectly well that a neutral Germany, as a kind of buffer State between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers, over whose body everyone would, as I said, squabble would be a most appalling danger to Europe. The hon. Member must know enough about history to realise that.
It is quite certain that any idea of a permanent occupation of Western Germany by the Western Powers is totally impracticable. No one has suggested that as a suitable permanent solution. Equally I do not think we can contemplate a united Germany going into the Soviet bloc, with all her military ingenuity and her industrial skill allied to the manpower of Asia. That would be a most appalling menace. That is why I think it is a tremendous tragedy that France did not realise earlier the urgency of getting Western Germany tied into some kind of Western defence system while the going was good. For that reason, if for no other, I regret all the delay over E.D.C.
485 We all know, in this House and in the Western world, that N.A.T.O. is an entirely defensive organisation. It does not menace anybody; it is not going to attack anybody; indeed it was created by the Soviet menace. I doubt, however, whether we can persuade the Soviet Union to drop their propaganda on the subject of N.A.T.O. I have always had doubts whether the Soviet fear of N.A.T.O. was really genuine, but it is an immense propaganda weapon which they use with great skill, and I am not at all sure that we can persuade them at any conference, at whatever level, to drop the internal propaganda which they now use about N.A.T.O.
I have always felt that Soviet policy towards the Western Powers was rather like a tote double bet. One leg of the bet is that the United States will get bored with its military and economic commitments in Europe. The other leg of the bet is that we in Britain cannot over an indefinite period sustain the financial burden of both re-armament and the Welfare State. The Soviet Union reckons that democracy can accept any sacrifices for a limited period so long as the goal is quite clear. They doubt whether democracy is quite so willing in a cold war period which appears to have no end. In other words, they think Communism is better geared for a war of nerves than is democracy. It is up to every one of us in this House and every one in all the N.A.T.O. countries to prove that theory to be wrong.
I am absolutely certain that, whatever else we may do, it would be folly to slow down our defence programme. But if the conference of Foreign Ministers, should it take place, can succeed in casing the tension of the cold war, even in one area, I do not know why hon. Members opposite should take such exception to the invitation to the Soviet Government in the communiqué.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Maldon)
Hon. Members opposite, at least those of them not too embarrassed to do so, are naturally engaged—with the rather desperate brightness of a hostess whose chief guest is absent—in trying to justify the miserable little off-White Paper with which the Government have insulted the House. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) cannot be quite as 486 naive as he seems to be. He says that the smaller conference now proposed will be a "preliminary canter" for the big one. If so, it will be a canter after which the horses will be doped, or perhaps switched, so that the favourite—Peace—cannot possibly win, while the East-West cables are sabotaged.
The hon. Member said, quite truly, that it will be extremely difficult to get agreement about Germany. It is perhaps the most difficult of all the issues, one of the most important and difficult. Yet earlier in his speech the hon. Member was taunting my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), and others on this side of the House, saying, "Well, don't they think that the talks should cover Germany?—Isn't that an important subject?"—and so on, as if we had ever suggested that it should be left out. What we do object to is the laying down in advance of these rigid and exclusive conditions and agenda. It is just because, as the hon. Member himself says, Germany is going to be the most difficult of subjects that we say that it should not be the only or the main subject laid down in advance for discussion.
That is surely common sense, if you want to get agreement. If, on the other hand, you are merely putting up a bogus façade of wanting peace, if you do not genuinely and seriously want to get agreement, it may be a good idea to set out a rigid agenda consisting exclusively of the most difficult subjects on which to get agreement.
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe
I said that we had offered the Soviet a smaller and a bigger problem, the smaller problem being that of Austria and the bigger one that of Germany. I thought that those two were good test cases
§ Mr. Driberg
The hon. Member himself said that Germany was perhaps the most difficult problem of all, and all we suggest, as the Prime Minister originally suggested, is that there should be no fixed agenda. Obviously, these problems, like many others, would be discussed in the course of the conference. It seems to us to be a mistake, and perhaps an irreparable mistake, to lay them down in advance, and lay them down in a peculiarly provocative way, as this document does.
The hon. Member, again, said in his speech—which was an interesting and 487 sincere speech, of course, as all the speeches have been—"Why should we not set out our views in advance? The Soviet Union have never been loth to set out their views before a conference." Precisely: is it not perhaps partly because both sides in the last few years have approached conferences with these rigid agendas, and views set out in advance in a rather provocative way, that these conferences have failed so often? It was because the Prime Minister's speech of 11th May seemed to offer a new approach altogether, in a new spirit, and suggested a different kind of much looser agenda, that we welcomed it so strongly.
I think that it is not unfair to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that he has only once in his life spoken for all the people of Britain. I exclude the period of his service as Minister of Education during the wartime Coalition. This occasion, on which he spoke for all the people of Britain, was certainly not yesterday. The occasion to which I am referring—I have not looked it up in HANSARD, but I remember it very vividly—was in December, 1950.
There was a two-day debate on foreign affairs—rather a desultory and dull debate, which was suddenly galvanised by a message on the tape from Washington. As it turned out afterwards the message had been a bit garbled: it was a report that General MacArthur was going to do something even more than usually silly and criminal in Korea about the atomic bomb. Anyway, it put new life into that rather rambling debate; and, at the end of it, my right hon. Friend the present Leader of the Opposition announced that he was going to fly to Washington to have direct personal talks with President Truman.
The winding-up speech for the then Opposition immediately before he spoke was made by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. I must say that on that occasion he did speak for the people of Britain: he wished the then Prime Minister well in his mission to Washington, and he said that he should speak forthrightly to the American President and tell him that, among other things, the British people wanted to have a say in their own fate. The speech was very 488 well received and it led up to my right hon. Friend's announcement.
One cannot help contrasting that speech with the rather unhappy performance that the Chancellor gave yesterday at the Dispatch Box; one cannot help contrasting the conference that the present Leader of the Opposition had in Washington with President Truman with the conference that Lord Salisbury has just had in Washington with Mr. Foster Dulles and others. The difference is marked even in the respective documents issued after those conferences. After the conference between the present Leader of the Opposition and President Truman there was a document outlining very frankly the discussions which had taken place and indicating with equal frankness the points of disagreement between ourselves and our American allies. This last conference has merely resulted in a communiqué which represents unconditional surrender by Her Majesty's Government to everything that Mr. John Foster Dulles advised and demanded.
