§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.]
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
I should like to join with others in expressing our sympathy for the Foreign Secretary. We were encouraged to learn that his condition is improving. I should also like to sympathise with the Prime Minister in the added burden which he has had to undertake. I had a similar experience during the illness of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin. It is true, as the Prime Minister said, that a Prime Minister today has to keep in close touch with foreign affairs, but the difficulty arises in the fact that nowadays a foreign Minister has to go abroad such a lot, and that is where the difficulty of a Prime Minister comes in.
The Prime Minister yesterday made a very remarkable speech, in which he 1062 gave us a very broad survey of foreign affairs, and he will have realised that its general tone and approach was warmly welcomed on this side of the House. If, in the course of my speech, I were to make any criticisms, it is with no desire to make any party points at all. It is desirable, wherever possible, that, in foreign affairs particularly, Government policy should have the support of all. It strengthens us in giving what I believe is a necessary lead in international relations.
The right hon. Gentleman also made a very realistic speech, and 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. We are all united in this House and in this country in our earnest desire for peace, and we all welcome the signs of a change in the attitude on the part of Soviet Russia. For my part, I do not think it is useful to speculate as to whether that is a change of heart or of tactics or anything of the kind. I think it is better to accept it as a fact. The right thing is to use any lightening of the tension as a means of improving our relationship.
I am inclined to agree with the Prime Minister that perhaps the most significant thing has been the change in internal policy in Russia. I notice today in "The Times" a quotation from "Pravda" which was headed "Collective Leadership." There does seem to be a definite departure from the autocracy of Stalin, and it rather confirms the view that many of us held that Stalin was, in fact, the master of Russian policy. Today, there is, at all events, something different, something more like a collecting of the voices of a number of men.
A further point on which I am very much in agreement with the Prime Minister is thatpiecemeal solutions of individual problems should not be disdained or improvidently put aside."—[Official Report, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 899.]There is a great danger in trying to go out with a too-wide objective. When 1063 the logs are jammed in the river one must begin by extricating a single log, or one or two logs, in the hope that thereby the whole mass may move. Particularly, here, we want to aim to get closer personal relationships. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman or other Members of Her Majesty's Government have ever met Mr. Malenkov. I have not, to my knowledge. My knowledge of the leaders of Russia is confined now to Mr. Molotov, Mr. Vyshinsky and Mr. Kaganovitch. What we want to get is greater understanding, by us of them and by them of us. It would be a great thing if we could get personal relations which would dissipate some of the Soviet mythology about Britain.
Another point by the Prime Minister which struck me as wise was that one should not assume that all the troubles of the world are due to Communist initiative. I have no illusions as to the activities of the Comintern, but the fact is that there are other movements in the world as well. The Prime Minister cited the case of the Viet Minh attack in Laos. No doubt there is a policy whereby Soviet Russia, for its own purposes, supports every nationalist movement, but that does not mean that there are no genuine nationalist movements of which we have to take account whether they are in Indo-China, Egypt, Arabia or, for that matter in Africa. It really is an overall simplifying of the problem to put it all down to Soviet intrigue. There is a body of opinion in the United States and some in this country that tend to do just that thing. On the other hand, there are people in this country and elsewhere who tend to put down all our troubles to American policy. That, too, is a mistake.
It is worth while saying a few words about the United States and about American policy. I hope they will cause no offence. I hope that no one will suggest that I am in any way anti-American. I have very many friends in America and I worked in great harmony with President Truman and his advisers. I am very conscious of all that the Americans have done for the world, besides in the war. Nor do I wish to attack the American Constitution. I merely want to state some facts which 1064 do not always seem to be apprehended. Let me begin with a contrast.
The Prime Minister comes to the House and states his policy. It is the policy of the Government. He can, if he wishes, get a vote in this House in support of it or he can, as in this debate, be satisfied with the great measure of support on both sides. That policy is Government policy and will be carried out by Ministers and by officials. Look on the other side. President Eisenhower makes a great speech. It is the President's speech. He speaks for the Administration, but in America power is divided between the Administration and Congress. For instance, the Administration may desire to spend so many millions in support whether of armaments or some other object, but Congress may cut it down by several millions of dollars. The Administration may wish to encourage our export to the United States but, as in the case of the Chief Joseph Dam, influences frustrate the Administration's policy.
Therefore, the Government in America are not really master in their own house. Let us remember, too, that Congress is still made up of people who primarily represent the interests of a particular State in the Union. Pressure groups and interests are very strong and, further, the American Administration seems to be less integrated than ours. President Eisenhower makes a speech; shortly thereafter the Secretary of State Mr. Dulles makes a speech, which, I thought, struck rather a different note. We do find on occasions that there is one policy being run by the Treasury, another by the State Department, and perhaps another by the Pentagon.
A further point seems that the American tradition is to give their representatives overseas a freer hand than we give ours, and less direction. We found rather the same in the relationship, as compared with our chiefs of staffs and our commanders in the field, between the American chiefs of staffs and their generals in the field. I am not complaining. It is just the American tradition. Therefore, we find that General Harrison, in the Panmunjom negotiations, seems to make observations on his own, right off his own bat, and even makes a broadcast. One wants to face these facts.
1065 One of the facts of the world situation is that the American Constitution was framed for an isolationist State. Americans did not want to have anything to do with Europe. For many years they had practically no foreign policy, but I do not think that that situation is particularly well suited to a time when America has become the strongest State in the world and has to give a lead. I am not in any way criticising the Americans or the Constitution. I am endeavouring to state facts, because I think that people often are misled and there are misunderstandings and disappointments because we do not understand the American Constitution.
During the Second World War, President Roosevelt showed himself a very great man. He was also a very great politician and he managed to "work in" Congress to his desires. I think that President Truman very skilfully used to buttress himself with two great Senators, Senator Vandenberg and Senator Connolly. But sometimes one finds that Congress takes the bit between its teeth and one sometimes wonders who is the more powerful, the President or Senator McCarthy. The Prime Minister said that one of the disadvantages of dictatorship is that the dictator is often dictated to by others. One of the disadvantages of the American system of democracy is that it is sometimes hard to find where effective power lies. Therefore, I think that it is in the light of these facts that one should look at some of our problems. All this has some reference to the position of the negotiations in Korea.
All my information is, though I may be wrong, that the Chinese want a settlement. I believe that the United States Administration want a settlement. The negotiations are in the hands of the American command on behalf of the United Nations. But there are elements in the United States that do not want a settlement. It is just as well to face that fact. There are people who want an all-out war with China and against Communism in general, and there is the strong influence of the Chiang Kai-shek lobby.
I suggested, therefore, the other day to the Prime Minister that in these negotiations it would be well if there were other advisers from other United Nations States concerned. I did so not because I am 1066 distrustful of the Americans, but because I believe that it would strengthen the hands of the American Administration. America is the spokesman of the United Nations and I believe that even in these negotiations it would be useful if there were present other members of the United Nations concerned. I know that this is a matter very largely for the military, but I am quite sure that when, as we all hope, these immediate negotiations for an armistice are concluded, further settlement should not be left exclusively in American hands.
I am well aware that America has made far the biggest sacrifices in Korea; but I am also well aware that she lays herself open to unjustifiable blame if she keeps everything in her own hands, because there is a tendency to say, "This is American policy and not United Nations policy." I am bound to say that I have been disturbed lately at the hanging on of these negotiations. The Prime Minister said rightly that principles have been agreed, but it seems to me that there is a good deal of haggling. I know that the Chinese did any amount of haggling, but I saw in "The Times" General Harrison's last questions and it seems to me that the Chinese have gone a very long way indeed, after a long time, in accepting the broad outline of the Indian initiative which we all approve.
I do not think that these other matters —questions of which of the five Powers should be chosen and who should be in control, and so on—are really matters which ought to hang up these negotiations. The Americans have shown great patience in these negotiations. I think that it was inevitable at the start that the conduct of this affair should be in the hands of the United States, but I believe that at this stage, as soon as the negotiations are concluded, it will be for the benefit of the world and of the United States that these things should pass to a collective organ of U.N.O.
I turn now to China. I do not believe that China is a mere puppet in the hands of Russia. I think that she will wear her Communism with a difference; but I am more certain than ever that, as soon as aggression has been halted, China should take her rightful place on the Security Council. It is really one of the ironies of history that President Roosevelt, against our view, rather pressed that 1067 China was a great Power. She was not then. She was the rather ramshackle Power of Chiang Kai-shek torn with dissension, yet she was put in a position on the Security Council. But now, under a different Government, she seems to be evolving as a pretty effective Power. She is entitled to be one of the Big Five and I do not think that her place should be denied to her.
§ Mr. Attlee
No, soon after the armistice.
We have a very vital interest in peace in China. Our hopes of increasing our trade with the United States have been greatly lessened by recent events. We may hope that the attitude will change; it is not too hopeful just now. "Trade, not aid" does not seem to have been accepted over there. We are constantly pressed not to trade with China, even in goods which are very remotely connected with war effort. We cannot survive if we are to be restricted, unable to trade effectively with the United States, cut off from China and with all the difficulties of the Iron Curtain. We, therefore, have as vital an interest as anybody in the settlement of this China affair, and I am sure that our American friends will recognise this. It is not too soon for heart-to-heart talks to take place with the United States on how these matters are to be settled after the armistice.
There are different views. I saw President Truman on this matter and we discussed very fully the question of Formosa and all the rest, and we found that we had to agree to differ on points; but I think we should discuss those points as soon as possible and try to clear them up. My hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) made a very powerful speech on the position of Indo-China and the Prime Minister, as I have already noted, said he thought it was unwise to assume that the present position in Indo-China was just a matter of Chinese or Russian intrigue. I am certain that any attempt to make the Indo-Chinese affair into a U.N.O. matter would 1068 cause a great split in the United Nations and, what is even more serious for us, a split in the Commonwealth.
I recently met a large number of people from Asian countries. Rightly or wrongly, they all took the view that in its origin Viet Minh was very largely a revolt against French colonialism. Viet Minh, naturally, accepts support from the Chinese or anybody else, just as China accepts help from Russia, but it would be quite contrary to the whole history of that part of the world to assume that the Indo-Chinese want to become satellites of China.
France was slow in recognising this nationalist movement. I am not blaming the French, because they were knocked out of the war and had a very difficult task in rebuilding their position and, perhaps, in understanding the new forces which were moving in Asia, but I cannot help thinking that there was a possibility, at one time, that this business could have been settled and that Ho Chi Minh might today have been a Prime Minister in a part of Indo-China—Viet Nam—just as some other people with whom we have disagreed in the past are now Prime Ministers in the British Commonwealth. It is essential that the French should accept the logic of events. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) made a very full point on that; in fact, he covered a very large number of the points in the Prime Minister's speech. He said that colonialism belongs to a past age. It undoubtedly does in Asia.
I do not want to say very much on the Egyptian position. I agree that it is difficult, with General Neguib using rather violent and threatening language, not to react against it, as I think the Prime Minister did, but here again we have to realise that we are face to face with an insurgent nationalism—and nationalism is a very heady wine. For years we have had to deal with the ruling class in Egypt—a class which, in my view, has lived in luxury on the misery of the fellaheen. People tell me that General Neguib and the young men around him are fighting against corruption. They are out for a new Egypt. We should therefore view them with a great deal of sympathy.
1069 We can congratulate the Government on having tackled that very vexed question of the Sudan. We now have the question of this base in Egypt. I do not know what stage the negotiations have reached. I am afraid we have to recognise that the Egyptians set an immense store on their sovereignty, and that they regard anything like stationing troops in their country as a violation of their sovereignty. Perhaps that is because they are rather new to self-government. Old Governments can accept the presence of troops from other countries without feeling too disturbed about it.
I am quite sure that a base in Egypt, against the will of the Egyptians, will be a very weak base, however well equipped. I think we all want to get our troops out. I know efforts have been made—efforts were made in our time—to try to get not just a British base but a base for the support of the whole of the Middle East, and I hope that may yet be achieved. I hope that Egypt may take her part because, frankly having looked at this question very often, I do not see anywhere else in that area where we could establish a base with the facilities we have in the Suez Canal. On the other hand, one has to weigh against that the nationalist aspirations of the Egyptians.
I turn for a moment to Europe. I have only a very few words to say. My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) will be speaking in the debate and will be dealing with this matter at greater length. We have to face up to this German problem. The fact is that East Germany is heavily armed and Western Germany is not armed. We desire a united Germany, but a united democratic Germany. There is a danger that if we join these two parts of Germany when one part is controlled by a faction which is heavily armed, democracy might not last long in Germany.
It is essential that in dealing with the German problem we should continue to deal with it from strength, by building up our N.A.T.O. forces. On the other hand, looking broadly at this problem, I think it is a mistake to suggest that a united Germany should automatically be part of N.A.T.O. The Russians are bound to object to that, just as we should object if it were suggested that Western Germany should become a satellite of the Russian Empire. We laid down certain conditions with regard to German rearmament. They 1070 deal with the contributions Westen Germany might make for our common defence, but if we get a united Germany and set up a Government there, that Government will have to decide what they are going to do.
The Prime Minister invoked Locarno. I remember Locarno, and the Locarno spirit. I am not altogether clear what this would amount to in practice. I should rather like to hear it further developed. I was not quite sure how, in the present world, the various parts in the drama of Locarno were assigned; but it is a suggestion. I have one word to say about the Austrian Treaty. Soviet Russia would make a tremendous gesture if she could agree to the Austrian Treaty.
With regard to a conference on the highest level, I agree with the Prime Minister that it would not be advisable to stage a conference with an enormous retinue of experts. I am sure that anything in the way of public discussions would be a mistake. We have seen that at U.N.O. I would say, however, that any such conference needs most careful preparation. We want to be sure what we want, and that applies not only to this country but to the United States of America.
I want to advert to that point for one moment because there, again, we have the peculiar Constitutional position of America. It would be possible for President Eisenhower to attend a conference and, on his return to the United States, to be thrown over, as President Wilson was after the discussions at Versailles. It is, therefore, essential that whoever goes to this conference should go with full authority. We need full co-operation in searching out these ideas. We should be unwise—I think the Prime Minister would agree—to expect that that conference would dramatically clear up all international difficulties. Its chief value would be in getting personal contacts and understanding, from which a careful building up of peace might ensue.
We have had a number of remarkable speeches and pronouncements in recent weeks. We have had the speech of President Eisenhower. We had the "Pravda" article, which showed some signs of thaw in the frozen region of the relationships of Russia with the Western world. I am quite sure that the Prime Minister's speech has made a valuable 1071 contribution, and I think this House has, too, because I think the speeches of yesterday were kept at a high level of debate, and I am quite certain that Great Britain still has the power and the will to give a lead for peace.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ The Minister of State (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition for the reference he made at the beginning of his speech to the Foreign Secretary. We on this side of the House are very glad indeed to see the recovery that the right hon. Gentleman himself has made, and we certainly hope that my right hon. Friend's recovery will be as complete. The right hon. Gentleman began by paying a compliment to the tone and tenor of the speech of the Prime Minister. I hope he will not regard it as an impertinence in a junior Minister to say that we on this side thought the tone and tenor of his speech also was admirable.
The Prime Minister began his speech yesterday by saying that he could deal only with the salient features, and that even for that a severe process of selection and suppression was required, and he added that I would supplement his account. I have found the process of selection and suppression of the supplement equally severe, because many interesting and valuable points were raised yesterday from both sides of the House, and some of them were topics worthy of lengthy discussion in themselves. Some of them will be met, I hope, in the speech of my hon. Friend later and in mine. I do assure hon. Members who made those points that they will be carefully studied.
I think we would agree with the shrewd comments the right hon. Gentleman made upon the Prime Minister's proposal for a high level conference. We should not regard the holding of such a conference as inconsistent with seeking to settle the questions at issue one by one, and I cannot see that it would do harm provided it were made clear that a comprehensive settlement covering every detail of disagreement would be out of the question. It would establish personal contact, it would help to maintain the momentum of the current very hopeful 1072 developments, and it seems to me that it might do a great deal of good.
Criticism was made yesterday from the other side of the House that the Government were not following up this proposition by having detailed negotiations on a sufficient number of subjects. So far as disarmament is concerned, we are ready to begin straight away in the Disarmament Commission, that has been set up again by the decision of the Assembly, to negotiate on disarmament. We have certain proposals on that topic, and we can go straight away into negotiations with the Soviet Government. We would certainly note again the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) as to the way those negotiations should be handled.
Our offer to discuss the elections throughout Germany still stands. That is not quite such a simple matter as it may seem. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition made a very serious point when he stated the fact that with an armed Eastern Germany and a disarmed Western Germany it would take a little time to arrange that those elections would be free. But we are ready to negotiate upon that matter.
As to Austria, where for all too long matters have been held up, upon the initiative of the Government invitations have been sent to the Deputies to reconvene so that we can see whether we can get further in that matter.
We are against making any particular negotiation the test. We are against getting into a position in which we say or let people believe that all our hopes and fears rest upon the success of a particular negotiation. I think our general line should be one of patience, and not forcing the other side or even some of our friends, into an irrevocable position. We should seek to let things develop, remembering that there are plenty of matters in hand where progress can be made. I do think it would be wise for us all to remember that fact.
When I say that there are plenty of negotiations in hand, that brings us at once to the question of Korea. I think there is almost complete agreement in this House that the first step should be an armistice in Korea to bring to an end a conflict which is causing so much loss 1073 of life and misery to so many, to stop a conflict which may spread, and also to maintain the momentum behind the present hopeful developments. There has been a good deal of comment and criticism on the handling of the negotiations, and there are varying views as to how they have been conducted. I think the right hon. Gentleman was exceedingly moderate in his comment upon those matters.
One view is that our negotiators have been behaving with remarkable patience over the months. They have seen the Communists take advantage of the talks to recover from a position of serious military disadvantage and to build up great strength; there has been hard bargaining, and the Communists certainly have not been sparing in their use of invective; but a draft agreement has been gradually built up by concessions on both sides, and that points to the probability that our negotiators were right to stand firm. There is not to be any forced repatriation. That was not only a point of principle. It was indeed a point of honour. That is one view of the negotiations, but many speakers during the debate have made criticism of the action of our negotiators.
I will be quite frank and say that I myself agree with one criticism. I think it is unfortunate that the negotiators should proceed straight from the negotiating tent each day to a Press conference. It seems to me very difficult for them to do themselves justice in those circumstances. That seems to me to be the wrong atmosphere for the negotiators to get into straight after each conference. But it happens on both sides. It is a convention for the negotiators on both sides to do that, and it appears to be one of the unfortunate conventions in Korea at the present time.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Wll the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in justice, remember that this business if dragging in the Press was initiated by the United Nations' side and not on the other, and that the very first break down of the original negotiations so long ago was precisely on this attempt to bring the reporters into the scene of the negotiations?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I was trying not to take sides upon this particular matter, but I think it is unfortunate that both sides 1074 should get into the atmosphere of a Press conference immediately after the negotiations.
However, the main charge has really been against General Harrison, and I should like to deal with that in rather more detail, because the impression has been given that, agreement having been reached on points of principle, needless haggling is going on about matters of detail. I do not believe that that is the case. I think that that is an unjust comment, and I shall try to illustrate what I mean.
The Communists have put forward an eight point plan, and that appears to safeguard the point of principle and point of honour to which I have just referred. That is excellent. It adopts the idea of the Indian Resolution that a repatriation commission should be set up. It provides that prisoners who have not gone home after 60 days should be handed over to the commission. It solves one of the difficulties of the Indian Resolution by nominating India as the fifth member of the commission. The Indian Resolution did not say who would be umpire, it will be remembered. The eight point plan provides for an opportunity to be given to explain to the prisoners how their safety will be ensured if they do return home. All this is acceptable and it is, indeed, to be supported.
These proposals, however, differ from the Indian Resolution in two important respects. First of all, they involve the five countries named in sending contingents of armed forces to Korea. I believe that there are obvious and practical difficulties in that. If we look at the case of Switzerland, for example, with no standing army, it seems to me that a proposal that she must send a contingent of armed forces to Korea is impracticable and something which may involve considerable delay, possibly of many months. Some people think that there are enough armed contingents in Korea already; and there are other difficulties of language, and so on.
Her Majesty's Government prefer the Indian Resolution on this point, which gives the commission discretion in the matter. They could call upon the parties to the conflict, or the member States of the United Nations or their own Governments for such help as they needed. Possibly one neutral country might provide 1075 all the guards. That might be a much simpler solution. However, I certainly hope that this will not be a breaking point. It seems to me that this is a matter which is capable of adjustment.
The second difference from the Indian Resolution—and this is not a detail—is that under the eight point proposal no future is clearly marked out for those who refuse repatriation. After four months their future is to be in the hands of the political conference, but there is no provision for the contingency of disagreement at that conference. The Indian Resolution was quite different. It provided that after 90 days the future of such men should be referred to the political conference, and if it failed to agree within 30 days, then their resettlement should be the responsibility of the United Nations, not of the United Nations Command but the responsibility of the whole United Nations.
I think that that alternative is really much to be preferred. It is a point of substance, and the case for it was put very clearly by Mr. Krishna Menon in his speech on 19th November, 1952, to the Political Committee of the United Nations. Mr. Menon, who, as we all know, made a notable contribution towards the solution of this matter said:… there must be an understanding that you cannot keep human beings in captivity all their lives or for indeterminate periods. …Therefore, if as a result of all this there should be a number of persons whom it has not been possible to return to their homelands for one reason or another, whatever the reason may be, and if there are people who are in this state of suspended animation then there must be some provision made.He went on to say that he thought it should be the responsibility of the United Nations to see that they should be looked after.
I hope that agreement will be reached on something resembling the Indian Resolution, but I regard it as unfair to say that this is "haggling over a point of detail." I think that indefinite captivity is more than a detail to those likely to endure it. However, we do consider —and I think that all sides of the House consider—that the Communist attitude since March has been a step forward, and we believe that if there is the will for peace, the two points which I have 1076 mentioned can be solved. I would deprecate the talk of deadlock that one hears because I do not believe that there is a deadlock. I also think that when one is so near a solution it would be a mistake to change the negotiators at this moment. If I understood the right hon. Gentleman's speech, he was not suggesting that at this moment we should change negotiators.
May I also, on this matter, say a word to the people on the other side. There are those who say that these arrangements which we are supporting—these arrangements of the Indian Resolution— are too complicated and give too much opportunity, if there is bad faith, for friction and delay. That comment could be made about almost any other clause in the draft armistice agreement at the present time, and I do not think that we shall make greater dangers for the future by putting forward the solution to this problem which was embodied in the Indian Resolution.
As for what has been suggested for after the armistice, we are, I think, in complete agreement with the right hon. Gentleman. After the armistice there will be a political conference. That is provided for in the armistice agreement. Of course, the composition of the negotiators would be quite different from those engaged upon the present negotiations. That conference will have to deal with the future of Korea and, no doubt, with other matters.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already spoken of the future of Korea, and has said that time should be allowed to be the healer. Certainly, we have the earnest hope that all the people of Korea, whose bravery and resilience I have seen for myself, will lay aside their thoughts of vengeance against one another and, in time, work together in a Korea, united not by conquest but by toleration and good will. That is a very large hope, I know, in present circumstances in Korea, but we must foster it in every way we can.
We have been questioned about the future status of the Peking Government in the United Nations, and I think that it was said that a declaration now by Her Majesty's Government that they would support the Peking Government for the Chinese permanent seat would 1077 help along the peace. Our position is quite clear. We supported the recognition of the Central People's Government of China; I think that, in fact, my right hon. Friend was the first to suggest it. We did that, not because we particularly liked that Government, but because it was the effective Government of China. Then came the aggression in Korea.
