§ 2.40 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
I know full well that hon. Members in all parts of the House are looking forward to hearing the Foreign Secretary open the debate on foreign affairs, particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil), and I appreciate my privilege in that I was speaking at 10 o'clock last night when the debate was adjourned. I do not intend to detain the House very long, but, since I got no answer to a question which I put to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, I intend to pursue this matter, even with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in the short time at my disposal.
When I was interrupted, I was quoting from the speech of the Secretary of State for the Colonies in the debate on British Guiana, in which he said:before those territories gain complete independence—and some may never be in the position to do so—[HON. MEMBERS: 'Why?']."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd October, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 2165.]That is quite correct, and that was one of the few things in the right hon. Gentleman's speech in the British Guiana debate with which I agreed whole-heartedly. The late Sir Stafford Cripps long ago uttered the famous saying that there would be a liquidation of the Empire and now I think that Secretaries of State for the Colonies in both Labour and Conservative Governments have said in their 307 annual report that it is British colonial policy "to guide the Colonies to self-government."
Last night, I asked a question about the future of territories like Gambia, Malta and some in other parts of the world which we call grant-aided territories, and I posed the question whether it would be a good thing to give territories like Malta and Gambia full local autonomy while having their own representatives here in the British House of Commons. I asked if it would not be a good thing that African coloured members should sit on these benches on both sides of the House—not necessarily all of them would be Socialists. I think it would be a good thing to have them here, and I want to suggest that the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Government owe this House a statement upon their policy towards these grant-aided territories.
If the policy is that, for these Colonies which can never achieve a viable independence alone, nor yet in federal association with others, there will be no ultimate independence, let them say so. They should send out a Commission to these dependencies—issue a White Paper and submit to the logical conclusion in that they be given the privilege of sending members to the Imperial Parliament here. [Interruption.] I want to put a question to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I am a layman in foreign affairs. I had the privilege earlier this year of spending four weeks in all the Arab States, from the Lebanon right through Jordan, Syria and Kuwait to the Persian Gulf, and I want to say, speaking purely as a layman, that the situation there is very delicate, both in the Arab States and in Egypt.
In my view a settlement is in the interests of all concerned. Every interest, both over here and there, dictate a settlement, and only by reaching a settlement can a forward policy be adopted in the Middle East, based on co-operation of the peoples in the area, who badly need the friendly association of a progressive Britain, whose influence, if stemming from friendship, will be much greater than it is now. I feel that, from my slight acquaintance with Israel, it will remain a source of friction between Britain and the Arabs, 308 but I hope it will not succeed in destroying the results of constructive co-operation.
What is the alternative? It can only be the increasing use of force. The noble Peers, who wrote to "The Times," condemned the potential settlement, but they do not say what else should be done, and the Tory back benchers behind the Foreign Secretary seem to take a strong line and to imply the Egyptians would get tired of "cutting off their nose to spite their face" to quote their words. To anyone who has had the opportunity to discuss the situation with the Arab people, this merely shows ignorance of the problem. A strong line would produce instability to a degree which Tory back benchers can hardly imagine. It would not be possible for any Government to arrest for long the nationalist trend, however dangerous that was to the well-being of the country. I put this question to the Secretary of State. If it is only a matter of uniforms which stands between us and a settlement, I think it is almost lunatic, in fact, criminal, to hold up a settlement.
Finally, in the interests of the nations and of the world, I suggest that we should apply a policy of goodwill that would not promise immediate benefits and support from Egypt, because the facts are so acrimonious and this atmosphere cannot disappear overnight. The truth is, I am sure, that whatever the difficulties, a settlement can be reached on the basis of general and friendly relationships and a growing association, instead of as at present a declining one.
§ 2.47 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)
Those passages in the Gracious Speech which deal with the foreign scene show, I think quite clearly, the complexity of our international affairs today. In returning to the Foreign Office after six months of enforced absence, I have tried to make a dispassionate survey of this world scene. I have tried to stand back for a moment—because, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) knows, there is so little opportunity for doing so—from the plethora of daily problems and have tried to assess the realities.
There are gains and losses to be registered for peace. The armistice in Korea, despite its uncertain aftermath, is a 309 notable gain, and, as against this, I have been concerned since my return by the multiplicity of problems, many of them actively dangerous and all of them potentially so, that mark the international scene. It is a good rule when times are bad and counsel confused to try to fix our thoughts on the very real elements of stability and assurance in our position, and it is well to remember the basic supports on which our foreign policy rests.
We have our Commonwealth family, still the most remarkable example of true international co-operation in the world. We have the alliance of free peoples in the West. We have the North Atlantic Treaty, with which the late Mr. Bevin's name will always be linked, which provides us with a working alliance in world affairs, as well as a powerful system of joint defence.
Our first duty is to strengthen and develop that alliance, to keep it fresh and vigorous in the minds of our people, and to guard it against all the efforts of disruption and disunity which will be directed against it, for if we fail to do this, we should, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said so well on 11th May, paralyse every beneficial tendency towards peace, both in Europe and in Asia. That is accepted.
We then have two categories of problems which dominate all our discussions. The first is the struggle and the sacrifice—because it is a sacrifice—by which the free world seeks to secure and fortify its freedom. That is the major issue, covering the North Atlantic Treaty and all that goes with it. There are also the divisions among the free nations, and territorial disputes, clashes of national feeling and racial and religious conflicts. I shall have something to say about these in a moment. I want to deal first with the main issue, the relations between East and West, and I will begin with the Far East, because it is there that the accumulated tensions between East and West, Communist and non-Communist, first struck a live spark, and it is still, in my judgment, the most dangerous of all the spheres with which we have to deal.
Few would have dared to be certain, when the Korean war was at its height, that the flames could be contained within the boundaries of that small but afflicted 310 country. Many feared that they must spread beyond those limits, perhaps even beyond the limits of the Far East itself; but in fact they were contained in Korea. That was a notable achievement. Let us not forget how it was made possible. The countries bearing arms for the United Nations were willing to exercise an unprecedented restraint. While enduring a grievous conflict, they were willing to limit the use they made of their air power and of their command of modern weapons. Let it be inscribed to the enduring credit of the United States in particular that, despite the casualties they were suffering and the immense effort they were putting forward in this cause, they were prepared to exercise this self-control.
The Korean war was contained within Korea. Finally it was brought to an end. It is now three months since the fighting stopped. That is something achieved for the peace of the world. It is a solid gain. Now we have three tasks before us. We have to maintain the Armistice; we have to settle the question of the prisoners of war; and we have to bring about a political conference. The first of these is the immediate essential. We must not allow hostilities to begin again. I know that the United States Government are determined to do all that is in their power to prevent it and we, too, are constantly at work in many capitals to do all we can to consolidate what has been gained.
The other tasks seem indeed laborious. The way is full of pitfulls and disappointments. Some of these are familiar, but they are near kin to those we had to surmount before we got an armistice at all. In all this stubborn disputation there are certain principles to which we must hold. We believe that each prisoner should have a free choice whether to go home or not, and we do not think that pressure should be put upon prisoners or that they should be forcibly compelled to attend interviews if they do not want to do so. We also hold that they should not remain indefinitely in detention. This view, we maintain, is supported by the terms of reference of the Neutral Commission.
As to the political conference, the emissaries of the United Nations and of the Communists have been discussing this in Panmunjom in recent days and they have run into familiar obstacles and 311 difficulties. Mr. Dean, who is the spokesman of the United Nations side, is showing an admirable combination of patience and firmness. We trust that this will bear fruit. We and our Allies are working very hard to bring about this conference, because we know that if once we can achieve a Korean settlement then we can move on to the wider relaxation of tension in the Far East—and what a relief this would be to us all.
It is our policy—I declare it again on behalf of Her Majesty's Government from this Box—to work for peaceful relations with China. Just as we did not hesitate to take our part in the decision of our predecessors to resist Chinese aggression in Korea, so we should be the first to welcome a reversal of Chinese policy. It must surely be in China's own interest to keep open the lines of contact with the Western world. We should be ready to help her to do so, but this of course assumes that the policy of Chinese aggression against a neighbour is for all time abandoned.
Within the last few days France has made a Treaty of friendship with the Associated State of Laos. We welcome this, and we hope that there will be similar treaties with Viet-nam and Cambodia. This would help the French Government towards their objective, which is to secure a settlement of the Indo-China war while safeguarding the liberties of the Associated States within the French Union. Meanwhile, the French have done much to strengthen the military position. The flower of their youth has been gallantly engaged. Locally recruited armies are being rapidly expanded and substantial reinforcements are on their way, or have arrived, from Europe, North Africa and Korea. Whether successful negotiation is possible, as we all hope, or whether fighting is to continue, we in this country understand full well the burden which our French friends have to carry and how much depends upon the outcome.
For the Far East is the theatre which causes us all most immediate concern today; but the essential question remains and only the Soviet Government can answer it: Can there be easier relations between East and West? There, in the hidden fastnesses of Russia, plans and policies are being framed, fears nourished 312 and hopes formulated at which we can only guess, and in those mysteries lies no doubt a large part of the answer to the success or failure of our efforts for peace.
What do we know of Soviet intentions? We know that under Stalin the Soviet effort was largely concentrated on preparedness for war. They were ever ready to exploit weaknesses in the non-Soviet world, and to undermine, penetrate and overthrow any weaker brethren. We learned that our policy of unity and strength among the Western nations provided an increasingly effective barrier against these methods. It has been a successful policy. It has held the dykes in Europe, and it has kept the peace. Now, has the position changed? If so, how has it changed? That is what we have to consider and what I hope this debate will examine.
Perhaps the new rulers of Russia have realised that Stalin drove the Soviet people too hard. Perhaps they believe that higher standards of living will give better results in production. We know that there is a new programme for the development of agriculture and for the production of more consumer goods. This is a promise of better conditions for the Soviet people, and we hope that it will be fulfilled.
Then, again, there has been some relaxation of tension in the free world. I will give the House a small example. When our then ambassador, Sir Alvary Gascoigne, returned to Moscow in April of this year, just before I fell ill, I asked him to take up with Mr. Molotov seven questions affecting Anglo-Soviet relations. Most of them had been outstanding for many years. They were not matters of the greatest international importance, but I thought it would be a good beginning to our relations with this new régime if they could be cleared out of the way. Five out of the seven have now in fact been resolved. I admit that all this could be classed under my right hon. Friend's admirable heading of leaving off doing the things to us which we have not been doing to them, but still it is encouraging so far as it goes.
Against it, it is hard to find any sign that the Soviet Government have modified their fundamental hostility to the Western nations. Their propaganda continues just as before. There was a meeting in Vienna recently, as hon. Gentlemen 313 know, of the World Federation of Trade Unions, and it was made clear there that the Communist offensive against the democratic Powers is to be intensified. It is to be carried out through strikes, through the fomenting of anti-American feeling and the exploitation of colonial unrest.
Nor is it encouraging to see what is happening behind the Iron Curtain. The policy of lighter control in Eastern Germany, of which there was some evidence after the death of Stalin, has been abandoned, and we now see a new period of oppression. In Poland the Communist régime has arrested the Cardinal Primate and sentenced a bishop to imprisonment on the customary charges of treason and espionage. Successive Governments of this country have expressed their abhorrence of the persecution of religion and the denial of human rights anywhere in the world, and I hope the Polish Government are in no doubt about the attitude of Her Majesty's Government and of public opinion in this country upon these matters.
What, in the face of this summary—a fair summary as I think it is—have we to do? We shall, of course, continue to hope for and to watch for a change of heart and for any opportunity to relax the tension. Meanwhile, we have to persevere with our defensive arrangements upon which our very life depends. It is in that spirit that I invite the House to approach the slightly more controversial question, not only between parties but also perhaps within parties, of a German contribution to Western defence.
It is stated in the Gracious Speech that Her Majesty's Government hope to see the early ratification and establishment of the European Defence Community and will accord it all possible support. I do not propose to repeat today all the pledges we have given to support the E.D.C. nor the pledges given by our predecessors. They are familiar to the House. The proof of our intention will lie in the practical working relationship we shall have with the Community when it is in operation. The six countries will find that our partnership is as close as anything we can devise short of actual membership. We shall hope to found a lasting association based on our allegiance to N.A.T.O. and a common outlook in technical fields such as training, 314 tactical doctrine, staff methods and the standardisation of weapons.
On the political plane there will be constant day-to-day problems to settle. There will be important questions of policy to discuss between E.D.C. when it is set up and ourselves. For these purposes new machinery will be necessary to supplement our relations as they exist today with those countries separately and with N.A.T.O. We have made suggestions about this machinery and these have been welcomed by the members of the E.D.C. We are now discussing in Paris exactly how they can best be put into effect. When all these matters are finally in order, we intend to give the House the fullest account of them.
I do not claim that this policy is anything new. It is a continuation of the policy followed by the previous Government when they were in power and which culminated during their term of office in the Washington Declaration of September, 1951. It is certainly in harmony with that crystal-clear phrase of Mr. Bevin's:… if Western Germany is to be defended, it seems to us only fair and reasonable that the people of Western Germany should help in their own defence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1950; Vol. 481, c. 1172.]We have many times made it clear, as our predecessors did, that we support the conception of the E.D.C. Nor, I think, is there very much dispute that it is through the E.D.C. with its many safeguards and its collective machinery that Germany can most acceptably contribute to the defence of Europe. But in my thought there has always been much more to it than this question of defence, important as it is. With E.D.C. within the N.A.T.O. framework as it would be, Germany, through that organisation, would be taking part with us in many discussions and deliberations concerning the future of the free Western world. Would not this be a very good thing?
§ Mr. Eden
Yes, but I assume the hon. Gentleman does not want it to happen a third time. I think the House has to face up to this issue firmly. Would not it be a good thing to try to draw Germany into these discussions and encourage her to take part in them? What is the alternative? It is to see Germany a 315 vacuum, in the centre of Europe with a national army, and perhaps giving herself to the highest bidder.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I know the right hon. Gentleman has been away, and so I make all allowances; but has he read the latest books and memoranda sent to President Eisenhower by prominent Americans calling his attention to the very serious situation which has arisen in Germany, and that the leading Nazis and industrialists responsible for bringing Hitler to power are wielding great influence behind the scenes again in Germany?
§ Mr. Eden
But I ask the hon. Gentleman to face the alternative. Is it not better that Germany should join with us, and with the five other Western European nations, in arrangements, extremely technical and elaborate, for the control of arms production, for the joint military effort, rather than that we should say, "Because we fear you will be once again as you were in Hitler's time we do not want you. Therefore, will you please stay away out there without any contact with the West"? Does anybody in this House believe Germany will remain indefinitely unarmed, whatever decision we take? If we do not believe that, should we not face up to it instead of making all the mistakes we made between the two wars?
Let me conclude my argument, for this is a matter on which I have the strongest personal feelings. I am sure the alternative is there. Either you must work to draw Germany in, with all the safeguards which Germany herself has accepted, or else you must say, "No, we do not want Germany, we know what happened in 1914 and 1939." Of course, we do not forget what happened in 1914 and 1939. None of us in this House can forget it. But it does not exclude our responsibility to try and build a Western family of nations and to bring Germany into that family.
§ Mr. M. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
To make his premise good in regard to what he has just been saying, the right 316 hon. Gentleman must establish that there is a definite menace from Russia.
§ Mr. Eden
I think that is a consideration one must certainly examine, but I do not accept that there should be a menace from Russia for this to be a good plan to be put through. I do not think the plan is perfect. I was not even in the Government when the E.D.C. came into being. I think the scheme has many faults and failings and shortcomings, but it is the only scheme I have been able to see which brings Germany into this collaboration with the safeguards which she herself accepts.
To look at it, as one must, from the Soviet angle, I see the argument, "How does Russia regard it?" Well, how should Russia regard it? How is Germany more dangerous to her when drawn into E.D.C. where her arms are limited by agreement, and where her arms production is limited by agreement, and where she is bound to it with all of us? Is Germany less dangerous there to Russia, or less dangerous entirely through having an independent national army which she could use as she wished to fulfil any ambitions she had in mind? I do not see how opposition can be raised for a moment with regard to that.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
I agree that this is most important, but surely is there not a third alternative, which may be remote but which ought to be considered—if, instead of having a German Army in either of these camps, there were to be a European federal army? I should like to hear the right hon. Gentleman discuss that possibility, which is being greatly discussed in Europe.
§ Mr. Eden
As was once said, La politique c'est l'art du possible. Politics is the art of the possible. It may be a very agreeable thought to have a federal army, but when I took over the Foreign Office that was not the proposition with which I was faced. The proposition with which I was faced was, is it a good plan to try and proceed with the E.D.C., or should we turn our backs on it and give up plans for joint collaboration? There is no other scheme anywhere in the world. That is why I want the House to endorse the proposals I had been making.
§ Mr. Alfred Robens (Blyth)
I think I am following this quite clearly, but is the right hon. Gentleman just assuming now that there is no possibility of agreement on the reunification of Germany?
§ Mr. Eden
No, Sir, I do not think so, and if there is no possibility at the moment of discussing the reunification of Germany that is really not our fault. I mean, there was the Note offering discussions, as the right hon. Gentleman will agree, on the fairest terms and without any pre-conditions, which has been absolutly turned down.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Is it not a fact that the insistence on this proposal of arming, not Germany but Western Germany, and integrating that, somehow or other, into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is, at this very moment, the principal obstacle to discussions about the possible reunification of Germany?
§ Mr. Eden
I was coming to that. If the hon. Gentleman has studied the Note, he will find there are pre-conditions not only in respect of E.D.C. but also in respect of the bases which are the whole organisation and life of N.A.T.O. We are told that in order to go into these discussions we have to accept all these conditions, which would destroy all our defensive arrangements. I agree with the hon. Gentleman to this extent. I think it would have been a very good thing if this discussion, which I think we are bound to have this afternoon, could also have taken place at Lugano. That is what we wanted, and what we asked for, and why, when we put forward this last Note, we wiped out all pre-conditions whatsoever. I am very sorry the discussion is not going to take place. I do not suppose it would have been as informative as the one we shall have here, but it would have given the opportunity to raise just the kind of topics which are at present in our minds.
The Soviet Government's reply has laid down, as the hon. Gentleman has said, a large range of what are, to us, extensive and unacceptable conditions. If we accepted those conditions they would undermine our security and make it impossible for Germany to regain her unity in freedom. But despite this setback, and despite this Note, we, for our part—and I want to make this clear to the House—remain prepared to discuss 318 Germany and Austria with the Soviet Government, at any time and at any place, and without any prior conditions at all.
I now turn to another sphere of our endeavours, the Middle East, where we have to face a heavy concentration of intractable problems. As the House knows, tension on the Israeli-Jordan frontier rose to a dangerous pitch as a result of the Israeli attack on the Arab village of Qibya, and two neighbouring villages, on the night of 14th October. I am not going to recite the facts; they have been reported by General Bennike, Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation. We are deeply concerned over this matter, not only because of our general interest in peace, but for two special reasons; because we are parties to the Tripartite Declaration of 1950 and, on account of our Treaty of Alliance with Jordan.
We considered this dangerous situation at the London meeting, when Mr. Dulles and M. Bidault were here. As a result, we decided to instruct our delegates to ask the President of the Security Council to call an urgent meeting to consider the tension between Israel and the neighbouring Arab States, with particular reference to recent acts of violence. This matter is, today I think, under discussion at the United Nations, and to this extent it is, in a sense, sub judice. I will, therefore, make only two comments on it.
First, I think the whole House will join in deploring the events at Qibya, in what General Bennike has described as "a night of horror." It must be clear to everyone that an outrage of this kind can only obstruct the chances of peace, which Israel assures us she is so anxious to obtain. Of course, we know that this problem has a background of infiltration across the Israel-Jordan Border. This is the real difficulty. It is created in part by the nature of the frontier, which is not a frontier at all but merely an armistice line over 300 miles long, frequently dividing a house from its garden or villagers from their own land. Some infiltrators have quite innocent purposes, but others are taking part in armed robberies, and most of them have a background of bitterness and destitution. This problem will never be really solved until a solution has been found to the Arab-Israel dispute and until the Palestine refugees are settled.
319 I ought, in fairness, to add this. I do not believe that the Jordan Government connive at or encourage this infiltration. On the contrary, I think they have taken energetic measures to stop it. I have checked these figures of recent cases since 1952, where arrests have been made for infiltration; 3,524 have been convicted and 621 acquitted. Therefore, my hope is that whatever else the United Nations decide in the next day or two, the Truce Supervision Organisation must be strengthened, because if a policy of reprisals is to be allowed to continue, we shall never be able to get any peace negotiations going at all.
I have nothing to say about Persia since the statement which I made last week. This has received a favourable public response from the Persian Government, and contacts are proceeding between us.
As regards Egypt, I told the House on 20th October that I hoped to make a statement within the next few days. My expectation at that time was that an agreement might shortly be reached with the Egyptian Government on the remaining outstanding points. In fact, this has not yet happened. Negotiations are still in being, but they are in a state of what I might perhaps call suspended animation. We have made our position plain and our offers are open. A satisfactory agreement is still possible, but in the meantime we are content to wait.
Now I must say something about the Sudan, where elections to the first all-Sudanese Parliament have just begun These elections are being supervised by an international commission, set up by agreement between us and the Egyptian Government, to ensure their impartiality The commission has been working with skill and restraint in difficult circumstances under its Indian chairman. But besides setting up this international commission, the agreement pledged the two Governments to enable the Sudanese to elect their Parliament and to determine their future in "a free and neutral atmosphere."
We are certainly not satisfied with the way in which the Egyptian Government have so far carried out that pledge. The Government-controlled Press and radio of Egypt, and a variety of other means, shall we call them, have been used with 320 full force to influence the decision of the Sudanese people in favour of the party which advocates a link with Egypt. Last August a member of the Egyptian Government, the Minister of Propaganda and Sudan Affairs, visited the Sudan with the intention, if the Government-controlled Press of Egypt is to be believed, of persuading the Sudanese political parties to share out the seats instead of contesting the elections. Well, he did not succeed, but it was just this same Minister who, a few days ago, publicly accused the British officials in the Sudan Administration of intervening in the elections. Obviously, any evidence that an official has acted improperly ought to be put to the international commission. Wide, unsupported accusations against British officials made to the Press can only be intended for propaganda purposes.
These persistent efforts to arouse prejudice and hostility against the British can only have one purpose, to confuse the real issue. They are designed to obscure the fact that the choice is not between subjection to Britain and subjection to Egypt, but between complete independence and dependence upon Egypt. Our purpose was and is to ensure that the Sudanese shall be able to choose fairly and freely between these alternatives, and in doing that we seek nothing whatever for ourselves. We are not going to make the Commission's task more difficult by following the Egyptian example, but we cannot let it appear by our silence that we condone this kind of behaviour.
The House will remember that we refused to make any agreement with Egypt which did not permit the Sudanese people freely to determine their future. It is now for the Sudanese to take the first step towards that goal, and I am sure that all sections of the House will join with me in assuring the Sudanese that we will give our support to their freely elected representatives in achieving what is promised to them under the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement which we have signed.
I think this would also be a suitable occasion on which to express our confidence in the Administration in the Sudan. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] They have worked long and hard for the well-being and progress of the Sudanese 321 peoples. They have a vital and in many ways more difficult rôle now in trying to ensure that the transfer of power goes as smoothly as possible. We know that they will bring to this task the devotion and public spirit for which they have won renown in the past.
Let me sum up. I have now completed this survey of the international scene. The House will see that despite disappointments our broad purpose remains unchanged. If others choose to slam their doors and barricade them ours will remain open. Talks at any level remain our objective for our work is a work for peace which we shall not abandon.
§ 3.27 p.m.
Mr. Hector McNeil (Greenock)
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary will not think me presumptuous if I say that the House is greatly indebted to him for his extensive survey and, of course, for his courtesy in giving way to hon. Members on several important points.
Before I attempt to discuss his main theme, perhaps I might be permitted, on behalf of the Opposition, to say that we associate ourselves with two points that he made. First of all, the House will readily understand that we are anxious to give the Government all support in any protest that they may think appropriate to make to the Polish Government about the treatment of the Cardinal Primate and bishop. I know that I am reflecting the right hon. Gentleman's frame of mind when I say that we are just as anxious about the very humble people in that or in any other church who are inevitably persecuted in such a campaign.
Secondly, we should like to associate ourselves with the very carefully chosen language the right hon. Gentleman has used in addressing himself to the difficulties of the elections in the Sudan. It is never very much consolation to remember what one said or feared, but I think the Prime Minister at one time thought that I was perhaps a little too sensitive on this question of the Sudanese elections. At any rate, there is no merit in resurrecting that discussion. On behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition, let me say that we are completely at one with the Government in trying to ensure that conditions will be maintained in which the Sudanese people freely choose their own House 322 and subsequently freely choose their own type of political government. It is the independence, the right to choose, the freedom to create an instrument by which such a choice is made, which unites all parties in this House upon that subject.
I may say, almost as an aside, that it is most proper that we should be exceedingly circumspect in referring to the incidents on the Jordan-Israeli frontier. I do not want to subtract from anything that the right hon. Gentleman said. I would, however, like to add—and he made it quite plain that he does not disagree with this—that no attempt to understand or improve this unhappy situation will make any progress unless there is a sustained, extensive and systematic attempt to deal with these refugees.
The House have more than once addressed themselves to this subject. In such an unhappy situation there are no very accurate figures, but it is quite certain that not far short of half a million people are congregated upon that frontier, many of them, as the right hon. Gentleman said, separated by an arbitrary line from their homes, their animals, and their cultivations. In such a circumstance, parties are inevitably bound to cross the border and, equally inevitably, the peoples of Israel will band themselves together and sally forth in an attempt to deter or, perhaps, revenge.
No one looking at this situation can fail to be reminded of the dreadful but comparable situation that existed around many of the great camps housing displaced people in Germany and Italy at the end of the war, and the poverty of the people on one side of the line caused by the removal of their normal employment. Her Majesty's Opposition will be most anxious to support the right hon. Gentleman in any attempts to strengthen the supervising organisation on the border. But that is an ambulance measure.
The only positive approach—the only hope of stable progress—rests upon the resettlement of these people, and it ought to be said that this cannot be done by the Western Powers alone. It is idle dreaming to think of picking up these people and hurling them across half a continent. Any resettlement must be in the neighbouring countries, and conditions must be discovered in which the 323 co-operation of other countries—sensitive and hurt, and not able to forget the end of the war—can be secured.
I am not sure that I shall be able to agree with the right hon. Gentleman quite so fully upon the other subjects to which he refers; indeed, I shall not be misunderstood if I say that we wish that he had found more time to deal with the Soviet Note, and perhaps been more precise in telling us about E.D.C. Perhaps his hon. Friend, the Joint Under-Secretary, who was so courteous to us last week—and I am glad to have this opportunity of saying so—will deal more fully with the subjects, but I hope that he will not be tempted to be as discreetly ambiguous as he was last week on the subject of Trieste. Ambiguity is one of the more tempting weapons of the armoury of diplomacy. [An HON. MEMBER: "Did you never use it?"] I must confess that in my very limited experience I have fallen too often for its use. It is a weapon of very uncertain performance, as the hon. Gentleman must have noticed from the news from Trieste this morning.
