HC Deb 17 March 1953 vol 512 cc2071-9
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I should like to make a statement on the talks which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I had with members of the United States Administration during our recent visit to Washington.

The main purpose of our visit was to discuss with the United States Government the broad conclusions reached at the Commonwealth Economic Conference of last year. As we made plain from the outset, we did not expect to reach decisions. Nor did we ask for any commitments on the part of the United States Government. I am glad to say, however, that we were met with a very encouraging understanding of the problems involved.

The United States Ministers endorsed the broad objectives set by the Commonwealth Conference. They agreed with us that these matters must be further studied, and they propose to carry out an intensive examination of the whole problem during the coming months. Broadly speaking, the objective is to create conditions for the expansion of world production and trade and, for that purpose, to secure international action leading to an effective system of multilateral trade and payments over the widest possible area.

Our discussions included a frank examination of each other's economic problems, during which the firm grasp and lucid exposition of my right hon. Friend made, I know, a deep impression on our American colleagues. In all our discussions we made it clear that whatever international measures are eventually agreed must be such as to strengthen the economy of Western Europe.

We now propose to have talks with the European Governments. These will be begun during the Council of the O.E.E.C., which is to be held in Paris on Monday next. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and I intend at this meeting to inform the Council about the discussions in the Commonwealth Conference and in Washington. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tell us about them."] I will give them to hon. Gentleman if they want to know them.

Mr. Manuel

The right hon. Gentleman has told the Americans about them, but he has not told this House.

Mr. Eden

I am sure the further discussions will be useful, and I say to hon. Gentleman opposite that here again no commitments at this stage can be given or accepted.

I took the opportunity of our visit to have discussions with the United States Administration on various matters of foreign policy. I was received by President Eisenhower on three occasions, and I had many meetings with the Secretary of State, Mr. Dulles. Our discussions covered most aspects of world affairs of concern to both our countries. My right hon. Friend and I also met a number of the Congressional leaders.

I will not inflict upon the House a detailed account of these talks. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] I will however say, if hon. Gentlemen will be patient, that in the general examination of our numerous world problems we found an encouraging and increasing measure of agreement. This confirmed us in the belief which I expressed to this House on 5th February last that we could develop with the new American Administration the type of collaboration which will have the result that no step which can have far-reaching international reactions will be taken without Her Majesty's Government having a full opportunity to express their views in advance. I hope that sentiment will be reciprocated on the benches opposite.

We reviewed in full the situation in South-East Asia and the Far East. Both Governments recognised the close relationship between the fighting in Korea, in Indo-China and in Malaya. I was able to inform Mr. Dulles of certain steps which Her Majesty's Government have taken to tighten up the existing system of controls over the shipment of strategic materials to China.

These were described in the communiqué and were welcomed by the United States Government. [Interruption.] No doubt we did not wish strategic materials to be used to shoot our soldiers down. With their support, and in furtherance of the United Nations resolution of 18th May, 1951, we shall now try to get other maritime and trading nations to co-operate with us in making this system effective. We also discussed European questions, including the problem of ratification of the proposed treaty for a European Defence Community. There was no divergence on this issue between us.

As the House knows, Her Majesty's Government had an understanding with the previous United States Administration that the use in an emergency of certain bases in the United Kingdom would be a matter for joint decision by the two Governments at the time. I thought it well to obtain confirmation of this understanding from the new United States Government. This they readily gave.

In discussing the problems of the Middle East, we were agreed upon the need for solutions which satisfied the genuine needs and aspirations of the peoples concerned. We reached full understanding on the present position in regard to Persian oil. The communiqué issued after our meetings stated that in the opinion of the United States Government the proposals of 20th February were fair and reasonable. It is important that our two Governments should thus be seen publicly to be in agreement. [Interruption.] I do not see what exception the hon. Gentleman has to take to that.

Mr. Harold Davies

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, and I am trying to keep as calm as the right hon. Gentleman usually is when he gives the House an important statement. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what he has done to protect the oil equipment industry in this agreement? Britain's oil equipment is now exported to the extent of £94 million each year. It is an important export to the American dollar market, and now the Texas Oil industry is asking for quotas to be put on Middle East——

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman's intervention is too long.