That is the difference between the two British Governments and that is the justification for an electoral campaign in 1951 which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are very sensitive about and which they wrongly describe as the "warmonger" campaign. We never said—at least I did not and I know no responsible spokesman of my party who did—that the Prime Minister or any member of the party opposite was a warmonger. What we did say, and I claim that it is justified by this communiqué, was that, on the whole, we believed that peace would be safer in the hands of our party than in the hands of the party opposite.
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells) rose——
§ Mr. Driberg
I have a very limited time; otherwise I would gladly give way, as I usually do.
The Minister of State this afternoon indulged in some partisan badinage; and, coming from him, that showed how uncomfortable he was. If we on this side of the House were the sort of people who put party above country we should now be in a mood of gloating exultation at the embarrassment, ineptitude, and misfortune of the party opposite. Their Government have shown themselves to be 489 a mere satellite Government of Washington. We are not people of that sort. We share the general depression and dismay induced by the capitulation of Lord Salisbury in Washington.
Whether the Prime Minister was, as some people have said and some newspapers have written, stung to it, to some extent, by the campaign to which I have already referred, whether he was quite naturally anxious, in what must, in the natural order of things, be his last few years of office, to be known as a peacemaking Prime Minister as well as a war-winning Prime Minister—and we can only speculate, because we cannot know—but, whatever the motive for that speech, it was a very remarkable speech, as we thought, and we earnestly hoped with the rest of the British people and the peoples of all countries, that it marked the opening of a completely new chapter in international relations.
The Minister of State today, especially in the latter part of his speech, said some things with which all of us would agree. We do not question his sincerity or his good intentions, but we are entitled to doubt his power to influence events, in Washington particularly. Indeed, his own quotation from a previous speech by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was in itself an admission of the failure of that Washington mission of Lord Salisbury, because, in extenuation of Lord Salisbury, he quoted my right hon. Friend as saying that, in great part, international affairs are affairs of compromise, in which we often have to give way to the other fellow, and in which there is a good deal of give and take. In this particular case, it was all give on our side and all take on the other side, apparently. It was a resounding defeat for this country, the sort of defeat which we are bound to get when we employ people like Lord Salisbury, with their views, to conduct our negotiations.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) did not question Lord Salisbury's sincerity, and nobody would. He holds sincerely views which many of us find quite appalling and erroneous. Since he holds those views—though, no doubt, he would honourably state the formal case for the Prime Minister's view, in accordance with his directive—it is too much to expect him to 490 argue or to press that case with the passionate conviction which might have carried some weight in Washington; on the contrary, all his own instincts would fit in all too well with the notorious prejudices of Mr. Foster Dulles.
It was also rather significant, I thought, that the Minister of State this afternoon read out only the second part of this document. He read out the shorter part—the letter, for which he is responsible, to the Soviet Ambassador—but he did not read even extracts from the communiqué itself. It is perfectly understandable why he did not do so, because he is intelligent enough to know that a great deal of it is poisonous rubbish. For instance, the hon. Member for Windsor spoke about N.A.T.O., as many other hon. Members have done. Most of us in this House support N.A.T.O. and the various other instruments of Western defence. But it seems unnecessarily provocative, on the eve of a conference in which we are apparently pretending to want to do serious business and to seek peace genuinely, to overload the communiqué with rather defiant and provocative statements such as… the North Atlantic Alliance is fundamental to the foreign and defence policies of the three Governments.An absolute non possumus! This is probably what my right hon. Friend had in mind when he spoke about the Government standing pat on the old attitude and the folly of it. The North Atlantic alliance may, indeed, be fundamental to defence policy. I wonder how it is fundamental to foreign policy.
Then there is the passage about the working-in of the European Community, so-called, with the Atlantic Community; and the provocative reference to Berlin and the Soviet zone; and, of course, the references to Indo-China and this nonsensical double-talk at the end:The objective of the French Government is to perfect with the Associated States that mutually desirable cohesion which is indispensable to the success of the common struggle for the independence of the three States.Really, that is fantastic nonsense. The Chancellor yesterday lent rather sinister weight to these observations on Indo-China by his references to the war which has been going on there since 1945. He spoke about giving maximum material help to the French in Indo-China.
491 This seems to many of us on this side of the House to be the height of folly, and to be no true friendship to the French. It is not the act of a true friend to encourage one, by constantly supplying one with loans, to bankrupt oneself in a foolish project. Bao Dai will turn out to be another Syngman Rhee. The French will find, in the end, that they cannot conquer their former colony of Indo-China by merely military means, and we ought not to want them to win a military victory. We, on this side of the House at least, want the war in Indo-China to be wound up as soon as possible by negotiation, not by the crushing military defeat of a colonial people: surely, all the lessons in Asia of the last few years have shown that that is an absolutely futile and suicidal policy.
Otherwise, no doubt, when the Korean war is over, there will be demands that these material supplies to Indo-China should be supplemented by the sending of British troops to Indo-China. I do not know whether the Under-Secretary, who is to wind up the debate tonight, will say whether there is any likelihood that that will happen. After all, whatever the origins of the war in Korea may have been—and certainly we on this side of the House accepted in good faith the reasons which prompted the United Nations' action in Korea—there is no doubt about the origins of the war in Indo-China. The French started it, in 1945, by a double-cross of the British commander on the spot.
The Prime Minister himself, in the course of that remarkable speech of 11th May, referred to the fundamental issues which divide the Communist and the non-Communist parts of the world. There are, of course, issues which divide them—there are issues to be debated—but there is no issue, I submit, which warrants a general war to try to solve it, even if that could solve it. What are of much more importance than the fundamental issues which divide the Communist and the non-Communist parts of the world are the issues and problems which are common to both parts of the world, the issues and problems of hunger, poverty and disease.