Perhaps the Joint Under-Secretary can be a little more precise about what is meant by the curious phrase, "all possible support for E.D.C." The right hon. Gentleman did not take us much further forward. He seemed to say—although I am sure I am not quoting him exactly—"all support short of actual membership." Well, it is a nice phrase, but not a very illuminating one, and it would have been more interesting if we could have been told what the Prime Minister meant when, speaking at Margate, he seemed to me to threaten the French that if they did not ratify E.D.C. he would have to find other methods of evolving a German commitment.
Where I depart from the right hon. Gentleman is in the assumption that the attitude in Western Europe indicates a fiercer Soviet situation than when we last had a broad debate on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman referred particularly to Eastern Germany, and said that conditions there have tightened up. That statement could be quite easily interpreted in two ways. He may mean that the Soviet meant to make experiments, though it is also true that they did not find the climate as politically attractive to them as they had hoped.
324 The same is true of this unhappy re-emergency of persecution in Poland. The most significant thing that has happened since we last had a full-dress debate in this House is Mr. Malenkov's speech. When I last spoke I drew attention to the fact that in the photograph in "Pravda" in connection with the October celebrations, while every other member of the Soviet Cabinet had one child, Malenkov seemed to have three. He has continued to develop this presentation of himself and, in his recent most informative speech, which merits rereading and re-reading, he seemed to make it plain that he was telling his babies and children that they must expect that Soviet pressure would enjoy a period in which they would consolidate their position and digest their not inconsiderable acquisitions, and would not be sallying out, but would wait for people to come to them.
I do not think that that is an unfair estimate of the climate in Western Europe just now, and it is just that climate which is creating some part of our difficulties, together with the information that Soviet Russia has the hydrogen bomb. It may be that the Prime Minister is right in his speculations. The Foreign Secretary just now pointed to Korea as an example of the pattern that we might expect if, unhappily, hostilities did develop. He pointed, too—I forget his exact words—to the remarkable restraint which was displayed in Korea, and I thought that he might easily have paid tribute to the part that my right hon. Friend played in furthering that remarkable restraint.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. The last time we debated this in the House the Prime Minister did not lay it to our credit. However, it is true that my right hon. Friend played a quite decisive part there. Much more important, we should reflect on the lessons to which this restraint in Korea leads us.
These facts—let me be quite frank—make the Government's part in furthering the effective defence of Western Europe certainly not easier. Indeed, when yesterday I sat as a spectator at the ceremony 325 of the unveiling of the memorial to Ernest Bevin, about whom the right hon. Gentleman was so gracious, I thought Ernest Bevin might have been quite disturbed at the apparent loss of momentum which N.A.T.O. is presently displaying. There are, of course, several reasons for this loss of momentum. Three of them I have tried to allude to. There is another, of course, I should think, and that is that the Government are, perhaps, straining too much to understand Germany's difficulties and not enough to understand France's difficulties at this moment.
There are two parts of the resolution which my party passed at the Margate conference and which I want to quote because they are very important to this debate and very important in terms of the developing attitude of this party on the subject. The Margate conference passed almost unanimously a resolution which sets forth our position rather more precisely than conferences usually do, and much more so than the Conservatives' did for the Government. It said two things. It said:Conference maintains its full support for N.A.T.O. as a limited system of collective security in which all members have equal rights and duties and collective policy is decided by common consent.It went on:Conference supports N.A.T.O. not only for the purpose of collective security but also because it provides a framework for close co-operation with the United States of America, which is essential to Britain and the Commonwealth.That comes very aptly because, of course, that is conference's way of saying precisely what the right hon. Gentleman said at the beginning of this debate when he tried to set out what were the essential pillars of our defence, the Commonwealth, the European arrangements, and NATO.
But the conference went on to say something of great importance. It said:Conference expresses its concern at the resurgence of German reactionary nationalism. It reaffirms its aim of a reunified democratic Germany which can only be established by free elections throughout Germany on the basis of a Four-Power agreement, and deplores the Government's mishandling of approaches to the U.S.S.R. for that object. Conference deplores the refusal of the Soviet Union"—this has a strange application in this very day—hitherto to permit free elections in Eastern Germany and its obstruction of the Austrian 326 Treaty, and urges the Government to seek by negotiation the following objectives; the conclusion of the Austrian State Treaty; German reunification through the creation of a single German Government on the basis of free elections throughout Germany; a German peace treaty concluded with the freely elected German Government and providing effective guarantees for Germany's territorial integrity and independence and against any forcible attempt by Germany at territorial revision. Conference urges that there should be no German rearmament before further efforts have been made to secure the peaceful reunification of Germany.It would be obviously as unjust as it would be inaccurate for us to argue that the Government have not made attempts repeatedly to seek a meeting with Russia to deal with precisely this problem to which the conference resolution draws our attention. However, the right hon. Gentleman said quite accurately and quite fairly that the Soviet replies had always been conditional, been qualified. It is almost equally true that the approaches of the Allies have been conditional and have been qualified. In case any of my hon. Friends misunderstand me, let me say for my part that I think the qualifications have almost all been reasonable ones.
The essence of our difficulty is, I rather think, that in any approach to the German problem, Germany's reunification and the ending of occupation, Soviet Russia is always in a much better strategical position than we are; but we are always in a much better political position that it is. We may expect the support which has been demonstrated in West Germany and which has probably been demonstrated in East Germany because of the repressive measures the Soviets have been forced to take. Soviet Russia can move its forces to the Eastern boundaries of a re-unified Germany without exposing itself strategically at all. So in all these approaches qualifications have been made from our side, and surely the question which we want to ask ourselves is, do we want a four-Power meeting, or do we want a four-Power meeting only on the terms acceptable to us?
This resolution, which represents the views of the Opposition, acknowledges the importance of N.A.T.O., acknowledges the essentiality of this relationship between Britain, Western Europe, the Commonwealth and the United States. 327 acknowledges that we cannot forever postpone the question of German arms and the trimmings of German sovereignty; but it pleads once more that a meeting should be sought; and, of course, the conference was thinking of the meeting of the Heads of States, which the Prime Minister so excited us about—and the world. It was sad yesterday to hear the Prime Minister say that the vision was a little dim. I think I am not being unfair to the Prime Minister in saying that; I think he indicated that he did not entertain the hopes which he previously had about a Heads of States meeting. It was noticeable that the right hon. Gentleman, who is always sensitive about these points, did not mention it in his speech today.
§ Mr. Eden
At the end, I made it plain that we maintained our position: that we would work for a four-Power meeting at any level. The only reason I did not go into any detail was this; I am sure the right hon. Gentleman understands that, having received this Russian answer, we ought to give it a little consideration before I go into detail as to how we are to handle it. I apologise for the intervention, but these are very important matters. I do not want to debate the Margate resolution now, but it was brought into the world before our last Note to Russia. I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman looks at our last Note—obviously he has it in mind—it will be absolutely clear to him that there are no conditions at all but a suggestion for a general discussion about Germany.
The right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the Lugano meeting proposed only the substance, but I think it is unwise to take the Note except in its context of the previous Soviet reply. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman said that Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to work for any type of meeting at any level. It is very fair that they should have time to consider how this latest Soviet reply is to be handled, but I think it is probably a little fanciful to say that Her Majesty's Government are prepared to work now for a meeting at any level because I suggest that the first impediments to such a meeting will have to be removed in Washington and not in Moscow. I am going to press the right hon. Gentleman, because 328 we have had statements from both the distinguished President of the United States and from the Secretary of State for the United States which, at any rate, could not be said to be warm approvals of the idea of a Heads of States meeting. We greatly hope that Her Majesty's Government will think again upon this subject and be guided by us, because on this subject we undoubtedly express the hopes and the anxieties, the quite understandable hopes and anxieties, of the mass of the people of this country, and, I believe, of Western Europe at this moment.
I shall not attempt to deal with Korea. I am tempted to say a little about it, but I am conscious that I am speaking rather too long, and at any rate my right hon. and learned Friend will be dealing with the subject later. But perhaps I might be permitted to say a very little indeed about the Egyptian negotiations. It would be unusual, and I am sure it would be unwise, if I attempted to press the right hon. Gentleman for details about the course of these negotiations.
I have not shared the optimism of all my hon. Friends about the benefits which could be expected from the revision of the Treaty, and I notice that there are hon. Members opposite who, in the same way, do not share the Foreign Secretary's optimism, but this will be common ground: unless the revision of the Treaty makes for greater stability in the area of the Middle East, then the efforts of this Government, and presumably the efforts of both Governments, will have been misdirected, and it is arising from that fact that I want to put three very general points to the right hon. Gentleman and to invite the Joint Under-Secretary of State, when he concludes the debate, to tell us a little about the Government's attitude in this respect.
First of all, it seems very plain to me, and plain to many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, that if we are to try to ensure that any revision of the Treaty will make for greater stability, then the revision should, in some fashion attractive to the Government, be allied to a reaffirmation of the Tripartite Agreement. If there is no re-affirmation upon this point, then there will be elements in the Middle East who will interpret such an admission as a green light to go ahead in this sad, uneasy and distressing area.
If, as a result of any revision, it should prove to be—and this would not seem 329 to be unreasonable—that the Egyptian Government were going to be supplied with arms, with training technicians, with the manpower and means to maintain the base at a certain level and to maintain its defences, we on this side of the House would want an assurance that the Egyptian Government would understand that these arms must not in any circumstances be used for aggressive action against any of her neighbours in the Middle East. I am sure we are not being unreasonable towards the Government on this point.
Thirdly, if the negotiations are going to proceed to their anticipated end, we hope that the Government will take this opportunity of correcting the position in relation to the use of the Suez Canal. It has been much quieter; there have been very few incidents. But still, in my view, illegally and improperly, the Egyptian Government have used their position to impede lawful traffic throughout the Canal to the economic distress of the whole area, and I make it plain that for myself I am not here thinking only of Israel.
If our troops are removed from the Canal Zone, if the Egyptianisation—that horrible word—is to proceed with the Canal Administration, then a very powerful economic sanction increasingly falls into the hand of the Egyptian Government and there might be political pressure forcing them to use or partially to use, the Canal against other of our Allies. I am tempted to say that if that step were possible—and it should be possible, because it seems to many of us eminently reasonable—I hope Her Majesty's Government will take their courage in their hands and go a step further in discussing with the Government of Israel the position of Haifa, which, I understand, the Government of Israel have always been willing to discuss, provided, of course. that their sovereignty in relation to Haifa is not impaired. I mean that it is not only a question of regularising the traffic in the Canal Zone but of the reopening of the refinery at Haifa.
From time to time there have been discussions about the possibility of making the port, or a part of the port, free, or of providing free facilities, provided that the sovereignty of Haifa is not impaired. Of course, that is a subject of tremendous interest to this country because, next to Alexandria, which is a very important 330 port indeed, it is a port of great importance to the other countries of the Middle East and notably to Jaffa.
I have deliberately not been too precise upon these points. It sounds attractive but unfair to press a Government for details in negotiations, and particularly attractive when one is in my frame of mind about the Sudan, but I have not represented and I have no right to represent my party. I have put three general propositions. I hope that the Government will be prepared to press upon these three points, because I think it reasonable to assume that if we are given responses upon these three points then the revision of the Egyptian Treaty may make for the betterment of this whole area; but, of course, if it does not, then it will be an evil thing, and a great criticism of the Government, as well as of the Egyptian Government, if this revision which was hoped to bring peace brought distress and instability to the area.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Captain Richard Pilkington (Poole)
The concluding remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) dealt with a subject of vital importance which the House will, of course, be considering in very much more detail when we have more information than we have at present. On the other remarks which the right hon. Gentleman made, I think that it is fair to say that it is very reassuring when there is such a wide measure of agreement over what is said and what is not said by both the Front Benches in a general debate on foreign affairs.
Foreign affairs are surely one of the subjects which, most emphatically, are not a matter for party politics, and I think that the tone of this debate so far has very much borne this out. I propose to refer in the course of my remarks to some of the other things which the right hon. Gentleman has said, but I should like to begin by referring, first of all, to the speech made by the Prime Minister at the beginning of this debate, on Tuesday.
I was very glad that the Prime Minister's speech was described by "The Times" in these words:Every facet of the Churchillian gift for Parliamentary oratory shone with undimmed lustre.331 I think that that was a very fair description of a speech about which, although no doubt in some part of the House there may be disagreement over what he said, I think there would be general agreement that how he said it was in his very best form. It was indeed, I submit, a great speech and surely, whatever our general feelings may be in all quarters of the House, we can echo those concluding remarks which he made, when he said that in face of the great decisions which confront mankind at the present time it was his faith that in God's mercy we should choose aright.
Earlier in that speech my right hon. Friend summarised the international scene in these words. He said that although in many respects it was less formidable, it was more baffling. When the scene is dark and we cannot see the road clearly ahead, surely all that we can do is to proceed to the next step that seems to lie ahead and by the light that may be in us try to do what seems right, and hope that that will take us along the road we want to go.
I think that it is a melancholy reflection on mankind in general that when people are frightened they get together; when they feel safe they quarrel. That, unfortunately, has been the case too often in the history of the nations. After every great war we get a movement towards greater unity and greater co-operation. As the memory and the disaster which war brings fades away, so does that urge to get closer together.
After the Napoleonic war there was the Holy Alliance, which faded away. After the Kaiser's war there was the League of Nations and after this war we have the United Nations. Only if, in the aftermath, when the immediate urge to unite is beginning to die down, we get leaders of vision and persistent drive among the great nations, shall we be able to erect that international structure which can do something, if not to eliminate, at least to reduce the outbreak of another catastrophe.
We have seen how the League of Nations was ruined by the withdrawal of America, for reasons which we can appreciate, and we are seeing now how the United Nations is being crippled by the behaviour of Russia. The goal today is still the goal we had in 1945 of making 332 a reality of the United Nations, but it is further away; it is on a further horizon than it was in 1945. Nevertheless, there are milestones on the road that lies ahead which we can pass. Some we have passed already. We set off on that road under the guidance of the Coalition Government. We made some progress under the Labour Government, but the next step, I submit, which we should bend all our energies towards achieving, is to make a reality of the European Defence Community.
I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary devoted a most important part of his speech to the state in which E.D.C. is at the moment, and the measures which we are taking to make it a reality, because if we can make a reality of it we shall have found the means of bridging the river of distrust which for so many centuries has divided the two greatest nations of Continental Europe—France and Germany.
Since the war these two nations have been fortunate in finding leaders of vision and of magnanimity in Herr Adenauer and M. Schuman. But it is no good having good leaders if the people will not follow them. Both these countries have immense internal difficulties to deal with. Germany is divided into two under foreign occupation and she is faced with the tremendous task of earning the trust, instead of the distrust, of the rest of Europe and of the world. She is not going to do that if, as some hon. Members opposite seem to think, her real intentions are to plunge Europe and the world once again into the pit; then, indeed, there is no hope for Europe. But that is a melancholy outlook and I hope and trust that it is not a true one.
Although nobody today suspects France of aggressive intentions towards anybody, she, too, has an inherent weakness in her make-up, a weakness in her political system which provides her with the least stable Government in Europe. While that system persists, there is no hope for French recovery or for European recovery. France will always be in one sense the heart and centre of Europe, but if the heart is sick how can the body recover?
Yet in spite of these great difficulties encumbering these two countries, it seemed for a period that this next milestone of making a reality of the European 333 Defence Community might be taken. Unfortunately, however, of late there seems to have been a falling off, a stoppage, a loss of faith and confidence. The right hon. Member for Greenock said that there was, in his opinion, a loss of momentum. I think he was referring to N.A.T.O., but N.A.T.O., of course, embraces E.D.C. as well, and E.D.C. is one of the chief underpinning strengths upon which N.A.T.O. must rest.
§ Captain Pilkington
If there was this falling off—to use the right hon. Member's words, this "loss of momentum"—some action had to be taken; a stimulus was needed. That stimulus was provided by the speech of the Prime Minister at Margate last month, when he said that if France did not proceed with the adoption of the European Defence Community, we would have to turn to some other arrangement to join the strength of Germany to the Western Powers through N.A.T.O.
This would, no doubt, be a possibility, but it would be a much worse method than making a reality of the European Defence Community. For if E.D.C. does not become a reality, we leave unsolved the root problem of this Franco-German hostility in the centre of Europe and in the centre of the world. My plea to the Government is that they use all the skill, persuasion, drive and force that they can to hurry on making a reality of this conception.
It seems to me that because, today, we are stronger in arms than we were, and because for the last few months, apparently, the threat of Russia has appeared less imminent than in previous years, there has been a lack of a sense of urgency in the part that we have been playing. There is still a great opportunity to make a real unity in Europe, but that opportunity is passing and with every year that goes by it is more difficult to grasp it.
My right hon. Friend said that there might be a vacuum in the centre of Europe. Politics, like nature, abhor a vacuum.
§ Captain Pilkington
For so long Europe was the centre which radiated civilisation, strength and political development to the rest of the world, but now, as the result of the two wars, it is in danger itself of becoming a vacuum. If it does become a vacuum, it will be filled from the outside. There will come into it, in one form or another, those great Powers which were created on the perimeter of the European expansion. In one form or another, those Powers will come back. Beyond America and Russia are those other great Powers of the future, India and China, which, if they were not created by European expansion, were at least rejuvenated by it.
If Europe is allowed to continue divided, a turmoil of small States, for, by modern standards, they are small, that centre will inevitably perish. It has the choice of dying, slowly of quickly, as a result of the wounds of the two wars, or else, by France and Germany joining hands, of creating a community which will balance those other mighty forces now on the perimeter of the world.
It is as vital for this island that this should be done as it is for the Continent itself. We in this country have none of that deep-rooted mistrust and hostility—hatred, even—which tears apart the peoples of Europe following so many occupations by one country or another. Because of that and because we are a pivot nation, in the world of Europe, in the world of the Atlantic, and in the world of the Commonwealth, we can bring enormous pressure to bear; and we must bring that pressure to bear.
Now, in these days that are passing, we must keep and maintain in our policy a sense of urgency, so that the present generation in this country and the present generation in Europe can preserve and safeguard our Western civilisation by reviving what was once glimpsed as the great possibilities of a real Christendom.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
I am glad that the hon. and gallant Member for Poole (Captain Pilkington) chose the subject that he did because it is the same point on which I should like to speak, although from the opposite point of view. The hon. and gallant Member likes E.D.C. and I do not like it.
335 I should like to take as the text of my remarks the sentence in the Gracious Speech that Her Majesty's Government.hope to see the early establishment of the European Defence Community and will afford it all possible support.I was very sorry to see and hear that sentence in the Gracious Speech, because it is a polite way of saying that we will continue our policy of bringing what I regard as very improper pressure upon France to ratify E.D.C., pressure amounting almost to the point of interfering in the internal affairs of another country. I regard this as a major error in our foreign policy, both in the short run and, as I shall try to show, in the long run.
The Foreign Secretary argued that in their attitude to E.D.C. the Government are only pursuing the policy started by the Labour Government. But, of course, the Labour Government never had a policy of bringing this sort of pressure to bear on France, and certainly not in the particular state of our relations with Russia. It is the circumstances and the manner in which the Government are pressing for E.D.C. that seem to me so great an error.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)
There is one point I should like to get clear. The right hon. Member was a most distinguished Member of the Government which signed the Washington Declaration, which said that the Governmentalso welcome the Paris Plan"—that was, the E.D.C.—as a very important contribution to the effective defence of Europe, including Germany…. The Government of the United Kingdom desires to establish the closest possible association with the European continental community in all stages in its development.That was in September, 1951, when the previous Government were in power. How does the right hon. Member reconcile that with what he is now saying?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Without any difficulty at all. If France wants, with the other countries of the Continent, to set up E.D.C., of course that is to be welcomed. But to say that we welcome something that other countries do, is not the 336 same as trying to bludgeon them with all sorts of pressures into doing something. It is no secret that immense pressure is being brought to bear on France by us and by America. One need only meet any French politician or read the French newspapers to find that that is true. There is immense pressure for E.D.C. and for the associated German rearmament that would go with it.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Quite a lot of pressure was going on before and after, though I agree that that is one example.
This pressure for E.D.C. and for German rearmament in this form contradicts our whole policy of wanting talks with Russia. It provides Russia with the strongest argument that she was able to use in the recent Note. When Russia talked about "crude pressure" on France she was, in fact, describing the situation as it is.
I do not see how we can really expect Russia to have talks if we take so firm and fixed a position on one matter that concerns her very much—namely, E.D.C.—that it is not even open for discussion. The Foreign Secretary said, in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil), that there were no conditions laid down in our last approach to Russia. Of course there were not in the words of the Note, but in the position taken up ever since the Washington talks about E.D.C. we have banged our fist upon the table and said, "This matter is not even open for discussion." We have made it so firm a part of our policy that, in practice, we have said that it should not, and cannot, be discussed.
It has been a very great error indeed not to suspend this pressure for E.D.C. and immediate German rearmament while a great effort is made to have talks with Russia. Not only should a great effort be made but it should appear to be made, so that the world really knows that not only do we claim to be genuine but that, judged by our actions, we are genuine.
I am afraid that because of this policy it must be said that the Western Powers and ourselves must bear some of the blame in the view of public opinion for the deadlock we have now reached. I 337 do not say more than that. The Russians must bear a tremendous amount of blame, but we must take—and we cannot escape it in public opinion—some of the blame for the deadlock. I hope that we do not despair about this Russian Note, bad and gloomy as it seems to be on first reading. I hope that we shall still be ready to say that we would suspend this great pressure for E.D.C. and immediate German rearmament in the hope that that will help to change Russia's mind.
But it is not possible to suspend a policy about E.D.C. and all the matters related with it for ever. Whether there are talks with Russia, or whether the talks fail or bog down or do not start, we must face the great problem looming ahead in Europe, namely, that of German rearmament. We cannot dodge it. It is so big a problem that we cannot really have a European policy without having an attitude towards German rearmament. It is so unpleasant and complex a problem and has such difficult consequences that there is a considerable tendency to dodge it.
Most of us dislike the prospects of German rearmament. I dislike it myself, but dislike does not make a policy. Dislike cannot get rid of facts, and the simple fact we must face is that German rearmament will be determined by the German people and not by us. Because they are now a free nation with nobody to tell them how they should decide, they will sooner or later want to have armaments. Nothing can stop that. We have no power to stop that. Certainly, dislike will not stop it, and, certainly, speeches about the danger of German rearmament will not stop it either. The problem must be faced in the proper setting. We should not ask ourselves, "Ought there or ought there not to be German rearmament?"—because that is going to be settled. The question we must ask is, "How can we make German rearmament safe for the rest of the world?" It is only if we put the problem in that way that we can really deal with European problems, by facing the facts.
If we ask how we are to make it safe, we must go further and say, "Safe against what? What are the dangers that would result from German rearmament?" There are two. One is that Germany would turn its arms against the 338 West, against us. The other and the far graver danger is that Germany rearmed might be tempted to try to secure a forcible revision of her provinces in the East. I say that that is a graver danger. It is much graver than the danger of Germany turning her arms against the West. All recent modern history has shown that an irredentist desire to recover what are regarded as lost provinces is so powerful an emotion that it dominates the whole of a country's foreign policy.
It is clear from the Russian Note—and this part of the Note is undoubtedly genuine—that Russia is really frightened of this aspect of the danger of German rearmament. We must set as our policy that we should remove as far as possible—one cannot achieve perfection in this world—this danger of German rearmament. But we must not delude ourselves by thinking that we can remove it by not having German rearmament. The problem is more difficult than that. It is, given the fact that German rearmament will come, what is the best method of removing this danger of a temptation in Germany for a forcible revision of her Eastern frontier?
One suggestion put forward is the so-called Locarno suggestion made by the Prime Minister, which at least had the merit that it was the first occasion on which a statesman really faced the problem of the Eastern frontiers of Germany in the future. That is a matter which I am sorry was not touched on by the Foreign Secretary today. It is potentially the greatest problem of all that we have to face. The more one looks at it, the more it becomes clear that the Prime Minister had not thought out what he meant when he propounded his Locarno solution, and it becomes less and less attractive the more one thinks about it.
One major difficulty is that, in the very nature of this proposal, one must define a line of guarantee before one can have a Locarno solution. Therefore, one has to raise the very problem that will exacerbate the relations between Germany and Russia. Any attempt to translate a vague Locarno idea into detailed proposals must be of such a sort that either Russia or Germany would certainly refuse it. It is not, therefore, a realistic policy for solving the matter.
339 At the other extreme, there is the policy advocated by some people of a neutralised Germany. I have thought that a very short neutralisation of Germnay might be possible as part of a settlement with Russia; but a policy of either a long-term or a permanent neutralisation of Germany—whether it be disarmed or armed—has always seemed to me, for a whole lot of reasons including the one that it cannot be enforced, an impossible policy.
Therefore, one comes to the conclusion that the only, not perfect, but hopeful and realistic solution of the problem, if we face the facts and do not indulge in wishful thinking about German rearmament, is the one indicated by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition when he laid down his famous conditions about German rearmament in this House on 12th February, 1951. The most important of those conditions was the third. It was the most important because it is the permanent one. The others were temporary and concerned with timing.
It was the condition which said that the German contribution to Western defence should be integrated in the Western defence forces in a way which would preclude the emergence again of a German military menace. In other words, we should accept the fact of German rearmament as something that is going to come, but we should make it as safe as possible by tying Germany as closely as possible to Western Powers who are pledged and determined never to engage in any way in aggression.
In principle, this was part of the argument used by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon. The great defect in this argument was that the right hon. Gentleman thought that E.D.C. was the best way of achieving this end. The purpose of E.D.C. is indeed to integrate Germany into Western defence, but the result would be the very opposite. That is why, fundamentally, I dislike E.D.C. in the long run as well as in the short run. It is too small a cage to contain safely a rearmed Germany. That is the simple fact. In E.D.C. France would be the only effective balance to Germany and the result would be the thing we all want to avoid, namely, German military domination of Western Europe.
340 E.D.C. is really an ingenious attempt to counter the effects of relative power by complicated paper arrangements which would not stand up for a moment to the facts of relative power. E.D.C. could not provide any check at all upon a rearmed Germany by tying it into the West and, therefore, would bring the dangers that would result from the rearmament of Germany nearer instead of postponing them.
§ Lord John Hope (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
What is the use of the right hon. Gentleman saying that, and ignoring entirely the American and British guarantees to E.D.C. under the various treaties?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Because E.D.C. would be an arrangement which would include France and Germany. That is the purpose of it, to create a balance in Europe. And it is a balance which cannot exist because France cannot balance Germany. The presence of British and American troops in Europe is no part of E.D.C. Of course, if a great war came upon E.D.C. from Russia, we would be engaged in it, but what happens if Germany is tempted to use its forces for a forcible revision of its Eastern frontiers?
That is why E.D.C. is not a sufficient guarantee, because Germany would be the dominant force in it without question. I agree that if it is assumed that the only danger is an attack from Russia that argument applies, but if one of the dangers of a rearmed Germany is the forcible revision of her Eastern frontiers. that argument does not apply.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
I understand that the objection of the right hon. Gentleman now to E.D.C. is that it is too small a cage and not because France is having pressure brought upon her. It is the same sized cage as it was in 1951, so how does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile his position now with his membership of the Government then?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I object to pressure upon France as a short-term policy—I am now dealing with long-term arguments. I think, and have always thought, that the only defence of E.D.C. was that it was politically less unpalatable than the proper solution, which is to have Germany in N.A.T.O. It would not have 341 become E.D.C. if Mr. Acheson had not tried unduly to hurry German rearmament, with the result that France had such a scare that it had to put forward E.D.C. as an alternative.