While that conflict is still in progress it seems quite out of the question to support the Central People's Government's claim or to promise to support it in a contingency which has not yet arisen. When peace has been established in Korea, a different situation will arise, and that is one of the matters which will have to be discussed. I can assure the House that Her Majesty's Government will have a clear viewpoint on that matter at that time.
Many comments have been made on the question of Thailand and Indo-China. I did not hear it, but I read with great interest the speech of the hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. Wyatt). I do not agree with everything that he said, but I agree that the points which he made will require very careful attention. I can assure him that there is no complacency on this side of the House about pos-sible developments in South-East Asia— the threat to Thailand, Burma and indirectly to India. The Prime Minister put the present situation in its correct perspective.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The Siamese Government have reacted to this threat by taking precautionary measures on the north-east frontier, and I think they will receive the support of the vast majority of the members of the United Nations in their determination to maintain their independence, if their independence is threatened.
I am glad to see co-operation between the Siamese Government and Her Majesty's Government is increasing. With regard to the reference of this dispute to the United Nations at the present time, that matter is in a state of flux, and it is not certain who wants what. I do not think that we quarrel very much with what the right hon. Gentleman said upon that topic.
On the question of the Middle East, the suggestion was made yesterday, I 1078 think from both sides of the House, that Her Majesty's Government had taken up an unfriendly attitude towards the Arab States at the United Nations. Hon. Members on both sides said that they thought the Arab criticisms were justified. I do not want to revive a controversy which I thought was buried. All I can do is to ask the hon. Members concerned to re-read the speeches made during that debate.
There have been recently two outstanding events in the Arab world. I refer to the accession of the two young Kings of Iraq and Jordan, two countries with which we have ties of friendship and treaty agreements, and I am sure that the House would wish to extend its good wishes to the young rulers.
Great wealth is coming into Iraq from the oil revenues. A development board has been set up and its work should mean a great improvement in the lot of the people. We know the difficulties there —the high cost of living, the taxation problems, the social discontent—but we believe that the new reign can mean a period of great prosperity and happiness to the people of that country. We send to them and to the people of the Jordan our good wishes upon the accession of their rulers.
I will, if I may, say just one word about the Sudan in answer to the very wise and thoughtful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. E. Wakefield). I have already given the House an account of my own visit, and subsequent thought has really given me no reason to change the conclusions which I then put forward. I think that our policy is clear and is supported by most hon. Members. Our aim is self-government by the Sudanese, followed by self-determination, and we intend to operate the Agreement in that spirit.
Articles 1 and 8 of the Agreement provide for a free and neutral atmosphere. It seems to me that one of the main tasks of the present Administration is to continue orderly administration of the country and to ensure the free and neutral atmosphere which is required. It was quite obvious during my visit that difficulties would arise. The blast of Egyptian propaganda, the influx of Egyptians and Egyptian money, inflammatory speeches from beyond the border and within it, both by members of the 1079 Egyptian Government and others—Salah el Din, the ex-Wafd Minister for Foreign Affairs was in Khartoum when I was there, speaking in a violent anti-British manner.
I spoke vigorously on these matters to the Egyptian Government and to the Sudanese, and since my visit the Sudanese themselves have had to take action. I am sure hon. Members will agree that the Umma Party's deputation to Cairo to protest is a welcome sign of Sudanese determination not to be put upon in these matters. My own belief is that the large majority of Sudanese want independence, but my opinion is not the point. The point is that the Sudanese themselves should have a free choice. We do not seek to say whether that choice should be for complete independence or for some form of union with Egypt. This is a matter for the Sudanese themselves, and we are determined to see that they have the chance to make that choice.
My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West referred to the British officials. They have a most important job to do—to preserve the stability of administration, to stand up to attacks upon their official and personal reputations and integrity, to continue to follow with undeviating devotion the path they know to be best for the Sudanese, and to hold the ring in this very difficult task. I think they can count upon the support of all hon. Members in their endeavours to do their duty in these respects, and we intend to watch over their interests to see that they are fairly treated. In this connection we are much encouraged by the friendly disposition of the leading Sudanese.
I now come to the question of Egypt, and I want, if I am not trespassing too much on the indulgence of the House, to say a word or two about the course which the negotiations have taken. We are in Egypt by virtue of our Treaty rights—a Treaty which, when it was signed in 1936, was hailed as a great triumph for Egyptian statesmanship. My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) referred to some of the articles in that Treaty, and pointed out that our rights do not end in 1956. I think it would be well for more people to study the terms of that Treaty.
1080 However, we would much prefer an amicable revision of that Treaty and new arrangements arrived at by amicable means. When General Neguib came to power in the summer, he made it clear that, in view of his other preoccupations, he was in no hurry to discuss the main matters outstanding. Towards the end of September, Her Majesty's Ambassador in Cairo told him that Her Majesty's Government would shortly approve the draft self-government ordinance for the Sudan and hoped that we should be able to agree on a constructive approach together to the Sudan.
In November, the Egyptian Government gave us their reply on the Sudan, and later said that they would like to open defence discussions when the Sudan question was out of the way, perhaps in January or February. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, there was some discussion between Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government—both the Truman Administration and the present Administration—and it was agreed to make a joint approach.
On 15th March, however, General Neguib said that he was not prepared to issue an invitation to the United States Government to join in the talks. Her Majesty's Government, while regretting that fact, decided to go on alone. This decision was conveyed by Her Majesty's Minister in Cairo in my presence when I went to see General Neguib on 28th March. It was made clear on that occasion, and subsequently, that we wished to discuss a number of topics.
The first was the maintenance of the base in peace with a view to its immediate reactivation in war. The reason for those words "immediate reactivation in war" is, I think, pretty obvious. Previously, there has been time, many months after the outbreak of a war, to develop and prepare the base; but in modern conditions, if there should be a war, which we all so much fear, it does not seem likely that there would be any such interval available.
Secondly, we wanted to discuss the air defence of the base area, a complicated and technical matter requiring the most modern equipment and skills, and impossible unless those engaged in it have opportunities of practical experience in co-operation with those similarly trained.
1081 Thirdly, we wished to discuss the phased withdrawal of British troops. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, we have no wish to keep 80,000 men there, and it was hoped to reduce British personnel to a small fraction of that number. We wished to discuss regional arrangements for collective defence and a programme of military and economic assistance to Egypt. It was made clear to the Egyptians that we did not seek to fix the order in which these matters were to be discussed, but we made it quite clear that, in our view, they were inextricably mixed up—that they were inter-dependent matters. I think hon. Members will agree that that was a constructive and reasonable approach, because this base is not there for our glorification or for imperialist or sinister purposes. It is part of the defence of the free world.
I discussed these matters informally with two members of the Military Committee when I was in Cairo. One of them said, "We cannot understand why you are worrying about these matters now. We will be friends with you when the attack comes—we will make a pact then." But "then" would be too late, because in modern conditions small countries and even great countries cannot stand alone. Defence and security must be collective. Just as no one country in Western Europe can assure its own defence—indeed, not all the countries of Western Europe can do so together—we have the United States and Canada in with us—and even after four years of collaboration it cannot be said that our defences are adequate; so, in the Middle East, no one country can stand alone. All the Arab countries put together cannot produce or procure the necessary equipment and technical skills. They cannot, on their own, keep pace with the modern and terrifying techniques of war, and the measures required to combat them.
We had hoped that when these matters had been discussed dispassionately as technical matters, which, indeed, many of them are, we would reach understanding and agreement. But at an early stage, in relation to the maintenance of the base, the Egyptian Government sought to insist on certain points. In general terms, they were as follow:
1082 First of all, that physical and technical control and direction of the base and of any British equipment and installations left in it were to be Egyptian. Secondly, that any British personnel left behind in the base must be in Egyptian employ, the Egyptians having the right to dismiss them. Thirdly, that instructions to these British men for the handling of British stores and equipment could only be passed to them through the Egyptian Government.
Fourthly, the Egyptians should have the sole right to decide, or at least a right of veto on, the use to which our stores and installations should be put. Hon. Members will remember our Treaty obligations to Jordan and Iraq and in connection with the tripartite declaration about the position of Israel and her neighbours. So there was to be a right of veto by the Egyptian Government. Fifthly, British technicians were to be replaced by Egyptians in a very short time. We got the impression that they were thinking in terms of months. Such arrangements could have had only one result; the base would rapidly have become completely useless, with the resulting effect on the maintenance of our Forces and the defence of the whole area.
I often wonder whether it is sufficiently understood what the base actually consists of. During the last war it supported the equivalent of about 28 infantry divisions and 13 armoured divisions, in addition to Royal naval units and air forces totalling about 65 squadrons. Even today the various depots, workshops, airfields, power stations and hospitals are having to be maintained on an extensive scale. The ordnance depot at Tel-el-Kebir covers an area of about 15 square miles, and even that contains only about a quarter of the total stores held in the base. These stores include large quantities of ammunition, thousands of vehicles and vast quantities of bridging equipment, locomotives and cranes, and the total value of the stores exceeds £200 million.
The fixed assets—the airfields, the power stations, the hospitals and the workshops are supplemented by extensive road, rail and signal communications and two fully developed military ports; and the replacement of such facilities today might cost some £300 million. The facts which I have given indicate that the maintenance of such valuable and intricate capital assets 1083 requires wide technical knowledge and skilled administrative experience.
This is one of the great assets in the defence of the free world. The idea that, with the best of good will, it should be handed over under the conditions which I have set before the House seems to me to show that the base would rapidly deteriorate into something which would take a period of years to reactivate if there should be another war. These propositions, taken as a whole, are obviously unacceptable, and I think they will appear so to every person of common sense.
Our present position has been stated by the Prime Minister. In spite of all the verbal provocations there have been, we wanted these negotiations to be conducted with good will. We still want to negotiate. We have not sought to exacerbate feelings in either country in spite of all the provocation. However, there is one matter which I want to put before the House before I sit down. As my right hon. Friend mentioned yesterday, there have been a number of incidents in the Canal Zone. These incidents have increased in frequency and seriousness during the past month. Since 1st April there have been about 30 attacks of one kind or another upon British personnel or British installations. British soldiers have been assaulted or shot at from ambushes.
On 16th April, for example, a British driver was assaulted and is still unaccounted for. Two days later a Royal Air Force coach and driver disappeared between Ismailia and Abu Sueir. Next day an East African driver and vehicle were missing. On 27th April a British military jeep containing a British warrant officer and sergeant was fired on by Egyptian civilians in two taxis on the main Cairo—Ismailia road, near Tel-el-Kebir. The British sergeant was killed and the warrant officer wounded. The two taxis made off towards Cairo. On 3rd May the wife of the Deputy Director of Medical Services was shot at and wounded by armed Egyptians while picnicking on the banks of the Suez Canal.
These are merely examples of the kind of thing which has been going on. We have strong grounds for believing that in many cases these attacks have been carried out under the direction of, or at least with the connivance of, members 1084 of the Egyptian Armed Forces. We kept very quiet about these matters in order to create the best possible atmosphere we could for the talks, but in the circumstances our soldiers have no option but to defend themselves.
I really cannot regard as warranted a statement like that of the hon. Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) yesterday, that the Prime Minister's most temperate observation on the matter amounted almost to a declaration of war. We must watch the development of events in Egypt, as the Prime Minister said, with the composure which follows from the combination of patience with strength.
One final word, on the question of relations between ourselves and the United States of America. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition made some very shrewd comments on the American system and upon the division of powers there. It was suggested repeatedly during yesterday's debate that we should challenge the United States Government on this subject or on that, and that we should force them to come to an agreement with us. It was suggested that we should issue public warnings. We do continually exchange views on every topic. Of course, there are differences of opinion, and we seek to settle those differences, and usually we do.
At present, I would utter this word of warning to those in both countries who criticise the other country, those in both countries who, somewhat querulously, demand that the other country should give way on everything. I would ask them to remember this plain fact, that provided our two countries stand together on essentials there is no limit to what we can do for the world and ourselves; but if we fall apart, or if we are forced apart, there is no danger which may not befall us and the world.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
I heard all the speeches yesterday, including that of the Prime Minister, and I also heard my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition open the debate today. What must strike all of us is a certain correlation of agreement between the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday and that of my right hon. Friend today.
In spite of all the varying emphasis with which we speak in this House, it is clear that we should all like to go at 1085 least half way to meet the offers from Soviet Russia, and that we should like to explore to the utmost the possibility of a truce in Korea. Even in the guarded phrases of the Minister of State today and the Opposition spokesman yesterday, it was apparent to anyone who was listening that all of us in the House would like to see the world go beyond the point of a truce in Korea to having the real Government of China represented at the United Nations. I am sure that no one in any part of the House would query that.
All of us were encouraged by the words of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who made it clear that if we are to achieve a truce in Korea and an easing of the present international situation, it is absolutely essential that Great Britain speaks as Great Britain and that we no longer either hedge or apologise if in the contribution which we are to make to international affairs we disagree with the United States of America. It is an advance in the discussions in this House to have reached this stage.
I should like to see a situation in which a Socialist Government was in power in this country and that the Prime Minister was the leader of the Opposition. I believe the Prime Minister has a sufficient sense of history, sympathy and imagination, and also a Liberal past, to be anxious to see his country fitting into contemporary reality. But what frightens me about some of his remarks and, very much more so, some of the comments which have come from his hon. Friends, is that hon. Members opposite do not seem to be talking in terms of the modern world.
For instance, when my hon Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) talked about Indo-China, he said something with which many of us on this side would agree, that the best advice that any friends of France could give to France at the present moment is to clear out of Indo-China. If the French in Indo-China stated quite definitely and unequivocably that they no longer hoped to exert any colonial power in Indo-China, then it might be possible to meet the indigenous revolutionary forces there and to have a government that would be a creature neither of Soviet Russia, France nor anywhere else.
1086 I believe that that would be a helping forward of the security of the whole world, and that if those sentiments had been expressed by the Labour Government at the time when they were giving independence to India, and removing all doubts and suspicions between ourselves and India by stating a definite date on which we would leave India, then it would have been possible for us to help forward the great movement towards world peace.
What troubles me profoundly is that we all are meeting in a House of Commons with a Tory Government, albeit with a Prime Minister who has been everything in his rich past, even a Liberal, a Prime Minister for whom all of us have a certain respect and a certain affection. He is sufficiently sensitive to know that that is true. Every soldier in the line of battle respects the soldier in the opposite trenches if he feels he believes in what he is fighting for and is a brave man for his own side. It is in that sense that I pay my respects to the Prime Minister. But if Great Britain is merely to fight the battles which made up her past, then we are not going to be listened to by the rest of the world, for we shall have nothing to say.
I observed that when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was speaking only half of the benches opposite were occupied by hon. Members listening to one who is a former Prime Minister of this country and whom I hope and believe, will be a future Prime Minister. When the Prime Minister was speaking yesterday we on these benches were present to hear what he was saying. But what concerns me is whether, when we have these debates between Government and Opposition, we are talking to ourselves or to any other country, or whether the rest of the world is listening to what we have got to say?
§ Miss Lee
The Prime Minister says that some of them are listening. I do not think enough are listening; I do not think we have made our position in world affairs sufficiently clear to win for us the allies that we could have had in the Middle East and in the Far East. I have already spoken about Indo-China. I know what we would like the French to 1087 do—we know what some of us would advise the French to do—but in the same debate in which we express those sentiments we have every Member on the Government side saying in regard to Egypt and the Suez Canal that we must sing the old-fashioned song:We don't want to fight, but by jingo if we do.I do not believe that responsible people in the world were impressed yesterday by the Prime Minister shaking his fist at General Neguib at the same time as Mr. Dulles was paying him nice compliments.
§ Miss Lee
Yes, he gave him a revolver, and sometimes in modern world conditions a gift of a revolver is the most effective kind of kiss that one can receive. But the result is the same. So we have the Prime Minister of Great Britain telling General Neguib that if he goes too far we will fight him; there will be war between us. That, in effect, was the statement made by the Prime Minister. Now we have the representative of America on the same day arriving in Cairo and saying that General Neguib is the representative of a brave new world and how much he admires what he has done.
When the Prime Minister gets up and says that we have not a single division in this country, that we are spreading ourselves broad and wide in many foreign parts, and then says, if he will forgive me, rather querulously that the world is not really grateful enough for the risks we are taking and for what we are sacrificing, I would ask him, does he, with his imperial memories think that that is the language of strength? Does he think that that language is going to give to Great Britain in 1953 the position which she ought to have in the world?
I believe that if we in this island are going to measure our strength in Korea, in Indo-China, in the advice we give in Egypt or anywhere else by the guns or men we can assemble, then indeed we will be reduced to the position which the Prime Minister has relegated to us more than once, a very junior satellite or at the best an ally of America, which accounts for a fraction of one-twentieth of the strength—
§ Miss Lee
The Prime Minister said that the Americans are responsible for nineteen-twentieths of the fighting forces in Korea. We account for a fraction of the remaining one-twentieth. That, of course, is the language of an age that is dead. That is naked power politics. If we want to play simple power politics we are beaten before we start. When we talk in that way we throw overboard everything that the United Nations stands for, and something more precious than that.
There is a revolution going on all over the world. There is no nation so small and no race so intimidated that it does not want some corner of the world to call its own. That is a general sentiment with which none of us would disagree. It is put in moving terms by the State of Israel. Many of us on this side of the House were delighted that the Prime Minister and other speakers on the Government benches went out of their way in this debate to say to the Middle East that the State of Israel has been founded; that the Jews are entitled to have their own corner of the world; and that the honour of the British Government, of the British Opposition and of all of us is at stake in seeing that, having achieved their corner of the world, the Jews shall be helped to enjoy security and development.
I disagree profoundly with one hon. Member who said yesterday that in talking so clearly about the State of Israel we were being unfriendly to the surrounding Arab States. Nothing could be more friendly to the surrounding Arab States than to put them out of their doubt about our intentions in regard to Israel. The next most friendly thing we could do to the Arab States would be to say to Egypt, "We accept that we have no more right in Egypt than the French have in Indo-China." I believe that if France and Britain would get together, if France would talk in those terms to Indo-China and if we would talk in those terms to Egypt, we would have the beginning of forces in the world that would not require to be driven in desperation either to the shelter of the American dollar or to the shelter of Soviet Communism.
I do not believe that the 20th century world wants to live under the domination 1089 of either the American dollar, of American values, or under the domination of Soviet Russia. Why I am so anxious to see a Labour Government in this country is because a Labour Government in Great Britain represents the rising strength of a class which at one time in this island was an oppressed class. The Labour movement is built up not only of the weakest and the most helpless among the working people of this island; it is built up also of some of the strongest and the proudest in the working class movement who would not see their weaker brethren trampled upon.
There is a moral in that for the whole world. There are still too many members on the Government benches who, when they are talking about Africans, Egyptians, Chinese, even Indians—in fact any people of a less developed industry or another colour of skin than themselves —have the historical hangover of believing that they have the right to patronise them. What we know—and I believe that this is at the very kernel of world problems at the present time—is that if we insult a single Egyptian fellaheen, we are insulting every Egyptian; if we insult a single African, no matter how weak he may be in physique, education or anything else, the people who will run to his rescue are the best and the strongest and the proudest of his own race.
It is only the uncertain, either in the case of class oppression or racial oppression, who seek to pass the colour line. The first experience I had in America was of a negro who was neither entirely black nor white, who was very uncertain of himself, who was very uncertain in his loyalties. All he wanted to do was to pass as a white American. The negroes with whom I became friends in America, the negroes who matter in America and the coloured people Who matter in Africa, the Egyptians who matter, the Indians who matter, are those who will not see a single member of their class, religious group or race oppressed without feeling that the insult is to them as well as to the other members of the race.
That is why I have believed that, although this has been a most thoughtful debate, if hon. Members will forgive me, some of it has been superficial. We have been talking about what we would like the Americans to do, the Russians to 1090 do, the French to do. We have been talking about what we would like the United Nations to do. We have not, however, made it clear to the world what we ourselves believe in and what we ourselves intend to do.
I shall conclude with two propositions which I believe are fundamental if Great Britain is to give the leadership—or, to use the word I prefer—the comradeship which so many nations in the world now desire. First, we must be quite unequivocal in our attitude to people of a different race, a different religion and a different colour of skin than ourselves. No matter what the Government, when we show race prejudice as we did in the case of Seretse Khama; when we show old-fashioned colonialism, such as we do when we force federation on Central Africa against the wishes of the African people, we are so confusing our own point of view, both in the eyes of liberal Americans and people elsewhere, that they do not really know what we stand for.
I do not think there is any need for ambiguity about the point of view of Britain. I believe our greatest contribution to international affairs was when we named the date on which India should have its independence. I hope my own party will look around the world to every country with which we have either political or economic ties to see if there is even a suspicion of colonialism or patronage in relation to those people. We should do precisely what we did in relation to India, Pakistan, Burma and the rest—in other words, name the date.
On that basis we should then turn to the United States of America and say that we appreciate that there is a great argument going on there, as there is in our own country. For there are liberal Americans who do not understand our point of view about Egypt and with many of whom Mr. Dulles will not be in trouble. There are liberal Americans who are anxious to see Indo-China and other parts of the world liberated from what they call old-fashioned colonialism.
We cannot talk to those Americans when, at the same time, we approach Washington with a begging bowl held out, because money talks louder than words. I am grieved and shamed when I hear that the contribution which our country can make to international affairs 1091 is lost because of the clatter of the dollars falling into the begging bowl. I am entitled to say that, because I voted against the first American loan that went through this House of Commons in what I considered to be most undignified haste in the first few months of a Labour Government at the end of 1945. The present Government are not entitled to criticise because hon. Gentlemen opposite supported that proposition. Their only suggestion was that, if there had been a Tory Government then, we might have got a bigger loan from America on easier terms. Of course there were a few independent Tories as there were some of us on these benches who felt that Great Britain was throwing aside its real powers of influence in the world at the time we accepted that rather disgraceful loan.
When the time of Marshall Aid came I believe that America reached its highest point of post-war liberalism. Our position was more dignified then because we were getting from America but we were giving to the rest of the world. Now once again we are in a most undignified position. We are being sneered at and criticised in Washington. When members of Congress meet in debate, they do not discuss what is the point of view of Britain about Egypt or Indo-China or Korea or anywhere else. All they discuss is how much poor old John Bull wants to get from the American citizens in dollar aid.
This country cannot hope to play the part it must play in the world until we have the type of government—I believe it can only be a Labour Government— which says with all courtesy to the United States of America, "Thank you very much but we no longer intend to occupy a mendicant role in the world. We will so organise our resources, we will so organise our defence at home and abroad, that we do not become cheap show-offs, so that we do not try to do what we cannot afford but live within our means."
I believe that if Great Britain would dignify her relationships with America everything we have to say to the rest of the world would be listened to with tenfold respect. I believe the essential thing we have to say to the world is that we— particularly on these benches, who know 1092 what it is to fight against economic oppression—appreciate the revolution which is going on in which coloured people want to live a free, dignified, life. If they are helped and permitted to live that kind of life I do not think Soviet Russia, or anyone else, can make them an aggressive power against us, or any other country.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
Yesterday, and again today, we have been discussing history. It is a platitude, but nevertheless quite remarkable, to find how often history repeats itself. It has already repeated itself in this debate because last night I was fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye at one minute to ten o'clock. On that occasion I followed the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle). Today, I find again I have been fortunate enough in catching your eye, Sir, and following a lady Member, the hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee). I must say that I find it very pleasant indeed to follow these charming hon. Lady Members, but I would have found it more delightful if I could have agreed and approved wholeheartedly of the views they expressed.