If only we can get away from these largely bogus ideological arguments, this 492 claptrap about the so called "free world"—a phrase which keeps on recurring in all this propaganda; a free world which includes Malanite South Africa, Spain, and the gaol in which the Rosenbergs were executed—and about the Atlantic "Community," also so-called, and meaninglessly so-called—if only we can get away from that humbug and claptrap, we may start solving some of the real problems that are common to both the Communist and non-Communist parts of the world. If we do not, we shall go down—and when I say "we" I include both sides of the House and most of this nation—to disgraceful oblivion, and we shall deserve to do so.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
This has been a debate in which there has been on both sides of the House—as is not uncommon in foreign affairs debates—a good deal of individual expression of opinion, culminating in some somewhat individual observations by my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg). It is inevitable in connection with foreign affairs that on both sides of the House there should be more than one opinion, shade of opinion, and temperament of approach, and it is not wholly bad that that should be so.
After all, the whole business of foreign affairs is very large, it spreads over the world, it is complicated: and it is very human and understandable if more than one point of view is taken, within reasonable limits, by some Members in the Conservative Party and by some Members in the Labour Party. We can bet our boots that there are differences of opinion in the Liberal Party, because that is the great virtue of the Liberal Party.
This afternoon, the Minister of State was good enough to give us a speech following the excellent speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger). He said that it was not surprising if the language of the Washington communiqué and of the White Paper was not everything that everybody would wish, and that there were three Powers involved and two languages. Some hon. Members said three, which may be true, and therefore it was quite understandable. It is not the language that we complain about so much as the substance of the communiqué and of the Note which was sent to the Soviet Union.
493 The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the criticism made by my right hon. Friend of the Lord President of the Council and acting Foreign Secretary. In substance, what my right hon. Friend said was that, in connection with the Labour Government's recognition of Communist China, Lord Salisbury was undoubtedly exceedingly critical, and that on other matters affecting foreign policy he was more critical now and again of our policy than were the Conservative Front Bench in this House. Therefore what my right hon. Friend was saying was that, having regard to the nature and the temper of the Prime Minister's speech on 11th May, it was an unfortunate circumstance that the spokesman for the United Kingdom at Washington happened to be the Marquess of Salisbury.
I say that as one who has a deep respect for the Marquess of Salisbury. I would not for a moment question his sincerity. He comes from a great family with a long line of public service, and I am sure he is a man who can stand up to the Prime Minister now and again if he wants to. Therefore, it is not any personal attack which is involved. It is that his attitude and opinions upon a body of matters in connection with the subjects which were dealt with at Washington made him an unsuitable negotiator.
As one of my hon. Friends remarked earlier on—and how true it is one knows—it makes all the difference in the world if a Minister going to negotiate does so with his heart in the business, prepared to wrestle and strive with great determination with tough Americans. We must not complain if Americans are tough. We like our people to be tough as well. There are tough Frenchmen; they can be tough too, and we must not complain about them. That is one thing. If the Minister goes with the intention of putting a case in accordance with instructions received from higher authority in the Government, and that is all, he will in that case almost inevitably be defeated. It seems to us that that is what has probably occurred. Therefore, we were concerned not so much about the language of the document, though we can criticise, have criticised and will criticise that, but about the substance of the document and the whole approach to the business which eventuated from Washington.
494 The Minister of State also thought that there were some encouraging features about more recent Soviet policy. He said, quite rightly, that one must try to form a cautious and balanced estimate of what the change amounts to. I do not complain about that. He said also that because of these rather beneficial and improved manifestations we must not therefore weaken our defences, and so on. As far as I know, nobody on the Labour side has suggested that we should weaken our defences at once because of the improved language and spirit of Soviet pronouncements. We have not done so and we do not propose to do so.
It would be reasonable to keep our defences strong until we are satisfied that we have entered into a world in which peace is reasonably secure, but the sooner that comes the better for the sake of the economic well-being of mankind and so that we can do something better with our money and other people, including the Soviet people, can do something better with their money than invest it in destructive armaments as we are doing on a large scale at the present time.
The Minister of State said that the Washington talks were useful and that out of them had come the documents which are now before us. I doubt whether they were particularly useful, and if all that has come out of them is these documents, it may yet turn out that they have done more harm than good.
I should like to say a word of sympathy with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not expect him to agree, but it may well be that he will know that his speech of yesterday was not one of the best that he has made in the House of Commons. I am not complaining. We cannot always make the best speeches, we all go up and down, but his speech was not on the level of his Budget speech, for example. We ought, however, to feel sympathy with him at this moment. He is carrying a very, very heavy burden. He is acting Prime Minister, he has all the very heavy burdens of the Treasury, including its economic operations. I suppose, also, that he is spending a material part of his time on foreign affairs and many other things concerning Departmental matters upon which Ministers wish to consult him.
495 This, therefore, is not a moment when one ought to be rough with a man who is carrying these responsibilities. But I thought that the right hon. Gentleman's speech was not convincing from the point of view of the Government. It was not merely a matter of the delivery of the speech but the fact that the case that he made was ineffective and that the speech sounded like a very official brief not very well done.
The truth is that the carrying of the burden of foreign affairs really will have to be examined. We have seen a series of Foreign Secretaries get into a bad state of health. It did not start with this Government. It did not start with the Labour Government in the case of Ernest Bevin. It started earlier. The burden of the Foreign Office on the Secretary of State is a terrible one, and it is not light either in the case of subordinate Ministers. The reading is terrific; the hours are long, and the Secretary of State also has to work on Cabinet Committees, in the Cabinet and otherwise.
It is not only the amount of the work, the hours of work and the consultations with committees at the Foreign Office that go on all day, with visitors from other countries, including ambassadors and so on, but it is the nature of the decisions of a heavy and responsible character which have to be reached, that are bound to involve more strain on a man than in the case, for example, of running the Home Office or the Ministry of Labour, or domestic Departments of that kind, responsible though those duties are.