The nearer we get to the reality and the conclusion of this, the more it appears that it is absolutely idiotic to do things which are politically palatable when they are military nonsense. I was prepared to support the Washington Agreement in the difficult circumstances of the time, but I was clear in my own mind that the solution was to bring Germany into N.A.T.O., and I now want to give the reasons.
It is the only cage big enough to contain a rearmed Germany. It would bring the United States, Canada and ourselves to the same table with France. Indeed, there are signs that French opinion is moving in this matter. France, when it really has to face the reality of the political and military situation is beginning more and more to see the advantages of a real association of all the great Powers, instead of having what she calls the tête-à-tête with Germany to which she would be condemned in E.D.C.
There is, however, one condition on which this policy is right. It would be right only if this condition were fulfilled: not only must, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenock put it, momentum be returned to N.A.T.O., but it has to be reorganised in important respects, and in such a way that there is a maximum interdependence within it between its members. The most important interdependence is in regard to arms production.
That seems to me to be the real secret of guarding against the dangers of German rearmament: that no country shall be in such a condition as to make all the arms it needs to make war, but that it is dependent for its arms upon a spread of production among all the members of N.A.T.O. Then no country in N.A.T.O., Germany or any other, could make war without the active consent and cooperation of the other members of N.A.T.O. That seems to me to be the only real guarantee by which we can allay the fears both of Russia and France.
There is one other aspect of all this, namely, the internal problem of Germany, because the foreign policy of a country is the consequence of its internal state of affairs. The closer we bind Germany 342 to ourselves, the greater chance is there of developing the democratic forces inside Germany. Russia is very worried—as she makes clear again in this Note—about the militarists and neo-Nazis and ex-Nazis in Germany. They are a danger, but only the Germans themselves can deal with them, and Russia is not able to take account of the powerful democratic forces which exist in Germany, the S.P.D. and the trade unions.
So powerful is the S.P.D. that in a united Germany it would probably be the majority party. That is one of the reasons why some of the leaders of the Bonn Germany perhaps do not want, in their hearts, the reunion of Germany. The only way to encourage those democratic and powerful forces in Germany is for us to have a close association with Germany instead of standing aloof.
The only long-term hope for peace is by convincing Russia of two things. One is that the West is too strong to be attacked. The other is that the West will never use its strength for aggression. We have not convinced the Russians of this and to a certain extent, though I do not wish to overstate the case, the handling by the present Government of these negotiations and Notes has contributed to the failure to do so. The only way of dealing with the German problem is to have Germany in a N.A.T.O. which is changed and which gradually convinces Russia, maybe over a long period, that never, in any circumstances, will it make aggressive use of its forces, and that N.A.T.O. is of such a kind that Germany cannot move without the agreement and consent of the remaining members.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I must apologise to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) for not following him in his analysis of the problems of German rearmament. I want to go back to the concluding remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil), in which he expressed anxieties in regard to the outcome of the current negotiations with Egypt. I share his anxieties, and my own go a great deal deeper.
343 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) yesterday referred to a number of reports which have appeared purporting to indicate the sort of agreement which is under consideration by Her Majesty's Government and the Egyptian Government. No more than any other hon. Member would I consider it at all reasonable to press a Member of the Government at this stage to make any comment on those reports. Nevertheless, there is one feature which is common to them all and with which all the information we have had about these negotiations is entirely consonant. It is that they involve the complete evacuation of the Suez Canal Zone by British fighting forces.
I believe that an agreement to replace the 1936 Treaty with Egypt which involved any such condition would not only be a fateful, but a fatal step. For my own part, it is not one which I could either support or in any way assent to. No doubt such an agreement would make provision for such matters as British technicians remaining in the Zone, either permanently or for a considerable period; for the right of re-entry in certain defined circumstances on the part of British troops; and for the carrying out in future of the obligations under the Suez Canal Convention which Egypt and Her Majesty's Government share with other countries. But if we were to rely upon provisions of that kind in isolation, unsupported by anything but the mere pledged word of the Egyptian Government, in my opinion we should be guilty of fatal self-deception.
Suppose that we evacuated our 70,000 or 80,000 combatant troops which have for so many months now been under pressure, threat and terrorism by the Egyptians, not without connivance of the Egyptian Government. Are we to imagine that some 4,000 or 3,000 or 2,000 British technicians will not immediately be subjected to the same treatment? Of course, as soon as it suits the internal circumstances of the Egyptian Government they will give the same medicine, only in much larger doses, to any British personnel who remain behind in the Canal Zone under such an agreement. The only difference will be that at present we are in a position to resist; then we should no longer be in such a position.
344 I would say that any agreement purporting to provide for the interests of this country and the British Empire in that area which rests upon the mere word and undertaking of the Egyptian Government is not worth the parchment on which it is engrossed. If that may seem to be a somewhat extreme statement, let me remind the House of facts which are familiar to us, and not disputed—some of which have been mentioned already in the debate.
Even at the moment when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South, as Foreign Secretary, was negotiating with the Egyptian Government, they unilaterally denounced the 1936 Treaty which was then under discussion. What security is there, when that Treaty is replaced by another, that it will not again be unilaterally denounced whenever it suits the Egyptian Government—or when they think it suits them—to do so?
We have heard in very strong terms from my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary this afternoon that the agreement on the Sudan made less than 12 months ago has already been repeatedly broken by the Egyptian Government. Are we now to enter into another agreement with the same Government, the honouring of which will depend only on their own volition, without any backing, or restraint or sanction of another kind?
Finally, as to the Suez Canal and the right of free passage through the Canal which it is the duty of Egypt, along with other countries, to maintain. In the past three or four years, even under the 1936 Treaty, we have seen Egypt repeatedly flouting her duties. My right hon. Friend himself, on 29th November, 1950, said that Egypthas itself challenged the Treaty, … because it still stops our tankers going through the Suez Canal as they are legitimately entitled to do."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1950; Vol. 481, c. 1184.]Does any person in his senses imagine that there is more likelihood of Egypt carrying out her obligations under the Suez Canal Convention if the Canal Zone has been evacuated, if the Treaty of 1936 has been replaced by a treaty in which all our rights and facilities are dependent upon the bare observance of that new treaty by the Egyptian Government?
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman, whose remarks I have been following with the greatest interest, can tell me one thing? The 1936 Treaty, if I remember rightly, is due to expire quite soon. Perhaps he would indicate to us what will happen when it does expire, failing agreement in 1956?
§ Mr. Powell
I had not proposed to enter at any length upon that legalistic point—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—but in fact the hon. and learned Gentleman is mistaken in thinking that the 1936 Treaty expires in 1956. If he will read the relevant Articles, which are 8 and 16, he will find that they remain valid until they are replaced by an agreement freely negotiated between the bodies. He will further discover that, in the event of a failure of the parties to agree, reference is to be made, not to the United Nations, but to a person or a body of persons mutually and freely agreed between the disputants. And so it is entirely erroneous to say that this Treaty simply comes to an end in 1956.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that it would probably go to The Hague Court, and is he really as sure as he pretends to be that The Hague Court would not decide that failure freely to negotiate another treaty brought the existing one to an end?
§ Mr. Powell
That is not in the terms of the Treaty in the Articles I have quoted; but certainly, whatever view the right hon. Gentleman and I may take, first about the possibility of reference to The Hague Court, and secondly its decision, at any rate we are in agreement that the Treaty as such does not terminate in 1956.
It is now 70 years since, in varying circumstances, British troops have been stationed in the Suez Canal Zone. The removal of those forces at this juncture from that Zone would have almost illimitable repercussions. It would have repercussions in the Mediterranean, in the Middle East and in Africa. In the Middle East all our other positions would thereby become insecure. Our positions in Cyprus, in Malta and in Gibraltar would be called in question by the fact that we had been eliminated from the focal point, for the sake of which most of those positions have been taken up and maintained.
346 We should find, and rapidly, that a familiar pattern of events would be repeated. First of all, there would be some kind of agitation set on foot. Then there would be threats and terrorist incidents. In response to these, reinforcements would take place. In the difficulties which followed, the military advisers of the Government would discover that, after all, the position was not so important as we had previously thought it was. Then would come the final scene of some kind of veiled, or semi-veiled surrender and evacuation. This, if we take it, will not be a final step; it will not be a final settlement; it will be the beginning of a series of similar steps, steps downwards, steps of degradation.
In the Middle East, what would be the reaction to such an event by Jordan, which depends upon our alliance? What would be the effect upon Iraq, which in the past has been in many respects in a parallel position to that of Egypt in her relations with this country? What would be the effect upon what we hope to be our future relations with Persia? Finally, throughout Africa, what would be the encouragement given to those elements which are hostile to the association with Britain if they saw the ease with which, by the working up of a fictitious—or a partly fictitious—campaign of terrorism and threats Britain could be eased out of a position where she has been historically seated for so long?
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
I have followed the argument of the hon. Member sincerely, and I seek information. One of the vital matters that concern us in this problem, as I understand it, supported by the Chiefs-of-Staff, is that we cannot maintain this base by Forces from this country without the wholesale co-operation of some hundreds of thousands of Egyptians. Failing agreement, such co-operation, I am told, is not likely to be forthcoming. Would the hon. Member deal with that problem?
§ Mr. Powell
I was coming to that point, although I have not the advantage which the hon. and learned Member possesses in receiving the direct and authentic advice of the Chiefs-of-Staff. An argument which I believe has weighed not only with Her Majesty's Government but must weigh with all of us is the question: Can we afford, is it practicable month in and month out, to keep a large 347 body of troops in this area virtually locked up by the hostile attitude of the country in whose territory they are stationed?
In the first place, the relations which have obtained in the past two or three years are in their nature not of a stable character. They are such as, in the course of things, must either rise to a crisis and thus be disposed of in one way or another, or a détente must supervene for a time in some form. The event which is not likely to follow is that we shall have a constant reiteration of what we have experienced in the past two or three years, if the immediate prospect that threats and terrorism will lead to success for Egypt is removed. Indeed, it is by holding out the prospect of a reward for terrorism and a reward for threats that we encourage and promote that very terrorism and those very threats.
In the second place, we should not imagine that we have saved 70,000 or 80,000 troops if we remove them from the Suez Canal Zone. By so doing we should have created a need elsewhere for that number and a greater number of troops. Our very display of weakness on that occasion and the fact that we had been dislodged from a nodal point in our defences would necessitate an even greater reinforcement in the next point, and the next, and the next, in sequence. We shall not save troops but lose them; we shall need not less but more reinforcements.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
I want to understand the point of view of the hon. Member. It is not, as I understand, the threat of terrorists, but the fact that to maintain the base we must have the active—I might almost say loyal—co-operation of hundreds of thousands of Egyptian workers. That is the problem; would the hon. Member meet that point?
§ Mr. Powell
It is certainly one of the problems. My reply is that in the long run the co-operation of the local inhabitants cannot be withheld. This is a crisis which must either be settled in a measurable period of time, or there will be a reaction and the normal conditions of labour and employment will be resumed.
I believe a second factor which has weighed heavily in this matter is the 348 attitude, or supposed attitude, of the United States. I confess that I am not greatly moved by this. Whatever may be the attitude of the American Government and public to the United Kingdom as such, my view of American policy over the past decade has been that it has been steadily and relentlessly directed towards the weakening and destruction of the links which bind the British Empire together—
§ Mr. Powell
We can watch the events as they unfold and place our own interpretation upon them. My interpretation is that the United States has for this country, considered separately, a very considerable economic and strategic use but that she sees little or no strategic use or economic value in the British Empire or the British Commonwealth as it has existed and as it still exists. Against that background I ask the House to consider the evidences of advancing American imperialism in this area from which they are helping to eliminate us.
They are initiating the construction of a naval base at Suda Bay in Crete. They are pouring extra men into Malta. They are taking up their positions in the Spanish Peninsula. A few days ago I noticed that the Secretary of the United States Air Force, Mr. Talbott, said in regard to Spain:America needs more bases and this is a fine place to put them in.While America is planting her bases in the territory of sovereign countries, in Greece and in Spain, she is not standing by with folded arms but is assisting the process of eliminating us from a base which we have maintained, for American as well as our own interests, with the blood of Imperial troops in two wars.
§ Mr. Osborne
What evidence has my hon. Friend for saying that the American authorities are using their power to turn us out of Suez? It is a very serious charge he is making.
§ Mr. Powell
No doubt when my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs replies, he will be able to repudiate it.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Meanwhile, may I ask one question? I said just now that I thought the Treaty is to expire in 1956.
349 There was what I can only call a legalistic quibble about that, but does the hon. Member really suggest that, failing agreement with Egypt, we should be entitled to stay on after 1956?
§ Mr. Powell
That is what the Treaty of 1936 says. It is quite untrue to suppose that automatically with the coming of 1956 this Treaty determines. After 1956 there must elapse a more or less lengthy period in which agreement is sought by various means and during that period the Treaty will legally remain in force.
I noticed that in Her Majesty's Speech at the Prorogation the negotiations on the Suez Canal were referred to in the following terms:My Government have been discussing with the Egyptian Government means of settling the differences between the two countries"—and here come the all-important qualifying words—while safeguarding the security of the Middle East and the Suez Canal.I do not believe that the security of the Middle East and the Suez Canal will be safeguarded or can be safeguarded by any agreement which depends upon the mere word and good will of the Egyptian Government and which does not preserve in that area of the world an element of British combatant force.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) except to congratulate him on the speech he has made. If there is to be any criticism of what he said it had better be left to his hon. Friend on the Front Bench to deal with in due course.
I am concerned first of all to express my own satisfaction that the debate today is on foreign policy, because it involves the vital issue of peace. There are, in my view, really two vital problems before the country today: they are the cost of living and the question of the relaxation of international tensions. It is significant to note that the Queen's Speech does not mention a single word about the cost of living, and that as regards peace the document contains only hollow words. There is absolutely nothing concrete whatever. There are six vacillating paragraphs on the subject with no real substance in any one of them.
350 The Government are, in my view, playing a great game of bluff on these matters, and the Address is merely so much scaffolding to cover the operations that are going on beneath. I take as an example the question of slum clearance and the maintenance of houses, which was dealt with yesterday by the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who was obviously floundering on the subject. The total we had on that subject from him was a White Paper, a blue pamphlet and a red herring in the form of the speech he made. It was very satisfactory to notice subsequently that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) blew absolutely sky high what the Minister had said.
There is one matter in connection with the Minister of Housing and Local Government which I feel I must refer to in view of the fact that I intervened at the time, and that is his conduct in waving a pamphlet in front of the public gallery which was completely deplorable. The right hon. Gentleman's speech showed, as most of his speeches usually do, that he was mistaking arrogance and provocativeness for argument and accomplishment.
I desire to turn to a more pleasant personality—the Foreign Secretary. He commands respect in this House and in the country, and I am sorry, as I am sure everyone in the House is, that he has been under the heavy handicap of ill health. He is unquestionably struggling hard not only against adversity in the world but, as we have just had an indication, against adversity in his own party also.
During the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and in other speeches yesterday, the claim was made for the Government that they were the peacemakers. All I can say about that is that if the Government seek to make that claim they had better do something practical about it. In my submission, the claim is as yet purely a negative one, leaving aside altogether the terrible blunder of Trieste.
The Queen's Speech makes a very weak reference to an early meeting between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers. We know that that was the avowed laudable goal of the Prime Minister, expressed in his speech on 11th May. But it is perfectly clear 351 that since then that has completely gone with the wind, and in the meantime we have suffered a definite deterioration in international relations. There are more menacing shadows hovering over the world today than previously; and the Government's action on Trieste, instead of helping to heal a sore international spot, has started a major operation towards a dangerous crisis there.
The Queen's Speech gives no clear picture of Tory policy on the question of four-Power talks. There is certainly no indication of any firm action, and there is nothing—and this is what the House and the country must be apprehensive about—to ensure that the present chance of talks is not missed. I would point out to the Foreign Secretary what I am sure he must appreciate, that in these matters, as history unhappily proves, every chance missed is a dead loss. It appears to me, and I think that we must be frank about this, that the Government are absolutely tied to the apron strings of the Government of the United States of America.
The Queen's Speech says that the Governmentare resolved to work constantly in harmony with the Government of the United States of America.But it is the Government's paramount duty to keep abreast with public opinion at home also, and public opinion desires four-Power talks. It is the Government's plain duty, therefore, to urge the United States of America to modify their present policy in this respect.
The attitude of the United States Government of "I won't talk" is absolutely international dynamite at the present time; and there is not a single word in the Queen's Speech, or elsewhere, of any firm action by Her Majesty's Government in regard to this very urgent and paramount matter. It is perfectly clear, and has been for some time, that the U.S.A. Government's reaction to Russia, and its policy of anti-Communism, is an obsession. It has been said that United States policy in that respect is like a man who is utterly engrossed in winning a law suit: he forgets the ruinous cost and that a talk out of court might be his salvation. It appears now, from significant results which came yesterday from elections in the United States of America, that electoral opinion there is realising that fact.
352 The policy of the United States Government is apparently, that American ideology and prestige must prevail—there must be no compromise. It does not apparently matter what the other fellow thinks, or whether he has some genuine point of view which ought to receive consideration.
There is also to be considered the question of how far anti-Communism is affecting the mind of Her Majesty's Government as well. One thing is clear—and I think the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will appreciate this—that the British public will not fight a war of mere anti-Communism, for the very good reason that anti-Communism gets us absolutely nowhere at all. It was most desirable that the Gracious Speech should have been more forthright on these matters.
I think that everyone will agree that this obsession about anti-Communism is bedevilling the policy in Germany and is in fact opening the door to a re-militarised Germany. Are not the House and the country entitled to ask where the Government stand on this very grave matter? We certainly look in vain for an answer to it in the Gracious Speech.
The position between the United States of America and France on the point of how Germany is to be allowed to rearm, has become such that the British Government ought now to take some firm and clarifying step. France, with strong reason and with historical reminders, is hesitating about the re-arming of Germany, and because of that the United States has become exasperated. The only effect of the coercion of France in this way is to swing her to the Left, and, to cap it all, the United States, apparently, is ready to enter into an independent military alliance with Germany.
That, of course, is a very grave matter, and one would have thought that there would have been some reference to it in the Gracious Speech. The Foreign Secretary certainly said nothing about it in his speech this afternoon, and I invite the Joint Under-Secretary of State to illuminate the position a little more so that the country and the House may feel easier about it than they do at present.
§ Mr. Nutting
I think that the reason why there was no mention of this in the 353 Gracious Speech was because the position does not exist.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
What I am complaining about is that here we are being borne along in the wake of the United States; that the Government are being docile and do nothing. Surely, that is something on which the House is entitled to be reassured.
There is another point which I wish to draw to the attention of the Joint Under-Secretary of State, and that is that 1950 Europe has in fact disappeared. The United States appears to be proceeding on the assumption that it is still here. But it is quite clear, and the Prime Minister in his speech supports the view, that today Soviet military aggression is at least improbable. That is also the view held in France and in Europe, and it is founded on very good reasons.
First, there is the armament of the N.A.T.O. countries; secondly the change in the position within the Soviet satellite countries, and, lastly the social and economic developments which have taken place inside Russia herself. I do not think it wrong to say that that has created an entirely new situation from that which existed in 1950. What does that mean? It means that today the crucial factor is not what help we are going to get from German divisions in any conflict with Russia. The danger is the possibility of German domination in Europe, and of Germany once again becoming a Power menacing Europe. That is the crucial issue now.
Where do the Government stand on that very grave issue? The House and the country are surely entitled to know and to hear something on that very important topic. After all, we have suffered from Germany in the past, and I ask the Government to take heed of the warning, that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to live it again. An armed Germany simply means handing over power once again to the upholders of Nazism and Fascism, and to the German industrialists of the Hitler regime. More, it may mean the putting of a time bomb under Europe. Are we really going to be the mere puppet and echo of the policy of the United States in this grave matter?
With regard to China, our attitude is not only ambiguous, but equivocal. The 354 Government of this country recognised the present Chinese Communist Government. Her inclusion in the United Nations is a prerequisite to peace. Yet the Government are wobbling while the United States is keeping the traffic signals on the international highway obstinately at red against Russia and China.
I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will try to avoid what happened yesterday, that is, that he will not attempt to evade the very serious issues before the country. Yesterday a considerable amount of time was taken up by the Government in running away from what really mattered. We even had a long contribution on the reform of the House of Lords. I hope that the Government are now going to face the real issues about which the country is deeply concerned. It is time that in our own situation and in the situation of the world there should be plain speaking and courageous policy, neither of which is to be found in the Queen's Speech. All the Queen's Speech does is to demonstrate the bankruptcy of Tory policy, and the quicker the country dismisses the present Government the better.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) was very gloomy about the Government's performance, but I failed to discern any logical argument coming from his legally trained mind to show what we should do instead. I shall concentrate on two main themes, first, that of the European Defence Community and, secondly, the main theme of the debate, which is the prospect of talks with the Soviet.
In the foreign affairs debate in July I expressed the view that there should be a time limit to the ratification of E.D.C. I did so because I felt that the Western Powers could not afford to drift and waver on this key decision to our defensive system. At that time some distinguished and very knowledgeable Frenchmen were of the opinion that E.D.C. would be ratified by November. November is now here, but all will agree that ratification seems to be even further off.
I felt I was in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) when he said this 355 afternoon that he hoped the Government would enlarge on the present prospects for E.D.C. There seems to be at the present time considerable and growing doubts among the six countries concerned. In Italy the Prime Minister has signified that he is in no hurry. In Germany, although Dr. Adenauer was elected on the issue, there are many who are not greatly concerned about ratification because they realise that without it they can concentrate on their industrial production.
There are also the latest developments in France, of which I will mention two. On 31st October the Upper House of the Assembly supported a Motion, by a massive majority of 240 to 74, asking the Government to seek a solution—that is before the debate on the treaty—guaranteeing the safeguarding of French interests and the integrity of the French Union and particularly to establish with Great Britain a real European equilibrium. The Motion virtually represents a return to classic French foreign policy, a policy of alliance with Britain and Eastern Europe on traditional lines. Furthermore, as an example of difficulties in the country, an all-party body, the Committee of Action for National Independence, has been created with the object of holding meetings up and down the country to fight the treaty. It seems that the British Government has two policies which it can follow in relation to E.D.C. It can either carry on pushing and persuading ratification of E.D.C. or it can abandon our support, as I thought was slightly hinted by the Prime Minister.
Should we instead propose German membership of N.A.T.O.? It seems that France is already moving to this view. We can reassure France by traditional treaty obligations. The Foreign Secretary this afternoon referred to consultations on close political association with E.D.C. That was also referred to by the Under-Secretary in the debate on the Council of Europe on 23rd October. Although the subject was much in our minds before we rose for the Recess in July, it is unfortunate that the House has not yet had any further definite information from the Government as to exactly what is taking place about this political association. It is important that the House should have some idea, particularly 356 as the Under-Secretary said on that occasion:… when that European Defence Community comes into force our partnership will be even closer than the relationship that we have with the Coal and Steel Community."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd October, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 2321.]This afternoon the Foreign Secretary told us that it will be as close as anything that we can devise short of actual membership.
Surely this is a vital factor in our whole European policy. If we had had more ample guidance from the Government this afternoon there would also be a chance for the Opposition to decide whether the closer association proposals reflect the views expressed by the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) during the debate on the Council of Europe. Leading for the Opposition, he said that he could:… imagine the position in which, when E.D.C. is ratified, Britain has this very close association, which I guess might even mean token forces within the European Army … Britain would regain the leadership on the Continent of Europe which she is now losing.This is a very important change of view coming from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the House is entitled to assume that this is the official Socialist policy, because, on being challenged, the right hon. Member for Blyth said:At this Box I am representing Her Majesty's Opposition….
The hon. Lady, who is quoting very fairly, will no doubt remember that the Under-Secretary and the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) had some difficulty in expressing the Government point of view, too.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I fail to see the relevance of that to my argument, which is that there has apparently been a complete change of official view on behalf of the Labour Party as to the association of this country with E.D.C. and other arrangements of that nature on the Continent. The right hon. Member for Blyth gave proof of the change when he said:… if we can have the Council of Europe as the Parliament there is no reason why we should not be full members of the Schuman Community."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd October, 1953: Vol. 518, c. 2329–30.]If the right hon. Member for Greenock questions that, I can only say that it is just one more example of split minds among the Labour Party.
§ Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Rochester and Chatham)
I was present on the occasion of the debate, and I remember that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth said "assuming a Council of Europe came into being," but he also expressed the personal view that he very much doubted that that would happen. Therefore, that was supposition and the contribution that he made cannot be said to be more than a personal view if certain things happened.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
It is something to be able to get an official denunciation of the views of the right hon. Member for Blyth who was leading for the Opposition.
I should like once again to ask how long the Government is to pursue what I now feel to be the will-o'-the-wisp of E.D.C. It was a good idea against the background of the time when it was introduced, and it was supported by both the main parties in this House and an enormous amount of work has been done by both parties in trying to bring it about. But politics and the long bitter history of Franco-German wars have killed the conviction that this policy is right and shrivelled the purpose on which so imaginative an idea must rest if it is ever to succeed. I feel that to Haver further is to create the vacuum of leadership on the Continent, to which various hon. Members have already referred.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Poole (Captain Pilkington) said that there could not be an alternative to E.D.C., because the key point of E.D.C. was to try to bring France and Germany together. There is another view, and that is that if we go on havering in this fashion we shall poison the relations between France and Germany, and that is much more dangerous. It is time we sought another solution, because we must keep the momentum of Western policy to unite in our own defence. Therefore, the time is ripe for us to invite Western Germany to come in as a member of N.A.T.O. That is a very grave step. It has often been discussed in this House, and we know that we shall certainly have to reassure France about her position on the German frontier.
But let us also consider it from the economic side. We cannot have this vacuum where Germany is neither one thing nor the other. We know that from the economic point of view our lives 358 depend on exports. We know there is fierce competition overseas, and not the least competition from a Germany willing to work a 50-hour week and bearing no burdens for her own defence.
Some people have expressed the view that there should be a financial contribution from Germany in relation to that of the allies, but I would say that that is not the answer. Her men and families should bear the same burden that we and our allies have done in Korea. We should not be put off uniting in strength with our allies because the Soviet and certain Left-wing thought concludes that this is an obstacle to four-Power talks. I would, however, agree that the Russian leaders may believe 80 per cent. of their own propaganda on this issue, which is often clearly shown in the United Nations, and they may well believe the theory that N.A.T.O. is a threatening force.
We know perfectly well that we should never go to war, but we also know, because we are stronger, that our voice now counts at the conference table. Four-Power talks between the Foreign Ministers seem as far away as they were before Stalin's death, despite the assurance given by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon that talks would be sought without conditions, at any time, in any place.
If four-Power talks by Foreign Ministers seem at present not to be an issue, what can we consider as the next best thing? Should we try to have a meeting between the heads of States, which was the great concept of the speech of the Prime Minister on 11th May? It is now public knowledge, which it was not at that time, that President Eisenhower feels that first of all there must be some definite proof of Russia's good intent. I think in fairness that we must understand this view when we try to assess the climate of public opinion in a nation which has daily watched in the Press the long casualty lists of men who have fought in Korea in the cause of the United Nations; and the political climate in a country which is watching the outcome of the peace talks in Korea.