Mr. Eden

I thought the whole House was aware that it has been the endeavour in this oil dispute not only that we and the United States Government should be in agreement, but that that agreement should be publicly stated. I thought the whole House would have welcomed that result. The result is welcome to us on this side of the House.

Mr. Harold Davies

A statement of cliches.

Mr. Eden

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so, he is dealing with an entirely different subject. This question of the export of all oil machinery may or may not be a desirable subject for discussion, but it is not the particular problem that I am discussing at the moment.

We hope that the Persian Government will see the advantage of accepting these proposals and reaching a settlement of a long-standing dispute.

We also had a thorough discussion of the position in Egypt and the general question of the defence of the Middle East. Our American friends are fully aware of the very important issues involved and have been most helpful in their discussion. It is our joint purpose to seek a constructive settlement of these problems, which takes account of essential requirements, and can lead to a strengthening of peace throughout this whole area. The manner in which negotiations with the Egyptian Government should be opened is still under discussion and I cannot tell the House anything more about this at present.

While in the United States, I attended a meeting of the United Nations and took part in discussions on Korea. I made use of this opportunity to restate our conviction that an armistice was still obtainable on fair terms, as set out in the Indian proposals of last November. The Assembly voted, by 55 votes to five, for measures to assist the South Korean Republic.

Meanwhile, my right hon. Friend visited Ottawa, where he had valuable discussions with the Canadian Minister of Finance and other Ministers. The House will recall the most helpful part played by Her Majesty's Government in Canada during the Commonwealth Conference. It was appropriate that my right hon. Friend should take this opportunity to inform them of the outcome of our talks in Washington, which are of course also being communicated to other Commonwealth Governments.

In conclusion, I can assure the House that my right hon. Friend and I found our visit, and the discussions which we had most valuable, both on immediate issues and for the long-term collaboration between the United States and the British Commonwealth upon which the peace of the world depends.

Mr. Attlee

While I am sure that the whole House will have heard with pleasure of the successful visit of the right hon. Gentleman in order to obtain a full understanding with our American friends, and while we realise that with a new Government in power it will take some time before any concrete results are obtained, I should like to ask him whether, in the course of those discussions, they debated at all the question of Formosa, and in particular the very anomalous position by which the seat on the Security Council is still held by the representative of Chiang Kai-shek instead of by the real and effective Government of China?

Mr. Eden

Of course, we discussed the Far Eastern situation very fully. As regards the position on the Security Council, I think that the right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the legal position as it affects us and which is part of the Charter, which we cannot change. Under that decision, China is a permanent Member of the Security Council—nobody can change that—and the Government recognised by the majority of the Assembly, although not by us, is the Government of Chiank Kai-shek. What is impossible is to create a vacuum. There must be a representative of China. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but it is a fact. It cannot be neither one nor the other. There must be a representative of China, and until the majority of the United Nations change their view, the representation must remain as it is.

Mr. Attlee

Did the right hon. Gentleman discuss with the Americans the question of whether one could not take action so that there could be a change in this representation which, I quite agree, can only be brought about by a majority vote? Is it not, as I understand it, largely due to the example of the United States of America that recognition is still given to this rump in Formosa instead of to the main body of the Chinese people

Mr. Eden

I do not think it is right to say that it is only the opinion of one country. I have said many times, and I think the right hon. Gentleman would agree, that it would be found quite impossible now, when Communist China is acting in full aggression in Korea, to recommend to the Assembly that it should recognise her as the proper Power to elect to the Assembly.

Mr. Bevan

The right hon. Gentleman said that he took the opportunity, in the course of his visit, to discuss many questions in relation to South-East Asia. Did he discuss with the United States Government the act of aggression permitted by General Chiang Kai-shek in sending arms and regular troops to Burma, on the Burma-Chinese frontier—concerning which the Government of Burma have now decided to protest to the United Nations—although frequent representations have been made to the United States Government, and no action has been taken by them?

Mr. Eden

I think the right hon. Gentleman should be aware that a very long time ago Her Majesty's Government suggested to the Government of Burma—I suggested it myself—that this might be a matter into which a United Nations commission might well inquire. That, however, did not appeal to the Government of Burma. Other discussions are now under way which I hope may result in a solution of the problem.