I have always taken the view, and I agreed with what the Leader of the Opposition said today, that in a debate on foreign affairs we are dealing with very great and serious issues and that it is quite wrong to try to score cheap party debating points. I think it would be quite wrong to do that, but that, I am sure, does not prevent me from making one or two comments on the speeches to which I have listened—every one—in the debate yesterday and today.
The hon. Member for Cannock, when she talked about Indo-China and, in the tenor of other aspects of her speech, suggested that it would be far better if there were a Labour Government so that Left could speak to Left. We heard that sort of thing in the General Election of 1945, when people of the country were told that if only they put a Labour Government in power relations between this country and Soviet Russia would be those of Left speaking to Left. I remember the late Miss Ellen Wilkinson, for whom I had very great respect, saying that on a public platform in that election. But what happened in the period 1945–50 1093 when Left was supposed to be speaking to Left? Any fair critic must agree that the speaking of Left to Left during those years was not very successful in the world of foreign politics.
§ Mr. Craddock
The right hon. Member says, "India," but am I to understand that the Government of India is a Left-wing Government? I have been waiting for that—
§ Mr. Craddock
No. I have met Mr. Nehru and I lived in India for some years between the two wars. I looked upon him as a very high-class Right-wing Brahmin. I am interested to learn what the right hon. Member says. Surely the right hon. Member agrees that the giving of Dominion status to India has nothing to do with Left speaking to Left. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Be that as it may, I shall not pursue it.
I do not think the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock was quite fair to the Prime Minister in what he said about Egypt and—I am not ashamed to say it —backed up by hon. Friends on this side of the House. My right hon. Friend did not say that he wanted war with Egypt. But is it not the duty of any Government to say quite clearly, without equivocation, that if British personnel, British soldiers, are there carrying out their duty and are to be shot and murdered, to a country permitting that state of affairs, "If this goes on we—the country affected—will have to take steps to stop it"? That was really the whole effect of what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said.
I wish to make a comment on what the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) stated yesterday afternoon. I mentioned to him that I would comment on this. He, like the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East, stated that it would be quite wrong for us, or indeed any country, to allow itself to be swayed in its attitude to other countries by ideological considerations. Indeed, 1094 the phrase of the hon. Member for Blackburn, East was:we want to live with Communism;and that our policy should belive and let live."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515. c. 1004.]I think that was very largely what the right hon. Member for Derby, South said.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I tried to say that I hoped we should all live by the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
§ Mr. Craddock
I am very grateful. At Question time a few weeks ago the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) made a comment on similar lines. If I may respectfully say so, I agree. If that is so, it makes me wonder more and more why the party opposite, speaking generally, have such an astonishing attitude towards Franco Spain. I cannot see why they advocate being friendly to Soviet Russia on the one side and are quite inconsistent in their attitude towards Spain. I hope that in due course that situation will be put right.
One further comment I wish to make in regard to the right hon. Member for Derby, South. He referred to the Prime Minister as a great expert on war and armaments. That is true, but I think he might have been generous enough, if I may say so with respect, also to comment on the great contribution over a great many years that my right hon. Friend has made in the interests of peace. There can be no doubt about it that the Prime Minister, throughout a great career, has made very substantial contributions to peace, apart from the question of his great ability and leadership in war.
I wish to refer to something which I said before. I hope the House will not take it amiss that I refer to what I said in a previous debate on foreign affairs, in November, 1951. That was the first debate we had on foreign affairs shortly after this Administration came to power. I refer to it because both my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition mentioned the same thing in their opening remarks, namely the regrettable illness of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I regard this as a matter of very great importance, and I should like to quote from what I said in November, 1951.
1095 I said:We are starting on a new chapter in foreign affairs, and I suggest it would not be a bad thing if for just one moment we looked at the structure of the Foreign Office, at the organisation over which my right hon. Friend presides. In his opening remarks he mentioned the tremendous burdens which he has to carry —committees, numerous telegrams, and the terrific detail that is entailed. It is a platitude to say that the Foreign Secretary, to whatever party he may belong, carries a tremendous weight of responsibility. Everyone will agree that the weight of responsibility was a major factor in the premature and much-lamented death of the late Ernest Bevin."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1951; Vol. 494, cc. 114–115.]I went on to make certain suggestions about what I thought might well be the future re-organisation of the Foreign Office. We are all distressed by the grievous illness from which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is suffering, and there can be no doubt that that is due in large measure to the tremendous burden which he has been carrying during the last 18 months. I respectfully hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will do me the honour of considering the suggestions which I made in November, 1951.
The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock, in one passage of her speech with which I agree, said that we ought to face the world today in a spirit of realism. I could not agree more with her. If we are going to do that and make any contribution or any suggestions with regard to foreign policy, we ought to look at the world as it is today. For a few minutes I propose briefly to do that. After the 1914–18 war there was, throughout Europe, as we all know, a wave of nationalism, economic and political, and that state of affairs was the cause to a large extent of the difficulties of the period 1927 to 1931. I have never been one who stated that the mass unemployment that we had in those years was due to the then Labour Government in power. They were facing forces which no single Government could overcome.
That nationalism was not confined to Europe. We saw signs of it in India and Burma. In the 1920s, for example, in India, the Swaraj movement was gaining influence all the time, and there were similar signs in Burma and Malaya and further East. That nationalism grew in the East in those inter-war years, and not 1096 unnaturally the 1939–45 war gave it a tremendous impetus. We must face the fact—and it is right that we should admit —that there is throughout the East today this tremendous nationalist movement. We could not stop it. Why should we? Surely, it is not unreasonable that a country should want to govern itself and look after its own affairs. That is its own business. Whether it may turn out to be wise is another question.
With this steady growth of nationalism throughout the East, I have held for many years that the whole tendency in the world is to divide into two great halves. East versus West. Hon. Members may not agree with that diagnosis of the situation, but that is my own view, and it is not unnatural that with this growth of nationalism throughout the East, Soviet Russia should take advantage of the situation and cash in on it, thus trying to become the leader of that nationalist movement throughout the Far East. As we have seen, she has met with a certain amount of success.
We have Communist China led by Russia. I am not going to speculate on what other countries might come within the Soviet ambit, but there we have that great bloc the whole time. On the West we have Western Europe, Britain and the United States, and between these two masses we have the Middle East and Africa. I believe that today this area of the Middle East and the whole Continent of Africa is of more importance than it has been for many generations, or indeed than at any time in the history of the world.
Having given a picture of the world as I see it, the next question follows naturally. What is the policy of this country to be in the light of this situation? I agree with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he reminded us that we should stand by our friendships, and I believe that the policy of Her Majesty's Government, namely to stand by Western Europe, is the right one. Our policy rests firmly on the British Empire and the Commonwealth.
I noted yesterday that the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) expressed disappointment because no mention had been made on this side of the House about the Commonwealth. I hope he will be satisfied when I say that I, a humble back bencher, believe 1097 that one of the most important things in the world today is Britain and the British Empire and Commonwealth. We stand opposite this great mass in the East, with Western Europe and with our friends in the United States of America. I stress the United States of America despite the reported strange utterances and the peculiar posture of the Secretary of State of the United States. He seems to have assumed a peculiar posture yesterday, according to reports.
Mr. Hector McNeil (Greenock)
§ Mr. Craddock
I have not seen the photographs. Be that as it may, it is the right policy of our Government to declare our friendship and partnership with the United States of America. But when we say "partnership" let us be quite clear that it is not to be a case of the senior and the junior partners. We have to be equal partners. As we all know, the United States has tremendous economic and material strength, but I suggest that although we do not have as great an economic or material strength as the United States, we are strong and, indeed, far stronger in experience of world affairs.
It has been my experience when engaged in business dealings with business men across the Atlantic that one of the things that our American friends appreciate is straight and frank talking. I think it right and proper to remind our friends that a partnership, a friendship, if it is real, means that we must be equal and frank one with the other.
Looking back on the history and the attitude of Soviet Russia since 1919, I feel sceptical about the offers of peace and the movement towards a settlement of world affairs which has emanated from Soviet Russia. I approach that with some degree of caution in the light of what has happened in past years. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) said yesterday that in the conference suggested by the Prime Minister we should not bother about details; we should deal with the great issues. But surely we have to bother about details. There are so many details dotted all over the world that we cannot avoid them. It may be that the attitude of Soviet Russia is an example of the old technique of building up hopes only to dash them down again.
1098 That was the technique adopted by Dr. Goebbels during the last war— "Peace is just about to break in the world"—and everyone began to feel much easier. Then, on went the war. We know that psychological warfare is so important in its effect. It may be that that is the view of Russia. I do not know. Who does know what is going on in the Kremlin? No one can say what they really think. Therefore we have to face the fact that, for example, Soviet Russia might turn down the suggestion of the Prime Minister for a conference. What do we do then?
I believe we should pay much more attention to China. I have never taken the view that China, although a Communist territory now and under a Communist Government, would always link herself up with Soviet Russia. It may be that she will break away and establish an entirely independent system. It would be in keeping with the long and traditional friendship which has existed between this country and China that if we make no headway with Soviet Russia, we should make it clear to China that when the fighting stops in Korea we are willing to do anything we can to restore that traditional friendship. I cannot see any objection to that policy. We must not forget that, despite their appalling behaviour during the last war, we are now at peace and on terms of friendship with the Japanese. From my limited experience of the two races, were I to choose between them, I would prefer China.
I come now to the question of the Middle East and Egypt, about which a great deal has already been said. Where there is a threat to British soldiers, and indeed civilians, and where we rely on a third Power to protect our nationals, it is the duty of the Government to make it clear to that Power that if protection is not afforded, we will not stand for it and will protect our own people. I believe it necessary to adopt a strong attitude. I would not like hon. Members opposite to misunderstand what I mean by a strong attitude. I do not mean the swashbuckling imperialism of a bygone age. Surely we have the right to stand up for our own people and for the sanctity of treaties.
I advocate a strong attitude towards General Neguib and his Government in 1099 Egypt, not only in connection with the Canal Zone, but also regarding the Sudan. We must see that the Sudan is not let down in the future. We have made great contributions to the Sudan and the Sudanese people, and particularly we must not let down the people of Southern Sudan. I admit that I am fearful about that situation. In my view it is absolutely necessary to make it clearly understood in Egypt that we shall stand by our obligations and the recent agreement regarding the Sudan. We shall not tolerate any departure from those terms, in the interest not of ourselves, but of the Sudanese to whom I believe we have a sacred obligation.
As most hon. Members know, I was born in Scotland and spent most of my early life there. It is 30 years since I have lived in Scotland, and perhaps I have forgotten a little of the folklore and traditions of that great country. But during the last few days I have had the privilege of sitting in the Scottish Grand Committee during the discussions on the University of St. Andrews Bill. It is not unnatural therefore that I should recall a saying of a great Rector of St. Andrews University, Sir J. M. Barrie. He said about courage, "If courage goes, all goes."
In this cold war I believe that the psychological approach to world forces is a very important factor. I believe the time has come when we shall have to remind the world that the people of this country are not lacking in courage. We are a tolerant, friendly, easy-going people. But if John Bull reaches the stage where he feels he is being taken advantage of he can be a very ugly customer. I think it proper to remind, not only those who appear to be our enemies but indeed our friends in the West, that this country stood up alone in 1940 and that we should not be afraid to do it again if necessary. I think the Prime Minister was right, therefore, in stressing our determination to stand up once again for what we feel is right and proper. I believe that course will commend itself to the people of this country.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
It would be discourteous to pass over the remarks of the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) in 1100 silence, but I have some difficulty in finding points in his speech upon which to comment without appearing to adopt a partisan attitude, which he did his best to avoid. I will merely say that his two most profound remarks were greeted with relish by the House. The first was that in which he gave a little of his autobiography, describing a pleasant time he had in Scotland. I feel sure that that would be acknowledged by the whole House as one of the more pleasant features of the debate, although entirely unconnected with foreign affairs. Indeed, at one point I felt that if my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) had been here he would have asked for the presence of the Secretary of State for Scotland to deal with the point.
As for the second comment, I cannot answer for my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), but I hope he will be satisfied in that he has provoked the hon. Member for Spelthorne to make a very important statement about the position of Britain and the British Empire in the world today.
The Prime Minister's speech yesterday was, if I may so describe it, a model of peaceful persuasion and diplomatic caution. Indeed, I think he took the whole House by surprise, and not least of all his own party, by some of the things he said, and he certainly left many of us feeling a little unsatisfied in the things which he did not say. But if we are to look at his speech in its context as a contribution to the exchange of international harmony, then I welcome it and I think all hon. Members will welcome it as a change from those discordant tones to which we have had to listen for so many years in the United Nations and elsewhere.
However much my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) kept his end up in America in answer to the Russian delegates, I feel that we need something more likely to bring positive results to the world, and although I personally enjoyed quite a lot of what I might call the fun and games which took place in America, nevertheless they are remote from what the ordinary man and woman are thinking and expecting in all parts of the world. I feel sure that the soldiers who are engaged in Korea, 1101 whether American soldiers or our own, are thinking in entirely different terms. They are wondering when they will be able to get home to carry on with their vocations.
In his speech yesterday the Prime Minister was in pleasant, almost reminiscent mood. We all know that this is the time of spring, when, so we are told,a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,but, in his later days, the Prime Minister has reversed the whole process; his fancy lightly turns to the glories of the past, such as Locarno, which have become very dim in the memories of those who knew and followed the events of those days.
I could not quite follow the Prime Minister in his nostalgic desire for some kind of Locarno Treaty today and I wonder whether he himself fully realises the implication of his remarks in that connection. Locarno, like the Kellogg Pact, was to outlaw all war and was based on entirely false premises. The Locarno Treaty, which, incidentally, gave to Sir Austen Chamberlain the noble Order which the Prime Minister has had bestowed upon him recently by the Queen, was based on two fundamentals. They are in the Treaty for all to read. First, the Treaty guaranteed frontiers against aggression either by Germany, on the one hand, or by France, on the other. Secondly, the Treaty was based on the covenant of the League of Nations. Yet within a few years the Treaty had been torn up. Why? Because those frontiers, which, Locarno stated, should be guaranteed by the contracting parties, were unreal.
When the Prime Minister talks about another Locarno I would ask him what frontiers are to be guaranteed by the contracting parties, presumably Russia, Britain, Germany and, perhaps France. Are the frontiers between Poland and Germany to be included in a new Locarno Pact guarantee? Is the map of South-Eastern Europe to remain in its present form without any alterations? Is the Iron Curtain to remain in its present position? Are we to guarantee the Iron Curtain as it stands today? Because that was the obligation under Locarno—to guarantee frontiers which had been settled by peace treaties.
There is no peace treaty as yet between Germany and her conquerors, but to those 1102 hon. Members—some of my hon. Friends among them—who think that the Eastern Frontier of Germany—the Oder-Neisse line—is a frontier to be guaranteed in any new Locarno Treaty, if we take the Prime Minister literally, I would say this: some of my hon. Friends were recently in Germany and were given a clear indication by more than one party that the Oder-Neisse line is inacceptable to every German apart, perhaps, from a few Communists. No political party in Germany dare say publicly that it should be recognised as the frontier of Germany on the East. No political party would last for more than a few moments if it dared to say that.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
Is this the reason why my right hon. Friend is so keen on German rearmament. Is it because he feels that no German will ever accept the Oder-Neisse line that he wants to give them arms?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I do not know that I got as far as that, certainly not far enough to enable my hon. Friend to form that opinion; but I will certainly give him an answer in a moment. I was trying to show that the Oder-Neisse line is inacceptable in Germany and, therefore, could not be the basis of a new Locarno Treaty to be signed by Germany. May I remind my hon. Friend and, indeed, others who think like him, that the Social Democratic Party in Germany has gone on record as saying that it does not accept that line and will not accept it? Perhaps I may quote from the "Action Program" of that party. First of all, in the foreword by the late Kurt Schumacher, we read:As early as 1945 the Social Democratic Party declared the Oder-Neisse line to be inacceptable as a frontier.Later last year the Social Democratic Party in its officially published programme said this:The unilateral detachment of territories which belonged to Germany in 1937 has created new injustice rather than new law. The Social Democratic Party does not recognise it.I am giving this illustration only to show that the Locarno idea, which the Prime Minister said yesterday was very much in his mind, is totally impossible if it is to be based on the same conditions as those which were incorporated in the original Locarno Treaty.
1103 There is quite a lot of opinion in this House, even on this side, which is in agreement with the conciliatory portions of the Prime Minister's speech, and, judging by the applause which the right hon. Gentleman received from this side, which rather underlined the lack of it from his own side, I think we can take it that there are many parts of the Prime Minister's speech which are acceptable to us. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition stated quite clearly today not only his own views but the views of his party on a large part of the Prime Minister's speech.
I think I can say, without fear of contradiction from my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) that the Prime Minister has correctly diagnosed the fear complex from which Russia suffers and which motivates many of her aggressive actions—because such they are—in different parts of the world. The pushing out of the Soviet boundaries westwards into Europe—and one has only to look at the map to see where those boundaries are now—are themselves all due to the fear which Russia has, particularly of Germany.
Well might she be fearful and suspicious after 1941, but it is only necessary to say that the action which Hitler took against her in 1941 was the direct outcome of the "horse deal" between Ribbentrop and Molotov, which precipitated the Second World War. I mention these facts to remind the Prime Minister and others of the present Government that, if they are to gloss over, in the apparently easy way in which the Prime Minister did, these injustices, they will not get a Locarno undertaking, and will not even get a settlement with Russia in Europe, to which I want to confine my remarks.
I have mentioned what I have called the "horse deal" between Russia and Germany. Why should they not change their tactics and go in for a little bit of honest dealing? When we were children, we were taught—at least, we were in Britain; I do not know whether they were in Russia—that honesty is the best policy, and, if I understood my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) aright, what she was trying to say in world wide terms was that we should be honest with our Colonies and with the coloured races 1104 and get rid of colonialism. How true, and how right she was, but how much more does that apply to Russia today? No German treaty is yet in sight, and, without a settlement between Russia and Germany, and with those who were the allies of Russia in the last war, I do not believe there is any possible chance of peace in Europe. I think that the Prime Minister was right in his diagnosis that Russia does fear Germany. That is one of the reasons why she has been doing her best to stop E.D.C. and the rearmament of Germany.
My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East asked me a few moments ago whether I believed that it was right that Germany should be rearmed in order that she could settle her eastern frontiers one day. What a question for my hon. Friend, a member of my own party, to put to me. I certainly do not believe in the settlement of any problems by war. I never have believed it, and twice in my lifetime I have had to take part in war because of the mistakes of statesmen, and, sometimes, of hon. Gentlemen at that time on the other side of the House who may have thought in the same crude terms as those in which my hon. Friend posed his question to me. I do not believe that the rearmament of Germany is for that purpose. I believe that the rearmament of Germany is necessary to restore the balance of power, which has been tipped too far by Russia to be comfortable either for us or for Germany, which must live next door to Russia.
If the Prime Minister's little-by-little proposals are to be taken seriously, why not let us make a start with what seems to me the easiest difficulty that can be resolved? My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, and, I think, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of State who followed him, both mentioned Austria as a test case. We have, to a large extent, reached agreement on most of the substantial points between us on Austria. Why cannot that treaty be put into force? If it were signed, and the occupation troops were withdrawn from Austria, it would not weaken Russia's sense of security at all. I think it would enhance it, because it would be a signal to the whole world that Malenkov and "Pravda" mean what they say.
1105 There are one or two other small things that Russia might do which would enable her to get the good will of Germany, which she badly needs, because she knows that, sometime or other, Germany will be rehabilitated, and she knows and fears the effect of German forces, if not kept in leash by a complete change of outlook in Germany—a change of heart towards democracy. I am bound to say that, much as I encourage democracy wherever it can be found in Germany, one cannot overlook the fact, especially from the recent Naumann revelations, that there are still in Germany evil forces which might, if allowed to go on unchecked, provoke another world war, which would be to the detriment of Russia, just as was the 1939–45 war.
The German people, as I know them— and I do know something about them —do not want war. The Naumann element is insignificant, as compared with the main body of German opinion. The youth of Germany, and, certainly, a large majority of the older generation in Germany, fear war just as much as Russia fears it. They have the practical evidence of the results of war every time they look at their own cities and see the devastation there. They are finished, for any foreseeable time, with war as a means of settling their frontiers or other disputes with Russia. I therefore think that we can dismiss it from our minds. If German rearmament is contained within the E.D.C. proposals or N.A.T.O., we can dismiss from our minds for many years to come the possibility of war between Germany and Russia, thereby involving the whole of the world.
There is one other thing which we cannot really understand in this country. One can only understand it either if one is a German or if one goes to Germany, and sees there, as, for example, many of us have seen in Dusseldorf, torches burning to their prisoners of war who are still illegally detained by Russia eight years after the end of the Second World War. If Russia were able to release them, what difference would it make either to the Russian economy or to anything else in Russia? If only Russia were to release these 200,000 or 300,000 prisoners and let them come back to Germany, what a difference it might make.
1106 They would at once make a gesture— I will not say of good will—towards Germany, but they would create in the minds of all those families a better feeling than permeates those homes at present where hatred and bitterness are growing up because their loved ones are kept in captivity in Russia, merely because they did their duty as soldiers and fought until they were captured. These are issues which could be settled at once without any treaty and which would create in the minds of people like myself, who are distrustful of Russia's intentions, a feeling that on this occasion they are bona fide and genuine.
I do not know whether a meeting between leading politicians would produce any practical results. Nevertheless, I would welcome it. Indeed, this afternoon my right hon. Friend suggested that such a meeting should be got on with as quickly as possible, but without any detailed agenda.
§ Mr. Bellenger
My hon. Friend asks by whom. In this connection, I would prefer the presence of the Foreign Secretary and I very much regret, as we all do, that he is absent from his duties at this time. I have known the right hon. Gentleman for many years now, and I believe that he is sincere in wishing to establish understanding between the nations. Indeed, before the war, he carried his convictions to the point of resignation when a large proportion of his own party were against him. In his capacity as Foreign Minister since the war he has striven for a peaceful settlement of the disputes that affect not only other nations, but ourselves and the countries with whom at the present time we are in disagreement. But the right hon. Gentleman cannot be there, and therefore, it would fall to the Prime Minister, who has taken over his duties, to discuss with these other leading politicians the possibility of a solution.
Even though we should not perhaps get any great and immediate results from such a meeting, nevertheless an atmosphere would be created which would be beneficial to all those parts of the world which are troubled at the moment by quarrels and animosity. We are now at the cross-roads, with not a single signpost to guide us. Such a meeting might 1107 at least show us in which direction the roads lead. At any rate, it is just as well that leading statesmen should occasionally leave their offices and go out to see how the land lies.
I was startled and alarmed by what the Minister of State said this afternoon about the incidents which had been taking place in Egypt recently. He said truly that we knew very little about them. He has now thought fit to disclose them to us, and I can only say that such incidents, directed against our disciplined troops in Egypt, who merely do their duty and obey orders, will not engender in this country a spirit of compromise and a willingness to come to terms with Egypt.
I can think of nothing worse than that a soldier in uniform, who dare not shoot or take any steps to defend himself, and who is held in check by his N.C.Os. and officers, should be fired at, insulted and attacked from ambushes by those who run away and know that their own skins are safe. I hope that General Neguib, who, after all, is himself a soldier and who, as far as I know, has an excellent record in warfare, will recognise his duty as a soldier, if not as a politician or a statesman, and will stop these incidents, because, if they are not stopped, who would deny the right of the soldiers to defend themselves from these unjust and lamentable attacks?