Therefore, what else can we try? In my submission we must try to do something or else we shall have this ever mounting distrust and suspicion. There 359 is, I think, one thing that we can do. It is a risk, but then risks are always the lot of those who follow great causes. It is my personal view that the Prime Minister should seek a personal interview alone with Mr. Malenkov. I say so for certain reasons which I will seek to develop.
I should like to describe the safeguards which I submit should cover any such meeting. All of us know that stalemate is dangerous, and in politics timing is vital. There is one view which says, "Let us go on growing in strength until the proof thereof persuades the Soviet to come to the conference table instead of us always trying to run after the Soviet." On the other hand, let us remember that pride, obstinacy and misunderstanding may grow, and they are evil things that spread and choke the best of human endeavour.
The Prime Minister, when he spoke on Tuesday, referred to what he called "the cruel problems" that rend the world. He then said this:We are not likely straight away to get them satisfactorily dealt with and laid to rest as great dangers and evils in the world by personal meetings, however friendly. Time will undoubtedly be needed—He added, I think, rather wistfully:… more time than some of us are likely to see."—[OFFICAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1953; Vol. 520, c. 29.]I think we all read the Prime Minister's thoughts. It is said that time is our enemy, but time can also be our friend. The Prime Minister has humaned time often enough. He is still the greatest Parliamentarian and statesman we shall ever see. I plead with him to use his gifts while yet he may.
I submit there are certain considerations which we should take into account in any possibility of arranging such a personal meeting. First, the Prime Minister must, of course, have the good will of the Allies. Secondly, there should be no agenda. Thirdly, he should enter into no commitments; and, fourthly, there should be an assurance that he would, in fact, be received. I do not believe that, at this stage, we shall alter the Soviet's declared design to conquer the world. But I think we might gain two very important results.
§ Mr. W. Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
When did the Soviets declare that their policy was to conquer the world?
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
Firstly, I think that the opportunity could be taken to make clear why the Allies rebuild their defences and that their purpose is to guard the peace; and, secondly, that if attacked we shall fight and, if we fight, we shall win. If we are to learn anything from history at all, at least we must remember that one of the main causes of German folly under Hitler was the inaccuracy of her sources of information on our capacity and will to fight and our apparent desire to live in peace at any price. The situation was certainly misjudged by the Ambassador at the time, Herr von Ribbentrop.
We have a skilled diplomatic service. We have a fine Ambassador in Moscow. Yet I submit there are times when, for instance, after U.N.O. has been used as a propaganda forum, traditional diplomacy is a little suspect. There is something quite unique and something very special about the meeting between powerful heads of State. This country should be prepared for this meeting to fail. But because it is always easier to point out the difficulties it is just that much harder to venture something new.
I submit that with the Prime Minister's unique gifts he may get the feel of the problem. Instinct may assess the climate of thought, and who knows but that Russia is only seeking some chance to try to procure peace for a period of time in order that she may set her own economy in order.
All my life I have believed in the personal touch. I do not think that any harm could come from such a meeting. I think it might just tip the scales so that from self-interest and preservation in this world, which science can now destroy, we may work out a habit of living. Then the genius of man may turn to the marvels of science to use them for peaceful purposes, and the next generation may at last understand that happiness which is God's gift to man.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
I wanted this afternoon to introduce into this debate the defence aspect of foreign policy, which I think is not irrelevant or 361 inappropriate to it, but I should first like to ask one question of the Under-Secretary of State which is also relevant to the speech which we have just heard from the hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir).
The Note from the Soviet Government which has been partially published in the papers this morning is not very easy to understand or to read, and I do not know whether we have a full text of it. That Note has been received by the greater part—perhaps the whole—of the Press this morning as setting down quite impossible pre-conditions for any sort of conference, whether between heads of States or Foreign Secretaries or whether on a wider field or on Germany alone.
I may have misheard the right hon. Gentleman, but it seems to me that the Foreign Secretary himself this afternoon also referred to these matters as preconditions. If that is so, of course, there is nothing that can be done about it, because these pre-conditions are such that we could not satisfy even if we would, and we certainly would not wish to satisfy the formation of an all-German Government before free elections and, alike, the abandonment of the whole Western defence scheme, and they almost amount to that.
As I read the Note, and it is not by any means clear, these are not put down as pre-conditions, and I should very much like the Under-Secretary to tell us whether that is true. The operative paragraph in "The Times" report of the Note—the actual translation, I think, is by Reuter's—is this, and I do not pretend that it makes very easy reading. I will read it to the House:The Soviet Government would like to receive clarification from the British Government, as well as from the Governments of the United States and France, whether their statement of willingness to discuss the German question at a meeting of the Ministers of the four Powers and their recognition of the importance of ensuring European security means that they will not be on the one hand proposing a conference to consider the German question, and, on the other, taking steps simultaneously to ratify the Paris and Bonn agreements by those Governments which have not yet ratified them.I should have thought that the simple answer to that was that, as there is no prospect, as I understand it, of E.D.C. being ratified by the French Government until next year, at any rate, there is plenty of time for the conference before 362 that takes place. It does not seem to me to be altogether unreasonable on the part of the Soviet Government to say that the conference must take place before the fait accompli of the ratification of those agreements.
That is one thing, and, if that is the position—and it seems to me that the Soviet Note is really saying that—it is certainly a very different thing to the Soviet Union laying down all sorts of quite impossible pre-conditions to the holding of a conference at all. I think it would be interesting and of some importance if the Under-Secretary, who has had the advantage of a far better text and a far fuller translation of the Note, could really tell us how he reads the Note, which I would be the first to agree is by no means clear.
Whatever the consequences from that, and whether we get a conference or not—and I for one have considerable sympathies with the speech which we have just heard from the hon. Lady opposite—I think that, from every point of view, the achieving of that conference before further steps are taken would, if it succeeded, be of immeasurable benefit, and, if it did not succeed fully, would yet be very greatly to the interests of the West in carrying with them the public opinion of the peoples of this country and Western Europe in what may be required.
I would be the first to agree that, whether we get a conference or not, and, to some extent, even whatever the outcome of such a conference may be, the West has to persevere with its defence preparations. Of course, a part of this—and the important part—is the defence contribution which has made up the defence effort—the by no means inconsiderable effort—of the United Kingdom Government.
The Foreign Secretary has said that if and when E.D.C. was ratified we would make our association with it as close as we possibly could, compatible with not being actual members, but. even more important than that, surely, is what that association will be worth, and what actual contribution of defence power would be given to E.D.C., N.A.T.O. or whatever the organisation is called, and that seems to me to be a somewhat subsidiary matter. What the defence potential of the United Kingdom Government would actually be and what 363 it would bring to the common pool of the defence of the West are the questions which I think, during this debate on the Gracious Speech, deserve high consideration from this House.
The position is by no means reassuring. Let us think of the actual figures of our defence effort at the moment. We are making a defence expenditure of some £16 million, which will run out at between 12 and 13 per cent. of the national income. It will involve holding with the colours in the three Armed Forces some 860,000 to 870,000 men, and that, in turn, will involve two full years of compulsory National Service for the whole, or almost the whole, of the youth of the country—a very heavy defence effort and a heavy burden indeed.
I should like to ask the Government two questions on that. In the first place, do they think that, as a permanent peacetime burden, that is possible, or, at any rate, suitable and desirable, for this country? It may be borne—it is being borne—as an emergency measure, and I think that, on the whole, it was necessary to show the Soviet Government essentially that the West was capable of defence. But, after all, defence efforts can very easily—and there are many instances of this in history—in the long run prove to be too heavy—as well as too light—to secure the security of the country. Many great nations and empires have sunk under the burden of their armaments, as well as others which have been caught unprepared. Do the Government really suppose that an effort of this magnitude over the long run does not pass the point where the economic weakening which it must impose on the country does not exceed the military strength which it gives?
The second question is this. Even taking the enormous effort which this country has made, and considering the character of the strength which it disposes, is it able to make a suitable contribution to the joint defence effort of the West? When we look round at the actual disposition of our Armed Forces, their dispersal round the whole globe today, and the character of the defence effort which is imposed upon them by attempting to maintain all the commitments all over the world which we are maintaining at the moment, can we possibly say that 364 this very heavy defence burden, in spite of this vast expenditure, in spite of two years' full military service, has enabled us to give by any means a satisfactory contribution to the joint defence of the West?
Some of us had the privilege of going to Germany during the Recess and of seeing the fine divisions which we have in North-Western Germany, but I think some of us—indeed, all of us—must have been distressed to see the terribly strained condition which the British Army is in today. It is not the fault of the Army, nor the fault of my successor the Secretary of State for War, and I am not for a moment blaming him. The fault lies in the calls which have been made on the Army all over the world to maintain these commitments and to take on several others all over the world, which are imposing today a really very grievous strain indeed on the Armed Forces as a whole, and, above all, on the Army.
So we have the position in which we are making a defence effort about which it is at any rate arguable—I should have thought it had done so—that it passes the point at which the military strength which it gives is not compensating for the economic harm which it does, and because the dispersal I have mentioned and commitments all over the world are only enabling us, potentially, to put into the field in Western Europe a most disappointing contribution to our allies' joint effort.
It is in this connection that we see the whole question of National Service. We see the prospect of that part of the defence burden, two full years of National Service for the whole youth of this country, extending into the indefinite future. That prospect is put before us in the Gracious Speech. I have not felt it possible to join in the demand which has sometimes been voiced for a reduction of the period of National Service, so long as two things existed, that fighting was going on in Korea and that we kept 80,000 troops in the Canal Zone of Egypt.
It simply was not possible to demand a reduction in the period, because the figures did not add up. If we were convinced that it was impossible to reduce or get rid of those two commitments, we had to have two years' National Service. That was my position. I knew that it 365 was to meet those two demands that National Service had been put up to two years.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
The right hon. Gentleman is now anticipating the Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves Bill, as well as the proposed Amendment to the Address on the subject of National Service.
§ Mr. Strachey
Yes, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I fully appreciate that point, and I shall not go beyond what I have said; but as the principle of two years' National Service has existed for three years and there is no question of its being altered, surely I can discuss, without prejudice, the fact that we have that system. I know that I must not discuss a Resolution which the House has taken.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
Are we not having a debate on the Address, when it is in order to discuss whatever is convenient and relevant to the Gracious Speech?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That is quite true up to a point, but we have to have regard to other Orders and Motions on the Paper and we must not anticipate those which may be discussed within a reasonable time. It is all right if one keeps to the past.
§ Mr. Strachey
I appreciate that, and I shall endeavour to use the historical tense from now on.
I was about to say that I recollected very well indeed the reasons which my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and myself gave to the House in 1950, when we introduced and carried through a Measure increasing the period of National Service to two years. We confessed that that increase had nothing to do with the training of our Forces and was not based for one moment on the need for longer training for the young men in our Forces.
The military view is that 18 months—if not a single year—are ample for training. The increase was introduced to enable the Korean war to be prosecuted and a very large force to be maintained in the Canal Zone of Egypt, in addition to all our other commitments. Let me be perfectly frank on that point. Those were the additional commitments which made that increase necessary.
366 One of those situations has already changed. Fighting has stopped in Korea. That does not mean that we have not still to maintain forces in Korea, but the burden is considerably reduced once fighting has stopped. If the second condition is fulfilled and a settlement is arrived at with the Egyptian Government, I believe that the possibility of reduction in the length of National Service arises. I had not intended to say very much on the subject of Egypt on which I have spoken and given my views in the House before as I fully appreciate that we could not ask the Foreign Secretary to say very much about it at the present time; but the speech of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has removed any considerable inhibitions which any of us on this side of the House might have had in commenting on that matter.
I look at this matter from the defence point of view. I have never looked at it essentially from the point of view of the rights of Egypt, but from the point of view of British interests. It may be paradoxical, but I happen to take the view that British interests in general and British defence interests in particular make the evacuation of the Canal Zone by our forces after reasonable agreement with the Egyptian Government of paramount interest to this country.
That is in exact contradiction to the view put by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South-West. We must use our defensive effort in such a way that it really gives security to the British Commonwealth and that we have as a result of all our efforts and the burden they entail a valuable contribution to put into the common pool with all our allies. For that purpose to relieve ourselves of this terribly onerous commitment of 80,000 men kept in the Canal Zone of Egypt is of paramount interest for this country.
The questions put to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South-West from this side seemed very pertinent. The hon. Gentleman made great play with the fact that one of my hon. Friends mentioned the views of the Chiefs of Staff. We ought not to quote them in this House but, as someone who, not so very long ago, had acquaintance with those views, I would take up the point which my hon. Friend made. If we keep 80,000 men there 367 against the will of and in the face of sustained agitation by the whole population of that country, we destroy any purpose which keeping those men there may have had in maintaining the strength of the Commonwealth in that area. It all depends on what we think the real purposes of our defence forces in general are today. That is a wider question than Egypt and the Canal Zone.
Are they to give the Commonwealth, as I think it necessary in this rough world, the power to hold its own, to have its voice carry some weight in the councils of the world and to make a worthy contribution, with its allies, to the joint defence of our part of the world? That seems to me the essential purpose for which we must do everything in our power to free our defence forces. Or do we regard them as something, not to defend the Commonwealth against the risk of outside aggression, but to hold the Commonwealth forcibly together by attempting to garrison the non-self-governing parts of the Commonwealth and the countries which are nominally outside the Commonwealth, such as Egypt, but which are forcibly held in the British connection so long as our troops are garrisoned on their soil? Do we regard the function of our forces as an Imperial conception of attempting to hold the Commonwealth together by force? In that case, it is not a Commonwealth at all, it is an empire in the old sense of the word.
That, of course, is a broad distinction. It does not solve every problem. It does not mean that one can apply the conception of a Commonwealth as a free and genuine association automatically everywhere. It does not mean that one can, or should, give way to every insurrection in Malaya or the movements of minorities in particular areas who have certainly less right to govern those areas than we have. But it means that we must apply steadily the principle of a Commonwealth being a genuinely voluntary association, and that nations which, as they become adult, wish to leave it, should have the right to do so, as has happened in the case of Burma. In unsuitable cases one cannot apply that conception, but if one genuinely and progressively applies that conception—the Commonwealth as distinct from the Empire conception—our 368 defence forces will become available for the common defence of the whole association in the world.
That conception, which, I think, applies in the case of Egypt very strongly indeed, though not in form, will have a very considerable influence on our defence plans. The character of our defence forces, as well as their quantity, will need to be different. I do not pretend to be enough of an expert or to have the time to go into that now, but it seems to me that all military opinion I hear takes the view that in so far as we can apply that conception our defence forces will alter in character in certain respects. We will dispose of them in a far more concentrated way, we will not scatter them throughout the world and, therefore, we shall have them as a real, potential striking force. It will be necessary to have them far more mechanised and they will be smaller in terms of manpower. On the whole, the accent will be increasingly on air forces and the latest, most technical weapons rather than on sea and ground forces.
I believe that that will give us considerable relief on manpower in the long run. It should and will enable us to reduce our period of National Service, the two years of which I am on record as saying in this House is far too long a period. Whether it will give us equal relief on the money side is another matter, for even smaller forces, if highly concentrated and mechanised, are extremely expensive. Therefore, I cannot promise that this conception would give equal relief on that side. At any rate, whatever the cost which such forces will impose upon us we must keep it as low as we possibly can for the sake of our economic strength.
If we manage to have a defence policy of that general conception, the burden which it places on us and which we should have to carry will give us a worthwhile result. At present, we carry this immense burden and it gives us very little result in terms of security. If we can achieve a concentration of Commonwealth resources and our forces are really used not to garrison the Commonwealth but for the joint united defence of the Commonwealth with our allies then we shall reap the benefit in security for the very considerable defence burden which we are still likely to have to bear.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North)
I want to confine my remarks to the problems of the Middle East and, in doing so, I hope that I shall be able to reply to some of the points which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) has just raised. I would ask the House, at the outset, to look not just at the local problems of the Middle East, burning though many of them are, nor just the potential value of the Middle East to the defence of the free world against the danger of Soviet aggression, but above all to look at the question, bearing in mind that the Middle East is the hub of inter-Commonwealth strategic and trading communications and the point from which the influence of this country is still projected into the whole area of the Indian Ocean.
The crucial character of this region to the Commonwealth has been proved by the memorable fact that in two world wars the troops of Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa have all come together with our own forces to fight in the defence of the Middle East. Its continuing importance has been shown by the readiness of Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans to join in a Middle East defence organisation if one is set up. More recently still has been the formal declaration, unanimously approved at the last Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, thatThe stability and welfare of this area and its maintenance as a vital artery of communications were of deep concern to all Commonwealth countries.The future of our position in the Middle East may well be decided by the outcome of the current negotiations between Her Majesty's Government and the Egyptian Government. This is a difficult subject to discuss. We are not in the presence of any official statement. On the other hand, there have been continuing reports from responsible newspaper correspondents so far-reaching and alarming in character that I have felt bound to raise the issue now, before any final decision is taken, before it is too late.
There is, I think, a general desire in all parts of the House to see the conclusion of an agreement with Egypt. The present position is obviously unsatisfactory. There is today a situation of force and tension and we would all wish to 370 replace it with a treaty consistent with the honour of both countries and securing their essential interests.
The terms of any such treaty must always reflect the degree of confidence which exists between the parties to it. A first question to ask, therefore, is: With whom shall be sign this agreement? How far will it be binding and final? In 1936 we went to great lengths to secure a firm commitment from the whole Egyptian nation. The Treaty was signed not just by the Ministers of the Wafd Government, then in power, but by the leaders of every other political party, with one small exception. It was then ratified by the overwhelming majority of the freely elected Egyptian Parliament. It was as watertight a commitment as one could get.
The prospect today is very different. Who are to be our partners to the new agreement? The Government of Egypt is a dictatorship, a military dictatorship; but the dictator, General Neguib, seems to be the mouthpiece rather than the master of the junta of officers over which he presides. It is with this junta that the real power lies. The members of the junta are said to have varying political connections. Some are said to lean to the fanatical Moslem Brotherhood, others to the Communist Party. I do not know how far these allegations are true. I have been told, however, that Colonel Nasser and Major Saleh Salem, the dancing major, are the most pro-British of the group. Here, at least, is a standard by which to judge the others.
This military Government was not elected by the Egyptian people; it was not even brought to power by a popular revolution. It came to power by a coup d'état, by a putsch. So questionable, indeed, is its constitutional position that Her Majesty's Government have not yet accorded it de jure recognition. I wonder when we last tried to negotiate a major agreement with a Government we did not fully recognise. I think it must be a long time.
It is hard to say how far General Neguib's Government can speak for Egypt. There is no Parliament; the political parties have been banned; there can be no elections for fear of the influence of the Wafd—the great nationalist party which, despite all its subsequent aberrations, and they were many, gave 371 us such loyal support in a difficult hour of the war. There is no freedom of the Press; letters are censored; Egyptians are virtually forbidden to leave their own country; and tanks patrol the streets of the main cities.
There are arrests without trial, and trails conducted in secret. Savage sentences are inflicted on undisclosed evidence, and a man who has served with our Armed Forces since the time of Lawrence of Arabia has been put to death precisely for his services to us, without, I believe, a word of public protest from our Ministers. These are not the hallmarks of a stable or a popular Government.
The history of military juntas repeats itself with little change. A group of officers comes together to seize power. It is not so easy to hold them together. The clash of principles or personalities which we, on this side of the House, solve with such characteristic propriety, and which Members opposite settle with more public but still harmless, bickering, are not so easily overcome in a junta of officers when every member has a regiment behind him. I shudder to think what might have happened, even here, under the last Administration, if the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) had commanded the Brigade of Guards, and the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell), the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, had been in command of the Household Cavalry.
We cannot tell whether the present Government in Egypt will endure, but there are already signs that its members see their best hopes of remaining united and in power by conjuring up the bogey of a foreign enemy. When General Neguib first took over, the emphasis of his public declarations was on social and economic measures, and the first steps were taken to carry out the much needed land reform. But we do not hear much about these policies nowadays. Land reform has been only intermittently applied. Instead, the Government, resting as it does solely upon the support of the Army, has sought to shore up its popularity in the towns by vituperation against Great Britain.
Where will this combination of a dominating Army and a xenophobe mob lead? What will the junta do, if they do get their way over Suez? As has been said, we can 372 do everything with bayonets except sit on them; and it is hardly surprising if the talk in Cairo has turned away from the intractable domestic problems of Egypt and is increasingly concentrated upon Egyptian leadership in the Arab world, and a victorious second round against Israel.
Here is the partner with whom we are to make an agreement. I do not say that we cannot sign up with such men. We have to take the Government of Egypt as we find it; but let us, at least, act with our eyes open, and remember that this is a Government which came to power by force, which holds power by force, and by appealing to the worst passions of the Cairo mob. It is a Government which we do not fully recognise, a Government whose tenure of power is precarious, and whose successors may well repudiate any agreement now arrived at. Moreover, if recent experience in the Sudan is any guide, and as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary pointed out very firmly at the beginning of the debate, it is a Government which does not keep its word.
What terms are we proposing to agree with General Neguib's Government? The newspapers report that there is a provisional agreement to withdraw all our fighting troops from the zone within a few months leaving only technicians to maintain the base and that these technicians in their turn, would be withdrawn a few years afterwards. By 1960, in fact, the evacuation would be complete and we should be out altogether, technicians and all.
On the question of the availability of the base in an emergency the reports are more confused, but it is plain that we are no longer to have a full alliance with Egypt. We are to have no automatic right of re-entry unless a member of the Arab League is attacked. In the case of attacks on other countries we should only be allowed to return to the base with the consent of the Egyptian Government or at the request of the United Nations. To judge from the latest Press reports, even this condition about U.N.O. is regarded by the Egyptians as too wide a commitment.
These terms raise three distinct problems. How far can the protection of the Canal and the base be safely entrusted to 373 the Egyptian Army alone? Because that is what evacuation means. A first question to consider in any discussion of evacuation is, where are evacuated forces to go? Is it the Government's intention to maintain a strategic reserve in the Middle East at all, and, if so, where? I cannot believe that they intend to leave a power vacuum in the Middle East, but it is not easy to say where any substantial strategic reserve is to be stationed. Cyprus is hardly suitable, with its limited ports and airfields. Could we secure rights in Jordan or the Gaza strip? Cyrenaica is a possibility, though I am not clear what military rights we have secured under the recent agreement. Perhaps we could be told something about all this, not necessarily today but in due course.
Let us, in any case, consider what would be the effects of evacuation upon the security of the Canal. The political strikes and riots that broke out in January, 1951, would have paralysed the Canal completely, but for the presence of the Royal Navy who carried out essential tasks. Can we be sure that there would be no such outbreaks again? Are we certain that General Neguib, or his successors, would not yield to pressure to nationalise the Suez Canal Company, or insist on the too rapid Egyptianisation of its personnel? It may be said that this would never be in Egypt's interest. Remember Abadan. The great refinery there rusts away—a monument to all who fail to distinguish between the interests of nationalist politicians and the interests of the nations they exploit.
No doubt the Egyptian Government will give assurances about the freedom of passage through the Canal, but what will they be worth? Ever since 1948 cargoes bound for Israeli ports have been denied passage, in flagrant breach of the Suez Canal Convention. Our own shipping has been the victim of serious interference, sometimes on no more serious ground than the suspicion that some of the cargo carried might, eventually and indirectly, find its way back to Israel.
Entry visas have been refused for pilots at a time when there was a shortage of pilots. I have been told, on good authority, that only the other day the Council of Revolution, in Cairo, seriously debated closing the Canal to French shipping bound for Indo-China, as a reprisal for recent French policies in Morocco. 374 If these things can happen while we have 80,000 troops in Egypt, what may not happen when we have gone?
Let me turn to the base. The installations and stores there would, according to the Select Committee on Estimates, cost £400 million to £500 million to replace and all military authorities agree that that base is essential to any sustained defence of the Middle East. The protection of this vast structure, and the protection of our technicians while they remain in it, is to be entrusted to whom? To the Army that was beaten by the untrained levies of the infant State of Israel? At the best of times, there is a good deal of pilfering from the base, and is this Egyptian Army the force to stop it, or is there not a risk that they may join in the looting for their own purposes?
We shall, after all, be entrusting the protection, and presenting the maintenance, of the base to an Army, and to a Government, which are not on our side, which are not prepared to join a Middle East defence organisation and be our allies in the face of the danger of Soviet aggression. The Egyptians want control of the base. But they want it not to defend the Middle East against the danger from the north, but so as to be great among the Arabs and to wage war upon the Jews.
It may be said that there is no danger of a second round in Palestine because we are pledged to intervene, along with France and the United States. We were under every moral obligation to intervene in 1948, we had ample forces with which to do it, yet we proved powerless to prevent, to suspend, or even to conclude the conflict. What shall we do when our forces are far away, and we are strained in other parts of the world? Indeed, what shall we do if our technicians are subjected to pressure or ill-treatment? Shall we really take strong action for the sake of technicians who are, in any case, to be withdrawn within a few years? Shall we regard it as an act of war?
I now come to the proposal regarding the availability of the base and our right of re-entry to it. The 1936 Treaty provided, under Article 7, thatin the event of war, imminent menace of war or"—strange phrase—apprehended international emergency375 Egypt would furnish Britain"with all the assistance in her power, including the use of ports, aerodromes and means of communication.Egypt was, in fact, to be our full ally and was to allow us the full use of her soil, not just the Canal Zone, in time of war, and even of international tension—and not only in the Middle East but anywhere else where there was a crisis.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) pointed out, this alliance does not lapse in 1956. The 1936 Treaty does not provide for its expiry or even for denunciation. It only provides for its own revision. Article 16 states expressly thatany revision of this treaty will provide for the continuation of the alliance in accordance with the principles contained in Articles 4, 5, 6 and 7.Article 7 is the Article to which I have just referred.
Under the present proposals, as we know them, we may only return to the base if there is an attack against a member of the Arab League, or at the request of U.N.O. What does this mean? Are we to await a U.N.O. ruling before we reactivate the base to support our Turkish allies? Does it mean that we cannot draw on the base to aid our fellow members of the Commonwealth in Pakistan if they are faced with a Communist inspired sedition, or to aid friendly elements in Persia, or the rulers in the Persian Gulf whom we are obliged to defend?
Does it mean that we cannot draw on the base to supply operations in East Africa, or to support existing bases in Iraq or Jordan, or to restore order in the Sudan if there is a breakdown there in the critical three years ahead? So far as I can see, we secure no rights in the base for the discharge of our Commonwealth or international obligations. Everything is left to Egyptian good will. Surely, this is a terrible gamble.
The Power that threatens us in a future crisis will offer complete immunity to Egypt if she stays neutral, and will threaten the direst reprisals if she joins us. Why should we expect Egypt to endure tribulation for our sake? There are dark forces in Egypt, and they are in the ascendant at the present time. In spite of the diplomatic triumphs which Neguib has gained over us, such as the 376 Sudan agreement and the concessions in the Canal talks, the General still feels bound, in order to appease those dark forces, to cavil as to whether our technicians should wear uniform or not and to arrest and even put to death those who have served Britain. Are we to believe that in a crisis he will suddenly change his mind and be strong enough to defy these dark forces and become our ally if it means, or is thought to mean, the atom bombing of Cairo?