It is worth while all of us trying to think constructively about how this burden can be carried. I believe it will be necessary for us to recognise as a House of Commons that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has got to delegate some of his functions to subordinate Ministers, and chance it. He will have to be responsible at the end of the day, and he will have to make rules, but I do not believe that the Foreign Secretary can be expected, in the existing state of the world, to go on carrying the burdens that Foreign Secretaries have been carrying during the last 20 or 30 years or more. The present Foreign Secretary has gone down under it. The Prime Minister took over with great joy, eagerness and 496 happiness; we all understand that. He added to his duties as Prime Minister the supervision of the Foreign Office. It apparently hurt him, and now the Chancellor of the Exchequer is carrying this added burden.
It is time that not only the Government but we of the Opposition also thought constructively and helpfully about the burden that probably exceeds that carried by any other Member of the Government. I expect the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself has the next heaviest burden to carry in the Administration, quite apart from these abnormal circumstances of acting as Prime Minister and so on. I should like to say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, therefore, that we understand his difficulties, and that if he was rather short and cross with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, I understand, and I am sure my right hon. Friend understands—although I think the Chancellor will agree that my right hon. Friend's question yesterday whether some possible estimate of the date of the return of the Prime Minister could be made, or whether he would be able to return and take these matters over, was not illegitimate. I understand that it may have been difficult for the Chancellor to give a precise answer to that question, for the simple reason that he does not know. If I may say so, I do not think it was anything to get cross about with my right hon. Friend, or anything to cause him to give a rather sharp response.
In relation to the Far East, the White Paper adopts an attitude of looking for trouble. Here we are in a situation where we are hoping that there will shortly be a conclusion of the armistice talks in Korea. I have every reason to hope so, because I had a big hand in getting them going about a couple of years ago and in persuading our American friends to be co-operative in the matter. Unfortunately, I gather that the Chancellor's hopes and optimism of yesterday about a conclusion of the talks have not eventuated, and that in particular the President of South Korea has not acted up to the standards which the Chancellor hoped would be the case yesterday. But it seems to me that in relation to the Far East, the communiqué of the Foreign Ministers goes out of its way to pick out points that are likely to be provocative 497 and troublesome. The communiqué says:They"—that is to say, the Foreign Ministers—considered that, in existing circumstances and pending further consultation, the common policies of the three Powers towards Communist China should fee maintained.As the policies of the Powers vary, I am not sure what the common policies are. That is not even convincing.They resolved that, if the Communists should renew their aggression in Korea after an armistice and again 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.I do not complain that somehow people should know that if that happened we would resist, but was it really necessary to put this in an official communiqué at Washington, at a moment when we were hoping for peace to eventuate in Korea? Was it necessary to say, "We are going to do our best to make peace"—and in the spirit of this document, one might almost have added, "There is a real danger, indeed, of peace breaking out"—"but we warn the other side that if peace does break out, even though we shall not oppose it we shall look for trouble and we shall be ready for a scrap if a scrap comes off"?
I do not blame any Government for having their eyes skinned to the possibility of trouble, but if one is engaged in seeking to get world understanding with great nations with whom one has not agreed and with whom one is trying to agree, surely the best thing is to preserve the right language and spirit in order not to say things which may make the other side feel that one is not genuine in what one is saying and urging. That is our complaint about the whole of this business.
We recognised Communist China, and this Government have upheld that decision. The Chinese could have recognised us a little bit more than they have done, but we have plunged for the principle of the admission of Communist China, as the real Government of China, to the United Nations, and this Government have accepted that policy. It would be helpful if Mr. Dulles and others on the other side of the Atlantic did not always go out of their way to say, 498 "Whatever peaceful arrangements we make about Korea, and even in other respects with regard to the Far East, do not let anybody assume that Communist China is coming into the United Nations." It is not merely a matter of saying nothing and not committing themselves to vote for Communist China; it is this constant repetition, almost of a negative, which is calculated to do great harm to our relations with the Soviet Union and the Far East.
I remember that Ernest Bevin always took the view that it would be foolish to assume that China, with its population of round about 500 million, its ancient culture, and the fact that its Communist leader has fought his own way through to triumph on his own feet, so to speak, is going to be a servile satellite of the Soviet Union, or even that she is at the present moment.
It would be good business for the West if, when this Korean business is settled, China were admitted to the United Nations and took her seat upon the Security Council, and we were to treat her as the great Power which she undoubtedly is, hoping—we can do no more—that in due course she will be cooperative with the United Nations and in the cause of peace. But whether or not she is, it is infinitely better to have her in the United Nations than to take this foolish and deliberate action of excluding her for no good reason.
I now pass to some references to Germany. Here one is always in danger of crossing the wires, or saying something with which others, in another party or even in one's own, may not agree. I think the views of the House are slowly evolving into a fair agreement about Germany. We seem to be agreed that it is right in principle that Germany should be united and not cut in two as she is at present. We seem to be agreed that it would be desirable for the new German Government to be elected by normal democratic processes and in an atmosphere of freedom. We seem to be agreed that, united, she should have sovereignty. We are beginning to grope towards the point of accepting the consequences of that sovereignty—and it is not easy to grant sovereignty and then to say, "But … but … but … this, that and the other."
499 Sovereignty means that in due course she will conduct her own foreign policy. It must mean, at the same time, that in due course she must have arms in some form or another. She cannot have them at once, for there are not enough to go round, and moreover there will have to be a transition; and it may be that during that period we shall have to have occupation troops in the west of Germany and the Soviet Union will have to have them in the east. But we can at any rate give Germany the degree of self-government and freedom which Austria has, notwithstanding the occupation, in the period of transition.
Sooner or later, and I am not arguing when, Germany will have arms, and we might just as well stop persuading ourselves that we can lay down conditions whereby that can never happen. It will happen at some time. The question which is vital is, how will she have arms and for what purpose will she have arms? My hope is that she will not have them for the purposes of the old militarism. My hope is that German democracy will develop and flourish.
We are liable to be a little snobbish and superior about our own democracy and, goodness knows, we have every right to be proud of this great Parliamentary institution. Nevertheless, we are a little superior at the expense of other countries—and up to a point we are entitled to be—but we must remember that it has taken us 700 years to reach this stage, whereas the Germans at the time of Kaiser Wilhelm II were probably where we were in the days of Charles I, or somewhat later. It may be that if Kaiser Wilhelm II had continued there would have been a constitutional evolution in Germany towards a monarchical Parliamentary institution, as has been the case in our country.