I wish to say one word about the U.S.A. America, as the Minister of State said in his peroration, is a powerful country with whom, if we are to survive, we must be in alliance. But such alliances must be based on certain fundamental principles. It is useless for Foreign Secretaries and other Secretaries of State to make arrangements about foreign affairs and then for Finance Ministers to find themselves treated in the way Britain was recently treated over the Chief Joseph Dam contract.
There is such a thing as imperialism in economic, financial and industrial affairs, and it is not the slightest use America criticising Britain about its Imperialism in India if a state of affairs such as we witnessed over the tender submitted by a British company is allowed to continue. It is unfair and unjust, and it is just as well that America should know that we 1108 think it is unjust. We resent that sort of imperialism just as much as America was right in resenting British imperialism.
Finally, I wish to reinforce the plea made by my right hon. Friend this afternoon, a plea which I have often put from these benches, but which has not always found popularity with some of my hon. Friends, for some co-operation between both sides of the House on such dangerous issues as foreign affairs. After all, when it comes to war, the Government and the Opposition seem to coalesce at once, although I was never invited to be a Member of the Coalition Government during the last war. Nevertheless, such a situation was accepted willingly and freely by both sides of the House in a democratic way. Why, therefore, should we not be able to co-operate in peacetime in an attempt to avoid war and to maintain peace?
In so far as the Prime Minister's speech yesterday was a Picasso dove, as it were —or was it a pigeon?—at any rate, not to mix my metaphors, an olive branch which he tendered to the Opposition, we could well afford to grasp it. In home affairs we have quite enough about which to disagree with the present Government, and we can win elections on our differences between them and ourselves, and the worst harm that will be done to the people of this country is that both sides will be engaged in wordy warfare.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
I am sure that the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) will have his speech keenly read by, at any rate, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, for while he may pass unnoticed criticism of his writings, his politics and even of his racing, I am sure that comments upon his painting will immediately attract his very closest attention. If we are to refer his achievements to the standard of Picasso, we must, at any rate, refer them to the earlier stages of Picasso, when his mastery of line and composition were expressed in the classical method, and not to the later stages when he moved over into the surrealist and, indeed, extra-surrealist styles at which they have now, alas, arrived.
What the right hon. Gentleman said was of very great interest, because it seemed to me to prove that at this 1109 moment there is a most interesting thing happening in the House. The currents are beginning to run across the House. That is the stage which one reaches at slack water. When the tide is coming to the full, when the rising tide is flowing or an ebb tide is racing out, then the great currents run clearly. But here the tide is on the turn. It may well be that a period of great interest has arrived, particularly in foreign affairs.
It is certainly a period in which I am sure that Front Bench speakers on either side will find great difficulty in their orations. I have a certain sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil), who is to wind up the debate from the other side of the House, because I think that he will not find it possible to do so without meeting active opposition from hon. Members on his own side, and it may be that he will find himself in the still more embarrassing position of having some wholehearted agreement from hon. Members on this side. I know from my own experience of debate that that is a most difficult position to be in.
This House is re-thinking the problem of foreign affairs. It leads to some strange results. Yesterday, we discovered what I might describe as the Foot-Dulles axis. I never thought to find the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) in agreement with Mr. Dulles. Yet on General Neguib they were absolutely at one.One of the most remarkable leaders of the modern free world …said Mr. Dulles of General Neguib, and two columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the hon. Member's speech yesterday is devoted to expounding that point of view. It is quite true that the hon. Member will not find that Mr. Dulles got very much change out of General Neguib. According to "The Times"The welcome given by the Egyptian Press …to Mr. Dulles … was scarcely polite.General Neguib, according to "The Times," was quoted as saying, after the first conference with Mr. Dulles:We will not accept another party (according to some translations the word used was 'adversary'). We have enough with one.There are points of great difference between General Neguib and ourselves. At present, they show no signs of being resolved. It is really much better that these 1110 facts should be frankly faced, as they are by the most of this House.
We are now in a position, however, where all world politics are coming under review. I have great sympathy with the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw in his emphasis on the position of Germany. After all, Europe is still one of the key points of the world and the position of Germany is still the key question in Europe. Much has been said about the rising tide of nationalism in the world. The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) said that there was no country, however small, but was not filled with a passionate and increasing desire to see itself as a nation and to gain control of its own territory. She quoted a roll of countries where that was the case—Egypt, Laos, and so on. But there is also Germany—
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Really, at the moment we are a United Kingdom and until somebody begins to man the frontier between Scotland and England we may say that at least that is one of the frontiers which, greatly to the advantage of the whole world, has been neutralised, so that one can cross it at any point and no policeman or Customs officer will challenge one. If that could be said of the rest of the countries of the world, how much happier we would be.
That is certainly not true of Germany. The present comparative period of calm should be seized upon by those interested, and particularly by her eastern neighbours, to see whether some composition cannot be reached now. The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw said that there was no frontier at present that could be the subject of a Locarno Treaty. But it is also true, as he said, that the Locarno frontiers were the results of a treaty. The present lull may not last very long. It should be used to attempt to come to some composition between adversaries.
None of us who visited Germany recently could help but be struck by the swelling strength that was becoming apparent in that country, the evidence of inordinate labour there, and the fact that her 10 million refugees have been made a source of strength and not a weakness to her today. This great flood of hands that has come in has been set to work. 1111 It has reinforced rather than weakened the country. At present, there is a growing consciousness of power and strength in that country; of which we and her neighbours would do well to take note before the time is too late.
A year ago when we went to Germany and we said, "What will you give for German unity?" the German Left said, "A lot," and the German Right said, "A little." Now both sides say "Nothing. Keep off the grass." There is there a danger to the world.
§ Lieut.-Coloael Elliot
I fully agree with the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), who was with me on that visit and who wrote most apprehensively of what he saw. There is great danger to the world in that attitude, and it is the duty of statesmen to try to reconcile it.
I welcome, therefore, with all my heart the Prime Minister's suggestion of talks between high level heads. The heads are all, of course, prisoners of their own declarations and conscious of great injustices under which their countries have laboured. But a treaty of peace is a condoning of injustice and an abandonment of many claims that have been made. These things have to be done to bring about a treaty of peace. It is for the Soviet rulers, among others, to realise that they must put up with a great deal, if peace is to be brought back again to the world and there is to be no feeling that the world is simply marking time while we fill up the vials of wrath, while we compress the springs of action until Germany, one of the greatest fighting races that has ever existed, begins again her march to the East.
Those of us who saw members of the General Staff in Germany saw again that resolute, objective, calm set of men who, for hundreds of years now, have formed a caste in their own country. They were sitting there with the same confident feeling that, sooner or later, the tide would float the boat off the rocks and that they would go again on their journeys. Meanwhile, they were collecting the charts and the soundings and maps for new voyages upon which, under their command, Germany, sooner or later, would embark. If that frame of mind is to be dissipated, 1112 it must be dissipated by statesmanship which is willing to concede as well as to insist. That will be the task of statesmen in the immediate future if it is to be done at all.
None of us could believe, after the 1914–18 war, that after the hammering and battering that the central Powers had taken they would be ever fit for war again within the lifetime of any living men. The whole constitution of the League of Nations was based on the prospect of a six months' delay. There was no veto on war; there was merely the provision for a six months' delay. People thought that war was so horrible to the whole world that, given six months to face it, the public opinion of the world would make war impossible. We saw how rapidly, in the 'thirties, the tide flowed over those marks and submerged them. The tide is flowing again today.
One of the features of the human race is that it is not afraid of things. I wish it were more afraid of things. It is filled with the most desperate courage. That is what makes me believe in the immortal soul. No finite being could be such a fool as the human race is unless it drew its lunacy from realms far outside those of everyday calculation. It would be impossible otherwise to conceive such an assembly of wild and crazy creatures as homo sapiens. I would call him homo robustus; I do not think he is entitled to be called sapiens. He cannot be frightened.
The Germans who, heaven knows, had enough to frighten them in the First World War, marched out in the Second in the same spirit of a frische frolische Krieg in which the Kaisers' soldiers set off on their marches in 1914. Today, the danger is, that with 10 million refugees who have nothing to lose they start with a corps of people who are very willing to go on a venture which may indeed bring a very great and increased danger to the world.
I am interested in, but not specially afraid of, the problems of the East. In the East men are being driven by a more terrible devil than Marx; they are being driven by Malthus, the old English clergyman who saw all these possibilities long, long ago. It is quite true that there is danger from hungry men—and the East is getting hungrier—but these hungry men grow weaker, not stronger. 1113 Germany is not getting hungrier. She is getting better fed. One can go there and see the rising standard of living and judge whether these are not people of whom we have every reason to be more apprehensive than of the peoples of the East.
The peoples of the East deserve attention; they deserve help. In the last 20 years their standard of living has fallen from 2,000 to 1,700 calories, which is below the maintenance value of a ration. This may lead to misery, collapse and desperation, but it does not lead to a successful aggression. The danger lies in the strong, vigorous, well-fed Westerner—master of the arts and the engineering sciences. These are the people who can dig guns out of the ground, who can bring fertilisers out of the air, harness water falls and revitalise all the coal mines of Germany in a decade. Russia would be well advised to watch what is going on on her frontier and not to believe that she can dispose of that danger by war. I do not think it will be possible for her to do so.
I wished to intervene only for a short time. I repeat that a period of lull has come upon the world just now. It is also a period of lull when, in two or three places, there are senior statesmen of great experience. There is the Prime Minister, whose speech yesterday was skilful enough to draw applause from the whole House and far-sighted enough to draw approval from the whole world. There is a soldier of great experience in America, Eisenhower, who has seen some of the dangers of war and who, we hope, will be able to use the enormous influence which he has in his own country —an influence far surpassing that of his party—to bring about a realistic and objective approach. There are new forces in Russia. How new they are we cannot say; nobody can look behind the Iron Curtain. We do not know whether it is a change of tactics, but it is certainly a change of personalities.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition when he pointed out the strange fact that "Pravda" was concentrating upon the subject of collective headship. Those of us who have seen Stalin among his subordinates have been very conscious of the fact that we were watching somebody who was under no 1114 limitation of any kind of collective control. He sat among those men as a collie dog sits among sheep. The sheep watch uneasily when the dog hangs its long red tongue over its jaws, watching the sheep and knowing very well, as somebody once said, that it matters little to the wolves—or to the dogs—how many sheep there may be.
The movement in the Kremlin is an interesting change and it may be possible to take advantage of it. In doing so it should be remembered that a most unstable condition has been produced in the centre of Europe, one which will not permanently endure. As the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw said, present frontiers have been challenged by both German parties—by the Left as well as the Right—in the centre of Europe.
Let us, then, agree with our adversary while we are in the way with time. Let us bend every effort to bring about a favourable response to these problems. But let us remember that these great moments do not endure. One is here; let us seize it while it is possible.
§ 6.27 p.m.
Mr. R. H. S. Grossman (Coventry, East)
We have all enjoyed a great deal the very vivid and impressionist picture of Germany which has been presented by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). I do not want to go into details about it, except to say that it is not sufficient to give impressions of the urgency of the problems which face us. What we must discuss is how to deal with them.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is right in saying that the Prime Minister was wise in urging four-Power talks now, because opportunities slip away. Our job now is to see what policy this country should follow. I have been thinking—as I suppose everybody else in the House has been thinking—and rethinking, about the Prime Minister's speech. There is no doubt that it made an immense impression on us yesterday. I am not sure how different the impression would be if we were to read the cold text in Paris, Cairo, Moscow or Washington. I fancy that the impression it made on us was more pleasing than it would make when read, at least in Paris and Washington.
1115 When I ask myself what it was that moved us in that speech, I think I would be right in answering that on this side it was the fact that it read so very differently from another famous speech —the Fulton Speech—which was the proclamation of cold war. The Fulton speech united the Prime Minister with America, but divided him from most of us on this side of the House. This speech was a proclamation of the hope of ending the cold war. It got a very bad Press in America, but it united the House of Commons. He always has his choice of those two successes.
The other thing we liked about his speech was that it showed he was a man who was determined to have an independent British policy; that he was determined that this country, whatever its dependence on others, was going to stand up and think for itself. Some of us have been urging this policy for some months. We used to be denounced as anti-Americans for urging it, and we are glad that the whole House now agrees that an independent British policy is what we should have.
There was one section of the Prime Minister's speech, however, which seemed to me to strike a completely discordant note. Everything else the Prime Minister said was prudent and statesmanlike, until he reached the section which dealt with General Neguib and Egypt. The Minister of State described this section as moderate in tone. Well! Well! I was amused to feel that the Prime Minister had not got over the old spirit of Omdurman. If we had to be peaceful towards the rest of the world there was one little nation against which we might wield a powerful stick and even win a victory.
It was distasteful to me that he should be so pacific to the strong and then hector the weak. It was profoundly significant that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite should laugh at the thought that 80,000 British troops can handle the Egyptian Army. I did not laugh. It is an extremely severe situation with which we may be faced, the prospect of guerrilla warfare in Egypt. Let hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite ask themselves whether their policy does not demand the reoccupation of 1116 Cairo and Alexandria. It it does, if they have decided on it, let them go ahead, but if they are not prepared to reoccupy Cairo and Alexandria, then they have got to find a pacific agreement with the Egyptians. Candidly, I think the Prime Minister's statement was quite unworthy of him. It was unfair and it was in bad taste.
Let me give an example of this unfairness. He specifically said that the Egyptian Army is being aided and trained by Nazi instructors. I have taken the trouble to make some inquiries about that. The head of the German military mission to the Egyptian Army is a certain General Fahnbacher. He was one of Rommel's assistants. Rommel's other assistant was General Speidel, who recently inspected our British installations. He, of course, is not a Nazi; but his colleague who goes to help the Egyptian Army, with the permission of the British authorities in the Western Zone of Germany, he is a Nazi. That is not worthy of the Prime Minister.
It is very easy to laugh at the tin Egyptian dictator and to suggest he will not last long. But there are 5,000 British civilians in Cairo who are extremely alarmed, because they remember what happened in the last bonfire, when nine of them were cooked alive. They are not so cheerful about the prospect of General Neguib going, because they know what will come after General Neguib. If that régime goes there will either be the Muslim Brotherhood or there will be the Communists, or there will be sheer chaos, in which the rest of the British will be burned alive in Cairo. It is totally irresponsible to talk as though we can see an end of the Neguib régime with complete equanimity.
I do not know whether Neguib is the beginning of a social revolution or not, but I know that in the Middle East régimes get worse, not better. When we first heard his name in Persia we talked about "Fuddy Duddy Mossadeq." Now we no longer laugh at him.
We have been mistaken on three occasions about new developments and régimes in the Middle East. The first was in Israel. Then we had Abadan. Now it is the Suez Zone. In the first two cases we had to make a completely humiliating climb down. In Palestine 1117 we refused to give the Jewish people their sovereign rights, and a majority of the people in this House jeered, saying, "Go on, you Jews and see if you can stand up to 100,000 British troops." There were only a few hundred terrorists and we could not stand up to them. In Persia they took over the refinery without any terrorists at all. When shall we learn the lesson of all this?
The Minister of State went into great detail about the causes of the breakdown in our relations with Egypt. I think I can set the story out more concisely than he did. The Egyptians say that if we are to fulfil the promise we have made at least every three years in the last 70 years to evacuate their country it means that they become the controllers of the Suez base. Otherwise there is not any real evacuation. So they say, "Of course, we will consider and consult with you whether we should have British technicians and advisers to run the base." Our reply is, "The base must be controlled by British technicians and they shall be responsible solely to the Government in London." I would remind hon. and right hon. Gentlemen that in the height of the Abadan crisis that was exactly the demand we made of the Persians. We said, "No, we cannot hand over the refinery to the Persians to nationalise. British technicians have got to run it, as no one else can."
I warn the House that if we violate their sovereignty by making these demands on the Egyptians we shall not be able to enforce them without the occupation of the whole of Egypt. We cannot leave 80,000 men in the middle of the desert surrounded by barbed wire and without any Egyptian labour. The Egyptian labour would be withdrawn. They have already withdrawn 25,000 people, and the last 9,000 will be withdrawn very soon. Are we to leave our men for 10 years in the desert, surrounded by barbed wire, with their stores being pilfered? It looks very fine to talk about standing up to the Egyptians. It looked fine to talk about standing up to the Jews.
The fundamental fact about us is, that this country does not in the last resort stand up for denying sovereignty to a small people. In the end we always give way. The trouble is we always give way too late—or rather too late in the Middle 1118 East although we hit the right time in India. I urge this House in all seriousness not to be carried away by these arguments which sound so fine now but which will not look so fine in three months' time when the consequences of them, military and political, come upon us.
There is one serious objection to evacuation, and it is one which worries me a great deal. It is the problem of Israel. Here is a profound problem for any conscientious Englishman. Can we withdraw from the Suez Canal and hand over the base to the Egyptians without setting alight the second round of the war against Israel? If the Prime Minister had told me there was a deadlock in the negotiations with General Neguib, because he had laid down as a condition of our evacuation that it should not be taken as an opportunity to begin the second round of that war, I should have backed the Prime Minister through thick and thin, and I should have said, "Of course we cannot come out of Suez without an absolute assurance from the Egyptians that that base will not be used for offensive action against Israel."
I may be asked, "What are words worth?" It is a question that has to be asked. Suppose we got a signature to an undertaking that there was not to be an attack on Israel. Here is a real problem. Suppose that General Neguib's Government do, as I believe they will do, an honest job of dividing up the land amongst the Egyptian people. That will not of itself raise the standard of living of the Egyptians. In 10 years' time the Egyptians will be faced with an insoluble economic problem. Then there will be a temptation to export the problem and to start on the second round of the war against the Jews. We could not possibly tolerate any withdrawal from Suez unless we took every possible precaution against that possibility. We must prevent that war. The Prime Minister himself yesterday uttered generous words about Israel. He at least is someone who has a right to say those generous things about Israel. But he must give his words reality.
There are two ways of setting about this problem. The first is to make our evacuation of Egypt depend upon this assurance, and to say that if the Egyptians break it British and American economic aid to Egypt will be broken off. The 1119 Egyptians are fairly hard headed people. We should make our evacuation, and our economic and military aid conditional upon their not undertaking a foreign adventure.
Another consideration is this. I have always had a great doubt whether such a concentration as we have in that Zone of all kinds of stores and troops is very relevant to modern strategy. I have always believed in the principle of dispersion. I do not think it is safe in a world of atomic warfare to have that huge concentration. Those who have been there must know the danger. Two atomic bombs would finish it off. Let that concentration be dispersed, and I suggest that it should be partly dispersed into the Gaza strip. It was part of Palestine, but it was occupied by the Egyptian Army. It contains 130,000 Arab refugees in a few miles of dreary sand dunes.
If we have a small number of British troops in the Gaza strip we could be certain that the Egyptians would not go to blows with Israel. Egypt is not going to involve herself in a war with British troops. The presence of British troops in the Gaza strip and taking over the refugees and using them for the work there is the way in which we can help to solve the relationship between Israel and her neighbour. Good relations between Israel and her neighbour are not going to come about merely by talking about them. We have to convince the Arab world that we are not there solely for oil and strategy. The fundamental basis of any defence of the Middle East must be our acceptance of the principle of evacuation from the Canal Zone.
It is not clear whether the hon. Gentleman considers the Gaza strip to be part of Egypt or part of Palestine, and it would help me to understand his arguments if he would explain why it is not advisable to be in the Canal Zone but quite proper to be in the Gaza strip.
§ Mr. Crossman
No doubt my right hon. Friend has read the Egyptian Green Book in which the question of Gaza was discussed by General Slim. The Egyptians do not like us in the Canal Zone. The Gaza strip is not part of Egypt. It is 1120 a bit of Palestine which they conquered and which they hold by right of conquest. I am suggesting negotiations in which we agree to move troops to the Gaza strip and to take over responsibility for the refugees there, who are a burden on the Egyptians who do not want a piece of land up there on their own. I suggest this would be a feasible line of negotiation once we have accepted the principle of evacuation from the Zone.
I now want to deal with the question of Germany. I agreed with the Prime Minister very deeply when he said that the German issue was the essential one. But the more I read and re-read his references to Germany, the more confused I became. There was a section in which he was dealing with peacemaking with the Russians in which he talked about a "Locarno Agreement," by which, as I understood it. he meant that we should say to the Russians that we would guarantee them the Oder-Neisse line if we could get a unified Germany. Earlier I found a passage in which he appeared to give to Dr. Adenauer unlimited support for the rearmament and the integration of Western Germany into the West.
The Prime Minister must make up his mind. There is no chance of any agreement with the Russians if the Prime Minister believes that Dr. Adenauer must sacrifice nothing whatsoever. Dr. Adenauer is a profiteer of cold war. He lives and prospers on cold war. For Adenauer the end of the cold war means that the dollars stop flowing, the Army stops being armed and there is a Socialist majority in a United Germany instead of an anti-Socialist majority in a partitioned Germany.
We must be realistic in this House about Germany. Dr. Adenauer has done very well for his truncated piece of Germany. But there are other Germans beside Dr. Adenauer. There is a German called Ollenhauer, and yesterday he said that there could be no question of rearming Germany until one more effort had been made through four-Power talks to reach agreement. If the Prime Minister and the Government are serious in their intention, I say to them: They must say openly to the world what we all know to be true, namely, that the only conceivable chance of free elections —and I think that the Leader of the 1121 Opposition made this point—is if we are prepared to postpone the re-armament of Western Germany in exchange for the disarmament of Eastern Germany and free elections in a disarmed Germany.
The Russians are not going to allow the Eastern Zone to be integrated with the Western Zone merely so that the American Army can march to the Oder. That would be unconditional surrender just as much as it would be unconditional surrender for us to allow the Russians to march to the Ruhr.
In conclusion I should like to say a word on the other great issue which the Prime Minister raised and that is our relations with America. I think that there is no one in this House who fails to recognise the need for a real Anglo-American partnership, but a lot of us have been disturbed by a fatal tendency in the last three years. No British initiative has been possible without the prior consent of America. It was almost as though every speech that was made in Westminster had to be read in Washington before it was passed for approval. I congratulate the Prime Minister on having broken down a very bad two or three years' precedent.
But it is no good merely breaking the precedent. We have to see what it means to have a policy independent of America. It is no good merely announcing it here and getting cheers from the House. What does independence mean? It means first of all economic independence for this country. If we are to have this sort of policy vis-à-vis America, it is no good the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer popping off to Washington to get a large number of dollars in order to make the £ convertible. There is no relationship between the purpose of that mission only a few months ago and the tenor of the speech which we heard today.
If we are to be politically independent, we must have economic independence, and that will mean a great deal of self-sacrifice in this country, a great deal of discrimination and not being too angry with the Americans because they stop us selling our goods in the U.S.A. We must assume they will not let us export to them very freely. Moreover, the purchase of arms as an alternative to dollar aid is a deadly policy, because we find 1122 as a result large sections of our engineering industry dependent on American rearmament and acquiring a vested interest in the cold war. If we are economically in that position we shall not have a policy which is in favour of peace.
In the second place, if we are to be independent of America and become a partner on equal terms we have to accept the social revolution in Asia and Africa and co-operate with it wholeheartedly. It is no good a Tory Prime Minister saying that he is going to have an independent line, when his policy in Africa adds to our military commitments day by day. How many troops shall we need to make good the Prime Minister's threats and occupy Cairo? How many for bashing down the Kikuyu? How many for holding down the Africans in a Central African Federation? To try to reaffirm white ascendancy is impossible without becoming a satellite of America. It is impossible without a gigantic armament bill for this country—which the U.S.A. must pay.