Today, we have the power to reactivate the base. We are proposing to withdraw it. Today, we have the rights and yet we are proposing to give them up. We hope in their place to secure good will strong enough to stand the acid test of war. But suppose the good will is not there. It will be no good saying that we will retake the base by force. Even if our rights were undisputed, it would be hard enough to do. In a moment of supreme tension, when the question of peace or war hangs in the balance, if we were to take troops by force into the Suez Canal Zone we should be accused by the whole world of taking provocative action. In any case, under the new arrangements our right may be disputed, and before the dispute is settled there may be a Communist Government in Cairo or a Soviet airborne division in the Canal Zone.
The first condition of any agreement with Egypt, as I see it, must be a firm alliance, in peace and war, giving us the right to return to the Canal Zone in the hour of danger, and to draw on the base whenever the discharge of our Commonwealth and international obligations require us to do so. Once that is conceded, as it was conceded in the 1936 Treaty, the rest will follow. If there were a full alliance with Egypt, with all the risks that this would involve for Egypt, there would be no objection to our retaining technicians to maintain essential installations for the defence of Egypt.
Nor would there be much objection to our keeping fighting troops to ensure the security of the ports and airfields through which we would reinforce. Even these technicians and fighting troops might one day be withdrawn, but only when the Egyptian Army had proved its military capacity and the Egyptian Government had shown that it was capable of keeping its word.
377 I shall be told, no doubt, that no Egyptian Government would ever agree to such terms. What, then, is the alternative to the talks now under discussion? I believe that we should take our stand firmly on the 1936 Treaty. That still gives us three years in which we have an unqualified right to maintain troops in the Zone.
§ Mr. Amery
If the Egyptians practise sabotage, we can also, presumably, go a little beyond the total. After the three years, the obligation to withdraw our troops depends upon two conditions—first, upon whether the Egyptian Army can by then be judged capable of defending the Canal, and that is a matter which, no doubt, can be submitted to arbitration in accordance with the terms of the Treaty. The second condition is the readiness of the Egyptian Government to accept the obligation under the old Treaty to conclude a new Treaty which would continue the alliance and secure to us the right of re-entryin the event of war, imminent threat of war or apprehended international emergency.The Treaty has to be regarded as a single package. If we are to fulfil the clauses which impose obligations upon us, we have a right to ask that the Egyptians also fulfil the obligations which the Treaty imposes upon them.
There is a good deal to be said for gaining time. If General Neguib can establish his Government more securely, he may find it easier to secure a reasonable agreement. We are not asking for anything unreasonable. The forces which we have kept in Egypt bring wealth into the country and have given it protection; I do not mean just in the last war, but even when the Israelis were marching on the Canal. But those forces have never interfered in the internal affairs of Egypt. On the contrary, they have stood by, while British subjects were murdered in Cairo, while our ships have been searched and our servants imprisoned and executed. Non-intervention has been stretched to the limit, and perhaps beyond the limit, of what is possible or right. It may be, on the other hand, that General Neguib will be followed by more extreme elements. If so, we may all be forced to recognise the need for stronger measures, and when I say "stronger 378 measures" there are many ways in which we could apply pressure to Egypt without having to march on Cairo.
It is sometimes said—I think an hon. Member mentioned it earlier in the debate—that it is no use having a base in a hostile territory. This is really a novel doctrine. Almost every major war in history has called at one time or another for the establishment of bases in enemy territory. Nor is it easy to sabotage a base in time of war, as anyone who has tried to do it knows.
Much is made of the serious inconvenience that has been caused by the withdrawal of labour in the Canal Zone. This will go on as long as the Egyptians believe that it will help to force us to accept their terms.
But if they knew that we meant to stand our ground, is it really likely that they would persist in a policy which is more dangerous to them than it is to us? Besides, how hostile will Egypt be in another war? There were moments in the last war when the attitude of some of the Egyptian leaders, including the King himself, was in doubt. There was a moment when Iraq fell into the hands of hostile elements. But in the end all went well. If another war comes we may have some trouble, but if we stand firm now we shall have the base. Under the present proposals we shall not have it at all.
There is another argument on which I want to say a word. The right hon. Member for Dundee, West suggested that by evacuating the Canal Zone we should be relieved of a burden. "Relieved" was the word he used. I can think of many people in other parts of the world who would like to relieve us of our burdens. There is a gentleman in Madrid who is continually offering to relieve us of the burden of Gibraltar. How much money would we save, in fact? As I understand it, we should be committed, under the proposed new agreement, to continue contributing to the upkeep of the base. We should still have to pay for the soldiers, wherever they were deployed. If we are to provide new facilities for a strategic reserve elsewhere in the Middle East, we shall have to undertake other heavy capital expenditure.
Add to this the risk of greater pilfering from the base and of money lost through 379 declining efficiency in the navigation of the canal, and I doubt whether the saving will be very impressive. I grant that we should achieve a better disposition of our forces, but I believe that with a little greater firmness and patience we could achieve the same result and still secure our essential interests in the Canal Zone.
I realise that in all this we have not received the support which we could have wished from the United States. I recognise, too, the difficulties of going against their advice in this matter. But the issue at stake is greater—and I measure my words carefully—even than the great cause of Anglo-American friendship. Let us face the fact frankly. If we accept the kind of terms that are being discussed it will not be long before we have to wind up the bases in Jordan and Iraq. We shall be out of the Middle East.
If we allow that to happen we shall be deserting Australia and New Zealand, and they will turn more than ever towards the Anzus Pact conception. We shall be straining too far the new relationship with the three Asian Dominions, upon which so many hopes have been set. We shall have dissolved the strategic unity of the Commonwealth. Yet it is only as the leading member of the Commonwealth that we can play our full part in Europe and walk as equals with the United States. There is no choice for us. Either we lead the Commonwealth or we shall be a satellite State. Nothing less is at stake than our independence.
In saying these things, I beg hon. Members to believe that I am not speaking just in the old-fashioned nationalist or Imperialist way—to which the right hon. Member for Dundee, West referred. There are millions of people in the world who see in a strong and united British Commonwealth the best and perhaps the only hope of restraining the giants and averting a third world war. If we will the end, we must will the means.
§ Mr. Strachey
Does not the hon. Member see that the conception—which is one which we all agree as being the greatest conception—of a strong and united Commonwealth, defended by armed forces, depends absolutely on the members of that Commonwealth being willing and free to co-operate in their own 380 defence? The Middle East countries, which are technically not in the Commonwealth, have made it perfectly clear—especially Egypt—that they are unwilling to be defended, so long as we maintain our troops on their soil.
Does not the hon. Member agree that if experience has shown anything in the last 20 years it is that in the long run we cannot defend people against an aggression against which they are not willing to be defended? Not until we get the co-operation of those people in the Middle East can planning for their real defence begin, and until then the 80,000 troops we keep in the Canal Zone will be fully occupied in maintaining themselves against the hostility of the local population.
§ Mr. Amery
I think that the right hon. Gentleman has rather misunderstood me. The real issue at stake is the strategic unity of the Commonwealth. I shall develop that point for the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman. As I see it, we shall never be able to organise the defence of the Commonwealth until we are not only willing and free but are able to come to each other's help. We cannot come to the help of the five members of the Commonwealth who are situated around the Indian Ocean unless we ourselves, in some manner, are an Indian Ocean Power, and only in the Suez Canal Zone can we economically establish a military base reasonably near the Indian Ocean area. I see no other area in which it is strategically possible for a base to be built, or economically maintained. That is the essence of the argument which I was putting, and that is why I say that if we will the end we must will the means.
There are hundreds of thousands of people in this country who have served in the Middle East at one time or another, from the veterans of Omdurman to those who fought at Alamein. They understand the significance of the Suez Canal to the Commonwealth, just as they understand the importance of the English Channel to this island. I have talked with some of them in my constituency—men of all parties—and have asked them what they thought about the reports that we would pull out of Egypt altogether. One of them smiled and said, "I am not really worrying. Old Winston will never let it happen." I pray God that his simple faith may be proved right.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Broxtowe)
After an absence of nearly four years it gives me great pleasure to succeed again in catching the eye of the occupant of the Chair. During that period there have been a few changes inside the House. I notice that we sit on different sides and, while there has been a change of sides, there also appears to have been some change of thought.
I was very pleased today, for example, to find myself in a great measure of agreement on leading issues of policy with my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil), and I derived almost equal pleasure from seeing the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) and his friends stabbing the Foreign Secretary in the back. I am also interested and glad to note that some hon. Members opposite should, for whatever motives—which I cannot always share—think that we cannot pursue Anglo-American friendship at all costs, as the Prime Minister did a year or so ago.
While there have been changes inside the House there have also been some changes outside. Four years ago there was a movement of public opinion—admittedly slight—away from the Labour Party. Now I think we can say that the tide has set in the other direction, and though, as "The Times" rightly said, the Broxtowe by-election is only a straw in the wind, straws nevertheless eventually add up to a haystack, or at least a strawstack, and the next few weeks may add their quota to the stack.
I now have the opportunity of representing constituents who live in very close touch with the realities of life, and the majority of whom are in particularly close touch, in one way or another, with the soil. Some of them till the surface and produce the white bread of life, and many others dig beneath the soil and bring forth the black bread of British industry.
I find that these honest, hard-working people are concerned, above all, with two things. I regret to say that they are concerned not so much with the issues raised by the hon. Member for Preston, North, as, first, with the question of the rising cost of living and the significant increase in the price of food which has taken place 382 since this Government have been in power, and at a time when world prices have been falling—an increase which is causing heartbreak to old age pensioners and many people in the lower income groups—and, secondly, with the question which must always be in the minds of the masses of people in the world—the question of peace.
I found that their hopes had been raised by the speech which was made by the Prime Minister on 11th May this year, but that they had been dashed by what has happened since then. There have already been many references to that speech, and I do not want to labour the point, but I do want to recall that on 11th May, when the Prime Minister spoke of a high level conference, he said that such a conference should be called without delay.
It is now very nearly six months since that speech was made, and it is quite clear that obstacles have arisen in the path of the right hon. Gentleman. My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenock indicated whence those obstacles may have come. He suggested Washington, but I think we ought to inquire, too, what is the particular nature of the obstacles which have arisen, and I should like to refer to a report of the Washington correspondent of "The Times," published on 29th October. He says:It is understood that Mr. Dulles, when he saw the Prime Minister in London, promised to exert his personal influence on the President to agree to take part in a four-Power meeting at some time in the next few months"—and this is the important part—provided the European Defence Community had been ratified and the Russian Foreign Minister had accepted the invitation to Lugano.I do not know whether "The Times" correspondent is giving an accurate representation of discussions which have taken place, but hon. and right hon. Members opposite, particularly the Foreign Secretary, should know whether there is any truth in the reports that Mr. Dulles gave a pledge to Dr. Adenauer that German rearmament would be proceeded with at all costs and that there would be no attempt at serious negotiations with the Soviet Union about Germany, or, indeed, any other leading question, until German rearmament was in full train.
383 I know that the Under-Secretary of State, who is to reply to this debate, will say that it is not the responsibility of the Foreign Secretary to answer for what Mr. Dulles may say or what Dr. Adenauer may say, but I submit that this House is entitled to know what are the obstacles which are holding up further progress, and whether the obstacle is in this American determination to face the Soviet Union with a fait accompli with regard to German rearmament before any serious discussions are entered into.
If this is the case, as there is very good reason indeed to suspect, then surely it is not difficult to understand why this wordly verbal exchange of Note and counter Note has, so far, not led anywhere at all. After all, that is the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is whether or not we are to make a serious attempt to reunify Germany by four-Power agreement or whether Germany is to be partitioned and rearmed and West Germany associated in firm military alliance with the West. It is, of course, nonsense for anyone to suggest that Russia has no need to be alarmed about such a prospect. I should say that not only has Russia reason to be alarmed but that all the countries of Europe, and, indeed, this country, too, which have suffered in the past from repeated German aggression, have good reason to be alarmed at such a prospect.
I recall that the Prime Minister, in his speech of 11th May, spoke one sentence which I thought was rather ominous. He referred to Dr. Adenauer asthe wisest German statesman since … Bismarck."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 889–90.]It seemed to me a very ominous parallel indeed, because Bismark's wisdom surely lay, from the point of view of this country, solely in the fact that he kept away from the Channel; but it did not prevent him from leading Germany into aggression against Austria and Denmark and France, nor did it prevent him from laying the foundations for the further German aggression of 1914 and 1939. While this country suffered only in the last two German wars, France suffered in three German wars.
I think we ought to recall those facts when we are considering this fundamental problem of Europe and of world 384 peace. I think we ought to realise that we and our American allies are in serious danger of making again the kind of mistake that was made in the last century and between the two world wars in utilising the interval between the wars to rebuild the military strength of ex-enemies at the expense of ex-allies. It was, after all, the Government of this country which, through the Anglo-German Naval Treaty, set Germany again on the road towards rearmament and becoming a decisive and dominant military power in Europe, and today we have the situation in which not only we but also the United States are following that path in regard to Germany, and in the Far East also with regard to Japan. We must view this as a serious danger not only for the countries of Europe who have felt it more closely than we, but as a menace to ourselves as well.
We have to make up our minds what we want to achieve in regard to Germany and Europe. What is our aim? I was very interested to read a remarkable letter in the "Manchester Guardian" the other day by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby), who asked, so far as my recollection goes, did we fight the last war to establish the Red Army on the Elbe and the German Army on the Channel? I ask hon. and right hon. Members opposite, is that our purpose in Europe? Do we want to fix that position as the pattern for the future? Because that is what we shall be doing if we proceed with our present policy of hastening on the rearmament of Western Germany and its inclusion in E.D.C.
I should have thought that the aim of all of us on both sides of the House would have been first to have tried to secure the withdrawal of Russian military forces to the east within the Soviet frontier, or, at least, as far as the Oder, and also, at the same time, to prevent Germany again securing the hegemony of Europe. We have the opportunity, I believe, at this time, and since the changes which have taken place in the Soviet Union, to which reference has been made today, to achieve these two objectives.
We have to seek out in this matter a common interest with the Soviet Union. We have to try to find a basis on which the Soviet Union would be willing to make that withdrawal and to make those 385 concessions which we regard as indispensable to the future welfare of Germany and of Europe. We regard free elections as essential in Germany, both on this side of the House and on the opposite side of the House. But how can we hope to secure Russian agreement to free elections when the Russians know very well that under present conditions the Government elected by such elections would be an anti-Communist Government and would immediately be free to join the Western military alliance?
It is nonsense to suppose that Russia could accept any such situation; and if we are to follow the advice of the Prime Minister and to study the national interests of the countries with whom we are trying to deal, let us realise that if agreement is seriously desired with the Soviet Union on the question of Germany and of Europe, then we cannot put the Soviet Union in face of such a situation
What, then, should we do about Germany? Many proposals have been advanced. It was suggested by the Foreign Secretary that there are basically only two alternatives—either that Germany must be included in the Western military system through E.D.C. or, as other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have advocated, through N.A.T.O., or that Germany should be left in a vacuum, free to build up her national armies and offering them, perhaps, to the highest bidder. But those are not the only alternatives. I suggest that there is another—one which has been proposed before and which can still be tried. I suggest that we try to seek the neutralisation of Germany by four-Power agreement.
In my opinion, if we were to make it clear to Russia that we did not intend to include Germany in the Western military system, then we should get from the Russian side a good many concessions on the points which we are seeking. I believe that if we make that concession on our side, they, in their turn, will agree to the free elections which we are seeking.
We should need a four-Power agreement providing for the disarmament of Germany for a period of years—say five or 10 years—limiting her potentialities for constructing weapons of war and providing that she was not free to enter into a military alliance with any other country.
§ Mr. Warbey
I should like to make it indefinite, but we have to be realistic in this matter and to recognise that we cannot lay down conditions binding one country for the indefinite future.
What we should seek to do in that breathing space with which we should be provided is to go further in our discussions with the Soviet Union and other countries to secure general agreement on international disarmament and the setting up of a real system of world security. When we had achieved that Germany would then fit into her place but, in the meantime, she would have to be kept disarmed by four-Power agreement and prevented from forming a military alliance with any other country, because unless we did that we should be making it possible for her to offer her armed forces or her assistance to the highest bidder.
Having done that, I see no reason at all why such a Germany should not be free to enter into economic agreements in a European economic community in which we could join, along with others, in establishing an area of planned trade and investment which would be advantageous equally to Germany and to ourselves.
That appears to me to be a possible alternative, and if anybody suggests that it was tried in the Versailles Peace Treaty and failed, I will recall what I said earlier: in effect, what was wrong with the Versailles Treaty system was that it was not carried out by the countries who were the ex-enemies of Germany. It was not that the military clauses in the Versailles Treaty themselves were unworkable; they were workable, but they were deliberately prevented from working by the foreign policy of the Government of this country, following the ancient balance of power theory that once we have smashed one enemy in Europe we immediately become afraid of our ex-ally—in this case, France—and have to start rebuilding the enemy. The hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) looks puzzled. In the first three years after the 1914–18 war we were saying things about France which were nearly as hard as those we have been saying about Soviet Russia since this war 387 —talking about the menace of a French revival and about French arrogance. Ramsay MacDonald even wrote letters asking why the French Government were stationing their air force so near to the Channel.
These things are sometimes worth recalling, but on this occasion I recall them only to show that we undermined the Versailles Peace Treaty system. It could have been worked if we had maintained our determination, and we could work by agreement with the four Powers, a neutralisation of Germany if we were determined upon it and if we made up our minds to see it through.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr (Cambridge)
Since I have promised to limit my remarks to five minutes, I hope the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Warbey) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his survey of foreign affairs. I want to focus my few observations on a single theme—the theme of Anglo-American co-operation. Many of us heard the Prime Minister, in one of the phases of the war and in one of his noblest speeches, compare Anglo-American relations to the Mississippi River—"It just keeps on rolling along," he said.
At that time those words, certainly for most of us, expressed our affection and our gratitude for what the United States were doing for us. I think we recall very vividly indeed, during the dark days of 1940, when any morning might have brought the news of an invasion of our shores and every night certainly brought the sound of German bombers snarling in the night sky above our city, the words of President Roosevelt, the words of a friend in a hostile and indifferent world.
We were therefore grateful, later, when American resources, translated in terms of armies, air forces and navies, obtained a decisive victory, alongside our arms, in Europe and in Asia. Today we find, under the N.A.T.O. Treaty, not only American air forces stationed in Europe, but American bombers and fighters on the tarmac of our aerodromes and American naval units in Atlantic and Mediterranean waters. What would not Clemenceau, tired Clemenceau, after the 1914–18 war, have given for such a guarantee as we possess now? What 388 would not a British Foreign Secretary in the period between the wars have given for such a situation as exists now? Would not Hitler have paused if a similar treaty to N.A.T.O. had existed between the wars?
But let us frankly admit that Anglo-American relations have not just gone rolling along as we hoped. I believe the great Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister of England, once remarked that the whole art of politics consisted in preventing little problems from becoming big problems. I think we have to do that now over the whole field of Anglo-American relations. On our side, suspicions have existed that the United States have not helped us as much as they might have done in Persia, and certainly in Egypt.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) voiced the opinion today that the United States was dedicated to the policy of liquidating the British Empire, but I must tell him, in passing, that he should have read the speech of the Under-Secretary for Asiatic and Eastern Affairs, Mr. Byroade, who very clearly said how much the United States recognised the value of countries of the old world who own Colonial possessions.
Large sections of people in the United States have accused us of not helping enough in Korea and of trading with China. All of us know the exact answer to that. All of us know that this country with its vast commitments in Malaya and in Egypt cannot afford to send huge forces to Korea. All of us know that probably not a single allied soldier in Korea has been killed by a single item of goods we have sent into China.
I am afraid that large sections of opinion in the United States and, perhaps, even in this country are preventing the Governments acting at the moment as they should. I should like to make very briefly one or two suggestions. I should hesitate to add to the burdens of the President of the United States. I am told that of all the men in the world he is the hardest worker. Each day he has endless decisions to make and endless letters to sign, but President Eisenhower, or Mr. Eisenhower, as I suppose I should call him, is a figure loved and respected 389 in Europe. I wonder if at this moment he could be persuaded to make a state visit to England and to the Western countries of Europe to revive the leadership that those nations felt towards America at the end of the war. I make this as a suggestion.
Secondly, I believe that a great deal could be done by propaganda on the wireless and even by television. I remember during the war that the Churchill Club in Ashburnham House, next to Dean's Yard, used to organise Anglo-American brains trusts. I often took part in them. There was frank speaking on all sides and nearly always agreement at the end. I wonder now if both Governments could not consider trying to educate opinion in the United States and in this country to each other's point of view by organising Transatlantic brains trusts in which responsible men could talk frankly about the most difficult and thorny problems and express frank views. If I know the American people they are always ready to accept and admire frank expressions of opinion.
Lastly, I believe that in order to bring the two countries more closely together we might revive the practice which existed during the war of towns and similar trades talking to each other. I happened to be a Member for Oldham in those years. There was an excellent broadcast from Oldham which evoked the whole spirit of a Lancashire town. We heard the clatter of clogs over the cobbled streets, we heard little piecers talking and describing their work, and we heard an old Lancashire lady singing her song. Why should not the agricultural regions of England talk to the agricultural regions of Texas and the Middle West, the great port of Southampton to New York, the coal miners of Durham or of Cannock Chase to the coal miners of Pittsburg? I believe that people who work together often can achieve bonds and affinities which help them to understand each other better than before.
I offer very briefly these three suggestions. May I close with one further observation? The Foreign Secretary referred to the horror aroused in this country concerning the persecution of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland. I speak as a member of the Church of England. I wish that all the churches in this country, whether Catholic, Church of 390 England, Chapel or Non-conformist would arise and express their joint indignation at the persecution of the Catholic Church in Poland. I believe that the churches should stand together on this occasion and defend together the rights and principles which we all hold sacred.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
I have listened, as I always do, to the interesting speech made by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Hamilton Kerr), I should like to confirm his judgment on Anglo-American relations. I do not propose to intrude into this debate on foreign affairs on the occasion of the Gracious Speech, except to say that I was somewhat surprised by the latter part of the speech of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and, to some extent, by the speech of the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery).
It is a remarkable thing how the impact of history upon each of us is quite different and sometimes produces opposite results. I regret, for example, the allegation that American intervention in Europe and the Middle East was part of a sinister campaign to undermine the British Commonwealth of Nations. I do not want to misrepresent him, but I think that that was the basis of his accusation. I recall very clearly during the latter part of the First World War how thrilled we were when America decided, late as it was, to intervene on the side of the allies in our life and death struggle at that time with the Germans. We welcomed them. I shall never forget seeing the first ships that went from Southampton to France filled with American troops, nor shall I forget what amazing reaction there was in all of us when the American people came to our aid.
I also recall how depressed the British people, and certainly the British Labour movement, were at the time when America decided to withdraw and wash her hands of any further responsibility for the troubles of Europe. I do not want to interfere with family quarrels within the Tory Party. For the moment, I am going to maintain the strictest impartiality, but with this observation to the Foreign Secretary, that he may have no fear of any revolt taking place in this House by those behind him and that whatever revolt may take place will be 391 either at the Carlton Club or some other club. It certainly will not occur here.
I hold the view that the greatest factor in the promotion of world peace is the closest possible unity between the United States of America and the British Commonwealth of Nations. I know that we make mistakes, but when I hear the accusations made by certain voices from America, I try to believe that America is a big place. I always have regard to what is said by the American Federation of Labour and the C.I.O. I keep my attention constantly on these two organisations which represent a very large body of American people, and it is astonishing how much in agreement these two organisations are with the British Labour Party and the T.U.C. That is the end of my excursion into foreign affairs this evening.
I think, Mr. Speaker, on the Ruling given just before you returned to the Chair, that provided one stuck to the past one had a pretty wide field in which to play in the debate upon the Gracious Speech. It is not a bad thing to look, not only at the Gracious Speech, but also at the Speech on Prorogation. It is a good thing to look at the past as well as to anticipate what the Government are likely to do.
I am one of those who believe it was a very bad thing when the present Government were returned to power in 1951. and I still think so. I am glad that there are a number of people who share my views. I consider that another five years' penal servitude would not have done the Government any harm in order fully to pay for the political crimes which they enacted when they were in power.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the Prime Minister and I thought it was not a bad thing to look at the record of the Government to see whether some good might be found as coming from evil. This is what I found. The Government now endorse the Health Service and have made their own record look silly. The Labour Party gave the pledge to abolish university seats, and we carried it out. The Prime Minister made an equally firm pledge in his signed manifesto that if returned to power he would restore university representation. Now, he has broken that pledge.
The Prime Minister is not the only distinguished Member of a Government 392 who has broken pledges. I recall his own distinguished father, when he was charged with having broken a pledge, and I have no doubt that the Prime Minister, when he meets his critics elsewhere, will call to his aid his father's own classic defence when, charged with having broken an Election pledge, he said that had he known as much when he made the pledge as he knew now, by virtue of his high office, he would never have made such a pledge.
The Prime Minister has complimented my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition by deciding to abolish the Overlords. I hope that as a result of his decision to abolish the Overlords, the Prime Minister will give crabbed youth in the Government a chance to show their zeal. He spoke benevolently of nationalisation and of the Government's changed attitude towards it. He went so far as to say that the Government would do what they could to make the nationalised industries work—he was referring particularly to coal and the railways, and, of course, the nationalised services of gas and electricity—provided such support would not mar the symmetry of party recrimination.
Then we had the speech of the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison), who moved the Motion for an Address in reply to the Gracious Speech. When speaking about agriculture, the hon. Member sang the praises of the Prime Minister in muted tones—as well he might, because in the same manifesto, when the right hon. Gentleman promised to restore the university seats, he also said that if the Tories were returned they would maintain both guaranteed markets and guaranteed prices for agriculture. For he no doubt realised that the vacillations of the Government in the field of agriculture will do more to convert the farmer to the view that Labour's policy in agriculture is pre-eminently superior to anything which either previous or present Tory Governments have produced.
I want now to refer to the situation in Kenya. My interest in Kenya is the interest of every British citizen. We are responsible for the good government of the Africans, and because of the moral obligation that falls upon every one of us we cannot view the situation in Kenya 393 with complacency. It is just about 12 months ago that the Mau Mau uprisings took place and it is about 12 months since British troops were sent there. It is extraordinary that in spite of our vastly superior forces the Mau Mau forces, numbering not more than 2,000, have resisted successfully the military forces that we have brought to bear on the situation.
The result is that the situation has seriously deteriorated. No solution is in sight. About 50,000 Africans are in prison. If one judges the position aright, the natural leaders of the African are under lock and key and there is no one with whom to negotiate. The Kenya Government are faced with serious financial problems, because they are faced with expenditure of something like £250,000 a month. Military means have been primarily employed to deal with the problems in Kenya. No wonder Sir George Erskine, the East African Commander-in-Chief, has recently publicly declared that there is no military answer to the problem in Kenya and that the answer can only be a political one. He has counselled not only us, but the Kenya Government, to look for a political solution to the problems of Kenya.
I have listened with great interest to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, but quite frankly—I say it with no irresponsibility, because one knows how difficult is the problem in Kenya and elsewhere—I cannot be convinced that the right hon. Gentleman has measured the causes of the unrest rightly or that the methods which he has employed as Secretary of State are the right ones to deal with the Africans.