What we have to make up our minds about in relation to Germany is, fundamentally, this: do we want her to be a friendly nation? Do we want her to be a peaceful nation? In so far as she has armaments, do we want her to have them in co-operation with the United Nations and under the principle of collective security and all similar principles? Do we want her to become a genuine, progressive democracy, as I hope she can and as we have become? The answers 500 are surely, "Yes." Let us remember that if we had looked at ourselves 700 years ago we would not have looked a very hopeful proposition.
All I want to say about this is that we should seek to make her a genuine member of the United Nations in due course, to have good and friendly relations with her, to encourage German democratic processes and to discourage militarism and to encourage, too, the spirit of peace. I do not think we can do these things if we start out in the spirit that Germany in any event is hopeless and that there is nothing which can be done about her except try to control her all the time. For one thing, we cannot do it, and for another thing it would be foolish to try. Nevertheless, we must continue to take an interest in Germany and her rearmament.
Before returning to the original point of concern in this debate, I wish to add only this about Germany: I hope that in due course she will be united and democratic and subject to popular elections and that she will become a loyal member of the United Nations. I do not want her to make separate military alliances with either the East or the West, particularly of the old military order. I want her to be a good member of the United Nations, eligible to take part in its subsidiary organisations, supporting a policy calculated not to protect the peace of particular countries but to protect the peace of the world.
Let us compare on the main issue of this debate, the situation on 11th May with the situation on 21st July. It is utterly ridiculous for the Government to seek to prove that the atmosphere that came out of the Washington consultations and the general atmosphere of the Chancellor's speech yesterday and the speech of the Minister of State today bears any relationship with the atmosphere that obtained on 11th May when the Prime Minister made his speech on that day. I admit I was not in the House of Commons on 11th May, but I read the report of the debates, and I heard about them, and I felt the reactions of public opinion that came from them. I confess I was engaged in the Sunderland. South by-election——
§ Mr. Morrison
—seeking to teach the Labour electors the ways of good electoral organisation and success—not with entire success, as it turned out.
§ Mr. Morrison
However, it was a worthy purpose. It may be, as my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon is good enough to remind me, that the speech of the Prime Minister had an effect upon the Sunderland, South result. That may well be the case, because it was just before—two days before—the actual election itself.
All of us had the feeling after the death of Mr. Stalin and—not the taking of office by a new Government—the reconstruction of the Russian Government that there were a considerable number of signs of some improvement of policy inside as well as outside; and, above all, there was an improvement of language, which was important. The abuse to which we had become accustomed is almost gone—not entirely, but almost gone. Mind you, it is not entirely gone from some other quarters as well on the other side.
There has been an improvement in atmosphere, in spirit, in language and temper, which all of us have felt. It does not conclusively prove that everything is all right, but we have always said—have we not?—certainly on this side, and, I think, many Members on the other side of the House, that whenever there are signs of improvement in the atmosphere in the Soviet Union it is the duty of all of us to take advantage of them to the greatest possible extent and to try them out. The Prime Minister himself said on that day, picking up this atmosphere:It is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to avoid by every means in their power doing anything or saying anything which could check any favourable reaction that may be taking place and to welcome every sign of improvement in our relations with Russia."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 899.]With that he went on to argue in favour of a four-Power conference of the Soviet Union, France, the United States and ourselves at the highest level. I would ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State whether—as I assumed at that time, as we all did—the Prime Minister had consulted his Ministerial colleagues in the Government and spoke with govern- 502 mental authority behind him. I should like to know whether that was so. The Under-Secretary of State will tell us.
§ Mr. Morrison
It is important to know, because it is one thing if the Prime Minister says something on his own responsibility; it is another thing if the Government have approved the general policy. I am not saying whether he should have sought the consent of the United States to say what he said. I would not say that, but, in view of our own discussions the other way round, I think I am entitled to ask whether he informed the United States that he was going to say what he said and whether efforts were made, as they ought to have been made, to carry American official opinion with him, as it was important to do, and which, if they had succeeded, might have saved a lot of trouble.
I liked the spirit of what the Prime Minister said. He was enjoying himself, and what he said was right. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to get this applause from hon. Members opposite, who at the time, I gather, were rather cold about it. It is significant in this debate that in speech after speech—not all of them, but a lot of them—from the other side, it is clearly their view that they are glad we are in this mess at the present time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Yes, it is. That is what I believe.
The Prime Minister 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. This conference should not be overhung by a ponderous or rigid agenda, or led into mazes and jungles of technical details, zealously contested by hoards 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. 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 good statement. That was the spirit in which the Prime Minister spoke that day and it was the spirit with 503 which our nation responded to that speech. But when one reads this rather cold, restrictive, qualifying White Paper, one finds nothing of that. On page 4 of the White Paper there is a whole string of things about the defensive actions of the European Community. I have no quarrel with the European Community—indeed, I should like to see it extend and develop; but why put in all this, which gives the Russians, if not reason, from their point of view, for suspicion, at any rate reason for a case for argument, if they want to have argument, before the conference is entered into? And then in the Note which is sent to them there is this chunk of stuff in the last third of the Note, with all this detail and these stipulations of one thing and another, which never ought to have been there.
The right way in which the matter ought to have been handled, the way it ought to have been handled in the light of the Prime Minister's speech on 11th May, was to have sent a Note to the Soviet Union saying, "We are delighted to see there is some improvement of atmosphere and language in the conduct of international affairs. Let we four Powers gather round a table and have a friendly talk about the state of the world and find out what things we are going to put first in subsequent discussions." That was the right thing to do. This White Paper and the communiqué and the Note might almost have been written to provide the Soviet Union with an opportunity of being awkward and the conference not coming off.
Therefore, we say that the Government have miserably failed in this matter, that they have in effect thrown over the Prime Minister and have transformed what was a hopeful gesture and an imaginative beginning into a situation which, though one still hopes that the conference will meet at the high level, has made it infinitely more difficult for it to meet than it would have been had the spirit of 11th May been carried out.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)
I am sure that the whole House would wish me to say, before I say anything else, how glad we all are to see the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) back with us 504 again and how deeply we all sympathise with him in his tragic grief and loss.