The same is true of Asia. I was delighted to hear the Leader of the Opposition say what we all know is true, that Ho Chi Minh heads the real national movement in Indo-China. Do not let us be hypocritical about it. It is time to tell the French and the Americans that they are fighting an unjust war in Indo-China. If the French had done the right thing, Indo-China today would stand alongside Indonesia, and Burma. Ho Chi Minh and his rebels are not Communist by nature but by compulsion. They are driven to be Communists in order to get national liberation.
If we accept the Chinese revolution we must accept the Indo-Chinese revolution and tell our friends not to waste millions of dollars on preserving a few square miles round Saigon under French protection. We are frittering away resources which should be spent on winning the support of the people, not in convincing them that we are on the side of counterrevolution. That would be a genuine fulfilment of the Prime Minister's dream. The Prime Minister wants to be a peacemaker. If this country wants to be a peacemaker it must do the necessary things. We must base our foreign policy on two Attlee principles—the liberation of democratic India and the recognition 1123 of Communist China—and on the realisation that if we want economic independence it will be at the cost of tightening our belts. If we do all that the Prime Minister's phrases and dreams may conceivably achieve a concrete reality.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. C. J. M. Alport (Colchester)
I have sometimes watched beagling, and my recollection of it reminds me always of the sort of exercise that takes place when the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) speaks in this House. He started off today in one direction from the Suez Canal and followed his course with increasing vigour in a complete circle until he arrived back very nearly at the point of starting, say, in the Gaza Strip. It has always been precisely his same line of argument. He always includes in his argument a great many things with which I could agree, but he always ends it with a conclusion that I could not agree with in any circumstances at all.
I should like to try to put a point of view, but I realise quite clearly the arguments against it. I want to put a point of view which, also, I realise from the beginning, does not accord with the sentiments of many hon. Members in this House. It is not a point of view that is unfamiliar in this debate, but I think it important that we should continue to press a particular aspect of our foreign policy at the present time because, in spite of the immense admiration that I have for the Prime Minister's speech, there was one point in it that seemed to me to be weak.
It is once again the question of Egypt. I cannot believe that the circumstances in which we find ourselves on the Canal are a sign of strength, so far as the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth are concerned. I feel that they must be rather a factor of weakness in our security and in our future. I cannot believe that it is right that at the present time, as the hon. Member for Coventry, East has said, we should still have £250 million worth of military stores concentrated in that area, which is not only undoubtedly vulnerable in war, but is a continuing liability in peacetime. I cannot believe that our situation there is satisfactory, when we are not in occupation of territory over which we have sovereignty and which we have said on 1124 many occasions since the 1880s we intend to leave at a not distant date.
I cannot believe that a military situation, quite apart from the political aspect, which puts us in a position of being vulnerable to the guerilla warfare and the skirmishing banditry of a country like Egypt, or of any of the other Arab countries that may join with Egypt in a campaign against the British position on the Suez Canal, can provide us with the sort of security which is claimed for our position in the Suez Canal, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned.
We have said and have argued that we stand on the Suez Canal because it is in the interests of the nations of the Western world that we should be there. We have called it a responsibility which we hold on behalf of America, France, Turkey and the other nations that are concerned with security in that part of the world. If that is the case, those nations must be made to face up to the prospect of having to share that burden. I cannot believe that we are in a sound position, from a military or political point of view, in trying to maintain this burden entirely off our own bat.
The United States has made immense mistakes in Middle East policy since 1945. One of the reasons why there is in that part of the world a sense of insecurity at present is largely because of the failure to bring together American and British policies in the Middle East. Never was there a better example of that failure than the events in the last few hours: Mr. Dulles's visit to Cairo and my right hon. Friend's speech here in the House of Commons.
It is high time that those who are concerned with security in that part of the world and who are pledged, like us, to the maintenance of the integrity of Israel, should be faced with their responsibilities in this matter. There are alternative bases in the Middle East which would fulfil the needs of the British Commonwealth far better than the one in the Suez Canal. What are the alternatives? I should like to ask the Minister who is to reply to the debate whether the alternatives have been considered. The hon. Member for Coventry, East mentioned one, the Gaza Strip. There are other alternatives. There is Cyprus. If there were an international base somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean—it 1125 is not for me to say where—all that we will require for the exercise of our own responsibilities, speaking of the United Kingdom alone not as partners to a general defence plan for the whole of the Mediterranean, would be fulfilled by a forward base in Cyprus and a rear base in East Africa.
There are other alternatives. I think it would be possible—and here I go a long way along the road with the hon. Member for Coventry, East—to establish something in the Aquaba area which would give a back door to the Eastern Mediterranean, and, if necessary, could be used in conjunction with a base in Israel. We cannot spend all our time trying to hold the balance between Israel and Egypt. Nor, if we are forced out of the Suez Canal by the Egyptians, be influenced by the fact that the only alternative is unacceptable to the Egyptians.
If Haifa were the international base for the Eastern Mediterranean, it would do two things. It would provide us—not only Britain, but all the countries linked to us—with something which was secure. It would be of the greatest value to the Israelis to have in their territory military forces committed, at any rate in the case of some of the countries concerned, to the maintenance of the integrity of Israel. I hold no particular prejudice in favour of Israel or in favour of the Arab countries. All I am trying to do is to look at the problem with the interest of the United Kingdom in mind.
I am certain that the Prime Minister made the key point in this matter when he said that it was costing us £50 million a year or thereabouts to remain in the Canal Zone and that we had 80,000 troops tied up there, which deprived us of the whole of our strategic reserve. We must look upon the matter from the point of view of British interests. It is said— and it is perfectly true—that we have been the subject of derision and abuse by General Neguib and by many other Egyptian spokesmen during the last few months. But it is not only during the last few months; it is during the last few years. Indeed, one might say that it was during the last few decades.
Is the position getting any better as the result of the passage of time, or is it getting worse? My view is that the situation on the whole is deteriorating rapidly 1126 and that we shall find it more difficult to make a decision in two months' or two years' time than it would be now, just as it is far more difficult now to make a decision than it would have been in 1946 when the real decision should have been made. I remember very well that those who were concerned with the redeployment of our troops in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean zones— I was concerned in only a very small way —were quite clear that after the end of the war in 1945 there would be a redistribution of our resources in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Middle East which would involve pulling out of the Suez Canal Zone to some other areas.
I have said before that it is one of the great mysteries of politics why the Mackinnon Road project was not completed. If the supplies which are now in the Canal Zone were in East Africa they would be secure, for they would be on territory over which we have sovereignty, and it would have been of immense value if we had developed that base. But for some reason which no one has ever explained publicly there was a change of policy at that time. I think the reason was that the situation in the Middle East and in the Canal Zone hardened suddenly and, therefore, the previous Government said, "If we show signs of moving out now we shall be showing signs of weakening our position, and, therefore, we must remain." I do not think that as a result of that decision we have strengthened our position at all. I believe that we have weakened it greatly.
When our troops are being subjected to murderous attack in the Canal Zone, when we know that there are 80,000 of them living there in conditions which are deplorable, to say the least of it, and when this country is being abused by someone who has still to establish and justify himself as a leader of his country as far as other nations are concerned, it is very hard to put a point of view as I have tried to put it, because all the sentiment in our country and the vast proportion of the sentiment in the House is to stand up to the Egyptians and not in any way to give the impression that we are pulling out, scuttling, or whatever the technical term may be. We have many examples in our history of occasions when we have had to adjust our policy to meet new conditions.
1127 I am sure that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvin-grove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) is right. We are at a moment of slack tide. The tide is moving in a different direction and we cannot say which, but it is a time when we must take our courage in our hands and make the redisposition of our resources fit the new pattern of world power which has come into being and which will develop in the years ahead.
If we can do that successfully, I see for this country years of authority and influence ahead. What I fear is that by sticking to old positions which have lost their justification in the international sphere we may, in the end, exhaust our resources, which we must realise are limited, in order to try to do things which are no longer in the interests of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth. In any foreign policy, those interests should always be paramount.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
The whole House has been interested in the most thoughtful and courageous speech by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport). My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) appears at long last to have made a convert on the Egyptian question. How much that is a good thing or a bad thing, however, I am not proposing to deal with in my speech, because I have so many other things that I wish to say.
There were a number of points in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East with which I warmly agree, but I did not agree with his general assessment of the Prime Minister's speech yesterday. I felt that it received, and deserved to receive, warm approval on both sides of the House; I felt that yesterday, and I still feel it today. The Minister of State this afternoon also made a clear and constructive speech which deserves general support. Indeed, the words of both the Prime Minister and the Minister of State seemed to have received even warmer support on many occasions from this side of the House than from the other. It was a heartening experience.
When the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove was saying how the tides were passing from one side to the other in the House in this 1128 debate, I seemed to feel the flood coming this way rather than going towards the other side of the House, leaving hon. Members opposite with a somewhat stranded and washed-out appearance. Perhaps it was because the Prime Minister was able to take a somewhat more hopeful view of our relations with Soviet Russia. If we look back some years we see in this an indication of some of the policies and attitudes initiated by the two Labour Governments after the war. I am not at all sure that we cannot look back on the policy and attitude towards the Soviet Union initiated by Mr. Ernest Bevin with a great deal more satisfaction today than we could perhaps earlier on when things did not look so clear.
Perhaps the best feature of the Prime Minister's speech was the honest effort it contained to look at the facts of the world situation from the Soviet point of view, in relation to Germany and one or two other questions. It is not an easy thing to understand the thinking of the Russians on foreign affairs. Two processes are involved. One must look at the facts from a different part of the globe, and one also has to think about those facts with a different kind of thinking. That is profoundly difficult, even for the Prime Minister, who has had the advantage of personal contacts with the Soviet leaders.
But surely the more difficult it is to understand their thinking the more important it is to make every effort to do so. It is not sentimental to think that an exchange of views, even of a general kind, at the highest level between the three Powers could have a really constructive effect at the present time when the situation in the world is much more fluid than it has been for many years and when the heads of State, with one exception, are new to their jobs and new to each other. This surely is a time when we can reasonably expect an exchange of views to help.
Unfortunately though, in the speech by the Prime Minister his one great blind spot emerged, and that is his attitude towards the so-called national liberation movements, the revolt against Western influence of the peoples in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. This, after all, is the great problem in the years ahead. Lenin some 30 years ago in his writings listed the three great contradictions, as he 1129 described them, in the so-called capitalist world, contradictions that had to be exploited by Soviet Communism. The first was the classical contradiction between workers and employers in the capitalist countries, the second, the contradiction of one capitalist country in rivalry with another for raw materials and markets, the third was between the metropolitan countries and the Colonial peoples. Those are the three great contradictions which Lenin laid down as the basis for Soviet strife for power.
Looking back 30 years, we can see that Soviet Communism has lamentably failed in the first two cases. The degree of tension and class strife between worker and employer in the developed coountries is far less than when Lenin wrote. Similarly, the degree of rivalry between the capitalist coountries is a great deal less than for many decades past. The last contradiction seems to me to give Soviet Communism its final and most promising chance of world power. I note that despite all the changes which have been reported from the Soviet Union, it has been declared officially in "Pravda" that there is no change on this point.
What is the Government doing about this? The only reference to this whole subject in the speech of the Prime Minister was a brief and rather cursory reference to Indo-China, which showed, I think, a misunderstanding of the fundamentals of the situation there, as many of my hon. Friends pointed out. It is not enough to say about Indo-China that the French should have started a Shinwell system of two years' conscription and that would have saved them from their troubles. Plainly that is not true, especially if we assume, as the Prime Minister assumes, that this is not just a Soviet-inspired movement, but has a great deal of local, spontaneous independence about it.
Those two things obviously are inconsistent. If it is a Soviet inspired movement then it may be that violence is enough to suppress it. If it is not. a diplomatic and political approach is re-quired. I think there is a tremendous need for careful diagnosis in each of these cases as to the kind of movement we are dealing with. What is a genuine nationalist movement? The Labour Government had to make up their minds on more than one occasion on these 1130 points. I think with unerring judgment we understood the importance of the Indian and Pakistan movements for independence, and correctly diagnosed that in Malaya what was pretending to be a nationalist movement of liberation was a group of terrorists and gangsters.
There are all kinds of degrees of control of these movements by the Soviet Union. There is, for instance, Rumania, where the Soviet Union imposed a group of gangsters on the country and called it a national liberation movement, and at the other end of the scale there is the Government of China which won power getting less aid by far from Russia than their opponents got from America. That represented a national and genuinely revolutionary force. There is a difference of policy and attitude needed towards each national liberation movement, depending on the diagnosis one makes.
When the Prime Minister was speaking of Indo-China and making his criticism of the unhappy French in their unfortunate position, I kept wondering whether we are in a position to throw stones. How would we have fared in Kenya had that country had a common border with China? Are we quite sure in our own mind that we would be able to handle that matter better than the French? The French had no colour bar in Indo-China. I am not at all sure that we are in a position to criticise the French. They have made mistakes, but so have we in the way we have handled our problems in Africa.
I noticed with regret the omission of all reference to Africa in the Prime Minister's speech. It is time these things were considered as a matter of foreign policy and not merely departmentally by the Colonial Office. If the present trends go on, our problems in Asia and in Europe will be dwarfed by our problems in Africa before very long. And they will be foreign policy problems and not just Colonial problems. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East made reference to our military commitments in relation to our policies in Africa. We also see how these problems cripple and weaken the Western world to an increasing extent. At the United Nations we find the free world often divided between white people and coloured people on racial and colonial questions relating to Africa.
1131 What is it that holds the Arab-Asian bloc together? This is an important and increasing influential diplomatic alignment. What holds them together more than anything else is an uncompromising hostility to anything that looks like colonialism or racial discrimination. Inasmuch as we cannot solve our problems in Africa, they will become more and more important and will greatly weaken and divide the various Governments in the free world. If we cannot solve this racial problem, it will lose the West confidence in its own ideals, and it will also lose prestige for the democracy for which the West claims to stand.
This is a matter of foreign policy, and in the past I believe it has been a great mistake to try to draw a careful distinction between colonial matters on the one hand and foreign policy questions on the other. I believe that the great weakness of the speech of the Prime Minister made yesterday was that it failed to take into account these very great colonial questions.
It is true that there appears to be little actual Communist organisation and propaganda in Africa today. I was there for a couple of months towards the end of last year, but I found little definite evidence of Communism though I looked for it. There is no Communism behind the opposition to Federation; and there is no Communism behind Mau Mau in Kenya, even though it is described by "Pravda" and by Moscow radio as a national liberation movement.
There is no concerted proof of any Chinese Communism in Africa, and yet when one looks at the circumstances and sees the bitter conflicts developing between worker and employer, between white and black, between two different cultures and between rich and poor, we can see an absolutely classical situation for exploitation by Soviet Communism throughout South Africa, Central Africa and East Africa. All that is lacking is a common frontier with either Russia or China to see developing the kind of situation which we see so tragically in Eastern Europe and in Asia in Indo-China today.
I feel it is time that this African question was dealt with at the highest level in the context of world affairs. Mistakes have been made because in the past we 1132 have had false diagnosis from people dealing with the subject, who declare that they are not the subject of any worldwide cause, but are due to local conditions. The Kenya troubles are due to some characteristics of the Kikuyu, the South African problem to the policies of Dr. Malan, the rioting in North Africa to Communist infiltration. But there are general problems in Africa which have got to be solved and to be considered in the widest context, if we are going to solve these other problems.
I wish I could feel that the Prime Minister gave this matter the attention it really deserves. It is getting worse, and we have not seen it at its worst by any means. The Prime Minister was wrong about India, and I am afraid he is going to be wrong about Africa. That is a far more difficult problem than India ever was. There is the whole problem of the European settlers with their just rights. They have built up these countries and have made a great contribution to the lands in which they live. It is an infinitely complicated factor, and it is not helped by the backwardness of the Africans themselves, who are far more backward than the Indians at the time of independence.
But if that is true, surely the writing is on the wall to this extent: that it is certain that within one decade or two, or possibly three, the substance of political power will be held by the Africans in those countries by one means or another. That seems to me an inevitable conclusion from all we see today. Our duty is to ensure that this transition happens in a peaceful and constructive way, with the least possible damaging results to the international scene.
For instance, we all know the difficulties of abolishing the colour bar. I would not deny that hon. Members opposite sincerely want to get rid of it, but I have received no impression that they have the ruthless and passionate desire for action on this subject which it needs. Until they get that, and until we can also get the feeling that we are with, and in favour of, the aspirations of the Africans, we shall not solve these problems.
It is worth asking ourselves, why is it when we go round Africa today and talk to the natural leaders of the African 1133 people, the chiefs or the educated Africans, why the names of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) are respected almost to the point of reverence? Because they are; they have a tremendous reputation out there. It is not because they are now in Opposition and making the kind of speeches which the Africans like. These are reputations which they gained after six long, hard years of Colonial administration.
It is a great pity that the Prime Minister and the Colonial Secretary have not the same reputation. I want them to understand the urgency of this problem more, to deal with it in a wider context as a matter of foreign policy. It is a great pity that we cannot give the same support to the Government over Africa as we are prepared, in the light of the speech of the Prime Minister, to give to substantial parts of the policy he has outlined. It remains as a very good reason for replacing this Government—the fact that we would like to see my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition bringing again the same statesmanship to bear in Africa as he brought to bear on Asian problems when we were in office.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
I find myself very much in agreement with what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) has just said, especially as there are currents and tides flowing which are difficult to assess at present. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) was talking it occurred to me that while there may be slack water now it will prove to be a most dangerous period if we do not take soundings, because otherwise we shall go aground.
We are running a serious risk at the moment and I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) said. I have never understood how it came about that MacKinnon Road was given up. I am certain that in modern warfare it is a mistake to concentrate too much on one enormous base. I am sure I must have misunderstood hon. Gentlemen, because I do not think they can have meant that, if British troops are being subjected to a kind of guerilla warfare, they should remain unresponsive. 1134 We must recognise the tremendous trials they are suffering. Having served in Egypt for many years under far better conditions than British troops are having now I say that to be stationed in the Canal Zone is to be in the worst station that any British troops can be in. To say that those troops can protect that enormous base at Tel el-Kebir is complete nonsense, because the real object of the base is to have local labour to work it, and we cannot obtain that.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State has given some figures of the value of our stores. Those are of immense importance to the taxpayer and I do not think these are the days when we can throw away British assets of that kind which could be removed. The question is where and how can we move them? There are few places to go. I am not enamoured of the "Gaza Line." People forget that after the First World War we could have had the whole of the Sinai Peninsula down to Aquaba, which would have been a far better base and could have been developed without much trouble.
The vast accumulation of stores cannot be physically moved now except over a long period and we ought to support those who are carrying on the negotiations on three grounds. First, we want to get out of the place. We want to reestablish the base, I hope dispersed at suitable points. Yet, physically, we have not got the labour to move those stores because the Egyptians have withdrawn it. Who can recognise that better than the present Egyptian leaders?
Secondly, there is the great importance of having our strategic reserve where it ought to be instead of at a place where it is useless for any purpose, because it will be tied down there as a result of the hostility of the local population. Then we have other "packets" dotted about all over the place. I mention this because those of us who have been to Vienna and Austria—
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
If the hon. Gentleman is leaving the question of Egypt, would he give way for a moment? The only reason why the MacKinnon Road project was abandoned was because military opinion had it in view that if we were leaving the Canal Zone—and in so far as we did—the United Kingdom was a more convenient 1135 and more accessible rear base than the MacKinnon Road. Would the hon. Gentleman not think that, apart from advance stations such as Cyprus, the United Kingdom is the best main base for the Middle East?
§ Sir R. Glyn
I dare say that with modern communications that is true, but we are in the position now that we cannot transfer the stores in the Canal Zone at a quicker rate than 1,000 tons a week, and that is good going. There are enormous accumulations of material there, some of it of great value. I am sure the Opposition would agree that it is not right for the Government of this country lightly to throw away assets which are essential for the servicing of our troops.
Now may I turn to Austria. If the Deputies are to meet, there is one curious feature about the Austrian position. I remember going to Austria as a boy. Some of us forget that in the long period of peace before the 1914 war people had got into a regular groove of trade and connections. I remember going to Trieste, which was Austrian and part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Suddenly, after the First World War, that empire crumbled and now we find this natural hostility between Yugoslavia and Italy over Trieste.
Yet Trieste was once Austrian and with the large city of Vienna, having a kind of back-garden of a country with no exit to the sea, and within 45 miles— which is all it is—from Klagenfurt down to Trieste, with all the communications that the Austrians had made. It was the natural outflow of central Europe with all the Danube connections into the sea. I do beg that somebody will take into account the possibility—I put it no higher—that an attempt should be made to solve the vexed question of Trieste at the same time as the Austrian negotiations. I believe that there might be something useful in that. We cannot expect Austria to settle down without any sea communications or without the trade that is so necessary.
After all, the biblical way of settling a dispute between two people is to give what is disputed to a third person. It may be that in Trieste they would be 1136 happy to get back to the old associations. If that could be done, I believe that the Russian representatives might be willing to try it and, at the same time, to open up the navigation of the Danube, which is of vital importance to all those other Balkan countries.
I think we have reached a stage in our affairs in which, I agree, we have to give up thinking in separate compartments of the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office. We are living in a period of great tides of human thought. When I was young I remembered Dr. Livingstone and Mr. Stanley—I remember meeting Mr. Stanley—and I saw a number of pictures of Dr. Livingstone in the newspapers. That was in my lifetime, when we spoke of "darkest Africa." Now things are happening which far more readily represent darkest Africa, going back to the primitive condition of the people. We are trustees of those people and must not be dictated to.
I wonder how many hon. Members in the House realise that we spent £1 million of the taxpayers' money in building a University College at Ibadan, in Nigeria? Will that help them? I hope it will. How much have we done to help the African to become a technical tradesman? During the war they were highly efficient; they became gunners and worked radar. I think we should devote our attention far more to bringing them along without restrictions and enabling them to use modern tools and machinery. That is our task, to enable them to become more efficient.
I think the "political" atmosphere is not one which helps the Africans. We have to treat them as men we want to make more efficient in working then-land, feeding their people and getting rid of the sort of things they have adopted through ignorance and through no one helping them. Our task is to remain friends with those we have done our best to help. The task of this House is to recognise that these tides are flowing, as my right hon. and gallant Friend said. Let us hope that the House of Commons may lead this country and, in leading this country, direct Britain along that path which, I believe, is still to be trodden by this nation, to help the backward peoples and give confidence to others.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Edge Hill)
The hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) has spoken in this House this evening, as he often does, for hon. Members on both sides of the House on the subjects we have been discussing. The debate has not followed party lines. There have been, what the hon. Baronet spoke of in another connection, cross currents and tides flowing in political opinions in this House.
Nonetheless, I think it fair and relevant to point out that what the hon. Baronet has indicated to be his attitude towards Egypt is very different from what the Prime Minister indicated was his attitude towards Egypt. The hon. Baronet, when he was emphasising the importance, which we on this side of the House admit, of retaining as much of our assets as we can by negotiation, made use of the expression, "We want to get out of the place." That shows a quite different outlook on this matter from any which was indicated by the Prime Minister. I entirely agree that everything should be done in the course of the negotiations to see that the British taxpayer does not suffer unnecessary loss. In that connection, I wish to say how much I agree with the hon. Baronet in what he said about the admittedly serious trials through which British troops are going now in the Canal Zone. That is recognised by hon. Members on all sides of the House.