I read recently in a Midland newspaper an article boosting the Secretary of State for the Colonies and stating that he was well in the tradition of the great Colonial Secretaries produced by the Conservative Party. But is the record of the Tory Party a good one in relation to the building of the British Empire? Will it stand examination before history in such a way as to confirm the claim that the Tory Party have been eminent in the field of colonial affairs? What is their record? I see no harm in starting from the time of Lord North, because the present Prime Minister went back to the Chartist Movement of the 1830's in suggesting a prolonged period of power for the present Government.
394 Lord North lost us the American Colonies, and had it not been for the report of Lord Durham in 1838 and the action taken thereon, the Tories would have lost us Canada as well, and that country today would have been joined with the United States. Had it not been for Campbell-Bannerman, they would have lost us the Union of South Africa, as they did Southern Ireland.
Had the present Government been in power from 1945 to 1950 they would have lost us India and Pakistan. But thanks to the political sagacity of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, supported by his Cabinet and party, our authority there was transformed into influence and retained those two great peoples, together with Ceylon, within the British Commonwealth of Nations. Therefore I ask the question, by what right can the Tory Party claim that they are Empire builders? Where is the evidence of their allegation that we stand for presiding over the dissolution of the British Empire?
I come back to Kenya. I would ask the present Government to review the problem there and elsewhere in Central Africa and, indeed, in British Guiana. I would ask them to recognise that the outbursts in Kenya and British Guiana are manifestations of the desire of the Africans and the people in British Guiana to get rid of what they call alien rule, and to find a bigger place in the sun.
I beg the Government to rely upon political means to solve these questions and not upon military methods, because some of the answers which the Secretary of State for the Colonies has given and some of the analyses he has made of the causes of the trouble have been very much in line with the kind of charges that his forebears made against the martyrs of Tolpuddle and the British working classes generally in the early 19th Century when they fought for freedom and a bigger place in the sun.
My final word is this. The hon. Member for Cambridge mentioned a conference, and I would ask the Government to initiate a conference between the European Colonial Powers in Africa, so that they could sit down and discuss the present position of African unrest and see if they cannot agree on a common policy based upon faith in, and not fear of, the Africans. They should see whether they 395 cannot approach and deal with these problems in an intelligent and enlightened way, with the object of giving the African people a greater share in the government of that continent, and a wider measure of expression in their lives in their advance towards freedom and self-development.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
Now that there is a chance of the poor British soldier being released from garrisoning the Suez Canal, I was interested in the concluding remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil). When he spoke this afternoon he indicated some hesitation and some change of view by the Opposition now that this thing might become a reality. He wondered whether the Opposition would like it very much if it happened.
For one moment one thought there might have been an alliance between the Opposition and my hon. Friend the Member of Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery), with whom I personally disagree. I acquit the right hon. Gentleman himself of switching his personal views, but the party for which he spoke hitherto, as I understand it, have been entirely in support of arrangements by which we can leave the Canal Zone.
Of course, it may be that with their facility for acquiring favourites among small nations—and the Opposition are always finding themselves supporting certain small nations—they have discovered, as has happened in Trieste and as may well happen in the Suez Canal Zone, that those small nations may find the departure of British troops most disagreeable. It was interesting, when we were trying to reduce the strain of our commitments in Trieste, to find that the supporters of Marshal Tito almost got themselves into the position of saying, "No, the British troops must stay because Marshal Tito does not want the Italians."
Now we have almost got into the position—I do not say it is explicit, but it is hinted at—in which the Labour Party are saying that the British must not leave the Canal Zone because the Israelis do not like the Egyptians and withdrawal means that the Egyptians will be stronger. That would be a tolerable view if at the 396 same time we did not have—and we have had it this afternoon from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey)—the constant pressure for reducing the National Service period, the burden of armaments, and the general reduction in our defence efforts. The two simply do not go together.
There, as I say, I acquit the right hon. Member for Greenock of any inconsistency, but, nevertheless, it is not only him, but I think yesterday or the day before someone on the Front Opposition Bench also suggested, no doubt because of the great friendship for this particular small nation, that somehow we have got a special duty to protect Israel. Of course, we are under the general duty with other members of the United Nations and with those who signed the tripartite declaration of 1950, to keep the peace as much as we can, but it would be a bad thing if, against our own interests, we were obliged to garrison all the trouble spots of the world because some people have certain affections for certain small countries.
It is the tendency not only in the Opposition, but among Middle Eastern experts—and I hasten to say I am not one, but I have been afflicted all my life with these people—who are either devoted to the memory of Colonel T. E. Lawrence or to Dr. Chaim Weizmann, to urge that it is always the responsibility of the British to come to the rescue of the followers of whichever of those two particular men they favour.
I think we must look at the matter of the Suez Canal coldly, calculatedly, and with the knowledge that what is good for Britain is good for the world. What is good for Britain is undoubtedly to reduce our commitments as much as we can and as swiftly as we can, and so lighten this crushing burden for armaments which hon. Members opposite are constantly bemoaning, quite rightly, but which we must carry if we are to play our part. We cannot fulfil that desire, if the money that is spent on this base is spent on protecting itself. That is the simple answer to my two hon. Friends who usually sit one on each side of me. I notice that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West has returned to his place, and unless he can devise some means—and he has not yet devised any—by which that base can really become a place from which troops 397 can be shifted and not merely a dump into which troops have to be poured, then the whole object of the base is completely futile.
My hon. Friend said—I do not know with what authority—that the labour position is bound to get better if we stay there, that we have reached the nadir of Egyptian ill-will, and provided we cling on it will get better. That is a statement of hope, a prognosis based on no evidence whatever. The Egyptians have made it perfectly clear for a long time that they are not disposed to co-operate with us, and I cannot see why he should assume that they will suddenly change their minds because we stay. The history of Ireland, India and other places where this has been attempted runs counter to his argument.
After all, we have had experience of trying to keep bases against the will of the population for many years. I remember that those of us concerned in the battle of the Atlantic constantly pined for the Southern Irish ports. They were bases to which we had treaty rights to which we could have clung, but what good would they have been with a violently hostile Ireland operating behind our backs? Much the same applies in the case of Egypt.
There is no guarantee of Egyptian good will if we make an agreement with that country. I accept all the strictures poured by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Preston, North on the dangers, but there is no absolute chance of good will if we stay. If we balance up the lesser of these evils, I have no doubt, looking at it from the point of view of our own strength, that it is much better to make an arrangement giving us some chance of preserving good will with Egypt than staying there and ruining any chance of good will.
I believe that those who think we should stay there at all costs are psychologically predisposed because of various other weaknesses that have been shown in the Middle East during the last few years. That, however, is a dangerous psychological state. In a recent speech the Prime Minister said that there is a time for patience and a time for decision. Just as there are times for those two things, so there are places for those two things. There is a place to be strong and there is a place to be flexible and it is bad to muddle the two places.
398 It is even worse, because we have made a muddle of one place, because we have been weak in, say, Abadan where we ought to have been strong, to assume that we have to be strong somewhere where we ought to be flexible, to redress the balance, as if two wrongs somehow make a right. There are places in the Middle East where we should be extremely strong, and I shall ask my right hon. Friend to use his good offices with his colleague the Secretary of State for the Colonies to be strong in Cyprus, where I think we are being weak. But that does not mean that we should necessarily thump the table at every point.
On the question of the uniforms for the technicians, which has been much canvassed today, I would say that uniforms are important. Sometimes they look as if they were unimportant, but they go deep into national pyschology. From the reports of these negotiations which I have read, I have noticed that the Egyptians seem to offer no objection to a base of the Royal Navy in Alexandria. This would mean that there would be men walking about there in square rig, in bell-bottomed trousers and dark blue cloth. It might be asked, why do the Egyptians not object to that when they take such violent exception to technicians wearing khaki in the Canal Zone?
It looks inconsistent on the face of it, but it is not; it is exactly the same objection that we in this country had for 200 years to one kind of uniform, a military uniform. That is why we have an annual Army Act whereas we do not need to have an annual Navy Act because people do not object to sailors' uniforms. In the Canal Zone the Egyptians have a violent, deep-rooted and insatiable dislike of the uniforms of those who protected and saved them in the war. It is quite wrong, but there it is.
That these technicians should be in a uniform, I have no doubt. They should wear uniform for their own protection and to make it quite clear that they are not civilians. What the uniform should be is another matter, and it should not be beyond the wit of the negotiators to devise some kind of service uniform on perhaps the same lines but in a different colour—because colour is important—in order to preserve face for the Egyptians and to enable us to get the substance of what we want.
399 Having said that in support of the Government's proposals as far as we understand them—and I am sure they are right as far as I know them—I want to offer some observations upon a neighbouring country, that of Cyprus, because, undoubtedly, Cyprus is becoming more and more important every day. It can never be an alternative to the Suez Canal, but it can be an important and useful point in the Middle East defence.
I have recently returned from Cyprus which I had a unique opportunity of studying. It is a thrilling achievement of British colonial development. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) asked what the British Colonies have done under the Conservatives? If he were to pay a visit to Cyprus now, which has had the benefit since 1878 of a majority of Conservative Governments in this country, he would see, set as a jewel in a poor area, a prosperous and—I will not say satisfied—but well-fed, well-nourished and, on the whole, well-housed island community. The afforestation is a tribute to any service in the world. Malaria has been wiped out. The co-operative movement there, much encouraged by British Governments of both complexions, is a model in an area where distribution is difficult.
§ Mr. Moyle
The hon. Gentleman has not got my approach on the question of Empire building. I contended, and I think I produced the facts, that the Tory Party record in the building of the British Commonwealth is a very poor record indeed. Their entire approach to the development of it was wrong, as indeed at the present time some of their approaches are wrong.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
It is a very large question and one which could not be answered tonight. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that that is what he said. I was producing a little evidence to show him that it is untrue and that it is no reply to me simply to repeat the assertion, which is all that he has done. There are two major things that need to be done in this Colony. One of them is the creation of a deep-water port and I cannot imagine why it has not been done before. Its absence in a prosperous trading community becomes more and more of a burden every day.
400 As time goes on, of course, the capital required for its construction is greater. The Treasury here say that there is not the capital available. That may well be, but as far as I know they have not encouraged any private capital for this development. If a deep harbour was coupled with a free port by which goods could be held in bonded warehouses, to be fanned out to various parts of the Middle East whenever required—because they are constantly required in different parts of the Middle East—it would pay for itself very quickly and would be a good commercial risk. People would invest in it privately if there were no Government money available for such a big project.
I am not talking now from the defence aspect, but from the commercial aspect. What amazes and rather disturbs one about this matter is that when I first heard that the Treasury said there was no money available in England for this purpose, which I can well believe, and I asked, "What about American capital?" I was told that there was a rule that only in very exceptional cases was American capital allowed or welcomed. This was at a time when in this Chamber and in the United Nations and elsewhere we were constantly urging, and being urged on the lines of the Point Four Programme, that more and more of American capital should be encouraged in colonial areas.
I am glad to say that that ruling has recently been removed and it may well be now that American capital has not found it sufficiently attractive to invest in what is a public utility, which inevitably bears a small rate of interest. But it is an extraordinary commentary on the lack of commercial outlook in the Colonial Office that this ruling was there until very recently while, at the same time, other spokesmen of the Government elsewhere were saying how much they would welcome American capital in the Empire. We should welcome it, of course, because the more American capital is wrapped up in the British Commonwealth the more Americans would feel identified with our interests and the less likely they would be to behave as some hon. Members have said today that they have behaved in places where our interests are affected.
401 A prime reason for the failure of Americans to invest is that they will not invest as long as the political stability of a Colony is in question; and the political stability of Cyprus is certainly very worrying, much more worrying, in my submission, than people sometimes believe. If I had a favourite among small nations it would certainly be Greece, but I hope that that would not bind me to any idea that Cyprus would be happier under Greek rule than she is under ours.
All the afforestation and the prosperity that we have created so laboriously during our period of rule would undoubtedly slip away very quickly and Cyprus would be reduced to the barren condition of so many of the beautiful mountains of Greece. I am sure that for a small island as vital to our strategy as Cyprus is we have to make it quite clear that the interests of the free world predominates over the desire for Enossis.
At the moment the Cypriots are not getting that clear lead from the Government. All the newspapers in Cyprus are Enossis propaganda sheets. The laws against sedition on the Statute Book are not enforced. All Cypriots know the laws, just as all members of Middle Eastern countries know the law far better than we in this country do. They know that the law is not being enforced and, therefore, they believe that Britain intends to leave. That is the simple syllogism that they have assumed.
The result is, first, that the Turkish community, who were extraordinarily loyal until recently, have seen that the only way to get anything out of the British is to shout. They say that if the Greeks want to go back to Greece then they, the Turks, should go back to Turkey and they are not as loyal as they were. The situation is becoming extremely serious. I understand that no one could secure the distribution of any sort of newspaper in the vernacular in Cyprus unless it was pro-Enossis, because the channels of distribution were tied up with financial groups which were interested in Enossis.
The Church there is to blame in this matter. The Church has never forgiven this country for restricting her activities to the spiritual field. When we took over Cyprus in 1878 we found that the Turks had used the Church as a taxgatherer. 402 It was the Turkish habit in all their provinces to find the strongest native power and to say to that power, "We want a certain tribute and what you keep over and above that is your business." That was a convenient way of ruling the Ottoman Empire. They did that with the Phanariote Greeks in Roumania.
They did that with the Church in Cyprus, and the leaders of that Church have never forgiven us because we do not believe in taxgathering theocracies of that sort. The result is that this Church has nurtured this never-ending grudge against us, and it is at the moment clear that the sedition preached in the pulpit, and indeed the spiritual tyranny that is exercised on anybody who ventures to disagree, even to the denial of sacraments, has reached a pitch which is past believing.
What is really wanted in Cyprus is a good loyal, solid social-democratic party which, for once, would raise the cry "Cyprus for the Cypriots." There could then be a development in self-government, a movement in the general direction which we on all sides of the House approve, instead of what exists at the moment—a horrible Fox-North combination between Church and Communists, which is what politics in Cyprus mean today.
I therefore say that this is a place where the Government have to show strength, where they have to allow the circumstances for long-term development to be established by taking strong political action, because if politics go bad then economics go bad very quickly afterwards. If we take strong political action now we shall get a deep water harbour, we shall make Cyprus herself more of an example to the Middle East than she is at present, we shall improve our naval and military potential there, and we shall have fulfilled our trust to the people of that island.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
The hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke), who made an extremely interesting speech, dissociated himself at the outset from the speeches of his hon. Friends the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery). I have more sympathy 403 at least with the opening of their speeches, than the hon. Member.
Judging by what they said, by the sole test whether it is a British interest to maintain a British base in Suez, unpopular though this view may be on both sides of the House, I certainly hold the view that we should only consider withdrawing our troops from our base in Suez under the most stringent and careful safeguards. It is clearly easier to withdraw than it would be to return. If, in fact, at the moment we are doing whatever lies in our power to make such combinations and organisations of countries to strengthen and reinforce the Western alliance it seems to me that it would be madness at this time to withdraw from a base which has served us so well for so many years.
Nonetheless, I must confess also that when the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West made his remarks on Anglo-American relations I was astonished to hear him using language which might have come directly from the "Daily Worker." He spoke, for example, about American imperialism in precisely the terms which are used by those who are most vigorously opposed to the Anglo-American alliance. He spoke at one stage—I have never heard this before—of the Americans having a base in Malta. That may or may not be true, but I assume that, as he said so, he had some substance for his statement and that he has not, in making that statement, made a disclosure which might be of some comfort to a potential enemy and of disadvantage to ourselves.
§ Mr. Powell
As a matter of accuracy, I did not refer to a base in Malta but to an increase of personnel on the island of Malta and that, I think, is notorious.
§ Mr. Edelman
Be that as it may, in the alliance with the United States it is clear we have to enter arrangements which may even involve a limited surrender of sovereignty of those countries who participate. From that point of view, I cannot help feeling that what the hon. Member said can be nothing but harmful to Anglo-American understanding and will, no doubt, be quoted widely throughout the United States. However, if indiscretion exists we must all agree that it is 404 not confined to this side of the Atlantic. I thought the hon. Member was perfectly right when he made reference to some of the inept speeches which have been made in the past by representatives both of the Democratic and the Republican Administrations.
I recall that at the time when our relations with Egypt were most tense Mr. Acheson made a statement, which was reported throughout North Africa, in which he compared the struggle of King Farouk at that time with the struggle of the American colonists in the American War of Independence. Equally, I suppose no one would suggest for a moment that Mr. Dulles's conspicuous gift of a pistol to General Neguib was a supreme act of discretion. The toy which the American Secretary of State gave to the Egyptian Premier was much advertised throughout the world and the picture of Mr. Dulles and General Neguib laughing together over this gift was something which must have been singularly painful to many people in this country at a time when our relations with Egypt were particularly strained.
The fact is that the State Department suffers from a kind of schizophrenia on the question of national resurgence in Asia and North Africa. It is a 19th century assumption that the emergence of a nationalist movement in any area is necessarily a sign of progress. But I suggest that it is a heresy, upheld not only in America but among many people in this country—indeed, in my own party—that a nationalist movement is, by its nature, progressive. A nationalist movement may be thoroughly reactionary.
What with the development of new techniques, new methods of communication, new scientific processes—it may well be that in the second half of the 20th century we can bypass the stage of nationalism which was useful and progressive in the 19th century and go on to new methods of co-operation. The second and more wholesome aspect of the State Department's dual personality is the manner in which it has tried to urge forward functional schemes, schemes of irrigation, for the development of hydro-electric power, and so on, in order to weld nations together politically as well as economically.
We are living in an atomic age. That may sound like a cliché, but I think it is 405 significant that in this debate so far there has been so little reference to the most urgent anxiety which must weigh upon the minds of the rulers of Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union. I find it interesting to observe that in every major communication which is made from the White House, from 10 Downing Street, or even from the Kremlin there is always, tucked away, a small paragraph which betrays immediately the profound concern of those who have the closest access to what the development of atomic energy and atomic weapons mean. It betrays the deep underlying anxiety they feel about developments which have been taking place.
Although it has been little mentioned in this debate, probably the most important thing that has happened since the last Gracious Speech of Her Majesty has been the report that the Soviet Union have exploded a hydrogen bomb. There are times when we must fortify ourselves in order not to be misled by Soviet propaganda. There are times when it is wrong to believe what the Russians say. There are also times when it is most dangerous not to believe what they say. In my view—I say this sustained by a report this morning of a statement by a well-known British atomic scientist—we would do well not to dismiss lightly this report that a hydrogen bomb, has, in fact, been exploded in Russia.
This sinister report must give us all cause for the gravest anxiety. I must say that when I heard the Foreign Secretary, earlier in the debate today, speak of the unprecedented restraint exercised by the allies in the course of the Korean War, while agreeing with his description of the restraint which was shown, I could not help feeling that it was a somewhat ambiguous congratulation. Did he mean that the allies, if hard-pressed, should have utilised an atomic weapon? Did he mean that it was only an act of noble forbearance that prevented the United Nations from using these terrible weapons of mass destruction? If he meant merely that, I feel we ought to complete the picture by reminding ourselves that it was approximately at this time that the Russians announced that they had exploded their first atomic bomb.
§ Mr. Edelman
With that I agree, but at that very time there were people urging the use of the atomic bomb. I think it is now generally recognised that this is something for which not only we on this side of the House can claim credit; it is very much to the honour of the House as a whole that when that report was first heard in this country there was urging in this House to prevent that weapon from being used.
I should like to speak for a few moments on the nature of the atom bomb, and what I have to say is merely a repetition of what has already been reported but which is perhaps not so widely known as it should be. The nature of the atomic explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was known. We turned our backs on the results because, although we benefited from the conclusion of the Japanese war, we nonetheless probably felt horrified at the nature of the weapon used and, at the same time, so relieved at the conclusion of that war. We felt and hoped that atomic weapons had now been used for the last time and that we could now forget about them.
It is perfectly true that there were attempts within the United Nations to try to evolve some machinery of control—first the Baruch-Lilienthal proposals, then the setting up of a committee which was designed to try to produce a scheme for international control of atomic weapons and weapons of mass destruction. The significant thing is that although the Russians originally showed a great anxiety—an apparent anxiety at all events—for the total abolition of atomic weapons, as time went on and they themselves discovered the technique of developing atomic weapons they showed a deepening reluctance to participate in any arrangements which might have removed this terrible threat from the world.
But although we were consistently urging that an attempt should be made to introduce some form of international control, it was not until the Russians themselves had produced their atomic bomb and had then withdrawn from the committee of sponsoring powers who had come together to set up machinery for international control that President Truman himself instructed the Atomic Energy 407 Commission in the United States to go ahead with the development of the hydrogen bomb. The expectation, at that time, was that with the technical experience which the United States had she would be able to outstrip the Soviet Union in the production of the hydrogen bomb. Yet we have now reached the stage—this is a point on which I wish to dwell for a few minutes—at which, according to a Professor Voitskovich, speaking on Moscow radio only yesterday, it is the Soviet Union which has now developed not only one hydrogen bomb but a variety of them.
We are familiar with the effect of the atom bomb dropped in Japan, but if we can only realise that in the hydrogen bomb, as is now well known, the atomic explosion is merely the trigger or the detonator which sets off the consequential explosion of the hydrogen bomb, we can have an idea of the nature of the destruction that a hydrogen bomb can cause. This is not the dream of science fiction; rather it is a reality, something which has apparently now been achieved in Russia and may well have been achieved in the United States, something which has now become a factor in the daily relations of the nations of the world.
What is the hydrogen bomb? From published evidence, one knows that it is a more efficient development of the atom bomb. The atom bomb is limited in its size and power by the critical mass which is necessary for the explosion. The hydrogen bomb, on the other hand, has no limit to the theoretical power it can develop, it is merely a matter of enlarging the bomb, merely a question, so far as its use either strategically or tactically in warfare is concerned, of providing the mechanical means for delivering the bomb to its target. That is a factor which we have to bear in mind.
The atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima caused total destruction and fatal burns within an area of about three-quarters of a square mile. It is thought that the hydrogen bomb can cause absolute destruction within a 10-mile radius, and severe damage by fire within a radius of nearly 300 square miles. I am not relying on my own layman's knowledge of the matter. To impress this point, I will quote somebody who is infinitely better informed in the matter, someone 408 whose scientific conclusions have already been of vast benefit to mankind.
Professor Einstein, speaking of the hydrogen bomb in 1951, before the hydrogen bomb had been developed—it was merely in the stage of theoretical evolution—said thatIf successful, radio-active poisoning of the atmosphere and hence annihilation of any life on earth has been brought within the range of technical possibility.If anyone thinks that this language is overdone, let me emphasise that it was the Prime Minister who used the word "annihilation" when talking of the destructive possibilities which scientists have now brought to every country in the world.
I wished to try to discover what was meant by "poisoning of the atmosphere." Apparently it means that following the explosion of a hydrogen bomb tremendous quantities of neutrons, which can enter any substance in nature, are liberated and can make these substances radio-active. According to the published statements of leading scientists who have taken part in the development of the atomic bomb, if a cobalt casing is used for a bomb of adequate size it would be possible—again theoretically, yet we have seen how theory can be translated into reality—for all life on earth to be destroyed by these radio-active substances.
Again, according to Professor Szilard, one of the leading atomic scientists who were responsible for the development of the atom bomb, writing before the hydrogen bomb had been exploded, 400 tons of heavy hydrogen or deutarium could produce 50 tons of neutrons which, in turn, could generate a radio-active element capable, if released in the air, of surviving for five years, killing the whole of mankind.
These statements offer a terrible prospect. They seem so terrible that one's immediate reaction is one of boredom and of assuming that "Here is a fantasy, so far removed from our normal experience that it is not even worth considering." The fact is that today it is precisely statesmen all over the world who have direct and practical responsibility for guiding the destinies of great nations and great groups of nations who are most agitated and most deeply concerned by these developments of science 409 which have produced the fantastic result that a scientist is—theoretically, at all events—now capable of undoing the very work of creation.
What is to be done about it? Here we are, faced by dreadful possibilities. I was recently in the United States and I spoke to a very large number of people who were exercised by this problem. I found there a twofold attitude. On the one hand, there was the attitude of the ordinary men and women living in the highly congested centres of population in America who were profoundly anxious not only for themselves, but for their children, for the fate of their country, and for that of the world.
There were others, on the other hand, who considered that, although these terrifying weapons of mass destruction may exist, and may even be capable of delivery to certain targets, and although, in certain circumstances, their use might be justified, owing to the development of electronic counter devices which would prevent aircraft from reaching their targets in the United States, it would be possible for the United States to enter into an atomic war with relative immunity.
I must say that that is a dangerous thought and a dangerous defence. It is dangerous, not only because, as we ourselves know, one of the bombers at any rate will get through, but even more dangerous because of the fact that, terrifying and deadly though the atomic and hydrogen bombs may be, as far as we can gather the actual weight and volume of both these terrible weapons is small and can be transported in ways which would elude any form of protection to those against whom the bombs were directed.
For that reason I believe it is illusory to imagine that there exists any absolute form of protection against the atomic and the hydrogen bomb, and any country which imagines that it can with immunity take part in a war in which such weapons of mass destruction will be used is living in a fool's paradise.
We in this country know how exposed we are. It may be that America, with her vast spaces, and the Soviet Union with its enormous expanse, might, perhaps, extract themselves from the ultimate disaster of atomic warfare. It may be 410 that, in the great areas of those countries, some people might survive a war of that kind, but we know that, placed as we are between the hammer and the anvil, if there were to be an atomic war we should be the receiving base for the most intense form of attack. It is we who would suffer the worst disasters of such a war.
Therefore, I come to my conclusion, which is this. In view of these dreadful possibilities, which are not stated in order to alarm—I am sorry to overhear the Under-Secretary of State describe them as possibilities which can only be eluded by emigration. I do not know whether he was saying that flippantly, or whether I misinterpreted him—and which, in fact, are a reality, it is a problem of statesmanship to discover if, at this stage, there is any means by which we can remove the world from the disaster that may occur.
Therefore, while I believe that it is impossible at this time to go back to the original Baruch-Lilienthal proposals for the control of atomic weapons, it seems to me that here is a problem which is essentially one of statesmanship. It is precisely because this problem exists in its enormity that it is absolutely essential that there should be a meeting between the Prime Minister, the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the Soviet Union. It is precisely because this is a problem which, on the whole, has so far been incapable of public discussion that it should be remitted to a private discussion between the leaders of the three States most directly concerned.
When I heard the Prime Minister talk the other day about the enormous possibilities for good and evil which exist in the atomic age into which we have blundered so accidentally, and heard what he said reinforced by reports from the United States that there an atomic energy reactor had been constructed capable of supplying electricity for a city of 50,000 people, I could not help feeling that here was reinforcement for the urgency of holding a meeting between the heads of the States who have invented and developed the utilisation of atomic energy.
If that were to happen, then, indeed, there would be a prospect of saving the world, and, in saving the world, the responsible statesmen might be preparing the way for that new age of material 411 expansion of which the Prime Minister spoke so movingly the other day.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
I think that every hon. Member will have listened with the greatest interest to the remarks of the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), from whom we are used to receiving most useful and interesting contributions of this sort.