The right hon. Member did his best at the opening of his speech to explain away the speech made by his right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger), but whatever he may have said, that speech will remain in the minds of my hon. and right hon. Friends as a very cheap and abusive attack on the Lord President of the Council. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] It was indeed a pleasant and welcome relief to hear the speech of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South.
He mentioned Korea and the disappointment which the whole House felt at the concluding passage in the answer today by the Chancellor about the situation of the armistice talks and the situation of the South Korean Government. Since we learned of the statements made today by President Syngman Rhee and the South Korean Minister for Foreign Affairs, we instructed our Embassy in Washington to make inquiries from the State Department as to the position. We have just received from Washington a statement which has been issued by Mr. Dulles. It is rather long, but I feel that the House would wish to have the full text of the statement read to it. It reads as follows:The question of an armistice is up to the Communists. We retain confidence that President Rhee will honour the assurances he has given. He personally wrote to President Eisenhower under date of 11th July, 1953, that in deference to the President's request he would not obstruct in any manner the implementation of the armistice terms. On the same date he wrote me"—that is, Mr. Dulles—that while he questions the wisdom of a truce he has yielded his convictions to United States policies. A truce, he wrote to me, will now be signed and the Republic of Korea will abide by its agreement to give the United Nations another chance to try to unite Korea by political negotiation. President Rhee has sought various assurances from the United States and has reserved his Government's position in the event of a collapse of the political talks which would follow the armistice. This we believe he is entitled to do.With reference to the assurances sought, the United States Government has responded to the best of its ability. The President has agreed to initiate immediately upon the conclusion of an armistice a programme of rehabilitation which will cover a four to five year period and involve heavy expenditure. He has agreed to negotiate promptly a security treaty along the lines of the United States-Philippine Mutual Security Treaty, with 505 certain modifications drawn from the United States-Japan Security Treaty which President Rhee has indicated he thought would be desirable.It has been agreed that upon the conclusion of an armistice I would be prepared promptly to meet President Rhee at a time and place to be mutually determined with a view to concerting our policies at a political conference which will follow an armistice and assure the maximum chance that the conference will achieve the unification of Korea.We agree in concert with our principal allies that in the event the Communists should renew their aggression in Korea after an armistice we shall vigorously act to restore peace and security.The present is a time when rumours are rife and when it is necessary to be steady in our purpose and in our trust in our friends.We assume that President Rhee, despite his misgivings, will abide by his assurances to the President, the Secretary of State and Assistant Secretary Robertson. President Rhee, in turn, can be confident that United States will loyally support the Republic of Korea in the rebuilding of its land and the attainment of its honourable objectives.That ends the statement. I cannot carry this further tonight; we have only just received this information from the Embassy and it was issued this afternoon in Washington, Washington time. I can only say that we hope—and I feel that the House will hope also—that President Rhee will, in fact, abide by this assurance.
It was suggested by the right hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Attlee) that the General Assembly of the United Nations should be convened now without waiting for an armistice in Korea. We doubt the wisdom of that course for the present. We hope, particularly in view of the statement made by Mr. Dulles today, that the negotiations at Panmunjom will be successfully resolved and we should do nothing which might cause any interference with the work of the negotiators. If, however, the signature of an armistice seems likely to be delayed still further for one reason or another then a meeting of the General Assembly will undoubtedly be necessary.
§ Mr. Driberg
Does the hon. Gentleman's endorsement of Mr. Dulles's message mean that we—that Her Majesty's Government—are now committed to the unification of Korea under Syngman Rhee?
§ Mr. Nutting
No. What it means is the same position as Her Majesty's Government have always taken, namely, that 506 we should seek to achieve the unification of Korea by political negotiation in a political conference.
§ Mr. Attlee
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but, interesting as that statement was, it did not refer to the statement that has been made apparently by an important member of Syngman Rhee's Government. The difficulty there is whether Syngman Rhee can deliver the goods. The point is, would it not be useful if we had the Assembly already there to take whatever requisite action should be taken if it should turn out that, despite Syngman Rhee's protestations, his own Government has revolted against him?
§ Mr. Nutting
As regards the General Assembly, I would respectfully disagree with the right hon. Gentleman; it is a matter of opinion. As to President Syngman Rhee and the statement of the South Korean Foreign Minister, which was referred to today by the Chancellor at Question time, I have heard many things suggested of Mr. Syngman Rhee but I have never yet heard it suggested that he is not in control of his own Government. This statement of Mr. Dulles was made, I understand, in response to the statement by the South Korean Foreign Minister.
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South complained of what he termed the provocative references to the North Koreans and the Chinese People's Government in the Washington communiqué, the warning part of the Washington communiqué. Is it not best that we should warn the Communists in advance of what would happen if a truce were to be broken by them? Surely there is no harm, but much good, in doing so. Much misunderstanding might then be avoided. The right hon. Gentleman went on to develop the theme that he very much wished to see the Chinese People's Government in the United Nations. I would not dispute his desire for one moment, but first of all we must get the armistice. I think that the right hon. Gentleman would agree with that proposition. After that, as the Chancellor said yesterday, both the question of Chinese representation and the strategic embargo will have to be reconsidered in concert with the other Members of the United Nations.
Before I turn to the main theme of the debate, I must refer to the speeches of those hon. Members who have spoken about the Council of Europe. First, let 507 me say how deeply I share the grief expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) at the tragic death of M. Paris, its Secretary-General, who proved himself so devoted a servant in the cause of European unity. All of us of all parties, indeed all the nations who worked with him, will feel, as I do, that we have lost a good friend and a trusted counsellor.
Several hon. Members opposite have suggested that Her Majesty's Government have done nothing for the Council of Europe. I would only recall to them the initiative taken by the Foreign Secretary in what is now known as the Eden Plan, which was designed to enable the narrower groupings of the six European States to develop within the wider grouping of the Council of Europe. I will not go into these proposals in any detail tonight, but it is only fair to recall that the French Government welcomed them, when they were advanced, as the first really constructive initiative to give new life to the Council of Europe, and welcomed them particularly as coming from Her Majesty's Government.