I think this has been a most interesting debate for the reason I have suggested— that it has shown a shifting of opinion upon many very important matters which we have been discussing from time to time in this House for a long time. We are confronted by what really is a rather remarkable fact, having regard to the bitterness of many past controversies, when suddenly, to take the matter of the truce talks as a case in point, we find that the treatment by the Prime Minister of the subject has proved to be very acceptable to this side of the House. It is an interesting and remarkable fact that that should be so. No doubt it has a certain significance that it should be possible for an hon. Member like myself, who is sometimes regarded—in the lingo used in this connection—as rather to the Left in his party, to say so, and to say so with deep conviction.
1138 At Question time in the House of Commons we have noticed again and again the helpful and encouraging inflection of the voice of the Prime Minister as he has dealt with Questions about the truce talks. I have often wished that that inflection could get as wide publicity and be conveyed as clearly to peoples overseas as no doubt his written words are. I take the view that it was a most welcome thing for hon. Members on this side of the House when they heard that the Government were taking the initiative—and I think the Government deserve credit for taking the initiative—in pressing the view within the United Nations that it would be entirely acceptable if either India or Pakistan were to be the neutral Power to have the responsibility for supervising the repatriation of prisoners.
That was very good news. It was received by us as admirable news. A foolish and reactionary state of mind would have been quite capable of insisting on the necessity of Switzerland or Sweden, or some other highly respected and distinguished European Power, playing that role. It came as a great relief and satisfaction to us to hear that the Government took the initiative in making clear their view that, if it were so desired, India or Pakistan should be the neutral Power.
I speak of these things because I think the most interesting feature of the present situation is the extent of agreement which exists in this House on the truce talks. I think, also, that the Government deserve credit for not having allowed themselves to be distracted more in their treatment of the truce talks by what has occurred in Laos. They deserve credit for that. For my part, I felt satisfied upon the evidence that the military operations taking place in Laos had been prepared many months ago. In other words, they seemed to me not to provide any evidence that the apparent change of attitude and policy in the Kremlin was in any way vitiated or diminished by what was happening in Indo-China.
I think, also, that what is occurring in Laos and the movement towards Siam is probably not unconnected with the presence of Chinese Nationalist troops in Burma. Be all these matters as they may, it is a matter of satisfaction to hon. Members, certainly on this side of the House, that the Government, in their treatment 1139 of the Korean problem, did not allow themselves to be distracted into further argument, contention and difference over what is occurring in Laos, important though that is.
The Prime Minister, moreover, has acted absolutely correctly in recognising that the vital matters of principle with which we have been concerned in our intervention in Korea have providentially and as a result of our efforts, been decided in favour of the United Nations. We have established that in the post-war world an act of aggression meets with collective resistance. That is successfully established, and it is a matter of enormously important historic significance.
Another important matter of principle has been decided in our favour. It has been decided that there shall be no forcible repatriation of prisoners. The Prime Minister deserves every credit for drawing the distinction between these two matters of principle to which I have referred and the secondary matters of method and detail, about which, I feel, without the pressure brought to bear perhaps by the British Government, the American negotiators might be inclined to make much heavier weather. The question of the length of time during which prisoners, whose repatriation is under question, shall be detained, where and in what circumstances—all those are matters of detail and of method which the Prime Minister has recognised are entirely different from the matters of principle which, as I say, are already determined in our favour.
Having said that, and having spoken about Government policy in favourable terms, I none the less think it necessary to indicate the one anxiety and the one doubt that minds like my own still have. I am a little anxious—I am not sure how far this anxiety is shared on this side of the House—lest the Prime Minister, in his admirable treatment of the Korean problem, is really all the time more motivated by strategical and logistic considerations than I would wish. I do not want, having praised, now to take anything back. On the other hand, I feel I must express that anxiety.
The Prime Minister has always said— and, of course, from the purely military and strategic angle he has always, no 1140 doubt, been right—that for the purpose of resisting Soviet expansion it is very undesirable that the United Nations, the United States and the Commonwealth, should have great forces tied up in the Far East. That is so, I have no doubt, from the strategical and military point of view. My anxiety is lest that is, perhaps more than I would wish, a governing consideration in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. I am not saying that there is any evidence that that is so. I am only saying that that anxiety exists.
Is there any, reason to hope or think that he would show an equivalent reasonableness in his treatment of the situation in Europe? That is the anxiety. What he had to say upon Germany did not dispel that anxiety. It was, I thought, a far less satisfactory part of his speech. It is true that he adumbrated the idea of a Locarno for Russia and Germany, and I thought it was admirable that that should be mooted. It cannot now be said of the right hon. Gentleman that he insists upon treating the Soviet Union as an outcast after he has made a suggestion of that kind; and for the rulers of the Kremlin to read and hear that the British Prime Minister is ready to think in terms of international guarantees and alliances embracing the Soviet Union is, I think, a matter for considerable satisfaction.
It is true also that the Prime Minister spoke in what I thought was very appropriate language about the changes which have taken place in the outlook of the Kremlin. It constantly happens that when signs of changes of outlook appear among the Russian leaders we are told, "Oh, their whole purpose and design is to divide the West." Of course, the logic of that kind of outlook is that no kind of response is ever to be made to any kind of change in Soviet behaviour at all, and one goes straight forward to the preparation of a hot war. The Prime Minister has avoided that error.
Yet what disturbed me was that he appeared to insist upon proceeding at the same rate as heretofore upon the incorporation of West Germany in a defence system for Western Europe. That was an implication which seemed to me to arise from what he had to say about the proposed visit of Dr. Adenauer and the policy of Dr. Adenauer. I think that there is an inconsistency in that point in 1141 the Prime Minister's policy, because what is the value of adumbrating a Locarno guarantee for a State about whose creation he has no proposal to make, for whose boundaries he has got no kind of acceptable definition to offer, and the essential condition of whose existence he has not laid down? It seems to me to be a fallacy lying rather at the heart of what in many respects was a famous and remarkable speech of the Prime Minister.
I would ask the Prime Minister, as I would ask the Government to realise that there are many people in this country who believe that the best, the most appropriate and most propitious response to changes which are apparent in Soviet outlook and policy would be a modification of the rate of the incorporation of Germany into a Western defence system. That has always been our view. It was the view which we expressed at the time of the debate upon the ratification of the Conventions. We said, "Why hurry it up now? Why do it now?"
The reason we did not want to hasten ratification by this country, and the reason why we were glad enough to see France and Germany delay ratification, was that we hoped that during the delay there might be a revived prospect of effective four-Power talks. We wanted to postpone ratification because there was just a possibility that the kind of thing might happen which has, in fact, happened— namely, that there might be a change of outlook and of attitude among the Soviet rulers. That is exactly what has occurred.
The logic of our case is that, that having occurred, we should make it clear that we would offer, as an effective response to the change in the Soviet opinion and behaviour, a modification of the rate of incorporating Germany into the western system. It will not suit Dr. Adenauer. It will not suit large sections of the German people. The first objective of the German people is the recovery of the lost provinces, and the best prospect for them of the recovery of the lost provinces is for a fearful conflict to break out between the Soviet Union and the West. We are not going to find a satisfactory solution, vis-à-vis Russia and ourselves, to the German problem which is, at the same time, satisfactory to the Germans. It is not going to be done. But if the Prime 1142 Minister had offered that kind of response, had indicated that kind of readiness in the light of this change in Soviet policy, we would have welcomed that as much as we welcomed many of the things he did say.
The greatest need is for the voice of Britain to be heard independently and distinctly. One of the most remarkable features of this debate is the extent to which a general recognition of the desirability of what has been evident on both sides of the House. The Prime Minister spoke in terms which, plainly, had not been referred to anyone in Washington beforehand, and his observations were the more welcome for that. The suggestion that differences of emphasis and opinion between ourselves and the United States must do the West harm in our approaches to Russia seems to me to be entirely mistaken.
We wish to avoid the soulless unanimity, the monolithic construction, which exists on the other side of the Iron Curtain, and about which we have rightly been critical. How sad are the consequences when it is decided to sacrifice all, or nearly all, to keeping in step with the Americans. When the Prime Minister made that very unfortunate remark the other day in his failure to reproach the offer of bribes to Communist airmen, when he said that it is better to be bribed than to be killed, that was not the Prime Minister speaking at all. We could hardly recognise his voice. It was certainly not the Prime Minister we have known. It was the Prime Minister trying desperately to keep in step with America and with General Harrison. That is a very uncomfortable spectacle at the best of times. It is far better, as I say, that sense and sentiment should not be sacrificed to a soulless unanimity between ourselves and the United States.
The great strength we have in the West, the strength which will enable us to prevail if any conflict arises, is just that freedom of thought and speech and utterance in our system which does not exist on the other side of the Iron Curtain. It is entirely contrary to the whole spirit and essence of what is meritorious in our system to put such a high price upon unanimity as to make it impossible, or at the best very rare, for any difference of emphasis even to be permitted to be 1143 shown between British and American opinion.
That was one of the features of the Prime Minister's speech which was most welcome. We want to have British economic independence of the United States as the necessary basis of an effective and independent British foreign policy. Although for a long time to come it will be necessary for the United Nations in negotiation with the East to speak with one voice at the conference table, that is not the same thing as saying that beforehand they should not, overtly and openly and without inhibition, publicly reveal such differences of emphasis and opinion as exist between them. That will not do any harm. It will do a great deal of good.
For too long we have been told that in foreign affairs debates to utter a divergent view was dangerous because of the consequences it might have upon Anglo-American unity. What a lot of nonsense it was, and what a lot of nonsense it is now revealed to be. And how strange that one of the most significant breaches to be driven into that outlook should have been made by a Conservative Prime Minister, in utterances which, for the most part, were highly welcomed by hon. Members on this side of the House.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)
As this debate is drawing to its close and there is little speaking time left, at least for hon. Members on the back benches, perhaps my first duty is to be commendably brief. I am sure the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) will forgive me if I do not follow him into some of the points he raised, except to say how much I welcomed the praises he has uttered of the Prime Minister's speech.
Perhaps the most likeable thing about this debate is that we have heard the House of Commons again talking with a united voice about this great problem of foreign policy. It is to be hoped that from now on, while there may be a divergence of opinion between the two sides on particular items, nevertheless the House may go forward into international councils speaking with a united and collective voice.
1144 It must have been enheartening and a comfort to the Prime Minister when this morning he saw the immense welcome given to the speech he made yesterday. It was a speech which will bring comfort to millions of people throughout the world. It must surely be the true answer to the question which President Eisenhower was said to have put to the Prune Minister when he was on holiday in America in the winter. The President is said to have asked the Prime Minister if the time had come for him to retire. The Prime Minister is reported to have answered, "Retire? Why, Sir, I may have my greatest service to render to my country yet." The Prime Minister, standing at that Box again, and speaking in his statesmanlike and wise fashion— so like those speeches which many hon. Members heard through the years of the war—may rally world opinion again to find a peaceful solution to most of its problems.
I cannot understand why so much space should have been given on the front pages of this morning's newspapers to the gift of a pistol brought from President Eisenhower to General Neguib by Mr. Dulles. I should have thought that in Egypt a basket of figs would have been a more appropriate gift, particularly when we think of the intemperate speech made by General Neguib the day before yesterday.
I cannot agree with the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) who said that the one flaw in the Prime Minister's great speech was his references to the Egyptian situation. I thought the Prime Minister dealt fully and fairly with the position under the 1936 Treaty and with the discharge of our obligations in that regard. Egypt threatens to withdraw from those obligations and certain duties will fall to this country. Yesterday the Prime Minister confirmed again that we shall stand by those obligations.
Nor did I think that the hon. Member for Coventry, East was really on the centre of the target when he talked about the Prime Minister hectoring and talking down to a small country, almost in the mood of a bully. Yesterday some observations were made by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Foot) about the rather silly—in his opinion—observation of the Prime 1145 Minister that Dr. Adenauer was likely to prove the greatest German statesman since Bismarck. I think the hon. Member for Devonport took it literally that the Prime Minister was making a comparison with Bismarck. On reflection, was that completely idle?
§ Mr. Silverman
I think in the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Foot) I should say that the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) has missed the point. What my hon. Friend regarded as a little remiss was for the Prime Minister to make a most eloquent appeal to France to do certain things and then to couple it with praise of Adenauer as being the greatest statesman since Bismarck. That would hardly commend the present German situation to the French, of all people.
§ Sir R. Cary
I was trying to make the point that in Bismarck's time he had a United Germany, whereas today, in our time, we have a divided Germany. Secondly, Bismarck represented that great Re-insurance Treaty with Russia. When he fell out of favour with the Kaiser and became the subject of that famous cartoon in this country, "Dropping the pilot," I think we saw a situation from which stemmed the sequences which brought about those stupid and vicious challenging speeches made by the Kaiser. It let into the domination of German foreign policy the sinister spectacle of Fritz von Holstein. If we look at it in that context we realise that had Bismarck prevailed and retained charge of German foreign policy, possibly that tragic point, 4th August, 1914, would never have occurred.
In the Library are the memoirs of an early Parliamentary contemporary of the Prime Minister's, Mr. St. John Broderick, who was Secretary of State for War and who argued this point with the Kaiser. The Kaiser had made proposals in foreign policy quite inacceptable to the then Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, and when Mr. St. John Broderick reported to the Kaiser that the British Government could not be interested along the lines which the Kaiser had outlined, the Kaiser stamped his feet and said,Well, Broderick, one day you will be sorry. There is no balance of power in Europe except 1146 my 30 Army Corps and they cannot last for ever. The day will come when Britain, without allies, will be crushed between the economic might of Russia on the one hand and the economic might of the United States on the other hand.Whereupon, Broderick said,Sir, I shall be interested to recall that to you in, say, 20 years' time.The Kaiser replied,No, no, no, Broderick. I will not be tied to time— 20 — 30 — 50 years' time; but certainly it will come.The only validity of this prophecy is that there has grown the gigantic economic might of Russia on the one hand and of the United States on the other. The hon. Member for Edge Hill, in the concluding sentences of his speech, put his finger on our problem today—that in between those two enormous forces we want a declaration of British independence, Britain in command of its own foreign policy, subscribing united British Commonwealth opinion to the counsels of the world.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
I have been a Member of this House for 18 years. I have sat through every speech in this debate and scarcely left the Chamber during the debate, and I welcome this opportunity of making a few observations upon foreign affairs. When Mr. Ivor Thomas left the Labour Party he said he had decided that it would be better for him to be a Conservative outside the Labour Party than a Conservative inside it, and I hope that those who built this party will never forget that and will learn the lessons properly, because we need to learn them in these times in particular.
During the whole of my life I have never known peace. We have been involved in either wars or strikes, lock-outs or wars of intervention, and in the so-called war to end war. As a mere boy of 18 years of age I left my mother—and all that meant—and I remember to this day how she was told that I had been transferred to the Machine Gun Corps, which was the suicide corps. What happened to my mother happened to millions of other mothers, whether their skins were black, white or yellow.
Having served in the First World War in France and Germany, and remembering that thousands of my generation were 1147 cut off in the flower of their youth, I stand here, so many years afterwards, lucky to be living and strong and therefore determined for the rest of my life to be worthy of those whom we have forgotten.
We shared the hopes raised by President Wilson. Hopes are again being raised in the minds of millions of people, and we pray that the same results will not follow as followed in those days. We paid dearly for the Versailles Peace Treaty and all it meant. During two world wars we have been promised all kinds of things in order that we should make sacrifices to win wars for democracy. After both world wars we have been deceived by the spokesmen and the Governments of the countries responsible.
It is time that the whole world, and the United States in particular, learned thatA lesson dearly bought,Is a lesson well taught.I agree with many speakers when they say we should appreciate the support given to many countries by the United States since the end of the last war, but so that we can get this matter into correct perspective I will read some figures which should be placed on record. In the last war, United States casualties as a percentage of the population equalled 0.8. In this country they equalled 1.3 of our population; in France, 1.8; in Germany, 14.3; in Poland, 17.5; in Yugoslavia, 12.2; in the U.S.S.R., 8.3.
All the Governments in the world are not worth a snap of the fingers as compared with those mothers whose sons gave their lives both in the First World War and again in the second. Having come through it all, and against that background, not having learned all this from books, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, and as so many people now playing their part in certain quarters, but with too much influence, are doing, I am speaking from my own point of view, just as the Prime Minister was from his.
I was very pleased to see that the "Manchester Guardian" emphasised, as I want to do, that the Prime Minister, in what that paper described as his best post-war Parliamentary speech, appealed for a conference at the highest level between the leading Powers, including Russia, and it is a good thing to see that 1148 those hon. Members in many parts of the House who have done all they possibly could to discourage us from putting these proposals forward, are now supporting what they have opposed for so long. Still, we welcome it, because it is in harmony with the way the world is moving. The "Manchester Guardian" said:In Korea—a truce. He would be well content with that, leaving time to deal with what is unattainable now, a united Korea … He claimed the right of the British Government to speak ' frankly and plainly' to the United States … In a parenthesis during a reference to Indo-China, he questioned the assumption that the invasion of Laos has been inspired by the Soviet.People who differ from the Prime Minister frankly need to draw the lessons from these statements made by the Prime Minister. His speech now needs to be followed up by action. All the speaking in the world is not an atom of good unless it is translated into concrete reality and results in action. Therefore, the road is now clear, and no country, no person should be allowed to stand in the way which the Prime Minister suggested we should travel in his speech yesterday. President Eisenhower has made a similar speech, and, in spite of a lack of information amongst certain hon. Members who have contributed to this debate, the late Mr. Stalin made several suggestions of a similar character during the past few years. Mr. Malenkov said, on 15th March:At present, there is no disputed issue which could not be settled peacefully on the basis of the mutual agreement of the countries concerned. This refers to our relations with all States, including our relations with the United States of America.Therefore, I repeat that the road is now clear for an early five-Power Conference and for a new start in world affairs. In my view, an early conference should be held of the kind suggested by the Prime Minister, and its immediate objective should be to stop the present drift in world affairs. There should be limited agreement among those assembled at the conference on a policy on a short-term basis, in the hope that a policy of peaceful co-existence could be agreed upon. They should also work together on the basis of a long-term agreement for cooperation with a reinforced United Nations.
1149 President Roosevelt said:The unity we have made for war is nothing to the unity we will have to build for peace. That is when the cry will come that our unity is no longer necessary. That is when the job will begin in earnest.What President Roosevelt said is as true today as when he said it during the war. I will never forget when my late right hon. Friend Ernest Bevin sat at my lunch table one day. It was my privilege to be friendly with Ernest Bevin long before he came into this House, and I have often quoted to him the lines—I am not sure whether they are by Shakespeare or not—Make new friends, but keep the old;These are silver, those are gold.Ernest Bevin, and others who obtain great influence in national and world affairs, knew and remembered that statement by one of the finest poets who ever lived. It was during the days when there was great controversy in our party with regard to our foreign policy. I could not enter into it altogether, because of my respect for the Foreign Secretary, although I was not in agreement with him.
At the table where I was having lunch, three other hon. Members of the House had been discussing our foreign policy. When one left, Ernest Bevin came up and said, "How are you getting on? "I could hardly speak, because I do not believe in saying one thing here and another out there, but, eventually, he drew me into conversation, and I said, "I may as well tell you; we have been talking about you." He said, "What have you been saying?" I told him, "I have been saying that you always used to say to me 'We will build a bridge'," and he got hold of my hand and said, "We may yet."
I believe that the time has arrived when, although Ernest Bevin is no longer living, this country should take the initiative and build a bridge. It is the greatest hope of the world. We should encourage the start of this enterprise. What the engineers of this country have done all over the world in the physical sense, so the politicians can do in the political sense if they have the courage to take the initiative and work on the lines which the Prime Minister suggested yesterday.
Some of us are now feeling a sense of disillusionment, but we do not allow it 1150 to upset us to any great extent. Although we have seen the failure of the League of Nations, we still believe that the only hope of mankind is to create a body of united nations in order that countries can solve their problems round a table rather than resort to war. It has been my privilege to work with men and women whose skins have been black, white and yellow, to work with them in all parts of Europe and serve with them in the First World War, and, wherever I have gone I have always tried to play the game with others and have expected others to play the game with me. I think that if, in ordinary life, we apply that policy, most people will respond. If that is the right policy in human relationship then there must have been something fundamentally wrong when, twice in my lifetime, I have been sent to join with other men in fighting one another with bombs, bayonets and tanks, and now we have the deadly weapon of atomic energy hanging over our heads.
This country, which has pioneered constitutional Government and in which, in particular, the working classes have won the right of free speech and the right to organise, must fulfil its historical role in passing on to others what we have achieved in our own country, and we must take the initiative in making our contribution to the progress of the rest of the world.
My cousins and uncles were all driven out of this country in 1911 and 1912, but my family stayed here, and the result is that we have played our part, while, in Australia and New Zealand and in other places, I have scores of cousins, who also have children of their own. In two world wars, we in this country have found that our best friends have been proved to be New Zealanders and Australians.
Therefore, we do not go into world affairs backed up with only 50 million people, but backed up with teeming millions represented in the British Commonwealth, whose skins are white, as in New Zealand, Australia and other countries, and 350 million who are as good as any of us, the Indian men and women. They are also praying for peace, as we are. I plead not only for the initiative to be taken in the direction of an early conference but also to buttress up the United Nations, which has great achievements to 1151 its credit, in spite of our disappointments in certain directions.
Against that background, I would now make some observations in support of the Constructive Motion which appears on the Order Paper this week-end, and which states:That this House welcomes the recent statements made by the representatives of Great Britain, India, the United States, of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and China, and urges Her Majesty's Government to take the initiative with a view to bringing about a basis of agreement which will lead towards a Five-Power Conference, the strengthening of the United Nations Organisation and a World Economic Conference, to bring about a large-scale expansion of trade and the production of food.It is in that direction that this country has the greatest hope. There are 50 million men and women in this country, every one dependent upon those who do the work but cannot do it unless we get large-scale orders from all over the world. It is not only a question of assisting the backward countries to develop and make progress, but it is also a good business proposition for ourselves, if we wish to maintain the standard of living that we have achieved.
It has been my privilege to have many Chinese students working with me. I have worked with Chinese workers in France and I learned, during that time, greatly to admire the Chinese people. They have been to our house and we have given them the benefit of all we could. The result is that we have maintained correspondence which I treasure. The Chinese people greatly admire our country and our people. There is enormous good will in China towards the British people. Is it all to be cast away? In its place are we to put bitterness? The answers to those questions will be given by our policy.
For generations there has been bitterness in Ireland against the English people because of the way in which English landlords treated them, but English people were never responsible for that. We should learn lessons from that. I have heard leading Indian spokesmen say that they were inclined to be as bitter as the Irish. There is no longer bitterness left in India because of the magnanimous way we dealt with the Indians a few years ago. There are great lessons in that. The Indian people are now our 1152 best friends in the world. What we did with India to win their friendship we should do with the Chinese and with people in other parts of the world.
Now that mighty China is awakening from the sleep of centuries and, with other countries, is moving in accord with its own opportunities, we need to be on our guard or we shall be left behind because of the speed with which those countries are making progress. Britain should hold out the hand of friendship to all those who are prepared to accept it— China, India, all backward countries— and who need our friendship, our trade, our technical advice. It is in the days of adversity that we find our real friends. Britain could be a great workshop for the advancement of Asia. This is the road to peace, progress and plenty. Let us appeal to the peoples of the world. Let us back up the Prime Minister's statement with action upon the lines that I am suggesting.