I am sorry if some flippant intervention of mine upset the hon. Gentleman slightly, but, frankly, my own capacity is such that I find the problems he mentioned extremely difficult to apprehend. I do not think that we in this House give enough time to the discussion of these tremendous problems. Probably the Floor of the House is not the place on which to do it. Perhaps some scientific committee, in which I know that these problems are discussed, might be more appropriate. I am sure that the whole House will agree that the consideration of the problems and their scale as suggested by the hon. Gentleman is something to which we in this House must give increasing attention.
I am sorry that I am, as it were, coming back to earth again in order to talk about the more material problems with which one must deal as time goes on, and on which the Government of the day must focus a great deal of their attention and energies in trying to solve.
I was sorry to hear in the course of the debate today some unhappy remarks made from both sides of the House about Anglo-American relations. I was equally delighted to hear some good remarks on the same subject because I believe that, despite all our differences, the basis of the free world must rest on Anglo-American co-operation. I only hope that the remarks that have been made on the good side today will be reported, and not those on the bad side which, unhappily, is so often the case.
I should like to have taken up some time of the House in supporting what my hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) said, especially about Cyprus. I am going to talk about the Middle East in general, but not about Cyprus, because in his speech my hon. 412 Friend included many of the thoughts which have been in my mind.
I believe that with the right kind of support from this country Cyprus, which is so vital to the strategic position of the free world, could be built up into one of the great commercial centres of the Near and Middle East. A lot has been done, and a great deal more is going to be done. From my own researches since I came back from that part of the world, I believe that the Colonial Office are now setting out to achieve some of the objects which my hon. Friend and I share in common. I only hope that we can now get on with it and shall not delay much longer about coming to decisions which are so urgently needed.
During the Recess, like other hon. Members, I travelled, and I spent some days in the Middle East. I base my remarks not on those few days but on the fact that I have had the opportunity for more than 20 years of visiting those parts and have a number of friends there. Colonel Lawrence, who was Oxford-born like myself, was one of my boyhood heroes, but I hope I shall not be included in the category of experts about which my hon. Friend spoke.
It is a certain advantage to be able to speak some of the language, and from talking to the people—I repeat, "the people"—and a number of notable persons whom I was privileged to meet, I can say that I have never found the Middle East to be as friendly as it is at the moment. Reference has been made to nationalism. The Middle East is going through the phase of nationalism that Europe went through in the 19th Century. I hope the Middle East will pass through it rather more rapidly than Europe did. In the meantime, it makes the day-to-day work of co-operation in that part of the world intensely difficult.
I found out there a general realisation that Britain is still a great country and a very powerful force in that part of the world and other parts of the world. The latest news concerning Abadan have made many people think, for it has been shown that Persia has been unable to refine oil and market it and that it can only be done by co-operation with the West, including Britain. Is it not possible for us to develop those great oil resources to our mutual advantage?
413 A great tragedy of Abadan has been that 50,000 people, whose standard of living had been raised considerably, have been without a pay cheque for some two and a half years. I must not say much about Mr. Mossadeq, because his case is still sub judice in that country, but I must say that I do not believe that he has so far suffered personally to the extent that 50,000 of his countrymen have done, because their livelihood was removed by Dr. Mossadeq and his friends.
There are many most worrying and urgent problems in the Middle East, and there is not time this evening to refer to more than one or two of them. The most intractable problem—it is not insoluble—is that of the refugees. When I think of the Middle East, I always think in terms of the million refugees who are homeless and suffering. Sooner rather than later we must make one more tremendous effort to reach agreement on policy with our American friends, and then try, with the co-operation of the countries in the Middle East, to reach a settlement on this problem. Whatever other political or economic problems we attempt to solve, it all comes back sooner or later to the problem of the refugees.
I also noticed—it is not always apparent—that the scene has in some ways tended to shift in the Middle East. The matter of the Suez Canal and shipping is still vitally important, even more important than ever with the present volume of shipping passing through the Canal. However, I believe that the most important axis runs through the oil areas of the Persian Gulf, by the airways leading from Cyprus through the oil territories and on to the Far East. I believe that more has been done by this country in the last few years in re-deploying our strength in view of this than is sometimes realised here. It has been realised that we cannot concentrate entirely on the old bases but must move to newer ones.
One also finds that the oil discoveries have largely taken place in the poorer, non-agricultural territories of the Middle East. This has meant certain difficulties in further development because, by and large, the territories cannot be developed agriculturally or industrially, except in the case of Iraq, and yet the territories which have the agricultural possibilities have not at the moment got the wealth.
414 As one of the great consumers of oil from those areas, I believe that we can help in getting closer co-operation between the oil-rich areas and those which have not got the oil.
I suppose that of all the problems in the minds of the House and this country affecting the Middle East, none is more acute than that of Egypt and the Sudan. As to the negotiations, I only know what I read in the newspapers. I hope that I shall not be taken up on that remark as I was the last time I uttered it. It is very difficult to tell what is going on, but I read the Press as carefully as I can and, from that and from what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon, as far as I can make out, there is a state of suspended animation at the moment.
In Egypt I found the greatest regard everywhere for General Sir Brian Robertson and Mr. Hankey for the work they are doing as patriotic capable negotiators on our side. I and friends of mine who know him—many hon. Members knew him when he was ambassador here—have a similar regard for Dr. Fawzi. I believe that our negotiators are getting on in accordance with the instructions that they have been given, and I hope that in due course we shall be able to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.
We are very worried about the outcome because the whole question of the Suez Canal is as important to the free world as is the Panama Canal on the other side of the Atlantic. Knowing the little that I do, it is not for me to comment in any detail on the negotiations, but I cannot refrain from commenting upon the "Alice Through the Looking-glass" atmosphere about the arguments concerning uniform. Not many years ago a number of British wore the Egyptian Army uniform. There is no smarter headgear than the tarboosh. Members of my family were proud to wear the uniform in the days before 1914, and some even after the First World War.
Today the Egyptians have returned the compliment. Both ranks and uniform are indistinguishable from those of the British Army. I cannot see any difficulty about both sides continuing in their own uniforms, if for no other reason than that it might ensure that both British and Egyptian officers would get salutes from both sides. I do not believe the problem of uniforms is as difficult as some 415 people make out. We must be able to keep our uniform. Up in the Canal Zone base area there will not be many visitors to say "The British are here." In these remote areas very few people will be able to determine whether the troops they see in the distance are British of Egyptian.
Availability is obviously a much more complex problem. I would urge upon our Egyptian friends that one cannot forget that the British base and the British troops saved Egypt from occupation from 1940, when I was in Cairo, until 1943 and also at Christmas, 1948. That is a point which has not always been appreciated in this country any more than in Egypt. It was at a time when the other Members of the Arab League were either unwilling or unable to help. I suggest to the present Egyptian Government that they should consider again whether the double threat from the North-East has gone, or whether it is not a very real one in the circumstances of today in the Middle East.
I should like to say a word about the troops I saw in the Canal Zone. Boredom is the greatest problem that one is up against, and the highest tribute should be paid to all ranks for the way in which they have maintained their physical fitness and morale in those circumstances. I myself have not had the privilege of seeing troops who appeared to be so fit and of such high morale since the days when the Eighth Army came through in Southern Tunisia in the spring of 1943. I believe our troops deserve the sympathy of this House for doing the patriotic job that they are, in living conditions not only of discomfort but of boredom.
I believe that the present régime in Egypt is a realist one. I believe they appreciate the basic problems that are facing Egypt today. Whatever happens now, I cannot see that there will ever again be the employment of tens of thousands of Egyptians earning a livelihood and paid by some foreign country. Whatever emotional satisfaction there may be in this conclusion, it will have much the same result as the failure of Abadan had in Southern Persia. How and when will Egypt be able to absorb these tens of thousands of people who had a reasonable standard of living for many years and who now will be thrown into 416 unemployment and liable to Communist propaganda?
Egypt is facing, as so many other countries and Governments are, overpopulation. Paradoxically, if they succeed in what they are trying to do, the Government will increase the population and make it even more difficult to maintain their people within the fairly limited agricultural area at their disposal. This is a problem that we in this House have discussed a number of times in the past, and there is no need for hon. Members to be reminded of it, but one sometimes wonders whether the present régime of young officers fully appreciate exactly what faces Egypt and, if they are successful in what they have set out to do, what a tremendous problem exists.
They said first of all that they were going to break up the big estates, but, as happened in Russia after the first war, they have found that it is not possible to break up the big estates without undermining the economic system of the country. Therefore, they have had to go slow, or even halt this process altogether. So the discontent is growing. They have one or two million more acres which they could irrigate, but they can only irrigate it if they get more water, and they can only get more water if they ensure a stable régime in the Sudan. Only from the Sudan can one obtain more water which will solve, or at least ameliorate, the problems of Egypt. I am extremely disturbed by the news that comes from the Sudan.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has already, at the beginning of this debate, made clear the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to the way in which the Egyptians are breaking the agreement which was signed in February of this year. Egypt's enemies—and there are many—can refer to these as instances of how it is impossible to rely on the word and the written signature of the present Egyptian Government. That is what makes it even harder for those who are trying to sort out our affairs in the Middle East to sign any agreement with the present Egyptian Government. I hope and believe that what was said by the Foreign Secretary—and this is very strongly felt in this country and by a large number of Sudanese—will come to the attention of the proper authorities in Egypt.
417 If we are to maintain a proper Administration in the Sudan we have got to have a good service. I believe—and I admit an interest in this matter from before the war—that the Sudan has an administrative service unsurpassed by any other similar service in the world. According to the "Daily Telegraph" a few days ago, some 140 out of some 260 of its members are threatened with having to be withdrawn if Sudanisation is carried out by the middle of 1955. Whatever the rights and wrongs of our previous administration in the Sudan the hard fact is that 140 out of 260—over 50 per cent.—are British. If that percentage of top administrators were withdrawn from any country I do not believe that it could go forward without a very serious setback to its administrative standards.
It is entirely false to suggest that the members of the administration are trying to hang on to their jobs. I have seen from experience that they could find better jobs in a better climate and with better pay if they went now. It is entirely unfair to say that they are trying to hang on to their jobs in the Sudan. If they go away the Sudan cannot be stable. This is no reflection on the Sudanese. Any country which had that percentage of its top administrators withdrawn would suffer a serious set-back.
If the administrators went, and law and order was thereby reduced in its standards, the technicians would also go. There is an idea that one can get doctors, or technicians to carry out irrigation services, to live in conditions of chaos. It will not work. If there is chaos in the Sudan—and I would remind the House that the trades unions there are, Allah knows why, Communist-controlled—it is likely that a certain regime would develop, which would be to the interest of neither the British nor the Egyptians. The present water supplies for Egypt would be in danger, and the hopes of building up the great Jonglei scheme and others would be hopelessly set back. Large schemes are necessary for the growing population for which the Government of Egypt have to provide.
Elections are now going on in the Sudan, and I must be extremely careful what I say, but I am desperately anxious about the administrative situation there. I do not say that it is likely, but it is not impossible that, once the new 418 Sudanese Government is formed, they will, like the Governments of the Gold Coast and some of the West Indies, realise the difference between political control and administration, and ask certain British members of the administration to stay on. It is possible, too, that the Egyptian Government as well as the British Government might agree, realising that unless they keep a good administration there their water supplies will be in danger.
Unless we take urgent action, when the times comes some months ahead, many members of the present Sudan administration will have found themselves jobs elsewhere, and they will go even if everybody asks them to stay on. We must take urgent action to see that this situation does not arise. It is sad to compare the present situation with that which obtained a century ago, when the Sudan had a history of employing Europeans and people of different races who went there for the benefit of the Sudanese and served that country to the general admiration of the world. There was Slatin Pasha, an Austrian, known to all hon. Members. Above all there was General Gordon. Many Syrians have also served that country.
It is sad to think that at this juncture, after 55 years of progressive administration, the last phase of removing the remaining key British administrators as are there should be over-hustled. There is only one way in which we can take effective action to ensure that the present administrators in the Sudan can continue to be made available if required in the Sudan, and that is by Her Majesty's Government establishing a Commonwealth service on the lines set out in "The Times" on 7th and 8th September this year. I have advocated such a service on more than one occasion, and I have been supported by hon. Members opposite. I am not going into the details now, but I commend it most urgently to Her Majesty's Government.
By establishing that sort of service based on this country we could enable the members of the Sudan Service, who have no Colonial Office to go to, remember, as the Colonial Service have, to continue their services under the British Government. I am sure there would be 419 found many places in the Middle East in which their services would be welcomed. On my own travels around that region I met a number of friends who had retired from the Sudan and were usefully and enjoyably employed.
As I said at the outset, I found throughout the Near East the greatest good will amongst the people there for this country. Perhaps it is another instance for the application of the old Arab proverb, "Better the devil you know than the devil you do not know," but certainly one found enormous anxiety that there should be co-operation with this country, in such matters as technical education, the supply and working of new machines, in new methods of irrigation, in opening up the canals in Iraq which were destroyed when Genghis Khan destroyed the irrigation system there in the 12th Century, in new ideas of modern agriculture and producer co-operatives and so on, and in sharing the experience gained in the great Gezira scheme in the Sudan.
These subjects have been discussed on many occasions in this House. These are the great constructive problems in which this country can well lend a hand. So I do believe that we should—and I commend this to the Government—once more appoint to be the head of the British Middle East office an individual of international stature such as was the head of that office during the war. There is a place to serve out there for an individual known to have direct access to the Prime Minister, to help co-ordinate this work, and to carry out the sort of persuasive function that the American Ambassador at large, Mr. Eric Johnston, has been fulfilling, and to persuade all those concerned to co-operate as happens in O.E.E.C. and at the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe.
I do not suppose that my hon. Friend will be able tonight to give affirmative answers on all these points, but I do hope that the Government will consider them. I have tried to put forward some concrete, constructive suggestions because I believe that the British and the Arab Muslims, while recognising each other's and sometimes their own faults, still remain each other's best friends.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, South-East)
I have no difficulty, nor, I think, have many of my hon. Friends, in following the hon. Gentleman the Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker). Even on the few occasions that I have found myself disagreeing with his views I always appreciated the sincerity and experience with which he spoke.
I was very moved yesterday when I heard the tributes which were paid to a previous Foreign Secretary, the late Mr. Ernest Bevin, by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Leader of the Opposition, but no tribute could have been worth more than that implicit in the definition of the aims of the present Government as expressed in the Gracious Speech and the statement of the Foreign Secretary today, for the Government's policy follows in all essentials the objectives and methods which were laid down by Mr. Ernest Bevin.
I am very proud to be an unrepentant Bevinite, and almost the only thing which separates me from my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) is the small matter of a vowel. It seems to me that the Foreign Secretary is trying very hard to follow out the sort of policy whose general lines were laid down by Mr. Ernest Bevin.
Looking back over the history of the last seven or eight years, it seems to me that there are two basic elements in these principles of British foreign policy. The first is to try to build a new community of like-minded nations, something much more than an old-fashioned alliance and yet something much less than an old-fashioned federation, which will be large enough and strong enough to survive the major problems of world politics in the years which lie ahead.
The second essential element, it seems to me, in post-war British foreign policy lies in an attempt to reorganise the whole basis of Britain's international position so that it rests not on force but on consent. As far as I can see, these two basic principles run through the foreign policy of the present Government to a very large extent.
The attempt to reorganise the whole basis of the old British Empire, even more the attempt to build a new community in which the nations will be inter- 421 dependent rather than independent, particularly when it is made at a period when Britain's own power is greatly reduced, is bound to impose great strains on all the countries concerned, and very often the compromises which are imposed by this attempt will run flat in the face of many old patterns of behaviour in our own country, in both parties, and in every other country concerned.
It is not at all surprising that every now and then we should hear demands from the other side of the Atlantic to "Go it alone," or from this side of the Atlantic to pursue an independent foreign policy, which in my view is simply the polite way of saying, "Go it alone"; because, after all, the basic aim of our policy since the war has been to achieve interdependence within a larger community than our own nation state.
I was not in the least surprised to find that, 18 months after the Conservative Government had been pursuing this policy, opposition to the sacrifices it imposed began to crystalise in a group of Conservative back benchers, who for the sake of argument this evening and to save embarrassment to individuals, I will call the "Keep Right Group." It is not in the least surprising, because the "Keep Right Group" is simply the expression of the same resistance to the sacrifice of old attitudes as that which I believe was expressed by the "Keep Left Group" on this side of the House about 18 months after the British Labour Government had initiated the policy.
It seems to me, however, that there is an important and worrying difference in what has happened since then, because although Mr. Ernest Bevin, as the Labour Foreign Secretary, maintained a steadfast policy in the face of the criticism he received from what was always a small minority of Labour back benchers, the present Government have shown nothing like the same consistency or courage in the face of similar criticism from their own ranks and, indeed, it is by no means clear to me, particularly after listening to the debate this afternoon, that the opposition to the broad lines of policy which I have just sketched is, in fact, so limited on the Conservative benches as it always was on the Labour benches in the old days.
It seems to me that, in the last few months particularly, there have been 422 worrying signs that the present Government are giving in to the rebels in their own ranks in a way in which the Labour Government never did. One particularly flagrant example was the squalid and humiliating behaviour of the British delegation to the recent conference of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in Geneva, when the President of the Board of Trade was compelled to seek a complete revision of the Charter in order not to satisfy the demands of our Commonwealth allies, not to satisfy the needs of the British economy, but simply to satisfy the doctrinaire dinosaurs of his own back benches who for many years have had only one idea about Commonwealth economic policy—that it has something to do with Imperial Preference.
Nobody has any doubts that the position adopted by the President of the Board of Trade in Geneva, which cast doubt in America on our willingness to pursue an international trade policy and which infuriated all our European allies was adopted purely to satisfy the back bench Members of the party opposite.
We saw recently—and, indeed, in this debate—much more evidence of the "Keep Right Group's" strength, in the Government's unwillingness to stand up and fight for their policy in the Middle East. Indeed, I cannot help feeling that the British Guiana incident was a godsend to the present Government, because, although I have no doubt that the party leaders there were Communist and that some action should have been taken against them, it did give the Government an opportunity of so timing the action and so organising a tremendous propaganda ballyhoo in this country as to give the delegates assembled for the Conservative Party Conference at Margate the impression that there was life in the old lion yet, and so cover the "scuttle from Suez."
Although great stress was laid at the Conservative Party Conference on the fact that we were sending gunboats all over the world—and, incidentally, I cannot help feeling that if the Prime Minister had been sitting on these benches and the Labour Government had behaved in that way he would have had great fun with the idea that the medicine was being sent to the wrong address, as he once did before—no doubt the Government thought that the fact that a cruiser was going somewhere would be sufficient to satisfy 423 the demands of the most rabid back bencher, although, in fact, it was going west across the Atlantic instead of east into the Mediterranean.
In spite of that, as soon as the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) waved the Union Jack a few times at Margate, the trouble broke out again, and if we are to believe the newspapers it took the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of Defence all linking arms to confront the angry mob. But even then the sledgehammer did not crack the nut.
We have seen the same trouble breaking out again and again today from Conservative back benchers. I think that I have listened to every speech in this debate, but there has been only one very courageous speech, that from the hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) defending the Government's own policy in the Middle East against the fury of their own back benchers.
It seems to me that one reason why the "Keep Right Group" exercises this unholy influence on the counsels of the British Government is the fact that the spiritual leader of the "Keep Right Group" has been sitting the whole time in the British Cabinet—in fact, he is the Prime Minister himself—and when the hon. Member for Preston, North referred to the simple faith of his constituents that, "Winston would not let the country down in Suez" he was giving the game away.
Indeed, the Prime Minister was the practical leader of this group during the dreadful months when the Foreign Secretary's illness gave him the opportunity of steering the ship of State himself through foreign fields. [Interruption.] That was evident, I think, in his conduct of Middle Eastern affairs during those disastrous months, and I believe that it was evident also in his reaction to the death of Mr. Stalin.
The view I am going to express is very unpopular not least in my own party, so I am trying to express it with moderation.
§ Mr. Healey
I think we are all agreed on both sides of the House that if there has been a change in Soviet policy it is 424 very largely the result of the unity and strength developed by the Western world in the last few years. There is no real division between us on that. If that is the case, we can only bring the Russians successfully to negotiations if we show unity in our negotiations before and after we meet them at the conference table.
The criticism which I have made and still make of the Prime Minister's formula for a high-power conference, which he developed on 11th May, is the fact that he neglected this fundamental principle. He made the proposal knowing that the President of the United States was fundamentally and deeply opposed to the whole idea and, indeed, it was not a proposal for a four-Power conference at all, it was a proposal for a conference without France, a conference without a single Continental European country represented whatever, although the main topic of the negotiations was bound to be the future of Continental Europe.
The inimitable rhetoric with which the Prime Minister developed his theme on 11th May undoubtedly released a great wave of wishful thinking, not only in this country, but throughout the Western world, not least on the Continent of Europe. It is precisely because it released this great wave of wishful thinking that it was necessary for the Foreign Secretary, at the Conservative Party conference, to point out that it was not, after all, a magic formula whose application was being prevented by the wickedness of the United States. The fact that the Foreign Secretary found it necessary to say these things shows how far that impression had already developed, both in this country and on the Continent.
The net result to date of the Prime Minister's proposal—and nobody can deny this—has been greatly to increase anti-American feeling in Europe and in Britain and greatly to increase anti-British feeling in the United States of America. This proposal is still one of the major causes of friction between this country and the United States, as I had reason to discover during a recent visit which I made to the United States. Is it really worth having this row with the Americans over this issue now, in November, 1953?
425 After all, all that the Prime Minister has been able to say recently is that at most his formula for a conference might do some good, and could not easily do much harm. Moreover, the Foreign Secretary and the Under-Secretary, speaking recently in the Council of Europe at Strasbourg and at the Conservative Party conference at Margate, have pointed out that there was no evidence whatever that the Soviet Union wished to negotiate with us about anything, least of all in a conference restricted to Prime Ministers, not Foreign Ministers.
I agree that there is a case for this sort of conference if there seems to be a desire for it among all concerned, but the latest Soviet note confirms the belief that the prospect of reaching a general settlement of the cold war with Russia by negotiations now is very vague and distant. Certainly, it does not justify making the search for such a meeting an absolute priority of British foreign policy. But meanwhile, though the prospect of a general settlement with Russia is vague and distant, the danger to the Western alliance is urgent and immediate.
Looking round the Western world, it seems to me that the Western alliance is more gravely threatened by division now than at any time since the Second World War. Relations between Britain, the United States and France, the three cornerstones of the present Western alliance, have never been worse than they are at present. If the French Parliament, as seems likely, refuse even to discuss the ratification of E.D.C. next spring, the whole policy of the Western alliance will be moving into catastrophe.
The French reluctance to ratify E.D.C. naturally causes great irritation, particularly in this country, because it is no secret that we agreed to E.D.C. reluctantly and under French pressure. Although it is easy to make debating points against the French on this issue, it would be very unfair to do so, and we in Britain must show some understanding of the agony of mind with which Frenchmen face the terrible problem of how to live with the powerful neighbour who has invaded their territory unprovoked three times in the last 100 years.
I believe that there is an answer to the dilemma provided that all the countries 426 concerned in the problem are prepared to make some step forward and some sacrifice to achieve it. The answer is the one which I have put forward far too often to develop here tonight. It is the inclusion of Germany within a revised and strengthened N.A.T.O. I am glad to notice that there is growing support for this conception on both sides of the House, and it has been voiced here today.
It seems to me that the Prime Minister himself, in raising this point at the Conservative Party Conference, and the Under-Secretary, in doing the same thing at a Press conference at Bonn, in September, have done the world a service by pointing, very vaguely and as discreetly as they can in the circumstances, the way to an ultimate solution. But it seems to me that here, Britain is the only country which can really take an initiative.
If the catastrophe I fear develops next spring, the immediate American reaction will be either to withdraw totally from Europe or enter into a bilateral military alliance with Germany. The French reaction will be either towards a total liquidation of all its foreign burdens or a bilateral arrangement with the Soviet Union.
This is a danger which should not be under-estimated if the threats which are used against France next spring are tactless and callous in their nature. Britain is the only country which can take the initiative on this issue, and, of course, it will mean us making sacrifices and being prepared to move faster even than we have moved in the past towards building the sort of international society to which both parties in the main are devoted.
Now that the Foreign Secretary is happily restored to health and to the control of British foreign policy, I hope he will make this problem his first priority in international affairs. I hope that in trying to develop and to reform the whole basis on which Britain's international situation rests, he will not be deterred by the jingo fringe of gunboat guerillas on his own back benches, or by the grumblings of the capricious oracle across the road from him in No. 10.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
We all take considerable notice of what the hon. Member has to say on foreign affairs, and before he sits down I should like to ask him this question. Why should the fears which he 427 entertains of a Germany which as a member of E.D.C. be dissipated were she to be included ab initio in N.A.T.O.? I cannot see it myself.
§ Mr. Healey
I have answered that question many times in past debates, but very briefly the answer is this. In E.D.C., Germany will not be a full member of N.A.T.O. and will, therefore, develop a dislike of N.A.T.O.
§ Mr. Healey
Because the French say that she should not be, and those are the terms of the Treaty. If we try to bottle up the Germans on the Continent of Europe, because they are the largest Power there, we shall re-create the German problem in its old form. The only answer to the German problem—and I apologise for this dogmatism, but the hon. Member asked for a short answer—is to bring the Germans into an international framework where they can have full equality because they cannot dominate. The only such possible framework is the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, because that includes Britain and the United States of America as well as her Western neighbours on the Continent of Europe.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
When the Foreign Secretary this afternoon referred to the many complications he found in the international sphere when he returned to the Foreign Office after his six months' illness, it reminded me of the remark that was made by the present Speaker when he was a Minister in the Conservative Government of pre-war days. He was delivering the winding up speech in a foreign affairs debate, and he began by saying that dealing with foreign affairs would be delightful if it were not for foreigners. Perhaps that is the position today but, none the less, there are more than 2,000 million foreigners in the world divided into a large number of countries with economic, political and other national interests that may conflict with one another. These complications are, I am afraid, inevitable.
I am not so sure that the Foreign Secretary will be quite so happy about the complications on his own back benches. We have had speeches this afternoon which seem to indicate that there is a 428 serious division of opinion among Government supporters on the question of the evacuation of the Canal Zone. I must say that although other hon. Members on both sides of the House have dealt with the rather unhappy, almost offensive, remarks that were made in regard to the United States of America by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), I hope that any publicity which his unjustifiable remarks about the United States receive will be countered by equal publicity for the remarks made by hon. Members on both sides of the House in disassociating themselves from what he had to say.
I think hon. Members on both sides of the House will share the profound disappointment of the Foreign Secretary—and, I am sure, of the Prime Minister—at the terms of the reply which was received from Russia yesterday. So far as one can understand the meaning of words, it seems to indicate only too clearly that the deadlock to which the Prime Minister referred on Tuesday is to continue. For over two years Notes have been exchanged between the three Western countries and Russia with almost monotonous regularity, and today we seem to be no nearer to a conference.