Mr. Bevan

When he discussed these other matters with the United States Government, did the right hon. Gentleman actually discuss this matter? There are about 12,000 troops in a very inaccessible part of the Shan Province, so far as the Government of Burma are concerned, now being supplied irregularly with arms and men from Formosa, and no repudiation of this action has come from General Chiang Kai-shek. This is, therefore, an act of aggression committed against a peaceful nation by an ally of the United States.

Mr. Eden

I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that this is a matter which, in the first place, concerns the Government of Burma. We did make suggestions some time ago that this matter might be investigated by a commission of the United Nations, but they did not think that was the right way to do it. We are in fact engaged in discussions now. In the first place, it must be an agreement by the Government of Burma and not by other people deciding things over the head of that Government.

Mr. Braine

Despite the irresponsibility and flippancy with which some people address themselves to this subject, is my right hon. Friend aware that the country as a whole is very well satisfied that peace is in safe hands?

Mr. C. Davies

With reference to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman in relation to our economic position, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us will welcome the conversion of himself and other members of the party opposite to the well-known view of the Prime Minister, namely, that the safety and stability of this country depend upon multilateral trade and its universal extension?

Mr. Eden

I should not like to enter into a question of who converted whom. We found in the United States great friendship and understanding of our problems and difficulties, and I only ask the House to meet that in the same spirit.

Sir W. Smithers

Can my right hon. Friend give the House and the country any idea how long it will be before the barriers to international trade will be removed and currencies will become freely convertible?

Mr. Eden

That would be a realm of prophecy into which not even the rashest man would be prepared to enter.

Mr. A. Woodburn

With reference to the discussion with the Canadian Government and investment of capital there, did the right hon. Gentleman discuss whether we should take part in the seaweed project, which might be of great advantage to the iodine industry of this country and of Canada?

Mr. R. A. Butler

The subject was discussed in general and not in regard to that particular project, of which, of course, I am well aware.

Mr. S. Silverman

On the question of the Chinese Government and representation on the Security Council, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that neither economically nor politically can there be any real easement of the world's problems until this great Chinese community is brought back into the community of world affairs; and in those circumstances, and having regard to the American attitude to that Government long before any possible Chinese aggression in Korea, would it not be well to address the American Government in quite clear and firm tones about the irresponsibility and mischievousness of permanently keeping the Chinese Government, who alone are able to speak for the Chinese people, out of the councils of the nations?

Mr. Eden

Whatever the past history may have been, I am not prepared, so long as I am Foreign Secretary of this country, to advocate to the United Nations the recognition of a Government who are in full aggression against the United Nations and are shooting down Our troops.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether, pending the further extensive examination which the United States Government are to make of the plans put before them, no further steps will be taken in the direction of the convertibility of the £? May I also ask him whether, when the discussions with the European countries have taken place so that both the American Government and the European Governments are well informed, the House could also be better informed on the details of the plans settled at the Commonwealth Conference?

Mr. R. A. Butler

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have already had a debate—in general terms, I agree—about the result of the Commonwealth Conference. Meanwhile we are to have further exchanges with Europe, and when such plans as are in a concrete form can be put before the House, of course they will be. The answer to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question is that I have nothing to add to what I said earlier, and to what was said in the communiqué of the Commonwealth Conference, namely, that there are certain prerequisites before a successful convertibility operation could be carried out: firstly, that a satisfactory internal policy should be adopted in the sterling area and elsewhere; secondly, that good creditor policies of the requisite trade pattern should be adopted not only by our countries but by the creditor countries; and thirdly, that there should be adequate support. Those conditions are not as yet fulfilled.

Mr. Bowles

May I ask the Foreign Secretary whether he raised with the American Government the denial of a visa to an hon. Member of this House, namely, my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman)?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir, I did hear about the matter, perhaps rather late during my stay in the United States. I did draw the attention of the United States Government to the fact that the hon. Gentleman is a Member of this House, and I made representations in that sense. I am sorry, but I do not think I have been entirely successful.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

There is no Question before the House