We must make a new start with our relations with other countries. No longer dare anyone bully or persecute the workers of this country. We have learned to organise to defend ourselves. What applies to our own people applies to the peoples of the world, no matter what the colour of their skins may be. No longer will they be bullied or held back, no matter who may be trying to do it. It is time that we recognised that. If we are trying to hold them back by military weapons, that is murder, and just as a person is tried for taking life in this country so, if we try to hold them back with military weapons, it is not individual murder but is equivalent to mass murder, that will prevent peace.
I want even the Conservative Party to learn lessons from this. It was they who were responsible for the loss of Abadan. It was they who were responsible for getting Britain a bad name through Britain Imperialism holding India back for so long. If they are prepared now to recognise that we are living in the mid-twentieth century and that the whole world is moving in the way it is, it is time that Britain moved in harmony with the world.
If anyone doubts what I have said about Abadan let him read a Foreign Office document which I have here. I will pass it round, because I have not 1153 time to quote from it, as I would have liked to do. Here is the document that I sent to the Foreign Secretary when Ernest Bevin was in that position. Here is the copy of a letter which I received from a British engineer working in Abadan, in which he indicts our treatment of the natives. This letter has to be read to be believed.
The lesson I draw from it is that we ought to profit by the mistakes of the past. We have still a great future to play in world affairs. It is only by recognising that we are now living in the mid-twentieth century that we can do this, and by recognising that what was right in the 18th and 19th centuries no longer applies.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
This has been a most remarkable debate, remarkable not only for the sense of national unity that has inspired it but for the fact that there has not been a speech from either side of the House that has not been well worth listening to. I seemed to hear in the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) the authentic voice of suffering, inarticulate, puzzled, disillusioned, humanity throughout the world. I also heard in him the authentic voice of the British working man, who is the heart and core of Britain.
But I ask him not to fall into the mistake, into which people all over the world fall, of always searching for the villain of the piece, whether it is the landlord in Ireland, the employer in the Midlands, or the Conservative Party over India. It has been my experience in life and I am sure it has been his—that when one gets among people of any race, colour, class, or party, in this country, or outside, one finds that they have much the same standards, ideals and good intentions as one has oneself. I ask him not to think one thing in politics and another in private life, though I am sure that he does not need to be told that.
I also ask that neither he nor anybody else in this House, or in the world outside, should fall into the cardinal error of believing that the salvation of humanity is to be found through politics and political organisations. The millenium of peace and paradise on earth will not be found through the United 1154 Nations or pacts against war or Parliaments or talking shops of any description. The human race will only achieve happiness through a change in the human heart when every individual learns to behave properly, to see other people's point of view and to treat people with the charity and comradeship which I am sure the hon. Member accords to all with whom he comes into contact. The hon. Member gave me the text for my speech in the little verse which he attributed, wrongly, I think, to Shakespeare, but which was just as good as if it had been written by him.Make new friends, but keep the old,These are silver, those are gold.I am disturbed by what I consider to be a far greater threat to the world than anything yet mentioned in this debate. We have merely skirted the subject and sailed all round it. I am perturbed by the fact that the relationships between ourselves and our oldest and truest friend in the world are progressively deteriorating at a rapid rate. I am most uneasy at the state of our relations with the United States. I am sure that contact between the State Department and the Foreign Office is as friendly and intimate as it could be, but I believe that on both sides of the Atlantic, among the public opinion that matters more than Cabinets or Foreign Offices, there is a progressive worsening of feeling.
We had all the evidence of it in the House today and yesterday. What appealed to us all in the Prime Minister's speech and in this new direction of British foreign policy was the thought that at last we are to have a British policy, an independent policy and that at last we are to sail under our own colours on the course which we think best and wisest. But that has its dangers. I am appalled by the fact that subconsciously in all our minds there is irritation and resentment at certain tactics and unfortunate things done by the Americans. And I am sure that throughout the United States, among ordinary simple people—I am not talking about vociferous, vulgar journalists who exist in that country as they do everywhere else—there is progressive irritation against Britain and Europe.
What can we do about it? To put it in the plainest words, which I hardly 1155 like to use, what can we do to control United States policy and to get the United States to walk with us hand in hand in following a common and united policy for the good of the world? It is a truism, a platitude, but nevertheless a fact, that if Britain and the United States go together with a wise, sound and united policy all is possible and the world will be saved. It is equally true to say that if we fail to go together hand in hand, if we fall out and follow divergent policies, then all is probably lost.
There are various ways of dealing with one's friends when one does not see eye to eye with them. Plain speaking is the recipe which is usually offered. It is said, "Speak plainly to your friends and you will retain their respect and their friendship; you will clear the air and get things put right." I am afraid that that has been the tenor of this debate, but I do not think one can have plain speaking unless it is based on friendship and mutual confidence, which are the necessary prerequisites for the creation of the atmosphere in which plain speaking will work.
Both here and in the United States those of us who have a hand in directing the course of public thought must make immediately a deliberate effort to get each country to understand the other. It is much easier to see the mistakes which are made by the other side. It is much easier to see the motes in their eyes than the beams in ours.
I propose to explain what I believe to be the point of view of the average American towards this country and Europe. I admit that I shall be uttering platitudes—things we all know—but I think they are things which we are inclined to forget. First, do not let us forget that America never intended to become involved in world affairs. Its inhabitants wanted only to be left alone to enjoy the riches that bountiful Nature offered to the industry and inventive genius of its inhabitants. In the big towns and small villages of America people are saying, "Why cannot we be left alone?"
Then, do not forget that a very large proportion of the population of the United States is of immigrant stock, and that their view of Europe is connected with "old, unhappy, far-off things and 1156 battles long ago," memories of persecution and poverty. They may be the descendants of Germans who fled from Germany in 1848, or Italians who left penury and semi-starvation on the barren hills of Italy, or Jews who fled from the persecutions of Hitler, or Russians who fled from the pogroms in the early years of this century, or even Britons who left the harsh conditions of this country to find an Eldorado in the promised land of the United States. Forty per cent. of the population of America have inherited a prejudice against contact with Europe.
Do not forget that, with this as a background, practically every American family has poured out money and blood for what they regard as quixotic crusades in Europe in two world wars and in Korea now. They do not regard the two world wars as being wars in which America was fighting for her life-blood, like we did. They thought they were very noble to do anything about it at all. Do not forget that every single American taxpayer today is paying fairly severely, by way of taxation, to help Europe, including this country.
Turning to Korea, do not forget that 1,250,000 American troops have passed through that theatre of war. Do not forget their casualties, and that they bear nineteen-twentieths of the burden—and they feel that we are bearing very little. Possibly 10 per cent. of American families have a direct personal interest in the Korean fighting.
Something else which is frequently forgotten is the fact that America poured out very large sums to help China. They regard themselves as a kind of Father Christmas, now being bitten by those they fed. Let us disabuse our minds of the thought that anybody in America wants war. It is nonsense to say there is a war party in the United States. It is true that some Americans are so frightened of war that they say, "Let us get it over with while the going is good." But that is not a war party. They are more anti-war in their very bones than the most pacific of pacifists in this country. That is evidence of fear; it may be evidence of adolescence and immaturity in world problems, but it is not bellicosity or warmongering. Those Americans are not warmongers or bellicose in the sense that Germany is a 1157 bellicose and warmongering nation. They are seeking for peace.
Now I want to tread particularly delicately, because I do not wish to be accused of bringing party politics into this debate which has so far been singularly free of them. Rightly or wrongly— I am sure, wrongly—the Americans think that the Labour Party, which represents, let us say for the sake of argument, half the people of this country, is tainted with conscious or subconscious anti-Americanism. They think, rightly or wrongly, I do not know, that the Socialist Party has an instinctive antipathy towards a great capitalist nation. They seize on every anti-American speech made from the benches opposite.
I do not know whether the House recollects, but on 5th February there was a debate on Formosa, and on the American unilateral action in moving the Seventh Fleet from Formosa, theoretically, at any rate, setting free General Chiang Kai-shek's troops to make assaults on the mainland. So great was the interest of the American people in that debate that a leading newspaper in the United States, with a very large circulation, published the HANSARD Report almost word for word. I made a speech in the debate; one which caused me some embarrassment because, unfortunately, I was put down as a Member of the Labour Party. I have received nothing but a stream of letters from America saying what a wonderful Socialist I am. It was, of course, a very good thing from the point of view of Anglo-American relations that it should have been thought that one Member of the Socialist Party at least had sympathy with the American point of view.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
Is not the hon. Gentleman proving how extremely badly informed those American newspapers are?
§ Mr. Nicholson
Indeed I am. Not because I think anybody outside my own constituency should necessarily know the party I represent. I have, I hope, what the newspapers call a becoming modesty. But they are badly informed.
I ask the House to recognise that for the ordinary American in the ordinary small town Europe and world affairs belong, so to speak, to another planet. For generations the American world has 1158 been bounded by the vast plains and mountains of the United States. This has an influence on the American view of Britain, and, rightly or wrongly, the Americans regard half the people of this country as being members of a party tainted with strong instinctive anti-American feeling. The real tragedy, of course, is that the Americans recently have been given every excuse for thinking so, for thinking that there is a latent anti-American feeling in the Labour Party. Every time they can the Americans seem to do their best to trail their coat.
It is maddening, irritating to the last degree, when Mr. Dulles makes those remarks about General Neguib. It was more than irritating to the British people when the Chief Joseph Dam contract was turned down unfairly. We were right to criticise America for taking unilateral action over Formosa. We have every excuse for certain criticism with regard to actions in Korea, and it would Take a saint not to be irritated by Senator McCarthy.
As the result of what they believe to be anti-American feeling in this country and Socialist antipathy, Anglo-American relations are steadily deteriorating. We have evidence of this during the two days' debate in this House. There is the delight that we are to have at last an independent foreign policy. It is wrong and dangerous that that should be our attitude. I do urge this House and this country to be frank with America but to be fair and understanding and friendly at the same time. We should learn to think of Americans not as a Mr. Dulles or as a Senator McCarthy but as ordinary inhabitants of a small town in the Middle West. They are simple, straight-forward, kind and hospitable people. Anyone who has been to America knows the proverbial hospitality of the Americans. They are friendly, good, upright and, above all idealistic.
I tell the House that what we call the small town idealism of the ordinary, simple, average American is the most powerful motive force in America today, and I hope it will remain so for a long time. Among all the letters which I have received owing to that curious mistake to which I referred, nearly every one has said, "If you would only come to our little town you would find that the 1159 ordinary citizen like me and my neighbours cannot understand England and Europe. We are desperately hurt at being accused of trying to buy friendship with dollars, of being accused of not playing our full-part in the world. We do not understand it. I wish Englishmen would come over and explain what it is all about."
They are hurt and we are hurt. This just will not do. It is doing the Communists' work for them by allowing out relations between our two great countries to deteriorate in this way. I appeal to the people of this country, through this House, to have another think, to take a pull on themselves and to realise that in giving way to anti-American sentiments, or indeed thoughts, we are doing the work of the Enemy of Mankind. We are doing the work of the Devil himself. We are knocking down the greatest hope for civilisation.
The greatest hope of civilisation is not that we should just say "ditto" to America or that America should say "ditto" to us, but that we should both think along the same right lines and pursue that enlightened policy which is instinctively in the thoughts of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South and, I hope, everyone else in this House, and which is instinctively in the mind of the ordinary, plain, perhaps adolescent and, in world affairs, not very highly-educated American citizen—the typical American citizen who has made his country great, and is now finding his feet as a member of the leading country of the world.
In all sincerity, I beseech members of the Labour Party not to let their minds be given to anti-Americanism. I know it is not true of the Labour Party as a whole, but there is a small influential, section of it which yields to the temptation. What is needed between ourselves and America is real loyalty. That does not dispense with frankness of speech or with independent British policy and independent American policy. It means a real, conscious effort to walk hand in hand along the only road by way of which the salvation of mankind can be achieved.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. John Freeman (Watford)
During the remarks by the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson), I was surprised to hear—I thought I heard him say it—that he had never visited the United States. We shall be interested to hear his account of it when he has visited it.
Two speeches from the other side of the House have seemed to me to be of exceptional distinction and one was also of exceptional courage. The first speech was that of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), and it is not the first time that he has been in that position, and the other was that of the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport). During what has inevitably been something of a Tory Party field-day in celebrating the Prime Minister's Parliamentary triumph yesterday afternoon, those two hon. Members have had the courage to stand up and point, in suitably respectful and moderate language, to the really outrageous nature of the Prime Minister's remarks on Egypt.
No one on this side of the House is so irresponsible as to try to deny that the Prime Minister succeeded in much of what he said in elevating the debate to a level of purpose and endeavour which foreign affairs debates have not always attained in recent years. It is precisely because of that that it is really essential that those of us who disagree strongly with his attitude to the whole problem of the Middle East should say so and should say it in no uncertain terms. On this subject he is out of touch with contemporary reality. In a certain sense this speech is the swansong of British Imperialism.
The Prime Minister talked about an act of bad faith and based the position of this country in its handling of the Egyptian dispute on what he described as the act of bad faith of General Neguib and his Government. We cannot pretend in the middle of the 20th Century that a bygone treaty made in totally different circumstances enables us to infringe the national sovereignty of a determined and increasingly civilised nation. Yet that is precisely the claim which is enshrined in the Prime Minister's legalistic defence of the British position. Behaviour of this kind cannot be defended according to the 1161 letter of the law. It stirs the deepest national feelings.
If the American forces stationed on the soil of Britain, instead of being accepted and even welcomed, as they probably are, by a majority in both our main political parties at the present moment, were resented by all parties and there was an almost unanimous belief that the Americans had no business to be here and were here against our will, would the right hon. Gentleman or any of his followers dare to stand up in public and defend the position of the Americans on the grounds that a treaty of some years ago had given them the right to infringe our national sovereignty? Yet that is exactly the claim which the Prime Minister has not only made to the House but is seeking to persuade the world that a majority of the people of this country endorse.
The Prime Minister's defence is that the occupation is on behalf of every member of N.A.T.O. from the North Cape to the Caucasus. That may be true, but those very words still emphasise that our occupation of Egypt is an occupation without the consent of the people of Egypt. If that is so, where are our arguments about the position of the Soviet satellites? Where is the moral position upon which we base our foreign policy, that in some respect we represent the free world? I believe that to be true. I have always believed it; but I cannot face the world proclaiming that that is our position, while we are placing some other country in the position of an unwilling satellite under the force of our arms.
During debates of this kind sometimes words do one of two things. In some instances they take on a positively apocalyptic quality, and a particular phrase or passage will illuminate a subject far beyond the precise, logical meaning of the bare words. There were passages in the Prime Minister's speech of which one can surely say that, but there were other passages where the words used, as is sometimes the case in the House, obscure simple realities. The simple reality of this situation in Egypt is that we are occupying their territory without their permission, contrary to their desires; and that is wrong.
When we are in doubt about any policy, either at home or overseas, it is not a bad move to start by asking what 1162 is right. If however this is thought to be an idealistic view, out of touch with current events, let us look at it purely from the point of view of expediency.
What is the purpose of this base? Some practical questions have been asked about this today, and the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) asked more pregnantly than perhaps he realised what had happened to the project of the East African base. He was given a complete answer by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), who at the relevant time was Secretary of State for War. He said that it was not now considered necessary to have what is called the rear base of Middle East defence in that part of the world at all. When it came to the point of surveying in detail the alternatives to the Canal, it was found that on the whole the United Kingdom was more convenient. That statement implied that this whole conception of the great base, which the Minister of State described to us in figures at an earlier stage this afternoon, is probably outmoded and rests on a conception of warfare which may have been out of date even before the last war.
But let us assume for the moment, for the sake of argument, that there is some need for a massive base of this kind in the Middle East. What should we want it for? Clearly it is not for an absolutely vital and last-ditch defence of the Suez Canal against local attack. That can never be said again, because we fought and conquered in the last war without control of the Suez Canal. The Canal is highly desirable, but never again can it be said to be absolutely vital, and never again can anyone imagine that the existence of a large base astride the Canal is a guarantee of its security in any case.
What we require this base for, if we require it at all, is as a base to maintain ground operations against a hypothetical enemy somewhere in the Middle East in the event of a war, and as a place from which we can service our land troops, particularly armour, and our aeroplanes, particularly fighter bombers, in the event of a major land battle developing somewhere between the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean. If that happens some military thought holds that we should have an extensive Middle East base from which to service such adventure. If that 1163 is true, of what use can such a base be unless it has all the administrative and mechanical amenities such as water and electric power, skilled and unskilled labour, railways and roads and the rest? These things are essential to the base if there is any case to be made out for it at all.
If the Joint Under-Secretary of State is to reply to this debate, I want to ask him this simple question. Has he been advised by any of his senior and responsible military advisers that a Canal base without the use of Egyptian labour and Egyptian civilian facilities is of great value, or essential, to Middle East Defence? I doubt it. I want to ask him a further question. Does any one of his political advisers advise him seriously that this is the way to ensure continued use of Egyptian labour and facilities, and so continued value of the base? Is it possible to imagine that, if this policy is persisted in it can lead to any improvement in the situation?
Is the Foreign Office gambling on being able to drive out General Neguib so that he can be replaced by somebody with whom they will find it easier to negotiate? If they are, let me remind them, as other speakers have reminded them earlier in this debate, that this is a gamble which has been tried before by other Governments and has failed, and it will fail again. The answer to those questions is, first that the base is not of value unless it includes the goodwill of the Egyptians. Secondly, that the present policy is calculated not to win us the goodwill of Egypt; and, thirdly, that a gamble that General Neguib might be replaced by somebody more amenable is a gamble which is almost certain not to come off.
Is it possible that the Foreign Office is gambling on something else? Is it gambling on this, that if somehow we can hang on long enough, if we are still there when a war starts, that in the end the Egyptians will support us? That is a very long shot. In the last war and under different circumstances, when we were fighting Nazi Germany, the support of the Egyptians was very qualified. To take another example, we did not get the support of the Burmese at that time because they were prepared to do a deal 1164 with the Japanese in order to throw out the British. I am afraid it will be found, if that is the gamble which the Government are seeking to make, that if war should come, any kind of unholy deal will be made in order to get rid of the British. The lamp of nationalism is alight in the Middle East now, and it will take more buckets of water than there are in the Mediterranean to put it out.
What about the consequences of trying to enforce the kind of policy to which the Government have now put their hand? As the Prime Minister said yesterday, British troops can defend themselves unaided in one sense, but can they defend themselves indefinitely in conditions of guerilla war? Remember Palestine: have we to learn that lesson again? There are no doubt people who, following the logic of this situation, would say, "All right, let us take the risk. Let us, if necessary, occupy Cairo." Let the Government remember that if you squat on the territory of another person, and if you enforce your rights against his will by the force of arms, it is possible that the rest of the world will regard you as the aggressor.
Nobody on this side of the House seeks to underestimate the difficult position in which British troops are currently placed in Egypt. On the contrary. If our advice is followed their position would be a good deal easier. But it is not good enough for the Minister of State, in a passage which I thought was unworthy of him in his speech this afternoon, to fire at us for the first time from that Dispatch Box a list of atrocities of which we had heard nothing before. One can only assume, from the way in which they were brought out, that the purpose of doing it was to cloud people's judgment and to whip up feeling in this debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] Indeed, I say so, or why should this day, of all days, have been chosen to release those pieces of information?
I say to the House that I yield to no man, on either side of the House, either in love of my country or in my feeling for our soldiers in difficult circumstances in Egypt at this moment. But their difficulties are difficulties which are occasioned mainly by the British Government; and, if I were an Egyptian at this moment facing the present British policy of 1165 occupation, I should count it a shame if I did not give my pledge to support General Neguib and drive the British out of my country. What is more, if the Prime Minister were an Egyptian and 50 years younger he would be fighting the same battle.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
On a point of order. I wish to have your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I have sat through this debate for two days continuously and followed every speech. I do not think I have been out of the Chamber for more than 30 minutes. An arrangement has been made with the Chair and I wish to make a protest about the disgusting treatment I have had in this debate.
I must remind the hon. Member that some of the adjectives he is using are not warranted and, indeed, some of the allegations he is making are not warranted. I wish it had been possible to call far more hon. Members, but there are a number of hon. Members I have not been able to call— a number of hon. Members who have sat throughout the debate.
§ Mr. W. Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
Further to that point of order. Surely my hon. Friend is entitled to a reply?
I cannot arrange for the calling of hon. Members. I have called all the hon. Members I could call within the time. It is a matter for the House and not for the Chair. Mr. McNeil.
§ 9.4 p.m.
Mr. Hector McNeil (Greenock)
I have a great deal of sympathy for my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies). It is an experience which comes to many of us from time to time.
Before I turn to the main theme of this debate, which I think is quite plainly upon a discussion of this pause in international events, I should like to make 1166 reference to the line pursued by my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. J. Freeman). No one on this side of the House would in any circumstances attempt to defend any imperialist demonstration or establishment of power. I do not want to say anything to exacerbate a difficult situation, but I hope that the Egyptian Government may yet discover conditions upon which an amicable arrangement can be made to the benefit, not only of both countries, but of everyone concerned with the maintenance of stability and defence in the Middle East. Indeed, I was impressed that, in perhaps one of the most forceful speeches made on this subject, by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), he admitted that this was not an isolated claim nor an isolated situation, and that he was concerned with subsequent possible repercussions upon Israel. My hon. Friend went on to discuss other precautions that must be taken at a subsequent stage in relation to Israel.
I should like to thank the Minister of State for the account he gave us of the negotiations and for an opportunity to study the objection of the Egyptian Government. I should like also to say that Her Majesty's Opposition are indeed grateful that the right hon. Gentleman took the opportunity to re-affirm the position of Her Majesty's Government in relation to the rights of the Sudan. That is, of course, very agreeable to us for a number of reasons.
I think there was a time when, if Her Majesty's Government had been dishonourable, we might have secured some agreement on the base although none of us would have agreed that it was enduring if we had been prepared to sell out on the Sudanese. We did not and the House is united in its congratulations to Her Majesty's Government that they continue this line of saying that the long effort to bring the Sudanese to self-government and self-determination shall fructify.
I must, however, in candour and, I hope, in kindliness, say this to the right hon. Gentleman. We on both sides of the House know that he speaks the truth about the Government's intentions towards the Sudanese people, but there are other countries where the bona fides of Her Majesty's Government in relation to 1167 the Sudanese will be doubted because another Minister of the same Government talks of the people in Nyasaland and Rhodesia in a completely different tone. In the north we protect the Sudanese. In the south and east the Government make an imposition which they do not even attempt to pretend is acceptable to the majority of the people whom it is going to affect.
I am sure the House are indebted to the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) and to my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) for bringing to our attention the necessity to associate Colonial Office activities in all countries and the Foreign Office in the development of a single policy. Separation is utterly unreal. It does not happen in the United Nations. It does not happen in diplomatic conferences or in public discussion, but in some countries it is thought that these two separate lines should be followed with little regard to each other.
I want to talk of the main subject which has been the preoccupation of this wide, good tempered and almost wholly constructive debate. I thought that the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) was right in saying that there had not been a speech which had not at least one constructive idea to offer. Plainly we are agreed that there is a change in Soviet policy. Whether it is basic or whether it is tactical is a matter of opinion. I will not weary the House with my reasons for concluding that it is tactical. It is interesting to know that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) both concluded that there seemed now to be some kind of concert, whereas previously in the Kremlin there had been an attitude of dictatorship.