Good progress has been made in translating those proposals into effect, and both in those proposals, as in the other initiatives to which the Chancellor referred yesterday, Her Majesty's Government are, I can assure my hon. Friends, working out a partnership in political, military and economic affairs with continental Europe which is closer than any we have ever had before.
There was one question put to me by the right hon. Gentleman about the speech of the Prime Minister. He asked whether the Prime Minister spoke for the Government and for the Cabinet. The answer to that question is, "Yes." The Prime Minister spoke with the full knowledge and agreement of his Cabinet colleagues. The right hon. Gentleman went on to ask me whether we had informed the United States Government before that speech was made. I am not prepared to reveal precisely what consultations take place with foreign or allied Governments on speeches or pronouncements made in the House of Commons, and I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman, when he was Foreign Secretary, would have been very ready to answer a question of that nature.
508 May I now deal with the main criticisms raised in the debate. First, that the outcome of the Washington Conference is incompatible with the theme of the Prime Minister's speech in May last. As the Chancellor said in opening this debate yesterday, this theme was two-fold. The fact that the headlines of the newspapers did not take account of more than one part of the theme is surely no reason why the House of Commons, who heard the whole speech, should ignore the other part. The Prime Minister dwelt with very bit as much emphasis upon the need to maintain Western strength and unity as he did upon the need to seek a settlement with the Soviets. I will not recall his concluding words. They have already been recalled this afternoon by the Minister of State. But are these words in any way incompatible with the Washington communiqué?
On the contrary, surely the concluding passage of the Prime Minister's speech reaffirmed in the most vivid language the policy which we and the late Government have consistently followed, the policy which was again reaffirmed at Washington, the policy which alone can give us the position of strength from which to negotiate.
§ Mr. Nutting
Then there is the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South and other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite—this was really the main criticism of the whole debate—that too much emphasis was laid by the three Foreign Ministers on existing policies and positions. E.D.C. for example. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Washington decisions stand too much on positions already taken up. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr Bellenger) said that we were asking the Russians to sign on the dotted line, or at any rate that was the appearance of the communiqué.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby) said this was just the same old tune; that the Prime Minister played a new tune whereas Washington was playing the old tune. All these criticisms completely ignore the fact that the Washington Conference pro- 509 posed a four-Power talk. How can hon. Gentlemen honestly describe the Washington communiqué and the invitation to the Soviet Government as the old tune? No such conference which I can remember was offered by the late Government since the cold war started. Therefore, if that passes without challenge the Washington Conference marks a clear step forward, and there is no question of it being the old tune.
I take it from what was said on this theme and in speeches made after the speech of the Leader of the Opposition that it is felt that such emphasis on the need for maintaining existing policies makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the Soviets to talk with us. I notice also from the speeches made by the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) that they both subsequently disavowed any suggestion that we should abandon Western defence policy in advance of conversations. I am glad to have these assurances that the policy of the official Opposition, at any rate, is to hold on to Western strength and unity.
I was also glad to note from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick and the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey) that they fully endorse our insistence upon free elections throughout all Germany being the prime purpose of any agreement with the Soviets. But if the official Opposition agree that we must not jettison or relax our strength nor abate our demand for free elections in all Germany, what are they complaining about in the Washington communiqué? For these are the things that are stressed and emphasised in that communiqué. If this to be our policy and they agree that it should be our policy, then surely we should say so publicly, as indeed we have done on numerous occasions in the past.
If it is our policy to have free elections throughout Germany and that those elections should result in the establishment of a free all-German Government, then surely we must in all honesty say so to the Russians. If we were not to say so, the Russians might well, and fairly, assume that we had, in fact, changed our policy, and that we had retreated from the position we had taken up throughout the exchange of Notes last year. And 510 when we got to the conference table they might well complain when they discovered that we still held to the same policy.
Let me deal with one further criticism under this general heading—that too much emphasis was placed on E.D.C. The hon. Member for Leeds, South-East suggested that we were merely concerned with helping Dr. Adenauer to win his elections. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick said that the communiqué would give the appearance that we were not genuine in our desire for a conference. He seemed to suggest that this was the first time that we had placed such emphasis upon E.D.C. in any communication from the Western Powers to the Soviet Union. But, of course, this is not so.
In our Notes of last year, which passed, so far as I am aware, without challenge or criticism by any right hon. Gentleman on the Opposition Front Bench, or by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick, we said just what we are saying now, namely, that we think E.D.C. responds to the need of the modern world, and of modern Europe in particular, for a closer integration of international policies and defence systems, and what is more, that its whole purpose and aim was defensive.
Then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby asked what the Washington communiqué could possibly mean by saying that the E.D.C. was a need unto itself and was not linked with existing international tensions. Several other hon. Members including the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, have criticised us for suggesting that a reunited Germany might become a member of E.D.C. How, they ask, could the Russians possibly agree with such a proposition? I will quote in answer to that question a passage from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) on 11th May. Dealing with rearmament and the reunification of Germany he said:We always stand by what we call the four Attlee conditions. It is my conviction that those can best be fulfilled by Germany's integration in E.D.C. Germany, when united, will decide herself, under the Charter, as a member of the United Nations, what she wants to do.Is that impossible for Russia to accept? Not if she believes that the Powers in N.A.T.O. 511 and E.D.C. will honestly abide by the obligations of the Charter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 910.]I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and I do not accept that the movement towards the closer association and integration of Western Europe, of which Western Germany is a part, is a pure product of the cold war; nor, I feel, should or need this movement be abandoned if a compact with the Soviets can be obtained.
Why is it wrong for us who believe in this development of European thought and action to profess our beliefs in public? Where is this incompatible with the desire which we sincerely hold to achieve German reunification? Where is the unconditional surrender which, it was suggested, we are asking the Russians to make? We nowhere suggest or demand in the Washington Note that the Russians, for example, should abate or abandon their re-armament or defensive alliances. That would be unconditional surrender, but we shall nowhere demand or suggest it.