I listened with great interest to the extremely able speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. Healey). I know he will forgive my saying that I do not find myself in agreement with part of his speech, because while the speech made by the Prime Minister on 11th May may have produced a great deal of wishful thinking, it constituted a new approach which is badly needed at the present time. I do not believe it is sufficient for the Foreign Secretary to say, as he said today, that the doors are wide open and that we seek to attach no conditions to any conference of Foreign Ministers. I was glad to hear that statement, as I am sure were all hon. Members, but I am bound to say to the Foreign Secretary that I wish this course had been followed last year in, for example, the Notes that were sent in the spring of 1952 when quite important conditions were attached to a possible four-Power conference. It is a great pity that the policy which is now to be followed by Her Majesty's Government in this regard was not followed last year.
429 May I ask the Foreign Secretary this: Does he not really consider that the time has come for a new approach? The Prime Minister on 11th May indicated what he considered to be a new approach. On Tuesday he made a statement to the effect that he regretted very much that, through his illness, he had not been able to meet President Eisenhower to talk over matters. That is a very important phrase—"to talk over matters." There seems to be considerable evidence that the United States Government, for one reason or another, are not prepared or are not willing to enter into such informal talks at this time. It may be that that remains their position, but would there be the same objection to the Prime Minister proceeding to Washington or some other place and talking matters over with President Eisenhower, then talking matters over with the French Prime Minister, and then going to Moscow or some other place and talking matters over with the Russian Prime Minister? Might not that break this deadlock?
I am not suggesting for one moment that it would break the deadlock, but we know there is the deadlock, and if it is agreed that this exchange of Notes at long range will not break it, I hope that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary will consider very carefully the suggestion I am making; that even if we cannot have informal talks at the highest level at one meeting of the four leaders, at any rate there might be some advantage to be gained by the Prime Minister talking first to President Eisenhower, then going on to Paris and then to Moscow. At any rate, I throw out that suggestion in good faith and in the hope that the Foreign Secretary will see that it has proper consideration.
§ Mr. Eden
It is a very important suggestion. I think that it is right that we should all consider whatever methods are open to try to improve the situation, but I also think that we cannot blind ourselves to the stern facts of the situation which the reply in the Soviet Note shows today. I am sure that no one, and certainly not the right hon. and learned Gentleman, thinks that that Note is of such a tone and temper that mere questions of how one handles the matter, however important they may be, are going by themselves to resolve it.
§ Mr. Henderson
I hope that I made it clear that, speaking for myself, I do not believe necessarily that that would break the deadlock, but I do not see how we can break the deadlock by continuing to exchange these Notes at long range. Therefore, I certainly accept the caveat that the Foreign Secretary has just entered.
I pass to another part of the world—Korea. I think that there would be general agreement with what the Foreign Secretary had to say about the principles which underlie the treatment of the Chinese and Korean prisoners of war. The work of the Repatriation Commission has encountered very rough water, and I do not think that it is sufficient merely to expect that this Commission will be able to solve this problem without reference to the political conference. Therefore that conference will be of very great importance.
I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will agree with me that the work of the Indian General Thimayya and his 5,000 or 6,000 soldiers has been a thankless task, and that they are entitled to great credit for the way in which they have carried out their most difficult duties. I read the other day a report in the "New York Times" which I should like to quote to the House. Their correspondent said:In dealing with the North Koreans, the Indians have demonstrated their justly famous patience. They have coaxed and cajoled but never threatened. Their problem has been greatly complicated by the fact that each time they have tried to speak to the prisoners through the camp public address system, the prisoners of war bosses have organised song fests, thrown rocks at the loudspeakers or set up a deafening clamour. Thus General Thimayya has been forced to meet at the compound entrances with the prisoner leaders … by the end of the week, General Thimayya's efforts bore fruit.This reflects great credit on them, and great credit is due to the Government of India and the Prime Minister of India for the splendid efforts that they have made in trying to solve this very difficult problem and for undertaking this very very arduous and difficult responsibility.
The important thing in connection with this problem is the political conference I should like to pay tribute to the efforts that Her Majesty's Government have made through the Minister of State at the United Nations to secure a wider representation in the conference. It is 431 no fault of the Minister of State that, up to date, those efforts have not been successful. This is a vitally important matter, and I hope that the Government will persist in their efforts to secure the widest basis of representation. It seems inconceivable that the attempts to secure a settlement on Korea should founder on the composition of the conference. Apart from always having to accept the conditions sought to be laid down by the Communist side, what is the real objection to a conference containing those who took part in the conflict and including Russia, India, Indonesia, Burma and Pakistan, as suggested by the Communist side? I hope that our Government will do everything possible to prevent this conference foundering merely on the question of the composition of the delegations.
I pass on to the position in Burma. Latest reports indicate that of the 12,000 irregular troops under the control of the Chinese Nationalist authorities, 2,000 are to be flown out in the next few days. Is the Foreign Secretary satisfied that nothing can be done to ensure that the whole of this army is evacuated? If they can take 2,000 out, why cannot they take out the other 10,000? Will it solve the problem merely to take out 2,000 and to leave 10,000?
I hope that the pressure which obviously has been brought to bear on the Formosan authorities will be continued, because it is very difficult to believe that they could not secure the evacuation of General Li Mi's troops if they were determined to do so. What is happening about supplying them? Are the United Nations satisfied that it will not be possible for these men to be supplied from Formosa or Siam? Are all the loopholes closed? Perhaps the Joint Under-Secretary of State will tell us the position so far as he has information.
I will say a word about Trieste. There was a full debate last week, and the only point I should like to raise follows on the statement by the Foreign Secretary when he said:But the arrangements for the handing over of the administration and the withdrawal of troops are complicated, and must inevitably take a certain amount of time. A conference could well take place meanwhile."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1953; Vol. 518. c. 2831.]432 Are any arrangements being made to hold a conference? The news this morning was not too satisfactory. It is something of a powder keg, but I very much doubt whether it would be more satisfactory if, before a settlement were reached, Zone A were handed over to the Italians and the American and British troops withdrawn. Is it not possible for the Foreign Secretary, or the Joint Under-Secretary, to assure the House that it is not intended that the British and American troops shall be finally withdrawn until a conference has been held and every attempt made to secure some sort of settlement in this very difficult problem? Perhaps the Joint Under-Secretary will deal with that aspect of the problem.
I wish to say a few words about the German problem, which, as the House will agree, is an extremely difficult one. Hon. Members on both sides can share the apprehensions of the Russians—they are felt in many quarters in this country—at the resurgence of German reactionary nationalism. But what is the solution, in Russia's own interest as well as those of the Western democracies? I am bound to say, speaking for myself, that I thought that the Foreign Secretary's analysis of the political situation and possible developments as regards Germany were unanswerable. It may be that there is ample scope for differences as to timing, as to whether or not we should seek in any way to influence or approve the ratification of E.D.C. by all six countries pending further attempts to have the matter discussed at a conference with Russia.
But the alternative that he put forward to having a re-armed Germany, acting possibly in isolation or in co-operation with, as he called it, the highest bidder, the alternative of seeking to have her integrated into the European Defence Community, associated in turn with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was, I should have thought, not only in the interests of the Western democracies but in the interests of Russia herself. If we can build up a stable system of collective security covering the whole of Europe, of which Russia is an essential part, the more we can strengthen that kind of peace organisation the more likely it is to safeguard the security of 433 Russia as well as the countries of the West.
I was extremely sorry to see again in the Russian Note which was received yesterday—I know that one must allow for propaganda—that they described the European Defence Community as a warlike group of European States. It is quite fantastic to suggest that Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France—which has been in very close relation with Russia in the past—having been invaded three times in 70 or 80 years, are countries which are a "warlike group" of European States.
There is the same comment about the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The suggestion there is that N.A.T.O. has aggressive aims. I am sure that the Russian Government are well aware that they need have no fear of either E.D.C. or N.A.T.O. so long as there is no question of them or anyone else committing aggression in Europe.
I pass to something which is on a different basis altogether, the question of disarmament. In all the Notes the Russians have, as the Foreign Secretary knows perfectly well, repeatedly drawn attention to the question of disarmament and the holding of a disarmament conference. President Eisenhower, the present Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Nehru—the leading statesmen of the world—have repeatedly drawn attention to the vital importance, in the present circumstances of the world. of disarming as quickly as circumstances permit.
I should like to ask a question about the position at the United Nations. The Disarmament Commission has produced two reports, both of them in 1952. The second report, which was accompanied by a resolution, is a very voluminous one. I thought it made extremely depressing reading, because one side was suggesting that conventional weapons should be dealt with as a priority and the other side was suggesting the atomic problem should be dealt with.
§ Mr. Henderson
Yes, and up to date as unsuccessful as the Disarmament Conference at Geneva. But the failure of the Geneva Disarmament Conference was followed by the Second World War. We 434 hope that this conference is not going to fail and be followed by world war III. Therefore, we still have time to do something about it.
Can the Joint Under-Secretary of State say whether there has been any further consideration of the second report in closed session since August last year, or has nothing been done? It seems to me that this is a matter of vital urgency. The world today is spending £40,000 million a year in providing armaments, and there are nearly 20 million men in the armed forces of the various countries of the world.
We know about the developments that are taking place regarding the atomic bomb, the hydrogen bomb, and the thermonuclear bomb, which, it is said, has infinitely more devastating possibilities than the atomic bomb. Surely the burden borne by the world today makes it imperative that an attempt should be made to grapple with this very serious problem which has resulted from world rearmament.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) has suggested on previous occasions that the majority members of the Disarmament Commission should prepare a disarmaments statute. Is that suggestion considered to be completely impracticable? Is there nothing to be said for Her Majesty's Government putting forward a proposal along those lines? After all, the scheme put forward by the United States, and supported by this country, is. in my opinion, a first-class scheme for dealing with this very serious problem.
Cannot the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs hold out any hope that something will be effected in this direction, even though we realise that the question of disarmament is undoubtedly bound up with the restoration of trust and confidence between the countries of the world who at the moment are divided into two great armed camps, both of which are engaged in this great armaments race, the like of which has never been known in the history of the world.
There are some people today who appear to be losing faith in the United Nations. I am quite sure that the Foreign Secretary, who in his younger days played a great part in the work of the League of Nations, and who, indeed, 435 laid the foundations of his great career by reason of that work, is just as sincere as any hon. Member in his desire and determination to ensure that the United Nations shall remain what it was intended to be, the corner-stone of stable world peace.
But, as I say, there are some people who are beginning to lose faith in that organisation. I found that some people in the United States feel that the sacrifices have been a bit top heavy as far as they are concerned. They do not realise, presumably, that the United Kingdom, France, and other countries have their equal responsibilities in other parts of the world. But, be that as it may, we must make the world realise that the United Nations is not merely a policeman.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said a few weeks ago that the function of the United Nations was certainly not merely to act as a policeman. It is not there simply to safeguard security. There are social and economic problems affecting the world today which have been the direct causes of war in the past and may well be in the future unless they are tackled.
I do not believe that we can destroy ideas, ideals or ideologies merely by force of arms. One has to establish a way of life which will cater for the human needs and aspirations of men and women in every part of the world. The United Nations is the one international organisation which is capable of grappling with these deep-rooted, vital economic problems which face us today.
I hope the Joint Under-Secretary will have a word of encouragement to say about the technical aid programme which has been started by the United Nations. Relatively speaking, it is only a trickle compared with the size of the problem with which we are faced. Conversely, it is vitally important to maintain our armed strength in present international conditions, and there is the paradoxical state of affairs that the more we do that the less able we are to grapple with the social and economic conditions which, in turn, are the breeding ground of war.
I believe that the great task which lies ahead of the House, this country and all other countries which are sincerely desirous of eradicating war from the lives of 436 mankind, is to build up the conditions of trust and confidence which will enable us to solve the vital problems which divide the world today and thus enable mankind to move a step towards conditions of peace, happiness and prosperity.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)
We have had a very thoughtful and instructive discussion on foreign affairs in the debate on the Address today, and it falls to me now to reply to the large number of interesting and constructive suggestions which have been made and also to some of the criticisms.
I begin by replying to one or two of the points made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson). He asked me several questions connected with the United Nations. He was almost the only speaker in the whole debate to refer to those topics. I am particularly glad that he did so. The whole House, particularly this side of the House, will appreciate the very special interest which he takes in the United Nations and its works following upon the great work which his father did in the League of Nations.
I can reassure the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the House that there is no question of any loss of faith in the United Nations on the part of Her Majesty's Government. The United Nations is faced by many complex and difficult problems. The fact that it has not been able to solve all of them does not in any way alter the devotion which Her Majesty's Government will continue to pay to the cause of the United Nations, a cause which, through the medium of the Foreign Secretary, we played a leading part in setting out and furthering at the end of the last world war.
I am afraid that there is nothing heartening to report on the question of disarmament, which was raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It is true that progress can only be made on this fundamental problem after and not before there has been a relaxation of tension and a solution of some, at any rate, of the more urgent individual problems which confront us. But what little could be done meanwhile would be of some help, and here I entirely agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
437 Unfortunately, as he knows, the Soviet Union has shown no willingness to give serious consideration to the constructive proposals put forward by the Western Powers or to put forward any realistic proposals of its own. We are as anxious as any other country—this must go for the whole House of Commons—to reduce armaments and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, but we dare not risk the security of the whole free world unless a comprehensive and effective system of international control can be brought into being.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman also asked about the possibility of a draft disarmament treaty. The Minister of State has already undertaken in this House to consider the idea of putting forward a draft disarmament treaty in the Disarmament Commission, but in the face of the present Soviet attitude it would, I am afraid, be unrealistic to take such a step at the present time. We shall, however, keep the matter in mind—I think it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) who made the suggestion originally—and if the tone and temper of the discussions in the Commission should give us any hope that it would be of use to put the idea forward, we shall certainly do so.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
May I press the Under-Secretary? If we made a draft treaty, which we can do by a majority of 11 to one in the Commission, without the consent of the Russians—although, of course, no actual disarmament can follow until the Russians come in—would it not be a proof to the world that the technical problems involved in our proposals can be solved, and a proof also that we stand for peace, as soon as the Russians are ready for it?
§ Mr. Nutting
I would not altogether agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there is any need for Her Majesty's Government or the Western Powers to bring forward any draft treaty at the United Nations or elsewhere to prove that peace is their aim and purpose and the only aim and purpose of all their arrangements and policies. As to the suggestion that a draft disarmament treaty might prove that the technical problems could be overcome, that may very well be so. but the most important problem of all cannot be overcome until we get Soviet agreement.
438 That is why we do not consider that in the present circumstances, the Soviet attitude in the Commission being what it is at present, there would be any purpose served by adopting that proposal, but we shall, of course, continue our efforts to get agreement.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Will the hon. Gentleman consider what Mr. Dulles said in the General Assembly this year on this point?
§ Mr. Nutting
I will consider anything which is relevant or helpful, but I am stating the position of the Government, which is based, I fear, on the hard and practical realities of the situation in this Commission at the present time.
The right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton asked about the specialised agencies, and here I have some much more encouraging news to give the House. First of all, as regards the United Nations Children's Fund, as it is now called—it used to be U.N.I.C.E.F.—we have more than once said that we regard U.N.I.C.E.F. as a most useful and effective body. We have been criticised on the ground that our contribution is too low, and I am happy to be able to inform the House that we have decided to double our contribution in the coming year—an increase from £100,000 to £200,000.
May I now deal with Technical Assistance, which was touched on by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and was also dealt with on Tuesday by my hon. Friend the Member for East Bournemouth and Chistchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson), whose speech caught my eye as I read through the OFFICIAL REPORT. I am well aware that, as was the case over the Children's Fund, there is a feeling that our contribution to Technical Assistance should be increased, but, as I said in the House on 16th July, I see no reason for this Government or, for that matter, the late Government, to be ashamed of the support which has been given to Technical Assistance. Our contribution, as in the case of practically all the specialised agencies, is second only to that of the United States of America.
Nevertheless, here again I am happy to be able to tell the House that a substantial increase in our contributions is being urgently considered. I cannot give any exact sum, but right hon. Members opposite who have been in a Government will probably agree that no Government 439 spokesman would dare stand at this Box and make such an announcement if there were not fairly good reasons for so doing. The actual sum has not yet been decided. I dare not hold out any extravagant hope that it will be as large an increase as people would like or, indeed, as some people have suggested it will be, but I would ask the House to realise that any increase, however small, to any international agency, whether this or any other, in the present financial situation of the country, has an importance out of all proportion to the figure involved, and means a real effort and a very real sacrifice on our part.
I am sure that the whole House is indebted to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said, but can he say whether Her Majesty's Government now mean to pledge themselves to a programme of years? That is one of the very great difficulties of this matter. Can the Government say that they will make a contribution for thee years?
§ Mr. Nutting
There are very strong and awkward Parliamentary considerations which make it difficult to give a pledge of contributions in advance, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. I can assure him that those difficulties are made not only by Treasuries and Government Departments, but by Parliament, which is most jealous of its rights in these matters. I hope, however, that it will be of some encouragement to right hon. Gentlemen opposite to have, at any rate, the hint of an increased contribution which I have been able to give this evening.
I now turn to the problem of the Arab refugees, which was raised by the right hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil). As he said, the problem of refugees and their resettlement bedevils the whole question of Jordan-Israeli and, indeed, Arab-Israeli relations. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency has been doing its best to bring about a solution to this problem, but I have frankly to admit to the House that progress has been very disappointing.
The annual report of the Acting Director of the Agency rightly points out that the timing of the three-year plan of resettlement and relief, for 1951 to 1954 was over-optimistic, primarily because of the 440 reluctance of the refugees to accept the principle of resettlement, and also because of the time required for preliminary engineering work on any project big enough to make an impression on the problem. During the year ending 30th June, 1953, the Agency have been able to resettle only about 10,000 refugees, leaving about 870,000, while it is estimated, at the other end of the scale, that over 20,000 children are born in the camps each year. At this rate it is clear that the problem has been, and still is, increasing rather than receding.
In the coming year, however, we expect to see the first concrete results of the resettlement projects, which, as the House knows, we are endeavouring to get on their feet. We shall then be able to judge the position more accurately and fully. Her Majesty's Government have therefore supported a resolution in the United Nations Assembly that the whole programme of the Agency should be subject to review at the next Session of the Assembly. I regret to have to give this very disturbing and pessimistic report to the House, but the House has always shown considerable interest in this matter and I felt that it would wish to have the news, however depressing it might be.
Another question which was raised was that of Kuomintang troops in Burma. This problem has been fraught with difficulties ever since we started to tackle it, and ever since the United Nations passed the original resolution on the subject. Nonetheless, things have taken a turn for the better. On 8th October the Chinese Nationalist Foreign Minister stated definitely that 2,000 troops and some of their dependants would be evacuated, and that the Nationalist authorities—and this is the more important part of the declaration—would break off all relations with troops refusing evacuation and would withhold supplies from them. I understand that those good intentions were reaffirmed yesterday by the Chinese Nationalist representative in the United Nations.
The House will recall that on the 16th of last month the evacuation plan was signed in Bangkok, unfortunately still without Burmese participation; but the Government of Burma subsequently agreed to suspend the attacks which they had been making upon the troops based in Burma, which they had renewed 441 following their withdrawal from the committee earlier on.
Now I turn to the question of Egypt, about which the right hon. Member for Greenock had several specific propositions to put to the Government. He put to me three specific points that he asked should be taken into account in the negotiations now proceeding with the Egyptian Government. He asked, first, that the revision of the 1936 Treaty should be allied to a reaffirmation of the Tripartite Declaration of 1950; secondly, that if Egypt is to get more arms as a result of the settlement we should insist that those arms should not be used for aggressive purposes against Egypt's neighbours; and thirdly, that we should get a fresh assurance from the Egyptian Government in regard to freedom of navigation of the Suez Canal.
The House will not, I hope, expect me, while these difficult and delicate negotiations are still proceeding, to comment in detail upon these points, but, as I think was shown by my right hon. Friend's speech opening the debate, the Government are fully aware of the need to preserve peace in the Middle East. The danger of a possible renewal of hostilities and the freedom of navigation through the Suez Canal are, of course, matters that are very much in our minds, but let me make one point quite clear in answer to the first suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Greenock about the Tripartite Declaration.
The negotiations now proceeding with Egypt are not, of course, for a treaty of peace for the Middle East, but for a revision of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 covering the defence of the Suez Canal area. The right hon. Gentleman will understand, therefore, that there is a limit to what can be properly included in the scope of such a revision agreement, but, whatever may be the limits of these negotiations or of the document which may finally emerge from these negotiations, let me make it quite plain that the Tripartite Declaration remains in force, as do the Government's pledges to uphold it.
Before I leave this topic I must emphatically repudiate the imputation made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) that the United States are trying to undermine our position in Egypt and elsewhere 442 in the Middle East. This is quite untrue. As has been made clear on several occasions by the Prime Minister and by the Foreign Secretary, the United States are in full agreement with us both as regards Egypt and any other problem which we face in the Middle East. Here, I should like to go a step further and pay a tribute to the help which we have received in our Persian difficulties from the United States Ambassador in Tehran.
The right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton asked me a question about Trieste. We had a very full debate on this subject the other day and I really have nothing to say beyond what was said in that debate by my right hon. Friend and myself, but I do wish to assure him that we continue to work for a conference. We continue in touch with the parties and with our two Western partners, the United States and France, and we have every hope that a conference will, in fact, take place.
I now turn to the question of the European Defence Community and German rearmament, which has occupied so much thought and discussion during this debate. It seemed to me as I heard the speeches from the benches opposite that the criticisms levelled at the policy of bringing Germany into E.D.C. fell under two main heads. In the first place, there was the criticism, made principally by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker)—I hope I quote him correctly—that E.D.C. was "too small a cage" to contain Germany. If the right hon. Gentleman thought this I fail to see how he accounts for having been a member of the Government which signed the Washington Declaration of September, 1951.
I know he contends that the situation has changed since because there has appeared since then in France a certain hesitation to ratify it, but, of course, French enthusiasms or hesitations about E.D.C. do not increase or decrease or in any way affect the size of the cage. Besides, let me point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the E.D.C. cage is to be within the N.A.T.O. cage.
§ Mr. Gordon Walkerindicated dissent.
§ Mr. Nutting
Indeed it is. All the troops in E.D.C. are to be under the command of the N.A.T.O. Supreme Commander. It seems to me, therefore, that 443 the right hon. Gentleman's contention that only N.A.T.O. can contain German rearmament is, in fact, met by German membership of E.D.C.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Germany would not be a member of N.A.T.O. but would be a member of the E.D.C., whereas France would be a member of N.A.T.O. while in E.D.C. Is that accurate?
§ Mr. Nutting
That is accurate, but the German contribution or contingent, call it what we will, to the European Army would be under the supreme command of the N.A.T.O. Supreme Commander, and there is provision in the N.A.T.O. Protocol—I think that is the document—for continuous contact and consultation between the two bodies—between N.A.T.O. as such and E.D.C. as such—so that I should have thought that all the right hon. Gentleman's fears on the subject of the size of the cage were in fact met.
The right hon. Gentleman also argued, I thought rather cryptically, that the N.A.T.O. structure into which this rearmed Germany should be admitted under his plan should be reorganised so as to control arms production, but that is is precisely what the E.D.C. does, and I fail to see how N.A.T.O. could be so reorganised as to take over this function without adopting some form of supranational authority.
The right hon. Gentleman also said that German membership of N.A.T.O. was the only way to meet the condition laid down by the Leader of the Opposition in February, 1951, that German units should be integrated in a way which would preclude the emergence again of a German military menace—I think I quote the words of the Leader of the Opposition correctly. But that did not appear to be the view of the Leader of the Opposition, either when he was Prime Minister of the Government which signed the Washington Declaration or, later, when, out of office, on 14th May, 1952, he said:The E.D.C. is, in my view, a way of integrating the German contribution of force without raising the danger of a German army."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th May, 1952; Vol. 500, c. 1476.]If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the Leader of the Opposition's condition is met only by the plan he advanced tonight, then I quote the Leader of the 444 Opposition himself against that as saying that the E.D.C. is the best way of meeting it.
Besides, surely these criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends as also the alternative suggestion for an independent German national army or for German neutralisation, surely these criticisms and suggestions ignore one poignant and overwhelmingly significant fact—the overwhelming choice of the people of Western Germany, at least two-thirds of the German people, in favour of a European as opposed to a nationalist or a neutralist policy. Surely this is a proffered hand of German co-operation which it would be madness for the Western Governments to ignore, still more to rebuff. Surely in this significant and symbolic gesture lies a hope of peaceful German co-operation, a hope that the people of Germany are now resolved to devote their vast energies and resources to defending rather than to destroying Western civilisation.
May I turn, finally, to the arguments levelled by some hon. Members opposite that by sticking to E.D.C. we prejudice the prospects of a conference with Soviet Russia? The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) made particular play with this argument and went on to ask whether the Soviet Note really lays down impossible pre-conditions in asking that we should suspend our efforts to get E.D.C. ratified. As my right hon. Friend showed in opening the debate, however, this is by no means the only Soviet pre-condition. Speaking of the N.A.T.O. bases in Europe, North Africa and the Near Middle East, the Note says:… the settlement of the German problem in accordance with the interests of ensuring European security is inseparably connected with the elimination of the above-mentioned military bases, any other attitude to this question would mean ignoring the interests of the actual guaranteeing of European security.Surely this means as a pre-condition of coming to the table that we must abandon and dismantle the plans and bases upon which Western security has been built up. We, in other words, must give up our security and our plans for bringing Western Germany into this security arrangement while the Soviets and the satellites maintain all their defence plans, including the considerable armed forces which they have built up in the Eastern Zone of Germany.
445 Contrast these conditions with our Note to which they are set out in reply. We say in our Note that such a meeting—that is the meeting we propose at Lugano—will enable the Soviet Government to state its views on any aspect of the German and Austrian questions which it may wish to present.
The House will see from this that we in our Note lay down no pre-conditions at all. We do not ask for the abolition of the East German armed forces nor the dismantling of the Soviet bases in satellite territories or in Eastern Germany nor the renouncing of the military arrangements which bind the satellites to the Soviet Union. We made a perfectly open offer to the Russians to discuss the solution of the German and Austrian questions, and we made it perfectly plain that we hope, if we can make progress on these matters, it may pave the way to a discussion of other issues.
As to the demand made by the Soviet Government for a five-Power conference to discuss international tension, I feel it appropriate to remark: what topics would this conference discuss? There seems to me to be a great tendency from those who talk about four-Power talks, and so on, to ignore what these talks should talk about. Surely the only topics they can talk about realistically in the modern world are the root causes of the trouble today, and, clearly, the two principal root causes of the trouble in the world today are Germany and Korea. That is why we, Her Majesty's Government, in collaboration with the United States Government and France are trying to get conferences on both these topics which so divide and perplex the world.
I have dealt with the different efforts to get a conference on Germany. So far as Korea is concerned, Mr. Dean is now conducting discussions at Panmunjom to try to arrange a political conference. I hope that the House will accept that these are genuine and sincere efforts by Her Majesty's Government and her partners to get, in the most practical way, discussion of the issues which now divide the world.
As my right hon. Friend said, we still remain ready and anxious for a meeting at any level. Nothing can be clearer than that. We have done all that we 446 can to bring about a meeting of Powers to discuss the issues that divide the world. We have laid down no preconditions for that meeting whatsoever. We shall continue in that endeavour.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."—[Mr. Studholme.]
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is now just two minutes to 10 o'clock and I thought I could speak on that Motion until 10 o'clock in relation to what the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has just said.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.