I noticed in "Pravda" of 2nd May something which I should like to mention. I cannot read Russian, but those who are interested ought to look at that newspaper of that date, even if they do not read Russian. The photographs of May Day demonstrations have previously always had Generalissimo Stalin in the centre and he has always had a child or several children in his arms. The most extraordinary feature of the photographs of the May Day demonstrations 1168 this year published in "Pravda" is that every member of the Soviet Cabinet had at least one child in his arms, and I think that those who examine the picture will come to the conclusion that Mr. Malenkov had two children in his arms. It is a ludicrous position that we are driven to sift that kind of evidence in order to come to conclusions, but I think it rather upholds the point of view expressed by my right hon. Friend and the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove.
The House, supported by the Prime Minister, has gone on to argue that Soviet Russia may hope in this new situation to impair the concept of defence of the Atlantic democracies. Another and perhaps even a more precise way of saying this would be that Soviet Russia in this new situation will hope to divide Britain from America by offers in the Far East and the conditions attaching to such offers. She will hope in Europe to divide France from Britain—I hope I do not interrupt the conversation of the right hon. Lady the Minister of Education.
§ Mr. Hugh Dalton (Bishop Auckland)
It has been going on all the time for the last quarter of an hour.
In Europe Russia will hope to divide France from Britain, and perhaps both from America, by the offers she makes in relation to Germany and the conditions she attaches to such offers. Again and again in the debate, particularly today, this is a point to which hon. Members have returned.
If, for example, Soviet Russia proves to be in earnest on a unified Germany, and if she will agree to free elections in Germany, she may hope so to reassure opinion, particularly American opinion, that in time—perhaps in a short time— American troops will move out from Europe; and France, perhaps appalled at the desertion of her allies in varying degrees, will be forced to make an accommodation with Soviet Russia. Going on in degrees with the argument, we ought in honesty to make this admission to ourselves. There is nothing improper or surprising or unusual in the Soviet attempt thus to divide us. That is precisely the tactics we have employed against Soviet Russia since four-Power agreement disappeared in 1945.
In that situation, if we stand pat on N.A.T.O., and by any kind of device put 1169 off discussions which should arise from a Soviet initiative in relation to Germany, then of course the gains of the last few years in terms of democratic understanding and concerted democratic advance will be thrown away overnight, and other consequences will follow. We shall see, unhappily, as a consequence of such a situation, the resurgence of Communist strength in France; in Germany both East and West; probably in Italy, and perhaps penetrating into the Balkans with disrupting effect on recent arrangements.
What then should we do? What should Her Majesty's Government be urging at this time? Stripped of all the diplomatic approaches, of all the protective devices which we may temporarily erect, there is but one condition upon which a unified Germany could be permitted to re-emerge without danger to France and Britain, and European opinion, and perhaps, under certain conditions, to the United States. That basic condition is the re-establishment of the four-Power policy in relation to the future of Germany.
I listened to the moving and informed speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove, corroborated by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East. I do not delude myself, no sensible person does, that Germany can be contained. It is a wretched and a silly word to use at any time in relation to a growing and virile organism. Germany cannot be contained. Without agreement on Germany, no equilibrium in Europe is possible. Given four-Power agreement on Germany, order in Europe is possible and, I should think, probable.
I suppose this is the basis of the Prime Minister's curious turning towards a new Locarno Pact. I am sorry to say that I thought it was a singularly unfortunate allusion, almost as unfortunate as his comparison of Dr. Adenauer with Bismarck. I cannot imagine that this warm reference to this triple aggressor would raise any cheers in Paris, and it is an interesting digression to wonder why, if the Prime Minister was so taken up with Locarno, he did not compare Dr. Adenauer with Dr. Stresemann—a very interesting little domestic political guessing competition. There is only one condition upon which a unified Germany can be permitted to re-emerge.
I thought the Prime Minister was singularly unjust in his strictures upon France. 1170 He is far too big a man and this is far too important a subject for him to turn aside to make a jest, even though it was a very witty jest, at the expense of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). The Prime Minister knows better than anyone in the House that if men, equipment and money alone could have solved the problem in Indo-China, then France would have solved it. He knows perfectly well that it is an unfair comparison to compare the French service with our period of two years' National Service, because he knows that there are two important differences. First, exemptions except for ill-health are almost unknown in the French service. Secondly, because of the drain in Indo-China France has not a cadre of officers or non-commissioned men to train more than she is calling up at the moment. At this time, when France needs all her friends, I thought it unfortunate that he should yield to that temptation.
We on this side of the House think that if there were a diplomatic instrument appropriate to a situation of this kind, the Geneva Protocol is better than the Locarno Pact. But neither of these devices has any real application because, however we dance round the problem, however we fail to be precise about it— and it is quite understandable that Governmental speakers could not be precise about it—we should fail because France is terrified of the conditions under which American troops would be withdrawn from Europe, Russia must remain uneasy as long as they remain there, and, of course, Germany will be quite certain that she can make a profitable occasion of either circumstance. One of my hon. Friends said they were profiteers in the cold war, they have been profiteers in occupation and they certainly have long experience in how to make a profit from such a situation.
No treaty, no convention, no diplomatic instrument is a substitute for a renewal in Europe of understanding between the four Great Powers, and that is why the House, almost without exception, has taken up the Prime Minister—with varying qualifications—to congratulate him and to assure him of their backing in this proposal for a four-Power meeting. Various problems interest us, and all of us have different ideas about what might be discussed, but basically in Europe at 1171 any rate, we come back to this meeting. Two points arise here. My right hon. Friend made it plain that in that kind of approach we do not argue for a second that the progress made under N.A.T.O. should be deserted before we have substantial concrete evidence in our hands.
I want, in this connection, to put two short points. I have never disguised the fact that I scarcely hoped that E.D.C. would ever be an effective defence instrument, and I still entertain doubts as to its ratification, but I have noted, as other hon. Members must have done, that France is once more moving up to the line. France will ask for some additional concessions to be made before her Prime Minister will ask the country to face ratification.
I imagine, from Press reports, that what France is likely to ask for is some further commitment from Her Majesty's Government. I do not want to be critical of their difficulties, but, from the point of view of this country, it would be a very grave step, and I therefore hope that, while I do not want to embarrass the Joint Under-Secretary, he will tell us that if there have been any conversations relating to Great Britain making any further gesture or taking any further part in relation to E.D.C. I am sure that he would agree that, if they have taken place, it is only proper that the House should know.
The second point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) on agreement on Germany if Western Germany was already a partner in E.D.C. My recollection is that when the Foreign Secretary, whose enforced absence we all regret, brought the Conventions to the House in the first instance, he said, it seemed to me quite beyond ambiguity, that no undertaking entered into by a part of the whole could override any subsequent decision which a united Germany may take. I think I am right in recalling that, but it will be very relpful if the hon. Gentleman could find time to reaffirm that point.
In passing, may I say that I notice on the tape tonight that there have been changes in the N.A.T.O. Command. I am sure there are reasons for them, and I would not want to read anything sinister into it, but I hope the hon. Gentleman will tell us if this is part of the normal Command arrangements and if Her 1172 Majesty's Government were consulted, or at any rate informed, because I do not want to put the Prime Minister in any difficulties about the Mediterranean Command again.
If I may come back to my main point, we all know that a four-Power agreement could not be taken overnight, and that there is no possible short cut. We are agreed that there should be a four-Power meeting, and we are agreed in varying degrees that the four-Power meeting should not build up exactly the hopes, and that there should be a privacy not usually attendant upon such meetings. I would hope that the heads of those States should meet to see if there are points upon which there is a likelihood of agreement.
The House has discussed various suggestions. One hon. Member referred to Trieste. At one time I would have thought it was the first problem upon which there might have been agreement. Now I have doubts. Many hon. Members have referred to the Austrian Treaty. I should have thought it better if the invitation had been held back until the possibility of a four-Power meeting had been decided upon or rejected. The Austrian Treaty may be a good test. There is another and very effective one, and that should be considered in privacy. There should be an attempt to recreate in Berlin a real, representative four-Government Berlin authority. The basis is there in the municipal authority. All that is needed is that the Soviet authority should agree to elections in Berlin. There are other tests, and I am anxious, as I am sure many other hon. Members are, that the tests should be made if possible in Germany.
What is plain is that these great men should at this moment be looking for little things upon which there exists, by their exchange of views, a possibility of agreement. As to the time to meet, the House is quite clear upon that. The meeting should be proposed immediately following the agreement for a Truce in Korea. The talks in Korea should not be extended or related to any other event. Many of my hon. Friends have made points with which I agree. The right hon. Gentleman opposite was, as far as a diplomat can be, forthcoming in his allusion to the points about the rights of China, once a truce has been achieved.
1173 Wider problems should not be permitted to intervene at this moment. The right hon. Gentleman raised an argument about two of the modalities that are outstanding in the truce talks, but I think he places too much stress upon them. It is idle to say that the Swiss could not easily find forces. It is true that they have no standing army, but they have long-standing arrangements for national service in three categories, one running up to the age of 45. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) said to me in conversation that the Swiss make a habit of volunteering. There will not be any difficulty. Surely the point is that it is right that we should be concerned about these men. The United Nations have achieved agreement upon the principles. When the guns are silent in Korea we can imagine the conditions and methods of modalities.
Armistice in Korea will hold all sorts of possibilities. People talk about the necessity for Britain to speak. We understand, but surely what we want at this stage is not British policy or the policy of the United States but a joint policy, based upon our Charter obligations. Surely we are all aware of that. We have had enough of declarations. I am inclined to argue that just as a meeting of four heads of States should be as private as possible, so we have arrived at that time when, if we are going to make the best use of this pause, we should be talking in hushed voices and in fairly precise terms. At any rate, we earnestly hope that the Government will use, as they have pledged, all the opportunities at their disposal and all the influence that they can wield to make the greatest use of this pause in international events.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)
As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) has said, this debate has been remarkable for the degree of unanimity on both sides of the House and for the number of most thoughtful speeches which have been made. I hope that he will not think it impertinent of me if I say that I thought his own speech, in particular in its references to the methods and means of 1174 holding a four-Power conference, was most helpful and most thoughtful.
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State has dealt in some detail with Korea, China and Egypt, I will not touch on these fields save to say one thing in reply to Egyptian passages in the speeches of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) and the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. J. Freeman). These two hon. Members said that the Prime Minister's speech had been unfair and unworthy, and indeed the hon. Member for Watford described it as outrageous in respect of Egypt. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Withing-ton (Sir R. Cary), and when I heard the hon. Member for Coventry, East speak I could not help recalling that another speech had been made yesterday in Cairo, a speech which threatened this country, of which, after all, the hon. Member for Coventry, East is a citizen, as the enemy of Egypt. What else, therefore, could any British Prime Minister say in face of such a threat to a country standing on its legal rights than what he said in his speech yesterday?
It is not the United Kingdom who have broken off negotiations. It is General Neguib, who, to quote his own phrase, has washed his hands of negotiations with us about the Canal Zone. Is it outrageous, unfair or unworthy for the Prime Minister to say, as he did, that we, for our part, would be willing to resume negotiations if the Egyptians were prepared to do so? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock adopted a very different, much more temperate, much more helpful and statesmanlike line. He shared the hope expressed by the Prime Minister in a most temperate and helpful fashion.
The hon. Member for Coventry, East said that had the Prime Minister said to the House that the Egyptian terms were unacceptable because we could not fulfil our obligations towards Israel he would have felt very differently about our making difficulties and finding those terms unacceptable. I do not know whether the hon. Member was present when the Minister of State spoke, but my right hon. and learned Friend made it quite plain that one of the Egyptian terms would have made it quite impossible for us to have fulfilled our obligations towards 1175 Israel, namely, the provision that Egypt should have the sole right to decide, or at least a right of veto, about the use to which our stores and installations in the Suez Canal Zone should be put.
In other words, if they were to be used in fulfilling and exercising our responsibilities towards Israel, then Egypt would have a veto upon the use of them. Therefore, I say that there must be agreement, that Her Majesty's Government must seek to reach agreement, about the future position of the base on the Canal.
§ Mr. Nutting
The hon. Member says, "Hear, hear" to me. Why was the Prime Minister's speech called outrageous?
§ Mr. Crossman
If the Prime Minister says that the terms on which he will agree are that all the technicians in the base are responsible to London, that violates Egyptian sovereignty. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The hon. Gentleman asked for an answer. It is as stupid and shortsighted as it was when we said that all the installations at Abadan had to be British. I say here and now that if we go on in that way we shall get out ignominiously instead of having a reasonable settlement.
§ Mr. Nutting
—the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that we could not fulfil our obligations to any country in the Middle East. It is for that reason that we have found these terms unacceptable. We cannot fulfil our obligations as defenders and the responsible Power in that area.
The whole of the hon. Gentleman's speech—whether he was dealing with the Egyptian situation, the African position, the position in South-East Asia, or what he termed our economic independence of the United States—added up to the fact that he advocates a total abandonment of our commitments.
§ Mr. Nutting
The hon. Member is entitled to that view. As the hon. Member 1176 for Cannock (Miss Lee) said, he is entitled to call it a cheap show-off that we should try to defend other people's integrity overseas.
§ Mr. Nutting
The hon. Member is entitled to that view, but hon. Members on this side of the House do not share it. As the Prime Minister has said— and I thought he carried the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) with him—we, just as much as the late Government, have responsibilities to discharge for the defence of the free world. Those responsibilities we must and intend to discharge.
The hon. Member for Coventry, East said that the Prime Minister's speech was in other respects very different from his speech at Fulton. He said that the Fulton speech advocated a cold war and rearmament in the West. I thought he did less than justice to the efforts of the propagandists for the Soviet Union in the Communist Party, and also less than justice to the efforts of the late Government to galvanise production by the people of this country in the rearmament effort which, as the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) and the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) said, helped in no small way to bring about what we hope will prove to be at least a lull in international tension. I think that this lull was in many ways directly due to that policy, courageously followed by our predecessors. The Fulton speech was the reply to those who had already started the cold war. Yesterday's speech by the Prime Minister was the response to what we hope is a new breeze blowing upon the world.
The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) and the hon. Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) raised a point which was subsequently followed by the 1177 right hon. Member for Greenock. They seemed to find some considerable inconsistencies between what the Prime Minister said about a conference among the leading Powers and what he said about our policy in Germany. The hon. Member for Devonport said:The Prime Minister could have made the statement that he made about Germany today six months ago….and that:Apparently nothing is to be altered in out attitude to Germany by the changes which have taken place in Russia in recent weeks.He went on to suggest that the Government intended to go into negotiations with the Russians about Europe and the future of Germany on the basis of saying:Now you must agree to free elections in East Germany, but we are going ahead with the proposal that the whole of that Germany, when it is united, shall still remain incorporated in the Western defence system."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 957–8.]He added that if this country were to take the lead in putting forward some propositions about negotiations on Germany we should recognise that some concessions would have to come from our side. Let me get it quite straight, because he invited me to state the Government's attitude.
I really do not think that the carefully chosen words of the Prime Minister can in any way be interpreted as prejudging the situation which must follow from the reunification of Germany. Neither we nor the other occupying Powers in Western Germany have signed our names to any document or to any treaty which in any way prejudges the situation. That was the situation as described by the Foreign Secretary last year in the ratification debate. That is, of course, still the situation. What the Prime Minister said was that we would assure Dr. Adenauer when he came to London that Western Germany will not in any way be sacrificed, or cease to be master of its own fortunes within the agreements we and the other N.A.T.O. countries have made with it: Western Germany, not reunited Germany; that is the whole point —not reunited Germany.
I would draw the attention of the House to the exchange of Notes between the Western Governments and the Soviet Government last year upon the subject. In this exchange of views the position of 1178 the two sides is both clearly defined and. I am sorry to say, equally clearly divided. Our position, the British position, is that we want to see free elections throughout Germany; free elections for an all-German Government, which should then take part as a free and equal participant in the negotiation of a peace treaty. That, I believe, is a genuine proposition to get a genuinely reunited Germany. The Russian position is pretty well exactly the reverse, that the four occupying Powers should discuss the German peace treaty before an all-German Government is set up.
It follows from what I have said about our position that, in our view, the all-German Government which results from those free elections should be free to decide its own international relationship. That is our position. All that we have done on the Western side is to leave the door open to the adherence of an all-German Government to the Western European community. That is not, after all, a very unnatural or unreasonable or unfair proposition for us to make. But, of course, the Soviets have not yet replied to our last Note. It is getting a little late. It is dated 23rd September, 1952. It would not be difficult, as the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) said yesterday, and it would cost them nothing, if they were to reply to that Note and to agree to have free all-German elections.
Of course, there is another side to all this talk. We are told that we must make concessions over German rearmament to get agreement with the Soviet Union. That suggestion has been constantly repeated during this debate. But what about the Soviet side? The Leader of the Opposition had some words to say about this. I would remind the House that there is in Western Germany today not one single German soldier under arms, and that even if the E.D.C. were ratified and brought into effect tomorrow it would still take a year before there were any trained German troops in that field.
But what of the Eastern Zone? This hardly presents a picture of disarmed pacifism. True, the East Germans now under arms are called the People's Police Force, but, to say the least, it is an odd type of police force. It numbers, in all. over 100,000 men, of whom 6,000 are 1179 in an air force, 4,000 in a naval force, and about 90,000 in land forces. The air force consists of a divisional headquarters with three subordinate fighter regiments each equipped with about 30 propeller driven training aircraft, and there is evidence to show that pilot training has been proceeding in recent months.
The land force—a police force, mark you—includes one Army corps of one armoured division and two infantry divisions numbering 40,000 men and 18 independent regiments. These forces are supplied with Russian equipment including guns, 600 tanks, mostly Soviet T34s, 250 self-propelled guns, including howitzers—for police forces—field and antitank guns, 150 armoured vehicles, 1,700 other guns including mortars and antiaircraft guns, and about 4,000 other vehicles.
All these weapons are Soviet types, some of which are now being manufactured in German factories in Eastern Germany. What is more, these formations are of such a type and of such a composition, with a very high contingent of officers and n.c.o.s, far larger than would be needed in an ordinary army, as to render the force capable of considerable expansion at fairly short notice.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Has the hon. Gentleman seen the report in the "Manchester Guardian" today that these forces are to be linked up with the Czechoslovak forces?
§ Mr. Nutting
There are, of course, various suggestions and reports to the effect that this force may be linked with others, but I would prefer not to comment on this particular suggestion at the moment.
I think that the picture I have presented shows that this force is of a fairly formidable size. I would add that the recruitment of this force began as long ago as July, 1948, when the first recruits were enlisted from among German prisoners of war in Russian hands. It can be hardly doubted that what has happened since, and the considerable military forces that have resulted, represents a long-term systematic plan for the raising of armed forces in Eastern Germany, which was put in hand two 1180 years before the West decided even in principle to agree on a West German armed contribution.
When we talk about concessions from our side, it is as well that we should keep a sense of balance by recalling what has been done by the other side, and when we are asked to make concessions in advance of a conference let us not forget that during the discussion at the Palais Rose two years ago the Russians and the East German Communists did not in any way retard the building up of this East German force.
It was, no doubt, because of these recollections that there has been general agreement on both sides of the House that while we all hope the apparent change in the Soviet attitude will lead to some settlement of outstanding issues, in the meantime we must go on with our defensive preparations under N.A.T.O. Apparently in this policy we carry with us the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) and the Opposition Front Bench.
The House will recall that a German armed contribution to the E.D.C. is an integral part of the N.A.T.O. arrangements. This has certainly been accepted by the present Government and firmly and forthrightly stated in the Washington Declaration of 1951 by our predecessors. I agree with the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) and the right hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) that there can be no greater folly at this moment than to abandon in advance of a conference any of the unity and strength which we have built up and are still building up in Western Europe.
We must, of course, test the Soviet attitude in every way open to us, both at a conference at the highest level and in negotiations on individual oustanding issues, such as the Austrian State Treaty. Whether this is a change in tactics or strategy we do not know, but whatever it may be it must be clearly put to the test. It is a novel doctrine in diplomatic negotiations and would, I believe, be fatal at the present time if we were to relax our efforts merely upon the basis of an untested and as yet unfulfilled hope.
These efforts and the unity and strength which they have achieved have been the product of many years of patient labour and statesmanship by all the Governments 1181 concerned, supported, and indeed, spurred on, by the peoples whom they represent.
Much of these efforts resulted from the genuine and compelling need of the European peoples to combine together for their economic recovery after six years of war and devastation and was only later followed by the urge for self-preservation in the face of the Soviet military threat.
It is sometimes said that the only thing which has saved and preserved Europe in the last few years has been the superiority of the United States in the possession of atomic weapons. To say the least, I think this is a considerable over-simplification. Nobody who has had anything to do with European politics in the last eight years could help being impressed by the way in which confidence has been revived in Western Europe by the development of new unities and ties between the countries of Western Europe. Military and atomic superiority has played its part, but it is not everything and cannot mean everything.
All the processes of European cooperation, both the wider and looser associations of N.A.T.O. and O.E.E.C., and, indeed, the closer knit co-operation of the Coal and Steel and Defence Communities, have, of course, been helped forward by American support and encouraged by the fact of American strength. But they have also in an essential degree resulted from a new resolution among the Powers of Western Europe to seek political and economic strength and stability through new forms of international co-operation. Surely no one would suggest that as the essential pre-condition of seeking, with those who have so far rejected co-operation, a new and maybe world-wide unity, we should jettison the unity which we have forged with those who for the last eight years have worked with us and not against us. This unity of the West, of the free world, has never been a threat to anyone. It has never been exclusive. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South truly said yesterday, it has all been within the ambit of the United Nations and in no way in conflict with the Charter. As such it must and will be preserved.
It is true, as some hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), pointed out yesterday, that 1182 the momentum of continental European unity has slowed down considerably over the last few months. There are hesitations in France about ratifying the E.D.C. Treaty. But I would not agree with the hon. Member that we have lost the European Defence Community for ever, or even that no progress can be made until after a conference among the great Powers has taken place. Neither do I agree with him that any solution can be devised for the problem of German rearmament which is a halfway house between E.D.C. and N.A.T.O. I sympathise with his aim, but after much study of the problem I cannot see how it can be fulfilled. Therefore, if the solution is not to be E.D.C, it must be N.A.T.O., and N.A.T.O. involves a German national army, and the French have opposed, and would oppose, that solution, and for that matter the Federal German Government said that they did not want it either.
Therefore, we come back to E.D.C. as the only answer to the problem. We see and understand, of course, the difficulties of France, difficulties which are complicated by Indo-China. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock asked me whether we were talking with the French about means of solving their problems. We are now engaged in conversations with France and the other E.D.C. members in a study of practical measures for bringing Britain into the closest political, as well as military, association with the Defence Community. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we already have very close association with the Coal and Steel Community. We hope that these arrangements might form a useful pattern for the kind of arrangements that we should like to see developing with the Defence Community together with association at all levels, parliamentary, executive, and ministerial.
When we add these proposals that we are making towards the European Defence Community to those which we have already made for military co-operation, which the Prime Minister outlined yesterday, and we add to this sum the guarantees that we have given to defend the integrity of the E.D.C. and of its members, I do not think that anyone can represent us as withholding from Western Europe any co-operation or support which it lies in our power to give.
1183 I realise that until the E.D.C. comes into being, all that we have proposed and said and declared, all the guarantees that we have given to it, are merely ideas and texts. But once the Community is functioning, Europe will have before it concrete and visible proof of our British partnership, a partnership which will be as close and endurable as anything snort of full membership could devise. That is our position, our special relationship to Europe, a position of comradeship and leadership which no other nation can fulfil. That is what links the European Community to the wider and broader associations of the Atlantic Community, N.A.T.O. In the shifting tides of international relationship, that is the rock upon which we in Britain seek to build a peace.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.