We have merely expressed the hopes and aims of the three Western Powers, and we have a right, surely, to express those hopes and aims—hopes which are largely shared in Western Europe. All that we insist upon, as the right hon. Gentleman insisted, is that an all-German Government shall be free to decide its international relationships.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
The hon. Gentleman has quoted me. May I say that I went on in my speech of 11th May to say that, if we and the Russians really wanted security and safety from the danger of German militarism in the future, we ought to propose an all-round reduction of armaments as part of the proposals? That is what my right hon. Friend proposed yesterday. Will the hon. Gentleman say nothing about that?
§ Mr. Nutting
I see no reason whatever why E.D.C. should not form part of any all-round reduction of armaments, any more than it would be impossible for N.A.T.O. similarly to observe any general disarmament action. Of course, we must think of Russia's need for security, but, equally, I beg the House to realise that we must think of our own. If Germany 512 should choose to be a member of E.D.C., and here I have the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South to support me, that, surely, is in itself a guarantee that German rearmament will not be used to attack the Soviet Union, her satellites or anyone else. All that E.D.C. stands for is surely a guarantee that no member will or can use its forces for aggression; what is more, I do not despair that we might ultimately convince the Russians on that point.
Then there was the question that the proposed conference is invited to deal with too difficult a topic; that is to say, Germany. Really, that is the most flagrantly bankrupt of all the arguments advanced by the Opposition. I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who made particular play with this point, very skilfully avoided saying exactly what he thought this or any other four-Power Conference should discuss. He asked:Could not the conference take place in a rather different atmosphere, not in just dealing with the two specific points of Germany and Austria?After then criticising the rather abrupt phraseology of the communiqué about Austria, he went on to say:The crucial matter that concerns all of us is the position of that great country, Germany, in the middle of Europe.I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. That is why we have proposed Germany as one of the two topics for discussion. The right hon. Gentleman, after this rather startling piece of self-contradiction, went on to suggest that the only way of discussing Germany would be in the context of a reduction of armaments, and said that this would only be possibleif we are to get some agreement for a reduction of armaments all round."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 229–30.]I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman added this rider because he realised, when speaking of disarming Germany, that the only part of Germany which is armed today is Eastern Germany under Soviet tutelage. If the right hon. Gentleman suggests that a conference with the Russians, the first resumption of high level contact since 1949, should begin with a discussion of all-round disarmament, surely he is putting the cart before the horse?
§ Mr. Attlee
I was only following what the Prime Minister said when he suggested that he wanted a very broad discussion first before we came down to these details.
§ Mr. Nutting
The right hon. Gentleman really cannot get away with it like that. The only point upon which he was specific in his suggestion as to what the conference should discuss was all-round reduction of armaments. That would not be an unrestricted conference.
President Eisenhower, in his speech of 16th April, took precisely the opposite line to the right hon. Gentleman when he suggested that disarmament could only follow a general settlement of other outstanding issues. I think that is right, and so, it would appear, does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South, who warmly welcomed President Eisenhower's speech at the time. I may perhaps invite the two right hon. Gentlemen to get together.
I should really have thought that the choice of topics for this conference was the perfect and indeed obvious choice—Germany and Austria, at once the biggest and easiest of the problems outstanding in Europe and, on this point, I notice that the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) agreed with me.
I was asked one question by the right hon. Member for Grimsby about the Austrian Treaty. He asked whether the language of the communiqué meant that final agreement on Austria was a precondition of a German settlement. Of course, it means nothing of the kind. We do not regard the question of an Austrian Treaty and that of a German settlement as in any way linked one with the other.
Then there was the criticism that the Washington Conference has not heeded the warning of the Prime Minister about having too rigid an agenda for four-Power talks. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), in a most gloomy speech foretelling failure, said that surely this was not the timeto stick to technical and narrow points which may prevent people from discussing them around a table."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 241.]Those were his words.
§ Mr. Nutting
But where does the right hon. and learned Gentleman, or the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo), find the narrow, technical points in our invitation to the Russians? Where do they find them, because this is the gravamen of the charge against Her Majesty's Government? Are free elections in Germany a narrow, technical point? If they are, then I am very astonished that we should have witnessed, as we did last month, a rebellion in East Berlin and in Eastern Germany, because these rebellions against the Soviet Occupation Forces did not, I assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman, arise upon narrow, technical points.
I doubt very much whether those gallant men and women who took part in these demonstrations would agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. They feel, as we feel, that free elections, for which they demonstrated and for which they shouted, are the crux of the whole issue—that without free elections for all Germany any settlement with Russia would be a farce and a mockery. And some have paid with their lives and liberty for showing their feelings in this matter.
The difficulty, of course, about debating foreign affairs is that we do so all too often in an atmosphere of crisis, indeed, almost of sensationalism. All too often in the past eight years we have debated foreign affairs under some new menacing threat—the rape of Czechoslovakia, the Berlin blockade, the breakdown of the Council of Foreign Ministers, the attack on Korea—always, that is, under a threatening international sky.
Today there may be just a chance of a lifting, an easing of this tension. No Government, no country, no people would welcome an easement more than the Government and people of Britain, but if such a possibility exists it is largely the result, or the dividend if you like, of our Western unity and strength. It is because the Russians are perhaps at last beginning to realise that they are up against a brick wall, built of the bricks which they have thrown at the free world so readily in the past eight years, and that the West is steadily becoming less vulnerable and susceptible to the policies of Stalin.
Some people may read into all this the most sinister design and purpose. Some may say that we should avoid all contact 515 with them. Others may hail it as the dawn of a new era of peaceful co-existence and collaboration between the Communists and the free world—an opportunity which can be seized if we are prepared only to give and never to take. Her Majesty's Government intend calmly and resolutely to follow a course between these two extremes, the course proposed at Washington—to offer a conference to discuss the future of Germany and Austria which lie at the heart and centre of the division of Europe today.
These problems of re-unifying and returning to full nationhood the peoples of Germany and Austria can only be solved in freedom. We regret that the Opposition should have used this debate for nothing but destructive, negative and unhelpful criticism. None the less, Her Majesty's Government hope, and hope sincerely, that such a solution—a solution in freedom—may be found of the problems which perplex and divide the Continent of Europe.
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.